I could write an entire sermon on the first verse from this week’s Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading. When Jesus heard bad news, he withdrew and regrouped. Can you relate? Have you ever been in Jesus’ shoes?

DSCF0299Sometimes we receive news that shatters our understanding of reality. We have to retreat for a beat, before we can figure out how to respond. We don’t immediately know what our role is in this new reality. Are we ready for it? Was Jesus? Did he truly believe it was his time to begin public ministry, or did he simply realize that he had no other choice once he learned of John’s arrest?

Regardless of the motivation for the beginning of his ministry, Jesus made a serious splash in the history of the world. The disciples that he recruited in today’s Gospel story became leaders in the revolutionary movement that Jesus instigated. They risked death to bring Jesus’ message to the world. What would society look like today if Simon and Andrew had said no to following Jesus? Matthew portrays it as simple decision for the brothers to make, but it changed the course of world history!

How can you preach these passages to your community this week? It seems like there are both impulsive reactions and spiritual depth that end up having immeasurable consequences. When do our actions bear such deep meaning? Or do all of our decisions carry this weight? What do we do with the power that we yield?

In 1 Corinthians, Paul preaches unity in Christ, though he would make a stronger case if he hadn’t forgotten some of the people he baptized. Any chance you’re celebrating a baptism this Sunday? This passage offers a great opportunity to expound on the meaning of Christian unity, over and above differences in denominations, nationalities, ethnicities, or theology.

Psalm 27 is one of my favorites. The lectionary omits verse 2 about foes and enemies and evildoers devouring my flesh. What I love about this psalm is that it recognizes some of the horrible things that we may be going through in life, and assures us that God does not abandon us even in the middle of it all. God may not take away our suffering, but God is with us the entire time, offering protection and relief.

Where is the Spirit leading you for this week’s sermon? Do you have any ideas for prayers or children’s time or other pieces of worship? What is speaking to you and your community this week? Wherever you are in your worship prep, welcome to the conversation! Please share your ideas and questions below. Blessings on your ministry!


Katya Ouchakof is a hospital chaplain and paddlesports professional in Madison, WI (USA). She and her husband are slowly playing their way through the new board games they received as Christmas gifts.


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9 thoughts on “RCL: Withdraw to Galilee

  1. In our Bible Study yesterday we talked about this Matthew passage. One of the questions that came up was “What did Jesus see in these 4 that he chose to invite them to join him?” We tend to talk a lot about why they chose to follow, but why were they asked in the first place? Another question that came to my mind in our discussion was “a few months later did Andrew or Peter or James or John regret the choice they made?”

    Lots of questions bouncing around my mind this Tuesday. Hopefully they will start to resolve into a sermon (with or without answers) by Sunday:
    http://ministerialmutterings.blogspot.com/2020/01/looking-ahead-to-january-26-2020.html

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    1. Thanks for these thoughts on discipleship. It seems that at least one disciple regretted his decision to follow, hence his betrayal of Jesus (which he also regretted). Did these four ever feel the same? Good question, and it can be tied into congregational life in so many ways.

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  2. Last week I preached on I Corinthians about being extravagantly blessed and you have all you need. This week continuing in I Corinthians. I did not touch on the fact that the church at Corinth was in turmoil. We have our fair shares of cliques and thinking “my way” is right. I was struck by the sit-com Big Bang Theory and this totally quirky group of people who make each other mad, do not always listen, but in the end love each other deeply. So I have titled my sermon Big Bang Theory meets Community of Grace. That’s as far as I am

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  3. I’m finding myself at a very low energy ebb–a combination of a health issue (nothing ominous, just interfering) and a congregation that’s focused on “saving its life” by hanging on tightly to what used to be. So I’m being kind to myself by taking the sermon I preached on these passages three years ago and tweaking slightly, since my style has evolved since the first time. I’m intrigued by Rachael’s observation that Jesus followed hearing bad news by “retreating” into Galilee (from the desert?) and taking up the mantle of ministry. And why call those people? Well, why not? A good question for my tiny, elderly, low-energy congregation. I may work these observations into the text. The central piece, which I still love, lifts up a Wild Kingdom episode (I only read about it) that describes how elephant seal mothers find their babies after hunting for food: not by looking, but by sound and scent. Both mother and baby bond to each other’s scent and sounds at birth, just as we are inseparably bonded to God from birth. It becomes a model for the disciples’ immediate response to Jesus–they were born knowing he was their hearts’ home.

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  4. I’m jumping in late to preach this for a friend with a family emergency. Her focus (and now mine) is what they left BEHIND. Their nets! their security! their livelihood! their expectations! yikes.

    It’s their annual meeting after the service, so my goal is to help them look forward, dream big, and let go of sacred cows. (MOOoooo…) We will be using “dissolving paper” for them to bring forward and drop in bowls of water as a sign of what they will “leave behind” and allow to move them forward. (Or should I say MOOOooove them forward!)

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  5. Forgot to mention – for the children’s sermon – I am taking in a backpack with some school items and some things I should leave behind. A Gameboy. A nerf gun. A stuffed animal. Alexa. And some funny stuff like a hand vacuum and a frying pan. And then we will talk about how this backpack is suddenly a lot lighter when we leave things behind we don’t “have” to have with us.

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