February 2020  
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1-26-20 Sermon

Epiphany - Matthew 4:12-27

 

Dear Heavenly Father, Your Son called people in the midst of their daily routines to be his disciples and to spread the news of Your love for the world. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to Your Word, and grant us the courage to follow Jesus as his true disciples. Enable us, LORD, to serve Him as instruments of Your saving grace. This we ask in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

 

What if I told you that I believe the American way of life is doomed to destruction? That another kingdom is being formed to subversively take its place? And that I was working for that kingdom? What would you think?

 

What do you think it means when you hear these words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand?”

 

What do you mean when you say or pray the words: “Thy kingdom come?”

 

We talk about the kingdom of God, but what does that mean? If another kingdom posed a clear and present danger to the US, there would be a call to arms. There would be a fight.

What about the kingdom of heaven, that is at hand? Is it a harmless, toothless kingdom? Non-confrontational, peacefully co-existing?

I think most of us live in our own kingdoms most of the time, and God’s kingdom when we show up for worship. kind of slip in and out between the two. Does the kingdom of God threaten your easy way of life as an invading kingdom?

What does Jesus mean when He says: “the kingdom of heaven is at hand?” Is that an idle threat or a serious warning?

 

Perhaps part of the confusion comes from a church that today has by-and-large been neutered. If those who call themselves the church change and shift their message to fit the culture, to which kingdom do they belong?

 

The kingdom of heaven is at hand means it’s right now… and it’s a fight.

 

A surface reading of the Gospel today sounds very nice. Jesus is coming to help people. He calls some disciples. He heals and everybody likes him. We are much the same way. We want Jesus there when we need Him, but we don’t want him to get in the way. But have you ever read this Gospel with the thought of invasion in mind? It’s a whole new picture! Light is coming in the darkness – which is not just a metaphor, or a figure of speech! The Light of Jesus is invading the kingdom of darkness and sin and death. Jesus is recruiting His army and will train them in His methods of the kingdom to reverse the effects of sin.

 

Consider the battle in your own life…. The prince of this world wants your soul! He stops at nothing to make you like himself: angry, hateful, selfish, bitter, lustful, greedy. But Jesus the light of this world has a claim on you and wants to conform you to His image: the image that was ours before sin. Jesus wants to create in you love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And Jesus is deadly serious.

 

Satan has done a good job in convincing us that our life in this world is about power and position, grabbing and glory, friends and fame—accumulating things of this world. Jesus has come to expose those lies, to overthrow our selfish kingdoms, and establish His kingdom. And He does so subversively.

  • Working through the cross;

  • Calling us to admit our self-centeredness, our apathy, our excuse-making,

  • Turning us to Him, one person at a time

  • Rescuing those dead in sin through the waters of Holy Baptism

  • Preaching His Word into hardened hearts.

  • Exorcising demons by His Word of absolution.

  • Strengthening His army through Holy Communion.

As we claim the power of His cross we weaken the enemies hold on us. we worship together, pray, daily devotions—we claim victory over the old Adam within us.

 

Paul warns against the appeal of the world the evil one uses: "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." The power of God is always re-ordering our priorities; conforming us into the image of the Son, calling us to follow.

 

As "fishers of men" we are all called to follow our King - to live out the life God has given us

 

Bringing the light and life of His Word into dark places…into places of sin and death. Your little light may not seem like much. Jesus will work in you, and through you, subversively slipping past the defenses to bring His kingdom and life to all.

 

So we pray not only Thy kingdom come, but also lead us not into temptation, so our eyes of faith will not be deceived or mislead into false belief, despair, or other great shame and vice. And then deliver us from evil, that we might be established firmly in the kingdom, of our dear Savior, a kingdom that has no end; for only He can do it.

 

As surely as Jesus went into the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, so He has come here—to us with the same powerful Word, the same forgiveness, the same body and blood, that once walked those roads and hung on the cross, that we may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. His life can be your life, His victory can be your victory, and His kingdom your kingdom, now and forever.