Sunday, January 26, 2014

sharing the story

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

I wonder what the people of Capernaum thought when Jesus went to live there and began to proclaim: 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven hascome near.' Capernaum was a small fishing village on the north shore of Lake Galilee, not all that far from Nazareth. We are told it was the place that Jesus made his home, not long after John the Baptist was arrested by Herod for speaking out against the unlawfulness of his marriage … the historian Josephus also mentions that Herod was worried that John might prove to be a political threat … perhaps he was worried that the popularity that his moral teaching held among the people might one day be turned into action …

In any event, with John in prison, Jesus moved to Capernaum. Presumably, based on what is written in the Gospels, he went there after his time with John by the Jordan, and after his time in the wilderness, the 40 days and 40 nights when he fasted and prayed and was tempted by Satan. And hearing that John had been arrested, he decided to neither stay by the Jordan nor return home, but to go somewhere new, but not too far from home, by the shores of the great fresh-water lake after which the region he grew up in was named.

Had the people of Capernaum heard the stories about him? Did they know that he was the cousin of John the Baptist? Did they know that when he went for baptism to John that John was astonished and said that he was the one who needed to be baptised by him? Did they wonder if he was the one John had said he had come to prepare the way for when they asked if he was the Messiah, one whose shoelaces he wasn't worthy to untie? Had they heard what had happened when he was baptised – that the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove and a voice from heaven had cried out that this was his Son, the beloved with whom he was well pleased? Had they heard about his time in the desert where he confronted Satan and was tended by angels?

And when he moved to their little village, did they think how the location of Capernaum matched that of the prophecy made by the prophet Isaiah – the same one we heard in our Old Testamentreading today – one of the Messianic prophecies, where it is promised that those who walk in darkness will see a great light – a light that will bring joy into their lives and free them from oppression? The same prophecy that St Matthew in today's Gospel reading tells us was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Were those thoughts in their heads when Jesus began to walk their shores, beginning with the proclamation: 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near'? If they were, it would go a long way to explaining what happens next. Two fisherman, brothers, Simon and Andrew, out casting their nets, leave their work when he calls them to go with him and be fishers of men; soon after two more men, James and John, also brothers, walk away from their nets, boats, and father to answer his call. John's Gospel tells us that they had already met him, when they had been at the Jordan with John the Baptist, that in fact John was the one who had pointed him out to them, and he had declared to them that he was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Knowing what they knew, it isn't surprising they followed Jesus. The more one knows about him the harder it is not to follow him. And the call he had to those four men that day to follow him is the same call he has for all men, for not only you and I, but all the peoples of the world. And we, the ones who know him now and follow him now are the ones tasked with making him known to others so that they might also follow him … for they cannot know and follow if they do not hear of him … and it was Christ himself commanded those who follow him to make disciples of all people. It is an awesome responsibility … and one we dare not neglect. I ask you this morning to pray for guidance and help as to how you might live out that responsibility in your your lives … and that having prayed and listened to God's answer to have the courage to act in accordance with his will and to share what you know of Christ as others did so long ago and have been doing ever since. Amen.

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