22nd January 2023 10.30am – Third Sunday of Epiphany Eucharist

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23 01 22 3rd Sunday of Epiphany Eucharist

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The Readings

Isaiah 9.1-4

But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.

Matthew 4.12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the 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.’
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’

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 lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As 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. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.\

Jesus 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.


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Rev Dr Alan Billings

In today’s gospel, two sets of brothers do something which we might want to say was either brave or foolish. They give up their jobs, they turn away from their homes and families and go off with a complete stranger simply because he asks them to. ‘Follow me’, says Jesus. And they do.
The way the story is told does make it sound like a sudden and impulsive thing. They don’t say, ‘We’ll think about it’. They don’t even ask, ‘What will we get out of it?’ They just down tools – well, fishermen’s nets – and follow this visiting teacher and healer from Nazareth.
Now I’m quite sure it wasn’t as simple as that. I expect they did in fact already know something about Jesus. His reputation my have gone before him. Perhaps they had even heard or seen him in the days before – and been moved or impressed by him. I’m sure there was something charismatic about Jesus – the way he spoke, the things he spoke about, the things he did, the way he noticed people, the way he treated people - high or low, rich or poor, men or women or little children. We know from many places in the gospel that all these things impressed and moved people as they might move people today who hear or read the gospels.
So although today’s gospel reads as if Peter and Andrew, James and John, had never met or heard of Jesus before, and just happen to bump into him as he walks along the seashore, I think we have to assume that they did know enough about Jesus to make them make this decision. ‘Follow me,’ he says. And they did.
But the brave or foolish part is what happens next. The point is that they don’t know, can’t know, everything about Jesus. And they don’t know or can’t know what will happen next. Because the future is a land no one has ever been in before. This is the start, then, of a story and a journey of trust. They make the decision that they will get to know Jesus better, intimately, and to have him as the one who will guide them through the unknown land that is the future.
For them, that means leaving behind a lot familiar things. Not just their jobs, their homes and families. They also must know that by following the teacher from Nazareth they will be leaving behind old ways of thinking and doing as well. That may be the hardest part. Is it brave or foolish?
Does all this seem a million miles away from us and our experience?
Well, of course, in a straightforward sense, yes it does. WE do not meet Jesus in the flesh. We are not being asked to give up our jobs, turn our backs on family and friends and go literally with Jesus on a journey. Our vocation is not that.
But in one crucial respect what we do is what those first disciples did.
Something has brought us to this time and place. We know something of Jesus Christ. By him we have been inspired, moved, disturbed, challenged, comforted –  some or all of these things. We have committed to let him be our guide into that unknown land, which is our future. We don’t know what waits for us in that future. But we do believe he will be with us and give us whatever we need to make a difference for good or simply to face things. In this respect we are like the first disciples. We may not know everything yet about him but we want to know. We trust him.
One of the great twentieth century New Testament scholars was Albert Schweizer. He is remembered now, if he is remembered at all, because he gave up a career as an academic and indeed as a musician as well, re-trained as a doctor and founded a hospital in what today is called Gabon in west Africa. He came to see that we only really know Christ, as we know another person, over time. To follow Christ is to commit to get to  know him over time, perhaps even a lifetime.
He once wrote some lovely words about this, comparing the way we follow Christ now with the way the first disciples Andrew, Peter, James and John - did. I’ll end by quoting what he wrote:
“(Christ) comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks the same word: ‘Follow thou me!’ and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as in ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica

O God, the creator and preserver of all people, we thank you for sending your son Jesus to live among us and heal the sick and serve all he came into contact with. We bring before you the needs of your world now, all those who are suffering hunger and drought, cruelty and oppression, and above all, those suffering in the war in Ukraine. We pray that peace will be restored, and international and voluntary organisations will support all those suffering starvation at this time.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for the Church worldwide. In this week of prayer for Christian Unity, we pray that all denominations will work together to further your kingdom by showing love to all your people of all faiths and none, for all are your children.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for our City of Sheffield, and for our local community of Walkley. We give you thanks for all the groups that make it such a good place to live – its churches, the Library, Walkley Forum, the S6 Foodbank, those caring for our open green spaces, Langsett Advice Centre, Zest, and all working together to plan for this year’s Walkley Festival.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Jesus went about, healing people who were ill. We pray for all those who are ill at this time, for those awaiting treatment or operations at a time when out Health Service is under great stress, or simply feel very unwell. We pray that all who work in the service, or need its care, may feel your grace, and in a moment of quiet we remember anyone known to us who is ill at this time…
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Hear us when we remember those we have known, both family members or friends and acquaintances, giving you thanks for all they have meant to us. We think of them in a short period of silence, particularly Liz...
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary, Mark and John and all your saints,
we commend ourselves and all your people to your unfailing love.
Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers
For the sake of your Son
Our saviour,
Jesus Christ.
Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here,
is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council 2000