3 Epiphany - Matthew 4:12-23

There is a practice for meditating upon Scripture that I encourage you to try...with the annual


Read a passage and imagine being a part of it.

Visualize the smile of the excited child, the flash of realization in the student's eyes, the

tear cleansing the face receiving a Stephen's Minister's attentive care.

Stroke a clean new blanket with your cold, weatherbeaten, homeless hands.

Imagine and feel your way through the pages of this report, which condenses great stories

and struggles and laughter and insight and discovery and wonder and hope into summaries and spreadsheets, like remnants of an exquisite dinner collected in a doggie bag.

Ministry is so much more vibrant and interesting than reports about it.

So it is with today's gospel, which reads like Matthew's annual report: Jesus relocated, preached, called disciples, taught, healed and attracted people, because that's what he's

supposed to do.

Too many centuries of familiarity can make these words sound like business as usual.

But now read Matthew's account like you would audit a new church report.

When you do that, you will quickly realize it doesn't add up.

The timing is wrong.

The king has just arrested John for preaching about a different kingdom drawing near.

The message is wrong.

Jesus begins by preaching the exact same, word for word message that got John arrested.

The place is wrong.

Jesus moves to Capernaum, which is much closer to the king.

The personnel are wrong.

Fishermen had low social status and a reputation for being more dim than trustworthy.

The approach is wrong.

Family was the defining cornerstone of identity and purpose; you don't abandon them.

The financing is wrong.

How is Jesus going to pay for this people fishing expedition?, the treasurer wonders.

The market is wrong.

Targeting the sick is going after people who have been cursed, maybe rejected by God.

The whole thing is wrong.

Why would the kingdom of heaven come to a land of darkness and the shadow of death,

and call fishermen who do their unrespected work at night?

The whole story asks us to suspend disbelief and try to imagine a completely different reality

than what we know to be true.

Or, to use the Greek word, to repent.

Repentance is more than kicking bad habits.

Repentance is a total turning of the mind and change of the heart.

It is full and foundational preparation to live in a different, transformed reality that John

and Jesus called the kingdom of heaven.

And step one is to stop trying to work our way into it and to realize that it will not stop drawing

near in order to work its way into us.

This kingdom takes precedence over political orders and income and family and other false gods and secondary loyalties, and it takes whoever we are and whatever we do and transforms it into the bigger purposes of God: follow me, and I will make you fish for people.

Follow me, and I will lead you into darkness where hope happens beneath the surface of danger and trouble.

Follow me, and I will lead you to network and hobnob with the needy and the hurting.

In Luke's version of this story, Jesus invents a word: you will zogreo, you will catch people into life instead of catching fish into death.

This kingdom is a thoroughly different way of being.

"That's great, Pastor, but I've already tuned you out because I'm worried about other things, two of which you know about.