Revised Common Lectionary: Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23

Our Hebrew Scripture passage echoes back to Advent, in that chapter 9 of Isaiah is often read in the time of preparation in the Christian Church before Christmas, of darkness into light and hope for a new king. However, in historical context, we know that the northern kingdom of Israel was about to fall to Assyria, but that a new king in Judah was coming into reign. Isaiah sees much hope for this new king, a king in the line of David, who will bring the people out of darkness and into God’s light. This king is one who follows God, but also acknowledges that it is God who lifts our burdens and breaks down oppression.

Psalm 27:1, 4-9 sings of following God’s ways. The psalmist sings that it is God who is the protector and defender. God is the one the singer seeks after, and the psalmist asks God for one thing: to dwell with God forever, and to do so, to live in God’s ways. The singer also pleads with God that they can find God, for their heart longs for God.

1 Corinthians 1:10-18 gets to the heart of the matter with Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. The church is struggling with divisions among themselves—looking to different teachers and leaders of the church instead of Christ as their true head. They are looking to their own desires and not the needs of others. They lord over the gifts of one and ignore the gifts of others. Paul reminds the Corinthians that their Jesus, their head, their Lord, sacrificed himself. Gave over all his power, all his desires, and laid down his life for all. This message is foolish to those living for this world, but to those in Christ it is everything. Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians is about unity in love, not division over worldly matters. And in the church in Corinth, as with us today, all too often the lines are blurred when it comes to our worldly desires verses our needs, worldly matters verses Godly matters.

Matthew 4:12-23 tells of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew’s account of the Gospel often includes references to the Hebrew Scriptures as proof of Jesus’ divine nature, though they are often taken out of context. The writer of Matthew often lifts passages from the prophets to bolster credit for Jesus. The passage from Isaiah that Matthew quotes is about a new king coming to Judah, but Matthew sees this prophesy as a way of showing how Jesus is also one who brings light to the people through his ministry and proclamation of the kingdom of God. As Jesus begins his ministry, he also calls his first disciple’s. Matthew’s account differs from the one in John that we read last week, in that Peter and Andrew, James and John are fisherman, and not part of John’s disciples first. But what we know is that Jesus called to them, told them to follow him and they would now on fish for people. Jesus went throughout the people of Galilee proclaiming this Good News, the former lands of the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun.

Our hope is in following Christ’s ways—not our own, but the way of God lived through the life of Christ. The psalmist sings of this desire for God’s ways, and this song is echoed in the lives of the disciples who leave everything to follow Jesus. Paul reminds us that often we mix up the way of the world, the desires of the here and now, with the way of God, but we are called to turn back, to proclaim the good news that the kingdom has drawn near, and to live into that promise of new life beginning now with our very lives.

Call to Worship:
We gather together in this space, to sing praises to our God!
     We are old and young, men and women, all children of God.
We gather together to pray for each other and to pray to our God,
     We come from all walks of life, but we are all children of God.
We gather to listen, to be in fellowship, and to celebrate our God.
     We are poor and rich, sick and healthy, strong and weak
Together we are the people of God! Together, let us worship.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy Christ, we come to You knowing that we have fallen away from Your intentions for us. We have followed the paths of greed and envy, turned away from our brothers and sisters in need in order to satisfy our own desires. You gave Your life for us, and yet we are willing to give so little at times. Forgive us for not understanding that You laid down Your life for us. Forgive us for not recognizing the sacrifice of love, to live for others instead of ourselves. Call us back, to repent, and return to the kingdom of God. In Your precious Name we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance of Pardon
Christ continues to lay down his life for us, so that we might have life. Christ continues to show us the way, so that we might live into the truth and the life. Christ continues to love us, so that we might love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Know that you are forgiven, loved, and given new life. Amen.

Steadfast God, You are the rock of our salvation. When the troubled waters rise, You part the way and lead us through. When the darkness covers us, You shine Your light and lead us into the day. Help us to know You are present in our lives, in the world around us. Help us to know Your love is with us, when we love others. Guide us into Your ways of justice, righteousness, and peace, so that we might know that Your kingdom is drawing near. In the name of Christ, who is our companion on this journey of faith, we pray. Amen.

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