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January 26, 2020


©Wendell Griffen, 2020

New Millennium Church, Little Rock, AR

January 26, 2020 (Third Sunday after the Epiphany)


Matthew 4:12-23

12Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.


God of Blazing light,
through the power of the cross you shattered our darkness,
scattering the fears that bind us
and setting us free to live as your children.
Give us courage and conviction
that we may joyfully turn and follow you
into new adventures of faithful service,
led by the light that shines
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.


       The word “call” can be used as a noun or as a verb.  When we speak a bird’s call, the call of a referee, or an umpire, a telephone conversation, or being called up for military service, we are using ‘call” as a noun.  We are also using call as a noun when we speak of an occupation, trade, or profession, or a strong impulse toward an occupation, trade, or profession.  “Call” can also be used as a verb to refer to actions (remember that verbs are action words) such as call a bluff, call off a dog or an attack, and call out for an invitation, contest, or competition. 


We see “called” used as a noun at Matthew 4:18: As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen.  When Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (Matthew 4:19) and when he “called” James and John from their mending their nets as fishermen with their father (Matthew 4:21) we see “called” used as a verb.  


Besides the word “call” this scripture passage contains another familiar expression: the kingdom of heaven.  The “kingdom of heaven” expressions by Jesus throughout Matthew’s gospel are not teachings about how to go heaven.  They are not about how to escape or evacuate from this world to another world. 


When we read the words of Jesus in Matthew about entering the “kingdom of heaven” we are reading about becoming part of God’s realm “on earth as it is in heaven.”  We are reading about a call to living in the here and now as people who fish for human beings.  We are reading about being “called” from one way of living into lives of service and community.  When Jesus “called” Peter, Andrew, James, and John – his first followers – with these words, he was inviting and summoning them to join him on a quest to bring people into the realm of God’s love and life as a loving, courageous, sharing, gentle, compassionate, liberation-minded and justice-doing community of souls. 


Like Peter, Andrew, James, and John, you and I are “called” by the life of Jesus.  Like them, we are called to join Jesus who said “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.”  In the New Testament Gospels, Jesus calls us to join him on a holy adventure in ways that we should understand. 


  • Think of The Matrix movie where Neo (the character portrayed by Keanu Reeves) is “called” by Morpheus (portrayed by Laurence Fishburne), to join a quest to save the world.
  • In the novel and movie versions of The Fellowship of the Ring, the wizard Gandalf “calls” Frodo Baggins from his comfortable village life and set out on a quest that will change Frodo and affect the world. 
  • In the first Harry Potter book and movie, Harry Potter is summoned from his life as an orphaned and bullied nephew forced to live under a stairway in his aunt’s house into the wizarding community of Hogwarts.
  • In the first Star Wars movie, Luke Skywalker was “called” by Obi Won Kenobi on an adventure to save the galaxy from the tyranny of an evil Empire. 
  • In The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson is frequently “called” to join the brilliant detective Holmes in solving crimes and other human problems. 


Like Neo, Frodo Bagins, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, and Dr. Watson, you and I are “called” to join in a great adventure.  No!  Peter, Andrew, James, and John show that we are called to join in the greatest adventure of life. 


We are called to join Jesus, God’s best agent, in God’s quest to transform people from the tyranny of greed, vanity, fear, hate, fear, prejudice, and violence into “the kingdom of heaven.”  Jesus summons and invites us to join his quest to fish for people so that the “kingdom of heaven” will replace the empire of hate, fear, greed, prejudice, vanity, and violence. 


In The Matrix movie, when Neo meets Morpheus for the first time Morpheus gives him a choice between a red pill and a blue pill.  Morpheus tells Neo that choosing the red pill will forever change his life and the way he sees reality.  In the same way that Neo understood reality and living in a different way after taking the red pill, accepting the call to follow Jesus causes us to understand reality and living in a different way. 


  • Obeying the call to follow Jesus causes us to see the tyranny of violence and vanity that holds people hostage.
  • Obeying the call to follow Jesus moves us away from living, relationships, and activities that are self-centered and driven by personal comfort, privilege, and convenience. 
  • Obeying the call to follow Jesus moves to break fellowship with the empire of greed, fear, and hate.
  • Obeying the call to follow Jesus always involves choosing to move! 


Moving is always a choice!  We never move until we choose to go elsewhere, do different things, and create new realities from those we have known.  And let’s be clear, deciding to accept the “call” to follow Jesus involves choosing to be new people. 


The consequences of choosing to follow Jesus involve un-learning the ways greed, vanity, hate, fear, and violence that operate the Matrix.  Choosing to follow Jesus involves learning the ways of humility, repentance, compassion, mercy, justice, devotion, peace, and courage that define the realm of God Jesus called the kingdom of heaven.  So we read that “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom…” 


The Matrix must be confronted by people who know that the notion that people can be safe and well thru greed, fear, hate, deceit, prejudice, and violence is a lie.  Following Jesus involves the great work of helping people understand the oppression of racism, sexism, materialism, militarism, imperialism, xenophobia, and every other “ism” that infects people and prevents them from living in community with God and others.  


And following the call of Jesus causes us to join him in “curing every disease and sickness among the people.”  Calling Jesus is always a call to healing people and healing the world.  Calling Jesus is a call to heal grieving people, liberate people who have been enslaved and cheated, and tear down systems of hate, violence, fear, and deceit. Answering the call to follow Jesus requires that we unlearn the lies that harm people and God’s creation, and that we learn God’s truth about love, joy, peace, justice, generosity, and hope. 


We are not “called” by Jesus to fish so people will escape the world.  We are called by Jesus to fish so people will be free from the Matrix and become part of God’s world-wide community of love, peace, hope, compassion, justice, and joy. 


Followers of Jesus are not hostages to the Matrix.  We are not duped by the propaganda and program of self-worship.  We have chosen to join Jesus in God’s quest to restore community to the world in what Matthew’s Gospel calls “the kingdom of heaven.”  That isn’t about life after death.  It’s about being alive in a way so profound that we now see the way things appear to be as dead.  The kingdom of heaven is the way we are truly here to live.  Everything else is part of the Matrix.


We have been by Jesus to fish for people.  We are following Jesus to fish people out of the empire of vanity, greed, hate, fear, and violence.  We have been called by Jesus to fish for them, person by person, because God wants to free them from the Matrix. 


We have heard the call from Jesus and taken the red pill of his life that opened our eyes and hearts to the pain and oppression created by the Matrix of hate, fear, vanity, greed, deceit, and violence.  We have left our fishing nets of personal privilege and self-interest. 


Now we are now on God’s quest with Jesus to teach and cure the world, person by person, by fishing for people. Every day we are on the most wonderful quest in the world. 


Thank you, God, for calling us from existence in the Matrix of vanity, greed, fear, deceit, and violence.  Thank you for calling us through Jesus out of the Matrix and into the kingdom of heaven. 


Thank you for helping us “unlearn” the ways of the Matrix.  Thank you for helping us “unlearn” devotion to empire.  Thank you for helping us “unlearn” the vanity of self-worship.  Thank you for helping us, through Jesus, to “unlearn” the systems of greed, fear, hate, deceit, and violence that make up the Matrix and give it power over people. 


Thank you for teaching us to love, share, heal, protect, and liberate people.  Thank you for teaching us that the systems of the Matrix are not all-powerful.  Thank you for showing us that the love, faith, and hope are able to free people to become One with you and others in the kingdom of heaven here, now, and always. 


We pray for strength to follow you boldly.  Deliver us from fear.  Help us resist the temptation to compromise with the Matrix forces of hate, fear, greed, and violence.  We rejoice that your Spirit leads and protect us as we journey for you with Jesus to the praise of your glory as members of the kingdom of heaven.