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The Ripple Effect: Last Sunday's Sermon

The Reading

Matthew 4:12-23

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.

The Sermon

"Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

This is a reoccurring theme in Jesus' teaching and we spend a lot of time talking about the kingdom of heaven in bible study. We have a whole range of beliefs about the kingdom of heaven. Some say the kingdom of heaven is right here. Others think in terms of the end of times and judgment day. Still others think of it as simply heaven and when you die that is where you hopefully go.

The thing is, we spend very little time talking about repentance. To repent is a very humbling thing and it makes us uncomfortable. The word repent is a translation of a Greek word that can also mean to think after or to think again. We say words of repentance in the confession at the end of the prayers of the people. When we ask God to forgive us our sins, do we have regrets for what we have done with a commitment to change? If that prayer of confession is just words you recite, the prayer is meaningless. If you are speaking from the heart, God hears and God forgives.

This is a new year and with it comes new year resolutions. We reflect on our lives and make decisions about how we can run our life a little better. It might be to stop doing something or start doing something. This is already the fourth week in January and maybe you have made resolutions and broken a few already.

Repentance and resolutions are really about behavior. When I was a teacher I ran something called a BASS room. It stood for behavior and social skills. I didn't name it. Someone else did. I taught students who were frequently getting in trouble for their behavior. That meant I had a lot of interaction with other teachers, social workers, psychologists and the principal.

When students would get in trouble I would have them fill out something called a ripple chart. At the top of chart the student would write out whatever he or she had done. From there would be an outline or list of the people who were affected by that behavior.

For instance, if a student started cursing at his teacher during class we would look at the consequences of that act. For instance, the teacher might get angry. The teacher might lose respect from other students in the class. The students might get angry and lose respect for the offending student. The teacher might not be able to teach the classroom as well because of the disruption. The principal would take action against the student for his lack of respect. The parents would be called and told the student was suspended. The parent might have to take time off work to visit the principle and take the student home. The parents would be disappointed. I can go on and on.

There is a ripple effect with everything we do. What we do can have a positive effect or a negative effect or both. Lets say you make a condescending remark toward a friend in front of a group of people. What would be the effect? Depending upon what was said, the friend might have his or her feelings hurt. The friend might be embarrassed because he or she was made to look bad in front of others. What you said may have changed your relationship.

My point is that we are all connected and the things we do impacts others. It may be time for us to think again, to repent and leave behind our former lives. Like Andrew, Peter, James and John maybe we should let go of what we are doing and follow Jesus.


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