RCL Year A Epiphany 3
Isaiah 9:1-4, Psalm 27:1 and 5-13, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18,
Saint Matthew 4:12-23
The Lessons today astound me truly. In Isaiah, we have a prophecy, and in Saint Matthew we have its fulfillment. The rhythm of prophecy and fulfillment guide us to ask God and ourselves, “What prophecy do we intend to fulfill?”, or, in other words, “What prophecy does God want us to fulfill?”
The prophecy in Isaiah is this: “In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.”Its complementary fulfillment in the Gospel is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. This is the area of the first devastation of the Assyrian invasion in the eighth century. Jesus leaves his home in Nazareth, travels to Capernaum, along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and begins to gather around him disciples, four ordinary fishermen of no special note. What distinguishes those disciples is their willingness to do the will of God and to follow Jesus in whom light did and does shine upon the world now as then wracked by sin and violence.
Prophecy and fulfillment. But what of us? What prophecy do we intend to fulfill? I suggest to you that no prophecy is worth our while less than that witnessed by the first disciples of Jesus—the willingness to do the will of God and to follow Jesus, sharing his light with those whom God sends.
We are poised to do just that. After two selfish rectors, taking substantial portions of our membership, departed after failing to bend the parish to their will we have stabilized, and we are accepting our responsibility to be Jesus’ agents in a sinful and thoughtlessly selfish world. We have had good leadership, and we are selecting and developing new leaders to take their part in Jesus’ ministry.
In the Gospel today, Jesus proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”Part of this proclamation is already here, but part of it is not yet fully realized. We know this first hand. We are the church, and want to be the church, but we know there is more to do and to be, another dimension that we are increasingly ready to grasp.
We shall be able to grasp that dimension and to deepen our fidelity to Jesus as we give a more of ourselves to his enterprise. For that is the way God is. We give God an inch of our freedom and take upon us a bit more of the yoke of his service, and God responds by giving us a mile of freedom. For this is the relationship we have agreed to follow in our Baptism. We bend more of our willfulness and waywardness, we incline more toward God, and we find we have more than we started with. We have more freedom, as I said, and we have more joy and more peace. For that is the covenant God makes with his creatures: we give him the little that we think we can live without, and God gives it back with compound interest. It comes back to us thirty-, sixty-, a hundred-fold, as in the Parable of the Mustard Seed. I am not asking you to try to walk on water. At bottom, I am asking you to fulfill your own identity not by trying to make yourself happy but by giving a little more of yourself to the one who gives you life, who saves you, and who, finally, takes you home.
If we genuinely pursue this relationship, we learn easily, in the words of today’s Psalm, “the Lordis the strength of [our] life; of whom then shall [we] be afraid?”
Saint Matthew 4:17.
Psalm 27:1, slightly altered.