Praise the Lord, O my soul.
Let all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord O my soul and forget not all His benefits_
Who forgives all your sins,
And heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things,
so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.
Comment: Oh to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him, and praise him in our hearts through in song, and in his Holy Word. He is a God worthy of Praise, who gives us so much more than we deserve...(ps 103) i.e. good things, (benefits) such as forgiveness, healing and the gifts of love and grace, also an infilling of his power, renewal and youthfulness.
Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23
New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Begins to Preach
12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”[a]
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Jesus Calls His First Disciples
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Jesus Heals the Sick
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
Matthew 4:16 Isaiah 9:1,2
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Suggested for hymns and songs:
Praise my Soul the King of Heaven
‘Jesus Christ is waiting’
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Jesus calls us o’er the Tumult or
Lead us heavenly Father lead us
This is the Way
Who is on the Lord’s Side?
Lord for the years
A man was once leading worship when it was time to take the collection. He put in 50p then sent the stewards around with the plates. On their return there was only 50p in the plates. He later said to the steward in the vestry, “Did you manage to see the amount of money put into the collection plates today. I was appalled. The only coin in there was the 50p that I had put in myself.
The old steward replied, ’Well the more you put in the more you get out”
Compare that with one little boy at his church first service. When the collection plate was sent around, he had nothing in his pockets and felt ashamed. He felt he had nothing to give, so he put the plate on the floor, and stood in it himself, saying, “I’m giving my whole self!”
Children may be invited to draw pictures of themselves, doing what they are good at;
things they think that in the future may be used by God in his service.
It was always drummed into me when I was young, never to go off with strangers! I suppose your parents said very much the same to you!
Even adults these days, male or female, would not risk just going off somewhere with someone they did not know.
Yet here in today’s gospel, we see four ordinary men responding to a Jesus’ radical call to discipleship. A leaving of their past, and a turning to an unpredictable, uncertain, and dangerous future.There would be no going back!
“Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!” Jesus says, and off they go with him.
Seems unbelievable! (like some advert for the fragrance of men’s deodorant!)
But these were ordinary working men, fishermen ...they were the first to be chosen by Jesus, They were men of the elements... men of the sea, the wind and wave...whose lives hung in the balance each time they left shore...men who had to keep watch...men of rhythm and routine, who already lived life on the edge.
But it wasn’t a fragrance that they followed! ... as Jews, they knew from ancient writings that one day a light would shine in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, the way of the sea, along by the Jordan, to Galilee.
Then of course Jesus wasn’t necessarily a stranger to them ; if we piece together the early beginnings of Jesus ministry, the gospel of John tells us that John the Baptist pointed Jesus out to two of his own disciples, as ‘The Lamb of God’. They had spent the day with him.
When Andrew, one of those disciples, heard what John the Baptist had said, he went to find his brother, Simon, known as Peter, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah!’
Word would have got around quickly, for the Messiah, this One who would come and save the people, had arrived! There would have been such excitement, such an immense sense of expectancy and anticipation in the air, once John the Baptist proclaimed this to his followers.
It was the equivalent of him saying to them,
‘Are you ready for this news boys? This is it, the moment we’ve been waiting for. HE IS THE ONE!’
Here Jesus was inviting these four ordinary men to go with them...to put learning about the kingdom of God, before their family ties, their paid jobs, their security to put their futures into his hands. To give up all to become fishers of men!
Usually students sought out rabbis for their wisdom in those days, here Jesus does the choosing.
They were willing to lay down everything and go where he led. But this was to be more than a rabbi/student relationship.
The disciples receiving that call to follow Jesus were being given an extraordinary chance to become Jesus closest friends, to be fellow travellers on a great journey, where they would come to know his heart for his world, to know his mind and learn from his wisdom!
They weren’t to know it at the time, but it was to be a close relationship that would not be terminated at Jesus’ death, but go on beyond it into eternity.
What a friend to have, what a relationship to own! A forever friend.
I think of that part of CS Lewis’s book ‘Horse and the Boy...is so wonderful, is when at the end of a journey, the great Lion tells the boy called Shasta how he has been with him at every turn, even though many of the times were difficult and frightening...
‘I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept.
I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so you could reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you!
True and sometimes harsh guidance! This call to the disciples was not a sending, but one which said ‘I’m going to be with you all the way through it all, and it will all work out for the best!’
That is what is offered to each one of us in our world today. No-one is barred. If we wait until we’re perfect, we’ll have to wait forever! All it takes is a step of faith.
I’ve heard it said before that at the heart of every person is a DEEP SPIRITUAL VOID, which can only be filled by inviting Jesus in as Friend, Lord, Master, Saviour to move in and through us, but he, once he enters must flow out to a needy world, through us.
We will never know peace until that void is filled. Everything else is a chasing after the wind. ( Simon Cowell’s once commented right after a successful series , “No I’m not satisfied, I’m right now looking for the next thing that will give me a buzz!”)
Address 2 ...and I will make you fishers of men!
Jesus was to equip his disciples in every way, with gifts they would need for their journey of faith, each of them had used nets to catch fish, but his transforming hand was going to be upon these nets. In future they would catch fish and draw others to himself.
In other words each of them had a natural ability, as we all do, but once Jesus transformed the ‘raw material’, it would become a spiritual gift. This was the case with all of Jesu’s disciples.
Matthew, experienced in keeping books and recording documents and accounts, wrote a gospel and helped us connect with old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus.
John, beloved disciple of Jesus, was a visionary who preached about love and wrote letters of advice to churches...
James became leader of the early Jewish Church
Peter and Paul, in different ways, reached out to the Gentiles and so on.
Barnabas was an encourager and peacemaker etc.,
Like stones, fingerprints, our DNA, we are all quite unique, each of us can do what no other person can do,
We each have a circle of relatives, neighbours and acquaintances no-one else has!
We are the only bible some people will ever read. Each of has been given gifts for the building up of the body, for catching other fish, and all our gifts are necessary, all quite unique! ...gifts that seem great and gifts that are small.
If we don’t cast out these nets for catching fresh fish, who will?
We must not model ourselves on others, but walk in the way of the voice that calls us, and not squander what has uniquely been bestowed upon us for the good of others, for the good of humanity and God’s creation. We too must be thankful, content with what God has given us to do, and be willing to offer ourselves in God’s service.
We have been called stewards, not possessors of God’s grace and gifts.
I was once at a Lent Course at my local church, and we were asked to sit in threes and fours.
We took it in turns to address one member of the group and make a note of their gifts. This went on round the circle until everyone had had a turn. Then the lists were read out.
It was amazing to hear the lists read, because many people had never before actually recognised those gifts within themselves. Some confessed they had for a long time coveted the gifts of other people, and neglected their own.
Some felt a real sense of affirmation they’d never before experienced.
Some went away with smiles on their faces that night, feeling humbled and useful.
It’s good for us as a church to recognise and acknowledge the gifts of others, make sure they are used to their full potential, and not blocked or put hastily to one side.
Song: Stir into Flame
Address 3 The Way of the Cross
These disciples would eventually realise through Jesus teaching that they would be offering their bodies as living sacrifices...to walk the way of the cross;, a task equally as dangerous as being at the mercy of the high seas in a storm.
There were many dangers ahead!
Do we face dangers as Christians? Are we challenged as Christians in the west? I think the answer has to be...not yet!
Many Christians won’t ‘rock the boat.’ and want peace at all costs!
Some see storms ahead! How would we fare?
Already Christians are branded as being middle class, intolerant, judgemental, ‘stuck in a rut people’ who have watered down God’s word. Too respectable to get our hands dirty! It sounds as though we have been branded as the very Pharisees, that Jesus himself took to task.
Jesus calls us to the same tasks to which he was called:-
preaching his good news to the poor;
coming alongside prisoners to proclaim freedom to them;
helping the blind to see,
to go to the oppressed to release them.
But don’t many of us in the Western world expect, like everyone else to have a comfortable existence, to live in a stress free environment...to better ourselves, fulfil our dreams and ambitions, and be able to live without fear or threat to our world,.
We’re accepted by MOST people aren’t we; as long as we don’t take our faith too seriously? Is this true, do you think?
Not so in other countries. To become a Christian and follow in the way of Christ means total commitment, it is a choice of life or death to some.
Refer to Secret Believers. (uses no real names and an unnamed country to hide the identity of these believers.
The baptism of 12 secret believers...(using a secret house and an inflatable paddling pool.)
‘Even as he spoke Br Andrew realised the deeper significance of the words he spoke to the men in front of him. This is what he preached to them:
‘Baptism means being buried in a grave with Jesus Christ. In a way what we are going to do in a few minutes is put ourselves and everything that belongs to us in the grave. Everything of the old life, before we were followers of the Lord Jesus, we bury forever. This will remind us that for the rest of our lives we now live in a new kingdom. That also means everything has become new. Our sinful past is completely gone forever. ...As you step out of the water, you can say, I am a new person’.
Butros, their leader and Br Andrew were struck by the intensity of these men, their eyes boring into them, trying to catch every single one of Andrew’s inflections, even while waiting for the translation.
Later each shared their own stories of conversion...
‘I found the teaching of Jesus very strange, in our culture when someone hits us, we hit him twice. But Jesus says if someone slaps you, you turn the other cheek..’
Another had this to say...
I had difficulty with the legal aspect of my faith. It was like slavery. I was doing the daily prayers out of a sense of duty, not from the heart. So I began searching for another way. I found the injil.(NT) I now follow Jesus because I can do it from my heart and with love. I am not being forced to do it....
One man said that he had a dream where he saw a pile of books floating in dirty water. He tried to clean up the mess, and when he had pulled out all of the muddy, soiled books, there remained one book that was perfectly clean and pure. Three days later he met a man who gave him a bible.’
A few days later, three of these twelve men had been arrested and tortured, one died in prison...
Perhaps in the west, we have yet to understand something about offering ourselves as a living sacrifice!
Is this how we any of us viewed our own baptism? To go to our own funerals?
Was Jesus call upon our lives a real challenge?
Would our response have been different, if we lived in such a country as this?
What does this say to us of our commitment today?
Even in some Christian lives there is a lack of ‘meaning, purpose and hope, coupled with an indifference to the welfare of others.
It is the opposite of zeal and joy in the service of God.’ * (John Ortberg.)
In John Ortberg's If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat: he says
"There is a way that leads to stagnation--unrealized potential, unfulfilled longings. It leads to a sense that I'm not living my life; the one I was supposed to live. It leads to boredom, to what poet Gregg Levoy calls the common cold of the soul... i.e.
*Sinful patterns of behaviour that never got confronted and changed
*Abilities and gifts that never got cultivated and deployed
* Deep intimate gut-wrenchingly honest conversations you never had;
And weeks become months and months turn into years, and one day you're looking back on a life of:
* Great bold prayers you never prayed;
* Exhilarating rides you never took;
* Sacrificial gifts you never gave;
* Lives you never touched.
"And you're sitting in a recliner with a shriveled soul, and forgotten dreams. And you realize there was a world of desperate need, and a great God calling you to be a part of something bigger than yourself. You see the person could have become but didn't. You never followed your calling. You never got out of the boat."
He says; Listen, people. Please. Whatever you do, don't be this person. God had a beautiful reason for making you. Don't waste your life waiting for the fear to go away. It never will. Seize the vision of what you could be, of what you could give, and go after it now.
You don't just owe it to yourself. You owe it to all of us.
Humorous story: There’s a story about a hen and a pig who passed by a church one day, which was offering folks to come in and eat a hearty egg and bacon breakfast. Shall we go in, it sounds good, said the hen!For you that would be a small offering replied, the pig. For me, he added, it would be total commitment!”
Blessing : The Northumbria Community, Belford. Track 1 on CD May the Peace of the Lord Christ Go With You
May the road rise to greet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and the rain fall soft upon your fields,
until we meet again,
May God hold you, in the hollow of his hand.