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Epiphany 3 A January 25, 2014

Trinity Episcopal Church the Rev Susan Langle

Dwelling in Darkness, Dwelling in Light The Gospel of Matthew harkens back to the comforting words of the prophet Isaiah: look the people who dwelt in darkness have seen a great light. Isaiah was writing to Jewish people who had been abducted from their farms and villages by the Babylonians. Isaiah was writing to people who are burdened by the rod and the yoke of their captors. They longed to return, to go back, to restore their traditions. In their long history Gods beloved people called out from their ordinary life, and away from following ordinary gods. They are invited into relationship with the One True and Living God. Abram and Sarai listened, and laughed, when they heard the call. Moses evaded and resisted but eventually he got up and got into Pharohs face. Isaiah and the other Prophets asked God to let someone else do the talking, but eventually they stepped up, and took on the role and responsibility God offered them. They led their people through difficult times with words of comfort, words of heartfelt criticism, and often with poetry and singing. This is the history of Gods People: when times get tough God sends exactly the leaders the people need. Hundreds of years after the prophetic words were written in the scroll of Isaiah, Jesus appeared fresh from an ordeal in the wilderness. He was born in Bethlehem, they say. He grew up in Nazareth, they say. And now, in Matthews account of the life and work of Jesus he appears at the seaside town of Capernum, beginning his public acts of teaching and healing that will disturb the status quo, the way things have always been, upsetting the people who have always been in charge. But a new day has dawned. A light has appeared in the darkness. And through the darkness it shined. Even in broad daylight, Jesus was surrounded by light. Power, Peace, Spirit emanated him, and all who met him were drawn to the light. At this point in the story John the Baptizer has been handed over, has been imprisoned. Johns work has been handed over to Jesus who begins his ministry in exactly the same place: Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near. The Kingdom of Heaven. This curious phrase expresses Matthews faithful sensitivity not to speak the personal name of God. For Matthew, the faithful Jew, it is not the Kingdom of God, but the Kingdom of Heaven. What he means by this phrase is that the power of God is breaking into human history in a profound way. The Power of God, to heal and to judge, is present in the world now, through Jesus. Jesus insists that the people of Capernum, the people of
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Galilee, the people of Claremont turn, that we repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near us. Gods healing and restoring power has come near us. It can touch us if we turn, and let it, Gods judging power has come near us. It can shine a light on the darkness in our hearts, in the wrong desires that move our hands and feet deeper, deeper into the shadows, our tendency to gossip and kvetch. Gods judging power illuminates the sin that we hid from ourselves even as we do it, and shines a light back to the Good Road. Matthew tells us that as Jesus walks along the seashore he comes upon working men busy at their craft, taking care of their equipment, doing their accounting, mending their tools. These are not idlers. They are the solid middle class of a small city that pretty far from the movers and shakers. They are people of status in their home town, but by Jerusalem standards they are hicks. They are nobodies. Jesus walks along, in the middle of their workday and says to Andrew and Peter, come on the adventure, come along and follow. And he meets two other brothers James and John and says to them, come on the adventure. Come along and follow. And immediately they put down their work and they follow. We are meant to recall other brothers and their encounter with God. Cain and Able. Isaac and Ishmael. Joseph and his hoodlum siblings. Jacob and Esau. David, the youngest son of Jesse. In all those stories, one was chosen and one was not. In all those stories, only one got the blessing. In all those stories there were winners and losers, and the winners were always conniving second fiddles. All those stories were marked by suffering and striving among the siblings. Not so with Jesus. Both are chosen. Both are welcome. Both are invited to follow. Jesus embarks on a new beginning for a new kind of family. This is a family in which solidarity and mutual support is the way of life. This is a family that eats together, and sets more chairs when others join the feast. This is a family that learns to break bread, and pass the basket with confidence that when the basket returns there will be enough for all. Today we commission two new teams to lead us forward in our parish life. They are called in the midst of their fishing though I think today it might be ice fishing. They are called not because they are experts in anything other than a love of God and a love of adventure. I ask your prayers and support for our Pastoral Care Team and our Worship Team. They are blessed with all the gifts they need to help us walk in the light of Christ, and to help us invite others to come meet Jesus. Amen.

Holy Spirit, you brood over the waters bringing forth new life, we ask you to hover over and the other members of Trinitys Pastoral Care Team as we commission them today to serve your people of this congregation. Help them to encourage the downhearted. Help them to offer presence and comfort to the sick. Help them to maintain our connections with one another in times of need, and crisis, and joy and sorrow. Help them to pray always, for by abiding in your love they may be instruments of your peace. In the name of the one who said come, and follow me.

Holy Spirit, you brood over the waters bringing forth new life, we ask you to hover over and the other members of Trinitys Worship Team as we commission them to day to serve your people of this congregation. Help them to sing loudly, pray softly, plan joyfully. Give them imagination and joy as they choose music and make liturgy. Help them to listen to your Word, and break it open for us that we may come to know you and follow you. In the Name of the one who said, come and follow me