Epiphany 3, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 26, 2020
Isaiah 9:1-4, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, Matthew 4:12-28

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:          immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                          bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:     bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

You can’t see the forest for the trees.  You can’t see the big picture.  You strain out gnats while swallowing a camel.  We have a lot of clichés about being so caught up in the middle of the struggle that you lose focus on why you are doing what you are doing.

It is easy to get caught in the chaos of living.  There is so much to do and so little time to do it.  Your spouse is out of town and you’re on the phone with the manager of the auto repair shop who is telling you things are much worse with your car than they thought.  The baby is crying because she needs a diaper change, the four year old just dumped a box of cheerios on the floor, the 9 year old is chasing the dog around with a toy sword and the 12 year old has her headphones in and just rolls her eyes when you look at her with your eyes pleading for help.  You can lose track of why it is that you have children.

At work you can get so caught up in the details of the day to day grind and responding to crisis after crisis that you lose sight of the big picture of what it is you are trying to accomplish.

Today’s Gospel reading is from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  Jesus has been baptized and has been tempted by the devil in the wilderness, John the Baptist has been arrested.  Now Jesus is beginning His ministry.  He is calling His disciples.  It is an interesting story about fishermen; Andrew and Peter and their father, James and John and their father Zebedee.  “Matthew 4:19 (ESV) 19 …[Jesus says] to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”[1]  And the sons immediately leave their boats and their fathers behind.  They leave their lives as fishers of fish and follow Jesus.  It is an amazing story, but we can get lost in the details.  We wonder, what did Peter, Andrew, James and John already know about Jesus?  What did their fathers think of this?  How could they react so swiftly?  We love the human details, but the details are not important here.  This account is not about Peter, Andrew, James and John and their fathers.  The Gospel of Matthew is not about the disciples. It is about Jesus.  This account, from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, is about Jesus.  It is not about the disciples, it is not about you, it is not about me.  It’s not about what people know or what they feel.  It is about Jesus.  It is about Jesus and His call.  Matthew 4:19 (ESV) 19 …“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”[2]  Jesus calls them to give up catching fish for dinner and instead gather women and men, girls and boys for God’s eternal Kingdom.

The disciples do not know everything about Jesus when they are called, but Jesus’ call is powerful and they follow and they learn about Jesus as they go.  The disciples are not perfect followers of Jesus.  They stumble, they fall, and they are restored. They learn that Jesus is the one. They learn that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  They learn that Jesus came to give His life on the cross as a ransom for the sins of the world.  They learn that Jesus will die and rise again.  Jesus calls, and they follow; in fits and starts, in faith and forgiveness.

Jesus’ call is powerful.  The Word that brought the universe into existence turns people around.  His Word brings forgiveness and eternal life.  It does not matter what your knowledge of Jesus is at the time of your call.  Many of you received your call from God when you were just a tiny baby still getting used to breathing air.  You didn’t know anything about Jesus and yet He called you in the water and the Word of Holy baptism and you are still following Him.  Others of you received the call later in life after a time of wandering.  You heard the Good News call of Jesus and you followed Him. Your life now is not about you, it is about Jesus and His call to you.  You did not choose Jesus.  He chose you.

            The disciples do not know everything about Jesus when they are called, but Jesus’ call is powerful and they follow and they learn about Jesus as they go.  The disciples are not perfect followers of Jesus.  They stumble, they fall, and they are restored. They learn that Jesus is the one. They learn that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  They learn that Jesus came to give His life on the cross as a ransom for the sins of the world.  They learn that Jesus will die and rise again.  Jesus calls, and they follow; in fits and starts, in faith and forgiveness.

In the beginning it was very clear, it is not about you, it is about Jesus for you.  Here in the middle it is still very clear.  It is not about you, it is about Jesus for you and His call to you.  It is about Jesus and His promise to you.  “I will make you fishers of men.”  That is His promise to you.  You will be a fisher of men.  Sounds easy enough, but how does that happen.  What exactly does Jesus mean?  How do you bring people into the kingdom of God?  What does it look like for you to be a fisher of men?  I don’t know.  I don’t know what it all means for me.  It can mean different things for you each day depending on where life takes you. Living in the messy middle of things caught up in all the day to day tasks it is not always clear what exactly we are to do.  What is clear is Jesus wants you to be a part of His mission to bring more people into the kingdom through the call of God.  And God will make it happen through you.

Jesus promised that you would be fishers of men and this takes many forms; at home, at school, at work, with friends.  It does not mean the same thing for everyone.  However, for everyone who is a member of Immanuel, one clear way that you are fishers of men is through your ministry at Immanuel Lutheran School where for 6 hours each day 175 kindergarten through 8th graders are loved and cared for and educated and taught about Jesus’ love and forgiveness in word and deed.  Another 50 preschool students are here part of the day each week along with many additional children in our childcare center.  In recent years 74 students and family members have come to the waters of baptism.  They have received God’s call in water and the Word and the kingdom of God expands.

The impact of the Gospel on our students is immeasurable.  Seeds are planted and watered that we won’t necessarily get to see fully grow.  But we get to have a great impact in the formative years.  We are able to teach students about Jesus who do not know about Jesus.  We are able to speak the truth in love to students who do not have a church home. We baptize.  We gather at the altar of the Lord and eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ with those who are prepared to receive the sacrament. We are the church home for many students who have no other church to call home.  We strive each day to nurture our students to walk in repentant faith; loving God and loving their neighbor.

This is one of your missions.  It is a mission that you all have generously supported since 1896. You have supported this mission in lean years and it is a mission you continue to support as we have grown to be one of the largest Lutheran Schools in Ohio.  Your Lutheran School is one of only eight Lutheran Schools nationwide that has had continual growth over the past eight years.  You fishers of men made that happen.  You see the value of your mission and it is a mission I pray you will continue to support, and support to an even greater extent as we look for ways to be able to reach out to more and more students and grow our capacity to educate the whole child in a holy way until Jesus returns.

Every Sunday you support bringing God’s Word and Sacrament to your brothers and sisters in Christ gathered here.  Every school day you bring the light of Christ to students in your school with your support.  This week we will celebrate National Lutheran Schools’ Week with schools across the country with daily themes of Joyfully, Thankfully, Peacefully, Faithfully, Hopefully.  It is a week to give thanks to God for the amazing ministries of Lutheran Schools.  Where else do you get to spend five days a week teaching children about Jesus?

Right now we are in the middle of very real growing pains as a church and a school.  From the busyness of just trying to keep up with all the daily tasks it is sometime hard to see where we are going and what is the best way forward.  Where do we go next?  What is God calling us to do?  “What do we do next?” is not an easy question to answer from life in the messy middle, but we find clarity in knowing that we are each called by God and He has promised to make us fishers of men.  We know there are a lot of women and men, girls and boys in our community who have not heard the Good News of Jesus.  How do we reach them as a church and as a school?

We know that Jesus’ promises are certain and they do not change even when we get lost in the chaos of life in the middle.  God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  As fishers of men we will find our way to do God’s will.  Together, seeking God’s will, we will step back and see the forest; examine the big picture, and find our way forward in faith and obedience.  Together, we find clarity of purpose because Jesus’ call to follow Him and Jesus’ promise to make us fishers of men are the same as it was in the beginning, as it is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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