Emmitsburg Council of Churches


 The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 4:12-23

4:12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 4:13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 4:14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 4:15 "Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles©© 4:16 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." 4:17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." 4:18 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. 4:19 And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." 4:20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 4:21 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. 4:22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 4:23 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.

This is the Gospel of the Lord . . .

"From Deepest Darkness we Embrace Hope"

There has scarcely been a darker day in human history than when, in 1994 almost a million people were massacred in Rwanda, Africa over a 100 day period.

The fighting between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes is one of the worst atrocities witnessed in recent history: "The country's lush green bushes, hills, valleys; its streets, rivers and homes were drenched in blood, and churches overflowed with the mutilated bodies of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus. It was an orgy in which neighbors and friends killed each other; some people even killed their own children and next of kin."

When the world first became aware of the genocide, critics say, the international community failed to respond decisively.

April 7th of 2004 was the 10th anniversary of the genocide, the Rwandan people knew it was going to be a painful moment for the nation and especially for the survivors. And so the Rwandan government sought to find one world leader who could address the people's pain. Bishop Desmond Tutu was called to speak. The event would take place at an enormous stadium so that as many people as possible could come and hear the Bishop's words. . . .

From Isaiah (9:1-4) and from our Gospel lesson this morning we heard,

"The People Dwelling in Deepest Darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death -- light has dawned."

Some 750 years before Jesus was born, back in the time when Isaiah was the Prophet sent to Northern Israel . . . . The people of Israel had many enemies . . . and one of their greatest fears was that the army of ASSYRIA, whose conquering King was named Tiglath-Pileser III, would come crashing down on them and take away their land and freedom.

Now at that time King Ahaz was reigning in Israel's Northern Kingdom, and Ahaz had a notion that, "If he allied his state with the kingdom of Syria (a nation to the North), then the two kingdoms could put up a ‘good enough fight' with Tiglath-Pileser III . . . and therefore, not have to PAY Assyria the vassalship (or extortion required as the price of FREEDOM and peace."

At first glance, this sounds like a good idea. But Word had come to the prophet that the Lord was not happy. So, ISAIAH warns King Ahaz not to make an alliance with SYRIA, but to Trust the LORD. What does Ahaz do?? Of course, He ignores Isaiah's voice. And Therefore, Ahaz has ignored the voice of the Lord -- (which is not a good thing!~!)

Ahaz goes and does ‘his own thing'. . . . And soon -- Northern Israel is overcome by the dark power of Assyra: Tilgath-Pileser III carries away the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom to become his slaves in Assyria, and he controls the land that was once the pride and joy of God's chosen people.

The people languish in their exile -- they suffer and become deeply depressed.

Thus, we hear the people's lament from so long ago – They are a people who dwell (or sit) in darkness . . . they are loathing their poor estate and now must wait on YHWY, the Lord their God for deliverance.

But then we have the next words from the Prophet to an otherwise defeated and discouraged Israel . . . "[But you] O 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 -- new Light has Dawned."

What the Ancient People of Israel needed was hope. HOPE of Being Restored to their former greatness. HOPE of being Restored to the Land of their Ancestors and Re-united to the faithfulness and favor of their God.

Isaiah's words were to be spoken to these same people. Isaiah spoke of the day to come. It was a day of reconciliation, a day of hope and restoration. The people would be led by a new king. He would be a king of righteousness. His words and actions would deliver the people out of the darkness of despair. The coming king would bring light to the people and show them the way to peace and freedom. . . .

SOME 6 years after the Massacre in Rwanda, Bishop Desmond Tutu came to that land to speak. He stood before that stadium filled with people.

All of The tension of retribution still hung heavy in the air that day. Vengeance was still tingling in the fingers of the thousands gathered -- both sides could legitimately demand retribution for the bloodshed . BUT Like a Light beaming into their Darkness -- Bishop Tutu spoke. His words were filled with compassion and love for both sides of the atrocity. Tutu chose his words carefully:

"I told them that the cycle of reprisal and counter reprisal that had characterized their national history had to be broken and that the only way to do this was to go beyond retributive justice to restorative justice, to move on to forgiveness, because without it there was no future."

"I made an appeal for them to consider choosing forgiveness and reconciliation rather than their opposites."

Surprisingly, the Bishop was not rebuffed -- But instead, the Parliament and political leaders listened.

?? "WHY??"

They listened because they knew where Bishop Desmond Tutu had come from. HE was from South Africa – where the world (just a few short years before) had watched with disbelief as a relatively peaceful change in government took place. South Africa was expected to self-destruct at the end of "White Rule (The apartheid system) ." In fact, the movement in South Africa was revolutionary – but peaceful.

Bishop Tutu said, "The world could not quite believe what it was seeing. South Africans managed an extraordinary, reasonably peaceful transition from the awfulness of repression to the relative stability of democracy . . . . It was what enabled me to address my sisters and brothers in Rwanda in a manner that under other circumstances could have been seen as insensitive and presumptuous."

In South Africa ‘A new light had dawned'. The people living in that country had lived in despair for a great length of time. But because of the Practice of Forgiveness -- A whole system of governance was transformed!!

Standing before the Rwandan People, Parliament and President, Bishop Desmond Tutu was like a light that had entered into a dark place.

He was able to move amongst the brokenness of the Tutsis and the Hutus . . . He was able to minister with words of Wisdom and love that would lift them gently to their feet. He was able to speak words that would lead the way toward healing and Reconciliation of a people once divided by hatred and bloodshed.

Bishop Desmond Tutu had learned his lessons at the feet of Jesus Our Lord -- the TEACHER of Men and Women. Even as Jesus had come to teach about the Kingdom of Heaven -- breaking forth on the earth . . . Bishop Tutu was a peace-maker who had Come into a potentially deadly atmosphere to bring reconciliation and NEWNESS of LIFE.

He CAME to the Rwandan people with the Calmness of Christ -- with the Healing words inspired by the Gospel of Peace, and with the Conviction of his own experience of walking in the Light.

By the genuineness of his faith – he was able to instruct the Rwandans on how to move forward.

Jesus the Lord is The Teacher who comes to work in and through our lives – and as he does -- the Kingdom of Heaven breaks forth in our midst.

To God be the Glory forever and Ever.


Read more writings of Pastor Jon