The season of Epiphany emphasizes mission and ministry, and the passage from Matthew 4:12-23 is especially appropriate for today. Jesus has called all of us to serve others as he did, to follow him, to sacrifice comforts, to bless the lives of others, to minister to the sick, and to proclaim the good news of the kingdom.
Jesus walks by all of us, observing our efforts on the job and in our communities, and he calls us. He calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things. He asks all of us to love him above all else and fully commit to obey him. When we do, he will accomplish more through us than we could even imagine. Through him, we can make something of our lives.
The kingdom of heaven is the place where God rules. If God rules in our hearts, then the kingdom of God is in our hearts. For example an orchestra was giving a concert in a large church hall in England. The place was packed. Afterwards a casual member of the church very flippantly asked the pastor of the church when the hall would ever be filled like that for Sunday morning worship. The pastor answered solemnly, “It will be filled when like that conductor I have eighty well-trained, committed and disciplined men and women to work with me.” Oh, how the church needs that today!
When we answer his call, we show that we are willing to leave everything to follow the way, the truth and the life, just like the first disciples left everything to follow him. Jesus invites us to reform and reshape our lives and look at things through the gospel lens.
A minister was delivering a series of sermons in another pastor’s church. While there, a young boy took a special interest in him and sat beside him every evening. If the minister was on the platform, that’s where the little boy sat. If the minister was in a pew, the little boy sat with him in the pew. The minister said later that the little boy was not a bother—he just wanted to sit where the minister sat. Later, the minister found out that the boy’s parents did not attend church.
One evening, when the minister was sitting in the first pew, the boy came and snuggled up very close to him. The boy looked up and asked the minister, “Why are you a preacher?” The minister replied, “Because that is what God told me he wanted me to be.” The boy paused for a moment and said, “God told me just to be a kid”. The minister later wrote, “His response stuck me. I wonder how many of God’s people really know just what God wants them to be.”
In 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush hosted the 64th annual National Prayer Breakfast. During this interfaith event, Christians, Jews and Muslims are included and given time to make a few remarks. The guest speaker that year was the rock star known as Bono, leader of the group U2. During the breakfast, he said, “A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it…I have a family, please look after them… I have this crazy idea…and this wise man said: stop. He said; stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing, because it is already blessed”.
Bono believes God is calling him to be an advocate for the poor. He said to the National Prayer Breakfast, “Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing. And that is what he is calling us to do”. All Christians should be committed to helping the poor, but it might not be our chief emphasis. Not everyone receives the same call from God.
Some of you might remember a TV series from the 1960s called “Mission: Impossible”. If not, some of you might have seen the “Mission: Impossible” movies starring Tom Cruise. In either case, there is a point near the beginning of each episode or movie where the main character receives a message from his superiors telling him what his mission is going to be, and the message always includes the words, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…”.
Jesus gives us a similar message. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to proclaim the good news of the kingdom to our world today. That does not mean that we have to seek an active role in ministry. We are all given gifts from God to use in our mission. Some of us are called to leadership roles in our church and parish councils. Still others are called to ministry in the community as lawyers, doctors, accountants, fishermen, mechanics or plumbers. While at first glance these roles in the community might not seem to be a call from God, it is how the people in these jobs perform their daily duties that shows God’s ministry, especially if these tasks are done in an honest, caring and compassionate manner.
Many of you have probably heard the old saying, “No man is an island”, and nowhere is that more applicable than in Jesus’ call to mission. He calls us to do his work as members of the body of Christ and not just as individuals. Lay people and ordained people share the same discipleship or call to ministry, and we are called to complete this mission as a team. We are not always singled out as individuals. In fact, with the exception of Peter (who was often singled out by his failures that were caused by human weaknesses), Jesus rarely singled out any one of his disciples for a special role or function.
Jesus has called us today to be part of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise: to bring light into the darkness, joy to those in distress. We are the ones called to smash “the yoke that has burdened them”. Perhaps someone we know who is: going through a harsh divorce; lost a loved one; is looking for work; being put out of their homes; has a runaway child; is in jail; homebound; losing a struggle with a terminal illness, etc. Can we hear Jesus’ personal invitation, “Come after me…”? How should we respond? Where can we strike a light of hope for someone “dwelling in a land overshadowed by death”?
Epiphany is a season about proclamation and the power of God at work in God’s people, to be sure; but it is also a season when the church examines its life and witness and how it understands itself to be the incarnated Christ planted in a local community. Our job is to look outward, to see the opportunities for mission, and engage in them. That is how we proclaim the Good News to a community, and that is how we avoid pettiness and conflict. That is an example that each and every one of us should try to follow in our Christian lives.
- Matthew Henry Concise Commentary. Part of Wordsearch Bible software package.
- Lead like Jesus Daily Devotional, Monday, Jan. 10, 2011 Devotional. Retrieved from www.messagingstudio.com
- Exegesis for Matthew 4:12-23. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- LWF Daily Devotional. Retrieved from www.lwf.org
- Stan Mitchell, “A Calling”. Retrieved from www.forthright.net
- Dr. Charles F. Stanley, “An Ordinary Person”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Joe Stowell, “Making the Cut”. Retrieved from www.rbc.org
- Kelly McFadden, “’B’ Team”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Jude Siciliano, “First Impressions, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
- King Duncan, “Called to be Disciples”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
- King Duncan, “A New Calling”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
- William B. Kincaid III, “Essential Personnel”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
- Charles l. Aaron, Jr., “Letting Go of Our Nets”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
- Joe E. Pennell, “The Called Ones”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
- Thomas A. Pilgrim, “The Man from Galilee II: The Transformation of His Call”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
16. John Shearman’s Lectionary Resource, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany. Retrieved from www.seemslikegod.org/lectionary/archives/thrid-sunday-after-epiphany-%e2%80%93-jan