Centered in Christ

Matthew 4:12-23

Move to Galilee

12 Now when Jesus heard that John was arrested, he went to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum, which lies alongside the sea in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This fulfilled what Isaiah the prophet said:

15 Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
        alongside the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles,
16     the people who lived in the dark have seen a great light,
        and a light has come upon those who lived in the region and in shadow of death.

17 From that time Jesus began to announce, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!”

Calling of the first disciples

18 As Jesus walked alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 20 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 21 Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and 22 immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Ministry to the crowds

23 Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues. He announced the good news of the kingdom and healed every disease and sickness among the people.

 

Thoughts on the passage:

As a congregation, we have three core values: being centered in Christ, being committed to each other, and being called to serve the world.  These three values help define us in terms of who we are as a church and how we seek to put our faith into practice.  Last week we remembered our baptisms and the reminder that in Christ we are offered a new life.  Our values are a reflection of what that new life looks like.

Our first value is to be centered in Christ.  This value is not meant to distinguish us from other churches, who I believe are also centered in Christ, but rather to remind us of the choice that we as Christians make to follow Christ.  Not everyone in the world is centered in Christ, but we are.  Not everyone in Willmar is centered in Christ, but we are.  When we were baptized we all made a choice to define ourselves first and foremost by Christ and the grace of God that is offered to us through Christ.

Our passage in Matthew shows how Jesus began his ministry, by calling out, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!”  He invited everyone to enter a new life that was centered in him.  He came to fishermen and told them to set aside their nets and follow.  He moved throughout the region and taught of the good news of God’s kingdom.

First Peter and Andrew and then James and John were invited to stop what they were doing and start something new.  Being centered in Christ and following him meant a radical change.  They would go from being fishermen to being fishers of men.  It was a change that meant giving up their livelihoods and their families in exchange for something new and unknown.

What have we given up so that our lives can be centered in Christ?  One obvious thing is our Sunday mornings.  Each week, rather than sleeping in, doing chores, or watching television we gather in church, to praise God and to grow in our faith.  I do not want us to forget that this is a sacrifice and it is not always easy. 

When I was in college I was not good at going to church.  There were three reasons for this.  I will let you judge whether or not they were good reasons.  First, I never really connected with the United Methodist Church across the street from my college and so I did not feel the strong connection to it that I had with my home church in Minnesota.  Second, as a typical college student my weekend schedule tended to have me staying up late on Saturday night and then sleeping on Sunday morning.  Finally, as a fencer, I was often travelling to tournaments on Sundays.  Was I not centered in Christ in college because I did not attend worship?  No, but I am sure my faith was hurt by not doing more during that time to make time for Christ and to give God more of my time and attention.

How we spend our time is just one of the ways that we stay centered in Christ.  Another way is how we conduct ourselves.  Do we practice a love of God and neighbor as Christ commands us?  Do we forgive our coworkers instead of holding a grudge?  Being centered in Christ might not be the most profitable way to run a business.  It might not be the most popular way to behave in the office.  Jesus is not kidding around when he says, “Change your hearts and lives!”

Being centered in Christ means being willing to make changes in our lives.  Being centered in Christ means orientating ourselves first and foremost around Christ.  It might seem like the most obvious of values, but it is also the most difficult.  Being centered in Christ means not being centered in ourselves and that is really hard.  It means not being centered in our jobs and that is hard.  It even means not being centered in our families and that is really hard.

Christ called the disciples to change their hearts and lives.  They made the choice to set aside their work and their families and answer the call.  God is speaking to us today.  We are being challenged to put Christ first in our hearts.  Are we ready to set aside our nets and follow as well?

Questions to Ponder:

Who is someone you know who is truly centered in Christ?

What are the things in your life that compete with Christ for the center?

What do you need to set aside in order to follow Christ?

Prayer:

God, you call to each one of us and invite us into a new life with you.  Give us the courage to set aside our nets and follow you.  Help us to lay down whatever holds us back so that we might seek a deeper relationship with you.  Bless us as we seek to stay centered in Christ. Amen