Sunday, January 25, 2015

Follow Me

In the first verse today, Jesus is proclaiming the Good News, then He begins to call His disciples – He doesn’t do it as we would expect. He doesn’t go out looking for the best & brightest of the class of 27 A.D. – instead He calls two sets of brothers from where they are working as fishermen.  This model is nothing new.  There are several Old Testament examples of God calling those who are at work:  He called David while he was keeping the sheep, He called Moses while he was watching Jethro’s flock, He called to Gideon on the threshing floor… there are many other examples that I’m sure you can think of.  God never seems to call to someone who is just sitting around thinking.  He always looks for busy people – people who otherwise might be tempted to say – “Oh I can’t add one more thing into my busy life.”  He also calls to common every-day people – and stretches them bigger than life.  Simon, in this story, will become Peter – perhaps the greatest of the Apostles.  Jesus will even use Peter’s house as the headquarters for his ministry when they are in the area.  These four guys that are called in the Gospel today are as ordinary as you & me.  Can you imagine?  They embraced this concept - They had the courage to drop everything & follow Him.  Thank goodness that Jesus doesn’t call all of us the drop our lives & exclusively do His work.  There are many other tasks that He calls us to do.   

First & foremost He calls us to believe & have faith in Him.  That is no small task in itself – the world calls us to believe & have faith in many other things – money, job performance, there are quick fixes for all sorts of stuff - putting those aside & having faith in Christ can take a lot of discipline.  Another thing Jesus calls us to is service.  Each & every person here is being called into the service of Christ!  He is calling you to embrace your role in this church family.  He has given each of us special talents & gifts – those things that we do that we enjoy doing & we do really well – He expects us to use those gifts to help bring in disciples. Did you say to yourself & ultimately to Jesus: “Not me – I’m too busy”?  Be careful – once Jesus has called you to a task, He can be relentless – His peace may only come again when you accept the invitation to “Follow Me” – then the task you are called to will be exciting - & maybe a little scary – but you will be blessed beyond measure.  Once Jesus has called you, He will give you the time, the energy & the gifts that you need to embrace His call – it’s a simple concept!   

Jesus also calls all of us to commitment & to sacrifice.  He doesn’t say to these four fishermen: “Follow Me – take a break!  Relax & I’ll bring you some iced tea!”  No – He says: “Follow Me & I will make you fishers of men” – essentially he’s giving them another job!!  They leave the world of scaly fish to work in the world of men-fish.  This is sometimes called evangelism – how to talk to others about our faith – how to include others so that they can find their own special place in the Kingdom! 

How do you know if Christ is calling you?  That’s a really good question!!  Some of us have spent literally years trying to answer that.  William Barclay describes the feeling as a “tug on the heart…(that) for most of us, following Christ is like falling in love.”  Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James & John to commitment, to service, and to follow Him.  They were ordinary men…fishermen; they were going about their ordinary workday routine; they were busy & probably didn’t think they had time to for Him.  But still He called… and when they answered, they found Him to be everything He said He would be.  Jesus calls to us today…we might think we’re ordinary with nothing to offer Him, but there is a great quote from Abraham Lincoln “God must love common people – He made so many of them.”  We are surely very busy and we cannot possibly fit anything else into our schedules.  But you know, I remember after my oldest son, Sam was born – I remember wondering what in the world we did with our time before we had a baby!!  We believed we were too busy before we had him, but then once he came along, everything shifted accordingly & we had the time.  So then I was truly worried when I got pregnant with our second son, Ben – How in the world would I have time for him?  Again, once he arrived, everything fell naturally into place, as it should. Then Jesus called me into ministry – to go to Seminary and to be Ordained.  It clicked – it worked – some days better than others – but it was what was meant to be.  Jesus will do that for us, if we grasp the concept & answer His call to follow Him. What is He calling each of us to today? What is He calling ECWF to here and now?  That will be a topic of discussion for the Annual Meeting today. Amen.

The audio for the sermon will in the Podbean Player on the right sidebar after Sunday, February 1. I accidentally left the recorder in WF before uploading.

Monday, January 19, 2015

On Being a Disciple

           It occurred to me as I read and re-read the scriptures this week that these passages are awfully personal. We have the story of Samuel’s call. He is learning to listen to God’s call in his life and at the same time, having to tell his beloved mentor a hard truth. Yet he does it, and the Scripture tells us that Samuel was known as a trustworthy prophet because of his truth telling.
            The Psalm places God in our very creations – it describes God knowing us all even as we formed in the womb.  God is as intimate as the tiny hairs on our arms. Then we get Paul reminding us that those same bodies that are so intimately known to God are truly temples of the Holy Spirit and we are NOT to fornicate. Got that? Wow – talk about personal.
            Then for the Gospel, we flip over to a reading from John. This is the call story of Philip and Nathanael. This is a story of Jesus picking out select people to “follow him.” Jesus is looking for disciples. To be a disciple of a Rabbi, one had to be willing to enter a vigorous transformation: learn a new way of being, learn a new set of values, learn a new set of skills, and maybe unlearn things they knew from before. They then had to be willing to carry on the Rabbi’s work later – teach and preach and carry the message far and wide. Jesus says to us all: “Follow Me” – are we disciples yet?
            It’s an interesting thought to ponder how we became disciples. How did you come to be in the church? Who invited you to Come and See? I’ll bet someone invited you specifically, or like me, maybe you had a person in your life that picked you up and took you to church. That special person made sure you understood what was happening in the church service, introduced you to how churches do stuff, maybe encouraged you to teach a VBS class. As you got involved, you started to see subtle ripples of how YOU made a difference to another person also wondering about how to be a disciple. For some people, our lives may be the only glimpse they get of Holy Scripture – we may be the closest to a disciple they will ever see.
            Come and See is a scary thing to say to others. When we invite people to Come and See, we are inviting them into a relationship – into a journey – with us. And we may not even know yet where we are headed. Come and See invites others into our songs, our worship, our way of doing church. It invites them to become disciples also and work alongside us. It might mean that they would tell us what God has in store for us, just as Samuel did with Eli. It might mean that they would name new truth and do things in new ways, or old ways.
            So how do we keep our Disciple status anyway? Daily Bible reading is a great start. There are whole bunches of ways to do that – there are websites, emails, radio programs, books, you name it – it’s there. Start a Rule of Life – be realistic. Start with reading the Bible 15 minutes a day and then sitting quietly and listening to God for 15 minutes a day. That is a Rule of Life. If 15 minutes is too long, start with 5 or 3. The point is to start. Because here’s the truth, if you are not studying the Bible and grounding yourself in God’s Word, you may never get the courage to invite someone else to Come and See. Being a Disciple is simple – living it out is hard. We need each other as companions on that journey. We also need others. Who will you invite?

Audio of this sermon can be found on the sidebar Podbean player. It is always interesting to me to see what I write vs what I say.