This Sunday’s service takes place in the context of political drama, and not just what is happening in Washington, DC. The gospel passage from Matthew (4:12-23) reminds us that Jesus began his ministry just as John the Baptist was arrested. Jesus took up the exact slogan of John–“Repent, for the realm of God is here, at hand.” Repent is the inadequate word we use to translate metanoia in the Greek New Testament, meaning to undergo a change of allegiance, turning away from the authorities of this world and giving our loyalty to God and the way of Christ with all our heart and mind and soul and body. It was a political message calling people to resist the ways of empire and corrupt wealth and power and to act instead as citizens of God’s realm alone, the realm of mercy, justice and peace, the realm where all are welcome and given sanctuary and equal standing, especially those who are oppressed or treated as outcasts by society.
The context of John’s arrest makes the courage of Jesus and the first disciples breathtaking, and at the same time it fills us with a warm feeling of gratitude and admiration. It inspires us to lay down our lives as they did for the sake of love, to join the resistance that Jesus led, to be part of the movement that he picked up from John and the prophets before him and that continues around the world today, the daring movement to make all the earth as loving and caring and serving of those in need as God’s political and spiritual realm. It is a beautiful vision. We hear it in Psalm 27, written a thousand years before Jesus, and we hear it echoed in I Corinthians Chapter 1 written twenty or so years after his death. We hear our own personal longing to be included in the shelter of God’s love, and our yearning to be unified as one people with no divisions or rivalries or fearful hate of other groups.
Come to worship this Sunday with your longing for your home and community and nation and world to be as welcoming of all and as kind and loving as God’s realm. Come with your longing to be embraced by such a beloved community. Come and find the comfort and realm you seek in this beautiful sanctuary and in the affirmation of the big hearted people gathered here. We will sing three favorite hymns to reassure us as well, “Pues si vivimos (In all our living),” and “Just As I Am, Without One Plea” and “Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult.”
The choir will sing “You Walk along Our Shoreline” by Sylvia Dunstan, set to the traditional Irish tune, Salley Gardens, and “O God of Mercy” by Simon Lole. Organist John Atwood will play pieces by J. G. Walther and J. Pachelbel.