Monday, January 27, 2014

Everyday Places

When you heard the gospel read this morning about Jesus deciding to leave Galilee, to leave Nazareth and move to Capernaum beside the lake what was the mental picture you created in your mind?
Jesus moved into a condo by the lake. He went walking in the morning beside the sea where the fishermen were bringing in their catches from the night’s fishing expedition. Some were sitting in their boats or beside them straightening and/or mending their nets. What a peaceful setting.
But then Jesus begins preaching and teaching. His message is similar to John’s in that he’s exhorting the people to repent. And he’s calling some to follow him.
First Andrew and Peter drop everything and follow him along the beach and then James and John leave their father to take care of business and they too follow Jesus.
And then, all of a sudden, Jesus is teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news and healing people of every disease and sickness.
Why did Matthew record these events like this? Why did he begin with this peaceful, serene picture of strolling along the seashore? Why did he then jump to Jesus teaching and healing in the towns of Galilee?
I believe it may have been to show his readers that Jesus went to where the people were. He went to where there was the greatest need. He went to those who were anxiously waiting for the Messiah and he began by tending to their needs.
Think about this for a minute. Where does God find you? Doesn’t God find you wherever you are whether you’re working cattle or waiting on customers at McDonald’s or talking with a neighbor about Joe down the street who’s fighting to breathe and may not be with us many more days? Isn’t that where God finds us, right in the middle of our daily ordinary lives?
Don’t we encounter God in the midst of our work and leisure and doesn’t God speak to us then about the need to change our routines, to reflect, to repent. Doesn’t God still call us, just as Jesus did, to come and follow him? Doesn’t Jesus meet us when we’re struggling and somehow put his hand on us and heal us and then give us the opportunity to join him in his work to move on from the challenges and struggles of our lives?
My friends, John began by exhorting the people to repent and be baptized in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Jesus went to the Jordan to be baptized and begin his great ministry in Galilee.
Jesus’ ministry was different than Johns. They both were calling the people to repent and both were baptizing, John with water and Jesus with the Holy Spirit.
John and Jesus were preparing the people for the new thing God was doing. I believe that the Message is the same for us today. God is preparing us for the new thing he’s doing.
How do we discover what that is? How do we know that what we’re doing or about to do is the right thing?
I believe it happens when we read God’s word, reflect on those words, and pray…and listen. Listen for God’s whisper, pay attention to those folks we encounter in our everyday lives, and notice when we’re encouraged to do something we think we have no talent or skill to do. Be willing to leave everything and follow the One who’s calling us to follow.
Good friends, Jesus is still calling people to follow him. The work is not yet done. There are still folks who need to hear the good news of God’s kingdom here on earth. There are still many who need healing…in body, mind, and spirit.
Is God calling you today to follow Him? Remember Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid. It is me…I will be with you, always.”
  Friends, the fields have been prepared and God is calling you and me to carry on the work that was started by our ancestors, those saints who’ve gone on before us. The seeds have been planted and now we are called to tend to the plants and maybe help with the harvest. Are you ready?
Let those with ears to hear, listen. Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.

If Jesus Showed Up Today

          If Jesus showed up at your school today and asked you to follow him what would you do? If Jesus walked by your house and said, “Come, follow me,” would you?
Just what would it mean to follow Jesus today? What would it mean today to drop what you’re doing now and follow Jesus? Who would Jesus call today, you…me…your neighbor?
What would it mean, what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus the Christ? What do we have to repent of? What do we need to change? Are we ready to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Do we believe that the world cares about the nearness of the kingdom of God? Are we willing to risk following Jesus when he calls us?
Listen to this poem by Rev. Roddy Hamilton:
Will you follow me he asked—and we never hesitated because it was an adventure, and we never tired of those, the risk, the randomness, the gamble.
Will you follow me he asked—and we dropped everything that we held, and which held us dear at the prospect of fresh bait and rich pickings at his side.
Will you follow me he asked—and we defied convention and conviction, traded waves for dusty roads to weather new storms.
Much later, will you still follow me, he asked—and we hesitated because it had become hard. He spoke in riddles, tangled our thoughts like well-worn nets and slipped through our hands like wriggling fish.
And then he talked of death and of betrayal, and we realized that it was no longer an adventure but a one-way path to danger we were on. And we watched friends turn away, unwilling to forfeit any more for one who spoke of sacrifice as the only way, and cursed our disbelief as the work of the devil.
And yet we could not turn back. Whether out of fear or out of habit or out of curiosity we stayed with him, harboring our doubts, hedging our bets, trying hard to trust in the one for whom we had so readily, so carelessly abandoned our security, for there was nowhere else to go but onwards. There was nothing else to do but finish this journey. There was no-one else but he who chose us. Will you still follow me, he asked. And we did.

Friends, Jesus is still calling disciples to follow him today. Will you answer his call to drop everything and follow him?