An Old Sermon for a New Year

I haven’t written anything recently that seems like something that needs to be shared. So I decided to look back and see what I wrote five years ago and found this sermon. The references to recent shootings were at Tucson, when Gabrielle Giffords was shot among others. But I’m sad to say there have been so many shooting since then that this could reference just about any month in the five years since I wrote this.

January 23, 2011 – A Sermon on 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 sea, 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 sea 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.

When my husband and I had been married for one year, we decided to quit our jobs and become live-in house parents in a halfway house for ex-offenders. A progressive Catholic Church ran the program out of an old house in a sketchy neighborhood as an extension of their prison ministry held at the maximum security men’s prison. Our housemates were mostly men who had done some pretty serious time for some pretty serious crime.

When we moved in, we didn’t know the background of these guys. Since the ministry believed in dwelling more in the present than in the past, if we found out about what put our housemates into prison, it usually came during one of the therapy or 12-step groups we all attended together. We went to these groups most days of the week, so we eventually did hear the stories.

Some were repeat drug offenders. Others served time for grand larceny or serial assaults. One guy did 25 years for murder, and not the passion of the moment kind, either. Murder for hire; cold-blooded mercenary killing.

I will confess that the guy who had been a murderer was not my favorite housemate. And it wasn’t because he scared me. It’s just that he was awfully cranky and hard to live with. I guess 25 years behind bars might do that to a person.

Then again, I can be cranky and hard to live with and I don’t have that excuse.

When I describe this job, many people ask whether I was afraid. Absolutely not. The last thing these guys wanted was to go back to prison. They were in this halfway house, with all its rules and curfews and requirements, because they realized that changing the patterns that had led to prison was not going to be easy.  They wanted help. They wanted community. They wanted accountability.

They wanted to change. They wanted, in the language of this week’s scripture reading, to repent.

Repent. Now there’s a word that will send most of us running out of the room.

But it is, as far as we know, the very first word Jesus ever preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Sounds like something you might hear on the corner of Times Square from the sandwich-board preacher. So let’s break it down.

The kingdom of God has sometimes been confused with some pie-in-the-sky afterlife, but listen to the first thing Jesus says about this concept: “The kingdom of God has come near.”  Or translated differently, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” That is, the place where divine love rules (the Kingdom of God) is right here. At hand.  At the end of your arm. At your fingertips!

The place where divine love rules is at your fingertips. OK, that’s not so bad.

And about that scary word? That very first thing that Jesus ever preaches? Repent! The Greek word for repent is metanoia. Metanoia means to change one’s mind. The connotation is always to change it for the better. It can also be translated, “to think differently.”

Jesus is all about changing minds. That was one of his main gigs. So here he is, his first day on the job. He got baptized, then he went off on a 40 day vision quest in the desert where he danced with the devil and now he’s home and ready to rock and roll.  And what does he tell people?

Change your mind. Think differently.

Think differently, Jesus says, and believe in the good news. Change your mind from the bad news channel and trust in the good news station.

That’s something I need to hear regularly. Don’t put your heart into the bad news. Believe the good news. Think differently about the world you’re witnessing. Notice the good things. Trust those.

The place where divine love rules is at your fingertips.

After my week of thinking about shootings and violence and incivility, I arrive at the day when our nation commemorates Dr. King, preacher of nonviolence, purveyor of dreams. Everywhere I look, I see quotes from his hope-filled sermons and speeches, reminders to love instead of hate, to dream of beauty when life sends nightmares, to work toward peace in the midst of war, to trust in truth even when surrounded by lies.

“I have decided to stick with love,” King said. “Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

I have also been reading about some of the dead and injured from last week’s shooting. Good people. Kind, hard-working people. My favorite comedian reminds me, “There is light in this situation. I urge everyone: read up about those who were hurt or killed in this shooting. You will be comforted by just how much anonymous goodness there really is in the world. You read about these people and you realize that people that you don’t even know, that you’ve never met, are leading lives of real dignity and goodness and you hear about crazy, but it’s rarer than you think.”*

You will be comforted by just how much anonymous goodness there really is in the world.

Before Jesus tells us to repent, he quotes the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

From darkness to light.

From hate to love.

From violence to nonviolence.

From crazy to kind.

The prophets, ancient and contemporary, religious and comedic, always remind us to think differently. Change the channel from the bad news to the good.

Think differently. The place where divine love rules is at our fingertips. Our fingertips. Your fingertips, my fingertips.

Repent and believe. Think differently and see the good. You will be comforted by just how much anonymous goodness there really is in the world.

Change your mind. Change your heart. Change your direction. Change the channel.

Oh and that cranky murderer I lived with? He became a counselor at a detention center for at-risk youth.

 

(*The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, January 10, 2011)

, , ,

2 Responses to An Old Sermon for a New Year

  1. Steve Collins January 26, 2016 at 11:05 am #

    We can see the glass as half empty or half full. Jesus and MLK and dare I saw President Obama see it as half full and we can too. It requires us to forgive and forget and belive in and anticipate and work for better days ahead. Good message and especially timely in this poisonous political season. Thank you for reposting.

    • Meredith Tilp January 26, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

      Ditto to your brother. I enjoyed reading this. Why did you stop that ministry? Sounds very hard Sisiphian but good

  2. Peterrib April 16, 2019 at 2:48 pm #

    Regards! An abundance of forum posts!

    http://cialispego.com/
    cialis 5mg filmtabletten ohne rezept
    cialis online
    rualis cialis
    cialis online

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  3. Peterrib April 16, 2019 at 6:05 pm #

    Awesome write ups. Kudos!
    http://cialisttk.com/
    cialis opis produktu cialis 20mg half life cialis cialis online
    cialis diario wikipedia
    imdur cialis
    does cialis help you last longer
    cialis for elderly
    cost viagra cialis levitra
    cialis and insurance coverage

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  4. Peterrib April 16, 2019 at 6:09 pm #

    Thanks a lot! I enjoy it.
    http://cialispego.com/
    cialis sube la presion cheap cialis optimiser la prise de cialis cialis generic
    indicazioni cialis 20 mg
    cialis kopen betrouwbaar
    viagra cialis argentina
    buying cialis in bali
    cialis mail order canada
    cialis overnight delivery canada

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  5. Peterrib April 16, 2019 at 6:32 pm #

    Terrific content. Cheers.
    http://cialispego.com/
    cialis 20mg when to take it cialis 20 mg effectiveness of cialis for daily use cialis online
    cialis ventajas y desventajas
    cialis precio en estados unidos
    dziaЕ‚anie tabletek cialis
    can cialis cause kidney pain
    acquisto pillole cialis
    cialis ilaç yan etkileri

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  6. Peterrib April 16, 2019 at 7:23 pm #

    You actually revealed that terrifically.
    http://cialismsnrx.com/
    cialis alkolle alinirmi cialis online why do cialis commercials have bathtubs cialis 20mg
    cialis young adults
    which is more potent cialis or viagra
    using poppers cialis
    generique cialis avis
    posologie du cialis 20mg
    cialis drug reviews

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  7. Peterrib April 16, 2019 at 10:33 pm #

    Nicely put. Thanks.
    http://cialismsnrx.com/
    what is the meaning of the bathtubs in the cialis commercials cialis online cialis refusjon cialis without a doctor prescription
    cialis 5 mg 30 comprimidos
    cialis egitto
    diferencia de viagra y cialis
    cialis sore throat
    acquista cialis generico online
    cialis generika tadalis

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  8. Peterrib April 16, 2019 at 11:52 pm #

    Amazing knowledge. Cheers.
    http://cialispego.com/
    cialis grossesse cialis generic cialis nebenwirkungen muskelschmerzen cialis online
    cialis 20mg lilly erfahrung
    cialis 36 hour side effects
    es peligroso el uso de cialis
    erfahrungen mit cialis daily
    generic cialis aus europa
    cialis da 20 o da 10

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  9. Peterrib April 17, 2019 at 12:09 am #

    You actually revealed this perfectly!
    http://cialispego.com/
    es legal comprar cialis por internet cialis online wo kaufe ich am besten cialis cialis 20 mg
    generika cialis preis
    la pastilla cialis se puede tomar con licor
    lilly cialis precio
    cialis conceiving
    wirkung cialis 10mg
    viagra cialis doc

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  10. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 5:47 am #

    Perfectly spoken really! .
    http://cialismsnrx.com/
    how long does it take for cialis to take effect cialis 20 mg os beneficios do cialis cheap cialis
    cialis yahoo respostas
    precio de una pastilla de cialis
    c’est quoi le cialis
    found out my boyfriend is taking cialis
    cialis joomla hack
    where to buy female cialis

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  11. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 6:04 am #

    Kudos! Loads of postings!

    http://cialismsnrx.com/
    se puede combinar viagra con cialis cialis 20 mg cialis and type 1 diabetes cialis generic
    potenshöjande medel cialis
    can cialis cause ringing ears
    getting the most out of cialis
    il cialis si compra senza ricetta
    classic tabs cialis
    cialis perte cheveux

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  12. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 9:48 am #

    You actually stated that fantastically.
    http://cialismsnntx.com/
    cialis ratings cialis 20 mg cialis ohne rezept deutschland cheap cialis
    cialis generico in 48 ore
    cialis presentacion y precio en mexico
    experience on cialis
    is it safe to split cialis pills
    does cialis affect your eyes
    conseil d’utilisation cialis

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  13. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 10:28 am #

    You actually explained it wonderfully.
    http://cialisttk.com/
    comprar cialis con receta medica cialis online cuanto tiempo antes debo tomar cialis cialis generic
    do you chew or swallow cialis
    cialis dosage differences
    cialis after expiration date
    cialis e emicrania
    40mg cialis too much
    get prescription for cialis

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  14. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 11:55 am #

    You actually explained it fantastically!
    http://cialisttk.com/
    costco cialis price cialis without a doctor prescription what is liquid cialis cheap cialis
    cialis to treat enlarged prostate
    why use cialis daily
    experience with daily cialis
    where can i buy cialis cheap
    sito affidabile cialis
    jual cialis yogyakarta

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  15. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 12:09 pm #

    Whoa plenty of good tips!
    http://cialisttk.com/
    do i have to take cialis everyday cialis 20mg get cialis now cialis generic
    cialis headaches treatment
    viagra cialis espaГ±a
    cialis w aptece kosztuje
    can i take cialis and lisinopril
    levitra compared to cialis and viagra
    cialis oral user reviews

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  16. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 12:21 pm #

    Seriously quite a lot of fantastic tips!
    http://cialispego.com/
    comment prendre cialis 5 generic cialis hypertension artГ©rielle cialis cialis generic
    cialis online rezeptfrei
    24 year old cialis
    tomar cialis quanto tempo antes
    cialis treatment for ed
    cialis first time experiences
    cialis le prendre combien de temps avant

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  17. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 1:15 pm #

    Information effectively regarded..
    http://cialismsnrx.com/
    cialis on line senza ricetta cialis without a doctor prescription high dose cialis cialis 20mg
    le meilleur viagra cialis ou levitra
    cialis once a day prezzo
    cialis cinsel ilaç
    brevetto cialis scaduto
    cialis 20 mg dosaggio
    cialis generico rischi

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  18. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 3:59 pm #

    Appreciate it, Numerous facts.

    http://cialispego.com/
    cialis 20mg 12 stГјck generika cialis without a doctor prescription unterschied zwischen cialis und cialis professional cheap cialis
    cialis fedex
    meaning of cialis
    essai cialis
    quando tempo prima assumere il cialis
    stopping cialis before surgery
    viagra vs cialis recreational use

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  19. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 4:40 pm #

    Cheers, Great information.
    http://cialismsnrx.com/
    cialis internet kaufen cialis without a doctor prescription laboratorio cialis diario cialis generic
    efectos secundarios viagra cialis
    cialis y psa
    en ucuz cialis 20 mg
    viagra cialis uprima
    cialis 20 mg quanto tempo prima
    cost of cialis in nz

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  20. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 6:06 pm #

    Thanks, Valuable information!
    http://cialisttk.com/
    cialis durata erezione cialis online cialis muerte cialis 20 mg
    cialis imitatie
    cialis erfahrungsaustausch
    cialis diario ou viagra
    seriöse cialis anbieter
    brevet du cialis
    cialis 5 mg diario precio en venezuela

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  21. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 6:10 pm #

    Regards! I appreciate it.
    http://cialismsnntx.com/
    cuanto tiempo para tomar cialis cialis 20 mg tadacip 20 mg (generic cialis) cheap cialis
    age limit for cialis
    les mГ©faits du cialis
    miglior sito per acquistare cialis
    cialis y dolor muscular
    cialis prezzo ufficiale in farmacia
    cialis schedule

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  22. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 7:37 pm #

    You actually mentioned that effectively.
    http://cialismsnntx.com/
    maxima eficacia cialis cialis online cubre la seguridad social cialis buy cialis online
    potenzmittel cialis einnahme
    how does cialis feel
    long term side effects of cialis
    il cialis si prende a stomaco vuoto o pieno
    how much does cialis cost at the pharmacy
    vigour cialis

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  23. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 10:20 pm #

    This is nicely expressed! .
    http://cialispego.com/
    si tomo cialis puedo ingerir alcohol cialis 20mg cialis et hypertension artГ©rielle cheap cialis
    cialis dom rep
    viagra and cialis reviews
    can you build a tolerance to cialis
    consumo excesivo de cialis
    is generic cialis as effective
    cialis 10mg fta 4 st

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  24. MarcusBok April 17, 2019 at 11:02 pm #

    Nicely put, Thanks!
    http://cialismsnrx.com/
    cialis originali cialis 20 mg what is the difference cialis and viagra cialis without a doctor prescription
    can cialis affect sperm
    cialis viagra confronto
    ohne rezept cialis
    cialis forum yan etkileri
    online pharmacy viagra cialis
    cialis tablet prospektГјs

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  25. MarcusBok April 18, 2019 at 12:49 am #

    You explained this very well.
    http://cialispego.com/
    apakah cialis berbahaya cialis online life after cialis cialis 20mg
    cialis humana
    cialis retail price australia
    precios del cialis en venezuela
    cialis coupon eli lilly
    cialis comprar mais barato
    cialis 30 day free trial coupon

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  26. MarcusBok April 18, 2019 at 1:02 am #

    Nicely put, Cheers!
    http://cialispego.com/
    what’s the best viagra or cialis cialis generic mix cialis with viagra cheap cialis
    costo del cialis 5 mg
    cialis rezeptfrei erfahrungen
    cialis 5 mg 28 comprimidos precio
    interazione cialis e antinfiammatori
    cialis set
    cialis farmacia san pablo

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Leave a Reply