Sermon January 25: What Could Happen?

Posted by on Jan 25, 2015 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon January 25: What Could Happen?

Faith United Methodist Church

January 25, 2015

3rd Sunday after Epiphany

Rev. Krista Beth Atwood

Scripture: Mark 1:14-20, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Prayer of Illumination:

Eternal God, Creator of every living thing, create in us now clear heads and clean hearts as we reflect on your word. May the words that I speak and the thoughts that we form be acceptable in your sight. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

Sermon:  What Could Happen?

“Follow me.” Two simple words that sound pretty nice. Welcoming. Even invitational. If I said to you, “Follow me!” you’d probably think I knew where I was going and that I wanted you to come along. “Follow me” is a partnership. It’s not saying, “You go here” or “You do this” but “Join me,” “Be with me,” “Let’s do this together.” “Follow me” sounds like an enticement to an adventure. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

As followers of Christ we love this passage, don’t we? This is one of those treasured Scriptures that we remember from Sunday School lessons. Andrew and Peter, James and John throwing down their nets. They didn’t even hesitate. The invitation was too tempting. They left their old life behind and followed Jesus. We get the sense that they never even looked back.

Jesus’ disciples were regular folk, much the same as us. Andrew and Peter, James and John had commitments and families and jobs. Did they really immediately leave their nets? Did they really take off leaving poor old Zebedee in the boat with the hired men? I can imagine Zebedee and his wife sitting at the dinner table later that night, scratching their heads, trying to understand it. Zebedee’s wife asking, “What do you mean they’re not coming home? Are you saying they won’t be home for supper?”

And all for a rather vague promise from Jesus. “I will make you fish for people.” What does he mean? Fish for people? That doesn’t even make sense! Maybe it is the New England Puritan work ethic that was instilled in me, but part of me says that the disciples acted foolishly ~ even irresponsibly ~ by following Jesus without any assurance of the future. The consequences could be too great, the cost could be too high, the outcome might not be favorable. After all, who knows what could happen?

But that’s it, isn’t it? That is the question that brings us up short as the Holy Spirit whispers in our ears, “Follow me.” Who knows what could happen? If we decide to become a members of Faith Church, who knows what could happen? We could be asked to read Scripture or serve on a Team. If we dedicate our lives to living as followers of Christ, who knows what could happen? We could be called to share our faith with our friends at work or serve at the local homeless shelter. We could be called to leave behind our old lives and live in a new way. Who knows what could happen?

It’s scary isn’t it? Many of you have known me quite a while, and you know that I like order and schedules and predictability. I like my calendar and checking things off my ‘to-do’ lists. Sometimes I’m afraid that if Jesus approached me with those words of invitation, “Follow me,” I would get out my iPhone and say, “I’m sorry, but between 2:00 and 4:00 I have to work on my sermon, so I guess I don’t have time today.”

All of us struggle with false gods that try to lure us from responding to Jesus call. All of us have something we need to leave behind just as Andrew and Peter left behind their nets. Sometimes we worship at the feet of the god of busy schedules, the god of cozy friendships, the god of easy answers.   Sometimes we honor the god of material possessions, the god of perfectionism, the god of security. Yet Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

The scary part is that when we lay down those nets, those attachements, we will be required to change. Letting go of what holds us back will require us to be different. Some of the things we treasure in life will have to be left behind. In her book, Amazing Grace, Kathleen Norris speaks about disengaging from the temptations that pull us away from God. Through the experience of her husband’s severe illness she found that, “Detachment is not allowing worldly values or self centeredness to distract us from what is most essential in life: our relationship with God and with each other.

This is not to say that following is easy. We know that James and John left behind their father, their business, and much more. Throughout the ages many others have followed in their footsteps. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one such follower. He was the martyred German Lutheran pastor who was killed by the Nazis in 1945. Bonhoeffer knew the cost of following and he warned against cheap grace. He affirmed in his writing, “One is called to come and die.” This is costly. Whether you actually die for the cause of Christ, as did Bonhoeffer, or you die to a part of yourself by letting go of those nets that keep you from God, the grace of Christ is not something that comes easy or without sacrifice.   When we value the things of God beyond the treasures of this world it costs something of us in return.

In our Epistle lesson Paul speaks of a similar realigning of values. He writes to the church at Corinth encouraging them to live for the sake of the Kingdom rather than the rewards of this life. Eugene Peterson renders Paul’s words in The Message this way, “I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple – in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things – your daily shopping and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out.” When Jesus called the disciples to follow he wasn’t just inviting them on a nice walk. When we follow, the path leads beyond this world, beyond our lives, to the Kingdom of God.

So, who knows what could happen? Say we face the cost, lay down our nets, and leave behind those things that tie us down. Say we take the chance and really follow Christ without hesitation. Who knows what could happen? Through serving God we might discover a gift we never knew we had! Our friends may come to know the grace of Jesus Christ through our witness! By reaching out the hungry may be fed, the naked clothed, the grieving comforted. We may discover the paradox of giving our life to find life, dying to self in order to live.

Yet in all this we have the assurance of “Follow me.” Jesus is not asking us to do something that he was not willing to do first. As I said earlier, “Follow me” is not saying, “You go here” or “You do this” but “Join me,” “Be with me,” “Let’s do this together.”   “Follow me” is not about forging our own path, blazing our own trail. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” What could possibly make more sense? Are you ready to lay down your nets? Who knows what could happen…. Thanks be to God. Amen.