Series: Itís All About Jesus!
Sermon: Calling the Disciples
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
January 15, 2017
Scriptures: Isaiah 49:1-7 NRSV and John 1:35-51 NRSV
††††††††† The Gospel of John provides us a concise version of the beginning of Jesusí ministry. Gone are the birth narratives; no shepherds, no wise men, no fleeing to Egypt to escape Herodís murderous plan to eliminate all competition, and no 12-year-old Jesus teaching in the Temple while his family frantically search for him for three days. Instead, John jumps right into the adult life and teaching, using John the Baptist as announcer of the identity and purpose of the Son of God incarnate.
††††††††† Johnís telling of Jesus calling his first disciples served as a reminder to me that God had been at work in these peopleís lives long before they dropped their nets and followed Jesus. Did you notice that the first two to respond and follow Jesus had been John the Baptistís disciples? Most likely they had witnessed Jesusí baptism and heard what John had said about Jesus, and then John said it again on this third day of the writer Johnís telling. ďLook, here is the Lamb of God!Ē It doesnít get any plainer than that!
††††††††† Long before this day God had instilled a yearning in their souls, a longing to find the Messiah, the One who would change everything. They hoped for a savior who would conquer evil and oppression and set people free to live in security, peace and love. I dare say we still long for those things today, and we have a call on our lives to which we must respond; a call that comes in different ways, to different work and ministry. We share a common calling to follow Jesus whose Spirit is among us making this possible. The fact that evil still exists, oppression and slavery still are happening and security, peace and love are not universal leaves some wondering if Jesus came at all. But He did and itís real. Living into a future where Jesusí Way becomes our way of relating will help what we long for come to pass.
††††††††† The first followers of Jesus were two sets of brothers Ė all fishermen, all with a longing for a savior. Andrew and John both told their brothers about Jesus and Simon and James came to hear him speak. Jesus knew Simonís heart and saw the solid strength that would be needed for what was to come, so he names him Cephas, or Peter, which means ďthe rock.Ē This is a symbol to us of the transformation that takes place as a new identity shapes Jesusí followers. No longer are they tossed about, searching for something they sense is missing. In Jesus, we find the One that grants us the peace we long for and the grace to set us free from that which enslaves us: fear, insecurity, addiction, hatred, you name it. Jesus casts out fear and leaves us ready for a new life in Christ. Our job is to listen and follow Him.
††††††††† We all have a call story of one sort or another. People seeking to become pastors are required to write out their call story, describing how God has been at work in their lives, shaping them for a life of service. For some people, itís a specific event, like the Apostle Paul getting knocked off his horse and blinded. Thatís what it took for Jesus to get his attention and turn him around. Other people experience a more gradual but steady sense that God has them in the palm of his hand. They donít remember a time when they didnít believe. My calling was more like that.
††††††††† As a child, I always wanted to go to church. I read my bibles, curious to know what was in those pages, seeking wisdom. Life and school drew me into music and teaching. I married young the first time, in what turned out to be a failed attempt at security. My husband was unfaithful and our marriage dissolved. In 1984-85 I was incredibly lonely, living in an attic apartment in the art teacherís workshop-barn that her husband had built for their then college-age daughter.
††††††††† Along with my teaching, I read my bible daily, and I went to church and helped with the youth group as a volunteer. Something was drawing me in. One summer day I was standing at my sink, washing dishes, and I heard a manís voice say, ďDiane.Ē It came from behind me, to my left. I turned and there was nothing to see, so I went to the window and looked down, thinking someone was calling me from the garden below. Nothing. So, I went back to my dishes. Then I heard it again.
††††††††† This time I thought perhaps it was the art teacherís adult son, trying to get me on the intercom from the house. I responded to the intercom, but no one was home. Not even the art teacher. So, I went back to my dishes. A minute later I heard my name called yet again. ďDiane,Ē the voice said. Now Iím getting a bit spooked and remembering young Samuel in the Temple.
This time I went down the stairs, thinking perhaps he was outside at the door. Nobody, but sunshine and bees buzzing about the garden, so I went back upstairs and did what I should have done the first time or two. I knelt down and prayed.
††††††††† I came away from that prayer time knowing that I was called to serve God. How was not exactly clear. I just knew that God had something more for me. The way forward was not a straight path. There were many twists and turns. After talking with my pastor and my family came much discernment. The answer was ďyes, but not yet.Ē It wasnít time to leave teaching yet. That would come some 15 years later.
††††††††† At the time of that initial calling, I was single and lonely, but I came away from my prayer times knowing that by the time I became a pastor I would have a husband and a son. It all came true. God was faithful to the promise and those next 15 years as I continued teaching, praying, worshiping, and living life, I learned so many things that I would need to know for the next leg of the journey, when I left teaching, went to seminary and became an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church.
††††††††† Godís timing is different than ours. When we say yes to God, when we put our faith in Christ, things start to change; sometimes in big ways and others in small, incremental, barely perceptible ways. God shapes us and molds us the way the potter does, and God finds a way to use us even when we are flawed, imperfect or broken.
I was pretty broken back in 1985. There was a lot of healing that needed to happen. There were lots of lessons in dealing with people that an insecure young woman from a small town needed to learn.
But God is able; able to mend our brokenness, strengthen us for those times when we face opposition and scorn, and build in us a bond of trust that cannot be broken. Our faith in our Savior proves to be the key to a new life.
When we seek to walk the path of Christ, we too must be able to respond to the same question and invitation that Jesus gave to those first disciples. Jesus asked them, ďWhat are you looking for?Ē
What are you looking for?
What longing has God put on your heart?
What are you willing to give up, what nets are you willing to drop, what leap of faith, in order to follow Jesus?
For those going into ministry it can require a major life and career change. For United Methodist pastors, it requires being willing to move whenever and wherever the Bishop sends you. It requires being a missionary of a different sort.
But I would say to you, you are missionaries, too! To be followers of Jesus we must follow where he leads us, even if we never leave our home town. To follow him into service to the homeless and hungry is one way, but alongside that we need to remember that Jesus wants future generations to know Him. Supporting the mission of the church is our first duty. Giving to the General fund to keep the wheels turning matters. Because of your generosity last summer, we took a leap of faith and hired a full-time director of Children and Youth Ministries. Jennifer is doing a great job and we are beginning to see more families and children, but now we need to fully fund that position, along with our music program, your preacher (and the required costs that come with the position), plus the missional connection that our apportioned Ministry Shares covers which will be $52,000 this year. Budget cuts are being made to bring us more into line but we will still need at least another $35,000 to be whole.
There are times when we must sacrifice for our faith. My family and I sacrificed the comfort of staying in one place in order to follow Jesus. We all sacrifice to give to the church the funds needed to staff and supply the church for the valuable ministries that Jesus calls us to in order to make new disciples. This congregation is supporting the building renovations so that we can continue to honor Godís house and create space for new people in Godís family. Itís all needed and all important. We are grateful every time someone gives generously, whether that giving is of their time and talents or their money. It all works together for the good that God has in mind for us.
††††††††† †Sometimes when we say yes to God and following Jesus we have no idea what we are getting ourselves into or how long it will take to see something come to fruition. That is the nature of faith. Saying yes, even when we donít know the boundaries of what will be asked of us Ė but being willing to do whatever it takes, for the sake of following Jesus, is to be a disciple of Jesus.
††††††††† Andrew, Peter, James and John had no idea what was coming as they accepted Jesusí invitation to ďCome and see.Ē What they saw was both miraculous and confusing. Wonderful and horrible. But in the end, the Holy One showed them how much they were loved and they were given the gift of the Holy Spirit and eternal life. Come and see this Jesus. Be a part of the community of Christ as we do whatever it takes to be a part of what Jesus is up to today. Amen.