On Sunday January 22nd I led worship at Hampsthwaite Chapel. We sang ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind’ before I led the opening prayers. I gave a children’s talk about light; I read the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson about the Lamplighter and told them how John Ruskin had watched a lamplighter lighting lamps across the valley. He could only see the lights spreading along the street not the lamplighter. In the same way people may not know us but as we live our lives we should be reflecting the light of Christ wherever we are and have been. We sang ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God’ before we had the Bible readings; Isaiah 9.14 and the dramatised reading based on Matthew 4.12-23. We sang ‘The kingdom of God is justice and joy’ before I preached.
Isaiah lived in a time when Israel was under the yoke of military and political oppression from Babylon and in the time of Jesus Israel was under the yoke of Rome. It was in the darkness of the times that Isaiah looked forward to the light of the Lord who would bring new hope in the darkness. Matthew saw Jesus as the bringer of light to the dark times under the oppression of the Romans in fulfilment of the prophecy.
When Jesus heard that John had been imprisoned, he knew it was time to begin his ministry. He chose to leave Nazareth and to go to Capernaum, a small place by Lake Galilee. He chose to go to Galilee as it had a large population for its size and they were a people who were most open to new ideas. Matthew was keen to show how Jesus fulfilled that prophecy in Isaiah about light in the districts of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, beyond Jordan in Capernaum. Jesus spoke with certainty and authority from God the Father. The message of Jesus was that the people had to repent as the kingdom was near. They had to turn their eyes from earth to heaven and stop walking away from God, but instead walk towards God. Jesus knew that his message was urgent as the reign of God was about to begin. Now was the time to repent and follow him.
At the time of Jesus the Sea of Galilee would have been full of fishing boats. Peter and Andrew, James and John were busy with their nets when Jesus saw them and called them as his first disciples. It was not the first time Jesus had seen them; some of them were already disciples of John the Baptist. They had most likely already listened to Jesus and talked with him but it was only at that time that Jesus had challenged them to follow him and become his disciples, leaving their usual livelihood behind.
The disciples were simple working fishermen with no great influence or wealth; it was ordinary men Jesus chose. They only had themselves to give in his service and Jesus knew he could use people like that who wholeheartedly serve him. Jesus knew they had the right qualities to become fishers of men. A Jewish student was trained to follow his master in a physical sense as the first disciples did and his life was to be shaped under the yoke of the master.
Jesus taught in the synagogues which were the teaching institutions of the Jewish people and there was one in each place where there was a small colony of Jews. There was always an opportunity for a visitor to give the address. Jesus would have been welcomed as a distinguished scholar. Jesus also went about proclaiming the good news of the coming kingdom and healing the sick.
We too are called to follow Jesus and with Jesus’ help we can make a difference in our communities. Do we long to make a difference but feel powerless to make a difference? Do we wonder what the point of life is at times? We can all make a difference and we have been created to worship God and thank him for who he is and all he has given us. Let us respond to his call and be the hands and feet of Jesus to serve and love others and share Jesus’ unconditional love with the needy world in which we live. We are called to bring the light of Christ and hope to those who despair in the darkness they feel surrounded by.
We sang ‘For the healing of the nations Lord we pray with one accord.’ Pauline Robson, the worship leader led the prayers of intercessions. Worship concluded when we sang ‘Go forth and tell! O Church of God awake!’.