Sermon from Sunday

On Sunday I spent the morning with the folks at Hosanna Lutheran Church in Rochester. 

The Gospel text for the morning was from Matthew 4:12-23.  Here's the sermie....

Sermon for January 22, 2017
Location: Hosanna Lutheran Church, Rochester
Gospel: Matthew 4: 12-23

For the last several days, it has been pretty foggy in southeastern Minnesota. Dense fog is fairly disorienting. Without the ability to see street lights and water towers, it’s harder to judge distances correctly. A few nights ago I was driving from Rochester back home to Stewartville, and I thought I was still a ways off from town. It was really foggy, and then before I knew it, I looked over and saw the Stewartville city welcome sign! I thought Stewartville was still out in the distance but then I realized I was actually already there. I was already in Stewartville and didn’t even realize it.
In today’s Gospel text, the kingdom of heaven is brought near. The kingdom of heaven is a way of talking about God's best vision for what existence can be like...it's a place of peace, grace, participation, healing and love. The kingdom of heaven was something that people perceived to be far off. And then Jesus finds a way to take this thing that seemed foggy and far off - and bring it close. 

Jesus helps us all recognize the kingdom of heaven is already all around us.

Jesus invites us to increase our awareness of the kingdom of heaven in our midst. In God’s kingdom, everyone is invited to participate. This is the good news that Jesus brings…that God is fully present and that God’s kingdom doesn’t exist in a far off fog but instead is among us and around us all the time.

In today's reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus invites Peter and Andrew, James and John to follow him. He invites them to participate in the kingdom of heaven. It’s not an exclusive club. It’s wide open and everyone gets to be part of it. There were no try outs or applications. The guys didn't have to prove they were good fishermen first. 

Instead, Jesus came and found them and said: “Follow me.” That was it. Those first disciples that Jesus called must have been captivated by this vision of the kingdom because they dropped their nets and followed. It’s a powerful feeling to feel included and invited - it’s transformative. It was transformative for the first disciples, and it's transformative for us, too!

We all long to have a voice/a role/a purpose, and in the kingdom of heaven, we all do. The kingdom of heaven comes near in our lives in all sorts of ways! When we encounter healing, grace, and God’s invitational presence, the kingdom comes near!

I remember a few months back I was here at Hosanna and you were having your annual pancake breakfast, and I looked around at tables full of people sharing stories. You welcomed me to your table. You listened and shared with one another about life and faith and family. The kingdom of heaven came near. And through your food ministries and your new free food library outside - God’s grace is encountered every step of the way. It’s the kingdom of heaven. And it's not just within these walls. It's wherever you go. In your homes, in your workplaces.

Where have you caught a glimpse of the good news of the kingdom of heaven? Where have you felt God’s nearness? Where have you experienced a clearing in the fog of life? When have you been invited to follow the Spirit and participate?

I just got back from a week in Kolkata, India for my brother’s wedding. The festival lasted several days, and in the midst of so many new religious and cultural experiences, the kingdom of heaven came near! It was such a powerful feeling to be invited and included, and at every turn, that's just what happened. 

*share a couple stories from the trip* 

-Henna, "Come! Sit!"
-Uncle with the dance invite, "This is your one chance! Dance!"
-Cousin during tumeric, "We're all a family now

In mehendi/henna, in dancing, in eating, in tumeric rituals, in quiet prayer, in the streets of Kolkata. Each new shared, communal experience in India felt like another glimpse of the kingdom of heaven...place where everyone gets to participate - where everyone has a role - where every voice matters.

The kingdom of heaven is a place where everyone is invited to participate - just like Peter, Andrew, James, and John were invited to follow Jesus and participate in the good news of God’s presence!

As followers of Jesus, we carry the good news of the kingdom out into the world! We do it as a congregation. We do it as a synod. We share the good news with our families and friends and strangers.

The Psalm for today - Psalm 27 - states, “One thing I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

The house of the Lord….it isn’t just about eternity. It’s also about the here and now. This life…this world…this is also the house of the Lord. It’s not just out in the foggy distance…it’s also around us. And when we witness it, when we hear it, when we feel it……we get to share that with one another!

Every time we extend the invitation to participate….

Every time we are wiling to accept someone else’s invitation to participate….

It’s the kingdom.

Right from the beginning….from the calling of his first disciples….Jesus was expressing that the kingdom of heaven was an inclusive place of participation! It wasn’t for the religious elite. It was for fisherman and those who were sick and those who were just living their normal lives.

In the midst of all that normalcy….Jesus says: “Hey look! The kingdom is near!”

May we all recognize the kingdom in our midst. May we experience God’s nearness. May we follow where Jesus leads. May we be willing to extend the invitation and widen the circle - so that all may know the kingdom has come near.

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