the one about the dawn...
January 23, 2017, 7:09 AM

Sermon from January 22, 2017

Text: Matthew 4: 12-23

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, has there ever been a time that you felt totally defeated. Where you thought things were going great? Everyone seemed to care and notice you and the work that you were doing; you were involved in a movement that seemed unstoppable. Yet, in a flash it all just crumbled.

News comes out. A leader and teacher’s reputation is tarnished. The mass of followers just seemed to fizzle away.

I think we’ve all experienced that at some point in our lives. Some more recently than others – but, this morning we get to look in on some people that we know that we didn’t expect to have experienced that as well – the first disciples of Jesus.

As our gospel reading this morning begins, we learn that John the Baptizer is in jail. The powers that be have squashed his little rabble rousing and cage shaking. The powerful had enough and tossed him in the slammer. It is one of the quickest ways to stamp out a rising movement – get rid of the vocal and charismatic leader of that group and watch the followers drift away.

It’s what the Roman and religious leaders attempted to do with Jesus; and it almost worked.

It’s what they did to John – and it kind of worked.

Like I said, as we begin this part of Matthew’s gospel; we – along with Jesus – discover that John has been jailed. So, Jesus returns to that same area after being tempted in the wilderness. In many ways, Jesus begins to fill in the void left by John’s abrupt absence. The first words we hear Jesus speak are the same words we last heard John shout out – Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Yet, we know that not only does Jesus fill that space, but his presence, life, and message spill out in abundance and cannot be contained.

As Jesus begins this proclamation and ministry, he approaches individuals to gather, walk, and follow him. We are introduced to four men who are fishing in the Sea of Galilee that Jesus calls and they all immediately drop what they are doing and follow him.

That abrupt sense of call has always intrigued me. Mostly because if you talk to any pastor or leader in the faith, almost all of them will say that that isn’t how their own call stories panned out. For a very select few, I’m sure there was an immediate stop to what they were doing in order to follow God’s call. Yet, for the rest of us – and dare I say, the vast majority of us – our call stories are probably more like Jonah’s, Isaiah’s, or Moses’. We came up with excuses as to why God shouldn’t and couldn’t use us as leaders in the church.

So, I and I’m sure many of y’all have been curious as to why these disciples seem to drop everything to follow Jesus. The second pair’s sense of call is so strong that they leave their own father Zebedee alone in the boat. That’s a strong sense of call.

So, I wonder… why?

It isn’t stated in this gospel, but using our other sources and gospels we can probably surmise that these first disciples of Jesus were perhaps disciples of John the baptizer as well. In fact, the gospel of John tells us this explicitly so. They felt a call to be used by God, but like we read in Isaiah’s text from this morning they might have been walking in darkness since their leader’s arrest and imprisonment.

They were lost. They didn’t know what to do, so they went back to the only thing they did know and felt secure in – fishing. They went back to what they knew and knew well.

I imagine that for many of us, we’ve experienced those moments. Maybe not in the sense that a charismatic and cage rattling ‘leader’ was jailed and imprisoned. But, perhaps it was a ministry or community event that just didn’t live up to your or anyone’s expectations.

Maybe an individual you confided in broke that trust and bond.

The work you were doing in recovery from – surgery, addiction, dieting, depression – experienced a setback.

Something didn’t take. Something ‘broke.’ Things didn’t go along smoothly at all.

That, I think we’ve all experienced. I know it has for me. I’ve spoken with quite a few where it has for them.

In those moments, we go back to what we find comfortable and easy for us. On our good days, we fall back into practices that are rote and give us the chance to just ‘turn our brains off’ for just a bit. Working with our hands, taking a walk, whatever it may be for you – we sort of just go with that flow.

We do something that isn’t necessarily bad for us, but it sure doesn’t move us out of that space we are currently in. We’re just there.

Many might call it walking in darkness. Especially when the creep of our thoughts begins to enter in – this is it. Nothing better. It’s all you’re capable of doing. This is it.

There are many who experience those demons. Knocked down by life – whether it is under their control or not.

They walk in darkness. We walk in darkness.

But, then individuals aren’t the only ones that experience this as well – whole groups walk in a darkness and malaise as well. In Isaiah, we read that as the nation of Israel. In our relatively recent history we see that as our African-American sisters and brothers especially after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death.

Yet, there is a pull out of that darkness.

There is light. That light that breaks the darkness and the light of the kingdom of heaven that is the dawn. That light of Christ that will dawn.

And there’s something about the light of Christ that I never thought about before, but talked about briefly with some colleagues this week. The light of Christ never seems to be a light that bursts forth right by you. It’s the light that creeps in from the horizon. Like the break of day after a long night. That slow rising of light that the darkness cannot hold back.

That faint light within the darkness that gives and inspires hope. The voice and small whisper of the one you love telling you it’s going to be OK. Not in the superficial ‘I’m just saying it to say it’ way – but, in that deep and abiding way that you know it will be OK because you’re surrounded by those who love you. That the one speaking to you is going to walk with you through it.

As followers of Christ – we see and know and proclaim that that light is Christ.

That in our darkest days, our most desperate hours, we know that that light shines. That light bursts from afar and gives us hope that all is not lost. And when you see light in the midst of your darkness you cannot help, but move toward it.

Some move towards that light more quickly than others. But, we are all called into that light. That light that provides warmth, love, forgiveness, and acceptance. That light that drives out the demons of our world. That light that shines on injustice and evil so that we all might be able to see.

That light that we cannot help, but invite others into it. Showing them the way, helping them – and ourselves – get by those obstacles that keep us from seeing the light of life. The light of God. The light of Christ in our life.

In our gospel reading this morning, we are introduced to followers of Jesus who felt that all was lost. That there might not be any use for them.

Yet, they are approached by the one that uses the broken and cast aside to proclaim this radical message of love and forgiveness. This message of welcome and hospitality.

In hearing that call; in seeing that light they drop their nets and follow the one who is and points to the light. So that they too might gather others in that net of love, life, and light.

That light still shines today. It may be along the horizon in a world that seems ever so dark. Filled with obstacles and obstructions that at times keeps us from seeing that light of Christ in our lives or in the life of the world. Sometimes those obstacles are the powers of the world standing before us, sometimes those obstructions are our own blind spots in our mind. But, that light shines. That light calls. That light beckons. That light has come near.

Light has dawned. Let’s gather the people. Amen.

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