Sermon, The Lakes Lutheran Church Las Vegas NV 1.23.11

Did you hear the story of Jesus?  These past two weeks I have been with you here at the Lakes Church we have heard of the baptism of Jesus and the claim that Jesus is the lamb that takes away the sins of the world.  Today’s Gospel reading looks at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
Just prior to today’s reading we have Jesus in the wilderness being tempted.  Jesus was baptized by John in the wilderness and then went off into the desert.  Jesus had been led there by the Spirit, the Breath of God.  This is the same Spirit that led the Jews out of Egypt and into the wilderness.  Jesus now also travels into the wilderness and much like the ancient Israelites he is tempted in the wilderness.  The devil was there, asking Jesus to do things that would prove that Jesus was the Son of God.  These three things included
  • Make bread from a stone
  • Jump from atop the Temple, you will be safe
  • And worship the devil and gain all the kingdoms of the world

Each time he is tempted, he quotes the Hebrew scriptures illustrating understanding of the scripture and relationship with God.  Jesus, as we know survives these temptations and this is where we pick up the story for this week.  John the Baptist has been arrested.  The work that John was doing to further the Kingdom of God was interrupted by the powers that be.
Re-read the scripture
The Message
12-17When Jesus got word that John had been arrested, he returned to Galilee. He moved from his hometown, Nazareth, to the lakeside village Capernaum, nestled at the base of the Zebulun and Naphtali hills. This move completed Isaiah's sermon:

   Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
      road to the sea, over Jordan,
         Galilee, crossroads for the nations.
   People sitting out their lives in the dark
         saw a huge light;
   Sitting in that dark, dark country of death,
      they watched the sun come up.

   This Isaiah-prophesied sermon came to life in Galilee the moment Jesus started preaching. He picked up where John left off: "Change your life. God's kingdom is here."
 18-20Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, "Come with me. I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I'll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass." They didn't ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.
 21-22A short distance down the beach they came upon another pair of brothers, James and John, Zebedee's sons. These two were sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their fishnets. Jesus made the same offer to them, and they were just as quick to follow, abandoning boat and father.
 23-25From there he went all over Galilee. He used synagogues for meeting places and taught people the truth of God. God's kingdom was his theme—that beginning right now they were under God's government, a good government! He also healed people of their diseases and of the bad effects of their bad lives.
Jesus is tempted again.  He heads to Galilee, thirty miles from Jerusalem.  That distance would be the equivalent to driving in a car to Reno today.  Not a quick trip.  This distance from the seat of power allows for Jesus to hide.  Quite the temptation eh?  But we know that more was meant here.  The prophesies of Isaiah are fulfilled by this movement.
And it is it is declared by Jesus to repent, change your life, for the Reign and Realm of God are at Hand.
The temptations of the world and of the devil no longer have hold over us.  Not that they ever did.  Jesus has called for us to remember the promise of the Exodus.  The promise within the first commandment, have no other gods before God, the laws of God, not desiring the world, but living in relationship with God and one another.  Repent your reliance and desire for the things of the world.  The Reign and Realm of God is at hand.  We can reach out and touch it.  And shortly we will be doing just that.  The passing of the peace during communion is a sign of reconciliation between us and God and between each other.  It is key that we do this so that we come to the table without grievance, for there are no grievances between people within the Reign and Realm of God.
The Kingdom of God is doing what you do and following God.  Simon-Peter, Andrew, James and John all were fishing and Jesus called them to do it for God.  In following Jesus they leave the old world of self reliance behind.  Just after Jesus declares the Reign and Realm of God is at hand, God, in Jesus, calls his first followers into relationship with Him.
A good part of the rest of the Gospel of Matthew is a collection of parables that Jesus uses to illustrate what the Reign and Realm of God looks like.  One of my favorites is the Pearl Merchant in Matthew 13:45:46
 45-46"God's kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls. Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it.
These stories teach us what the Reign and Realm of Heaven looks like.  Just hearing the phrase Reign and Realm does not make clear what it is and neither does hearing each parable alone.  We must take the Gospel of Matthew in toto and have the parables interact with the Sermon on the Mount and with the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
The contemporary Irish Theologian Peter Rollins has written a collection of parables called “The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales.”  This collection of stories is great and all of them have begged me to reconsider the Reign and Realm of God.   One of my favorites is his retelling of the Pearl Merchant.
Read Parable here
Did you hear it?  The Reign and Realm of God is this pearl!  If you let go of all worldly desires of, profit, security, power, and embrace the Reign and Realm of God you will know the value of the pearl.  Put your faith entirely into God as God puts God’s faith into you.
In obtaining the pearl the merchant gave up all that is dear to him.  And in finding the Reign and Realm of God you give up all that you hold dear, most importantly the Gods of your own creation.  We all know what these gods are, Pride, money, status, none of that brings us closer to understanding the Reign and Realm of God.  Only when we loose everything and follow Jesus as the disciples do in the reading today do we understand what is meant by the Reign and Realm of God in Matthew.
This is not a life after death type of Kingdom.  This Reign and Realm is hear and now!  You can touch it. It is at Hand!  You can live in this Reign and Realm as you live here in Las Vegas Nevada.  In this place, the cars driving by outside, down on the Strip, we are being asked by Jesus to recognize the Reign and Realm.  Let what you do be an example to others and follow Jesus.  Jesus is asking for you to do what you do, and do it the best that you can for the Reign and Realm of God.  Do not focus on the desires and the goals of this world, but look at what you do as contributing to the building up of the Reign and Realm of God, and do it the best you can.  

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