Worship Helps for Pentecost 3

Artwork: Calling of the Apostles
Artist: Domenico Ghirlandaio

Jesus appears as the light that shines in the darkness. Dark places remain covered in the shadow of sin and unbelief. Now there are, however, bright places too, and there you find God’s children. Jesus shines his light by preaching repentance and the good news of the nearing kingdom, and he invites us to follow him to a life illumined by him. Following him means living in the joy of freedom (First Lesson) and walking in the light of love for God and brother (Second Lesson).

Old Testament: Isaiah 9:1-4
On the other hand, there will be no more gloom for the one who was in anguish. In the former time, he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will cause it to be glorious, along the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. 2The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death, the light has dawned. 3You have multiplied the nation. You have increased its joy. They rejoice before you like the joy at harvest, like the celebration when people divide the plunder. 4 For you have broken the yoke that burdened him, the bar on his shoulder, and the rod of his oppressor, as you did in the day of Midian.

1. What kind of “darkness” were the people walking in?

2. What “great light” did they suddenly see?

Epistle: 1 John 2:3-11
3This is how we know that we have known him: if we keep his commands. 4The one who says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5If anyone keeps God’s word, the love of God is truly made complete in him. This is how we know that we are in him: 6The one who says he remains in him should walk as Jesus walked. 7Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one that you have had since the beginning. The old command is the message you heard. 8At the same time, the command I am writing is new—it is true in Jesus and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. 9The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10The one who loves his brother remains in the light, and nothing causes him to stumble. 11The one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

3. How can we be certain that we know God? How do John’s words apply to people today who think they know God?

Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23
12When Jesus heard that John was put in prison, he withdrew into Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14He did this to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 15Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, along the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and on those dwelling in the region and the shadow of death a light has dawned. 17From that time, Jesus began to preach: “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven is near.” 18As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. 19He said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20They immediately left their nets and followed him. 21Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. 23Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness among the people.

4. What did Jesus do when he heard that the Baptizer had been arrested?

5. What did Jesus do to help him in his job of preaching the good news of the kingdom?

1. These people were walking the spiritual darkness of sin and death.  St. Paul says that we were “dead in our transgressions and sins” and “objects of God’s wrath” (Ephesians 2:1,3).

2. Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12) that brings spiritual peace and joy.

The story of Zebulon and Naphtali was one of suffering. These northern tribes bore the brunt of foreign attacks, most notably by Assyria. Adding insult to injury, the land had become Galilee of the Gentiles, a melting pot of resettled peoples and a hot bed of crass syncretism. It was a land covered by the darkness of gloom and unbelief. Though the people’s punishment was well deserved, it was not an end to itself, but a means to God’s end. God’s plan broke upon them as suddenly as light shining into the darkness when Jesus appeared and began to preach and teach. He fulfilled every one of Isaiah’s prophecies: he honored them with his presence; he gladdened them with his gifts; he freed them with his sacrifice for sin.

3. John says, “Obey his commands.” The Gnostic heretics that John combated had little regard for laws and sin and the commands of God. They felt they knew God well enough without worrying about acts of obedience. How similar to modern unbelievers and even to many Christians today! They think they know God, but they have little time for talk of sin, guilt, and obedience. John tells us that contrary to their opinion, they do not know God. Jesus, our Morning Star, has already come, and the light of his dawn is beginning to break over the world, and the time for deeds of darkness is fading fast. There are still places of deep darkness, but that is not the place to find God’s children. They will be found walking in the light and shedding their own light on the darkness around them by living in love for God and brother.

4. He returned to Galilee to preach the gospel, fulfilling the words of Isaiah in the First Lesson.

5. He began to call his disciples.  What faith they showed by dropping everything and following Jesus! 
The light of the world appeared and began to cast its beams. Fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy, the bulk of Christ’s ministry took place in Galilee of the Gentiles which had been so oppressed. Galileans were the first to see the light of God’s day breaking over the world. From that time on, Jesus began to preach, and we hear the first public words of Jesus Christ: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. With those words the Holy Spirit describes Jesus shining his light into the shadowed nooks and crannies of the world. From fishing boats to synagogues, from workmen to lame men, Christ cast a beacon of light into the darkened world around him with his three-fold ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing. The kingdom of heaven drew near and called God’s children to follow the light and live in the light.

Putting your faith into action
Whatever we do, if we do it for God, he will help us to do it better. When Peter and Andrew went fishing that day, they never could have imagined anything better than the economic benefit in filling their nets with fish. Then Jesus came along and showed them a better way to keep on fishing: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Whatever job you may have, whether menial or important, it is God’s gift, to provide for the needs of yourself, your family, and to serve others. Jesus came to live and work among us, to know us and understand us, to die for our sins and rise again for our salvation. We cannot possibly thank him for all he has done for us, but we can start by doing everything, using everything, to bring glory to his name.

A reading from the Book of Concord for the Third Sunday after Epiphany
1] Since a division has occurred not only between the Papists and us, but also among some theologians of the Augsburg Confession themselves, concerning free will, we shall, first of all, show exactly the points in controversy.

2] For since man with [respect to] his free will is found and can be considered in four distinct, dissimilar states, the question at present is not what was the condition of the same before the Fall, or what he is able to do since the Fall and before his conversion in external things which pertain to this temporal life; also not what sort of a free will he will have in spiritual things after he has been regenerated and is controlled by God's Spirit, or when he rises from the dead. But the principal question is only and alone, what the intellect and will of the unregenerate man is able to do in his conversion and regeneration from his own powers remaining after the Fall; whether he is able, when the Word of God is preached, and the grace of God is offered us, to prepare himself for grace, accept the same, and assent thereto. This is the question upon which, for quite a number of years now, there has been a controversy among some theologians in the churches of the Augsburg Confession.

3] For the one side has held and taught that, although man cannot from his own powers fulfil God's command, or truly trust in God, fear and love Him, without the grace of the Holy Ghost, nevertheless he still has so much of natural powers left before regeneration as to be able to prepare himself to a certain extent for grace, and to assent, although feebly; however, that he cannot accomplish anything by them, but must succumb in the struggle, if the grace of the Holy Ghost is not added thereto.

4] Moreover [On the other side], both the ancient and modern enthusiasts have taught that God converts men, and leads them to the saving knowledge of Christ through His Spirit, without any created means and instrument, that is, without the external preaching and hearing of God's Word.

5] Against both these parties the pure teachers of the Augsburg Confession have taught and contended that by the fall of our first parents man was so corrupted that in divine things pertaining to our conversion and the salvation of our souls he is by nature blind, that, when the Word of God is preached, he neither does nor can understand it, but regards it as foolishness; also, that he does not of himself draw nigh to God, but is and remains an enemy of God, until he is converted, becomes a believer [is endowed with faith], is regenerated and renewed, by the power of the Holy Ghost through the Word when preached and heard, out of pure grace, without any cooperation of his own. – Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article II, Free Will (paragraphs 1-5)

Hymns: 771; 85; 84; 90; 577

1  O God from God, O Light from Light, O Prince of Peace and King of kings,
To you in heaven’s glory bright The song of praise forever rings.
To him who sits upon the throne, The Lamb once slain but raised again,
Be all the glory he has won, All thanks and praise! Amen, Amen.

2  Deep in the prophets’ sacred page, Grand in the poets’ winged word,
Slowly, in type, from age to age The nations saw their coming Lord;
Till through the deep Judean night Rang out the song, “Good will to men!”
Sung by heav’n’s hosts in splendor bright, Re-echoed now, “Good will!” Amen.

3  That life of truth, those deeds of love, That death of pain mid hate and scorn—
These all are past, and now above He reigns, our King once crowned with thorn.
Lift up your heads, O mighty gates! So sang the angel hosts again.
Lift up your heads—your King awaits. We lift them up, Amen, Amen.

4  Sing to the Lord a mighty song; Sing to his name, his glories tell!
Sing, heav’nly hosts, your praise prolong, And all on earth, your anthem swell!
Worthy the Lamb for sinners slain! Forever let the song ascend!
Worthy the Lamb enthroned to reign; Glory and pow’r! Amen, Amen.

Text: John Julian, 1839–1913, abr., alt.


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