Third Sunday after the Epiphany by The Rev. Richard Toll


Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 5-13
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23



Jesus was raised in the Galilee region. It is a wonderful, beautiful region with mountains, hills, rivers and of course the Sea of Galilee.

Nazareth is near the Sea of Galilee, about 35 miles away. Our scripture today in Matthew says that Jesus began his ministry after John the Baptist was arrested. I am convinced that Jesus knew and related to the person and the teaching of John. And, that John was a very controversial voice in the contemporary religious conversations. Was John the messiah? What was God doing? Was there any way God could intervene with getting rid of the Roman occupation? People were frightened and had good reason to be frightened. The Roman occupation was cruel. Many of the inhabitants of the Galilee region were being killed.  The religious authorities have given into the Roman occupation.  The authorities had no power, no authority, and no way to speak out.  Their answer was to accept the occupation of the Romans and to say to the people of Jerusalem and to say to the people of Galilee absolutely nothing.  The religious ferment at the time of Jesus was without leadership from the authorities of Jerusalem.  The religious authorities were puppets of the Roman occupation.

“Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested he withdrew to Galilee.  He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea.”

So Jesus appears on the scene.  Scholars think he was around 30 years of age.  At that point in time it would have been equivalent to our 40 or 50 years of age because of life expectancy.

He moved to Capernaum, at the Sea of Galilee, about 35 miles from Nazareth.   Did he go with family?  Did he go with Mary?  What about his brothers and sisters?  What about Joseph?  Jesus was a part of Jewish culture at the time.  He was a part of human history.  He was a part of a political drama within history and he was a part of what we believe to be the reflection the person of God in human history that informed us and continues to inform us of who we are as individuals within time and space…….otherwise known as history…….our story of human existence…..God with us.

Matthew tells us, “Jesus began to proclaim…..repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”    Matthew uses the term kingdom of heaven while the other gospel writers use the term kingdom of God.  Mark uses kingdom of God and Mark is written earlier then Matthew.  So the proclamation of the kingdom of God within the gospels appears to be the central message of Jesus.  So what is the kingdom of God?  Is it beyond this world?  Is it part of this world?  How do we become a part of it?  How do we live out our lives as a part of the kingdom of God?

Repent!…..seriously….does anyone here know what that means?  It is a word we rarely use or relate to.  It is old fashioned and is supposed to be for other people…..not for me.

But, it is a word meant for all of us!!

It means to stop……turn around and begin again…..admit that you as an individual,  you as a part of society, you as a part of any decision, regarding our country, our culture, the way we treat each other, our participation in human rights, our inability to promote justice, our indifference to those we look down on for what ever reason, our indifference to the weak, the poor, the vulnerable, and on and on…….

Repent means.

It is not right.

It is wrong.

It is a mistake.

And it is time to begin again.

Jesus proclaims that message and in effect relates to it as becoming a part of God’s kingdom, God’s relationship with humanity.

What do we do?

How do we change?

Here we are.  Sitting in a church pew 2000 years later.

History has unfolded.

Millions of people have lived and died.

Wars have been fought and are being fought.

The world has gone through discovery, chaos, experimentations, enlightenment, life and death.  Saints have come and gone…. some known, most of them unknown, wonderful tributes to our humanity have lived and died, offering their gifts to us and we are the recipients of those many and varied gifts.  People over many century’s have cared and have loved us into existence.

Evil has been present.  Evil has prevailed and prevails at times with the freedom we have as individuals we have to choose between good and evil.  Evil is so much a part of our story.  History is filled with it.

But Jesus proclaimed.

“Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

The miracle message of the gospel of Jesus remains in the fact that Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee and saw two brothers, Peter and his brother Andrew.

They along with other disciples responded to a message of hope and relationship that continues to open doors to the future.

A future that is right here and right now before our very eyes.  Right here and now.  The kingdom of God is near.  God’s presence is with us.  We belong to the God who has created us for the purpose of love.  Our lives are to be reflections of the One who came to us and comes to us to proclaim the kingdom of love.

(Tell the story of Passing the Peace in the 1970’s in Baker, OR at St Stephen’s)

It is not easy to look into the eyes of another human being or to have another person look deeply into our own eyes.

The miracle of the gospel story in the person of Jesus is relationship.

The kingdom of God is a relationship.

Here and now.  Person to person.  Within the presence of God.  As scripture points out, when two or three are gathered together there am I in the mist of you.


I bet my bottom dollar that they knew each other and shared significant moments together.  As least we know they caught fish together.

When Jesus said, “follow me” they knew and trusted him.  They knew what it meant to move into the lives of others as they learned from Jesus the meaning of life, love, God, relationship, healing and what it meant to repent of that which was harmful to them and to others.

The disciples of Jesus knew what it means to be in the here and now….with you, with me, with each other, in community together…moving into a future…a future that always is God.  And the God of the future is here and now.

The disciples of Jesus trusted Jesus.  They knew that the future they proclaimed was a relationship in the here and now.

As we move into the future as individuals, as a community, as a part of this world within the universe, we hear the proclamation of Jesus, “Repent”.  Think about what you have done and what you are doing.  Stop.  Start over.  The kingdom of God is near at hand.  We belong to God, we belong to each other, we relate to God and each other here and now.


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