Sermon – January 22nd, 2017

Matthew 4:12-23 (2017)

Psalm 27: 1, 4-9   Isaiah 9:1-4 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

“A call to follow”

 

Today I want to focus on our theme – “A call to follow” – because I believe that as individuals we need to understand our calling – the reason being that it affects our ability to be an effective body of Christ – here at St Peters.

If you look around you will probably see people you know by sight and even name – but who you don’t know them terribly well.

I’m sure too that you can all recall the scripture passages that talk about spiritual gifts, Romans  8, Ephesians 12, and 1 Corinthians 12 – where the latter talks about how the body of Christ fits together. The verses talk about the hand and the foot being attached to the same body, therefore needing to work together.

But how do we do that when we do not know and understand each other well?

 

This year as a parish I believe we need to work more on our relationships with one another. How we do that will be what we need to pray about.  Last year some of you participated in a survey that indicates certain aspects of our life as followers of Christ. One area was based around, “loving relationships” and this was one of our lowest scoring areas.

 

Ross Davidson, our Discipleship convener and I have discussed this a little and we both think that first and foremost – church life SHOULD BE FUN.

Coming to church and being involved in the life of the parish should have an element of Joy in the Lord – but with fun.

So with your ministry team, your Vestry, we hope to develop activities during the year where we can “Have Fun” and where we can get to know and understand one another better. – So watch this space”

 

Now in coming back to our theme, “A call to follow” – we all need to understand what it means to follow our Lord Jesus Christ from a Theological point of view – and to do that I want to use our Gospel reading today.

 

Our first line of thought has to be with a question – why do Christians in millions of other walks of life regularly give up lifestyles and practices that look attractive and lucrative – in order to maintain honesty, integrity, faith, hope, and love?

For example – Nearly 30 years ago when I told my parents that I was going to quit my job with the Post Office to become a Priest – they said, why give up a good and secure paying job to become a priest – and you need to know that the church doesn’t pay well?

For me there is only one answer as to why I and many others over the centuries have given up our jobs to become servants of Christ – in my case a priest.

The answer of course can only be Jesus himself, and in the astonishing magnetism of his presence and personality.

 

This can still be the case today – and not just for those who are called to full time ministry but to everyone who is called and who decides to say “Yes” to Jesus.

This sense, feeling of God calling us can still be known and felt today, especially as we meditate on the stories about Jesus and pray to know him better, just as those first disciples did in his presence over 2000 years ago.

 

So the first and most important question that we have to decide on is – do we know Jesus personally, and if not do we want to know Jesus personally?

 

Then the second question is, if we know him, then do we want to follow him, do we want to seek him to see and know what call he has placed on our lives?

 

So how do we know if or when God has called us?

Well sometimes his call comes slowly, starting like a faint murmur and growing until we can no longer ignore it.

Sometimes he calls people as suddenly and dramatically as he called Peter and Andrew, James and John.

When that happens to us, by whatever means and at whatever pace, we will know; Jesus has a way of getting through, and whatever we are engaged in, whatever nets we are mending, or fish we are catching – somehow we will be sufficiently aware of his presence and call to know what it is we are being asked to do.

 

What Jesus often does is to open doors in our lives and to close others. We discover lots of God incidences. And if nothing else – at least, we will know that we are being called or asked to follow him. We might not know exactly where it is all going to lead, and sometimes we wouldn’t perhaps be so eager if we did.

I certainly had no idea when I first became a Christian, a follower – that it would lead to me becoming a Vicar. That call came a few years after I became a Christian, and like I said earlier the call grew stronger and stronger until I couldn’t ignore it.

 

You’ll be catching people now! Is what Jesus said to Peter and Andrew; they didn’t know it would lead up to being crucified like Jesus was – nor that they would end up with a huge church in Rome and with churches in other countries, specifically dedicated to them. They just followed and were obedient to their call.

 

Probably the most important part of this story is that these people responded to the call, and they didn’t respond because of the rewards but out of love to serve their/our master.

We need to understand one VERY IMPORTANT POINT here and in any calling that we may receive.

That Jesus does not invite us to follow Him because we believe in Him.

But that He invites us to follow Him because He believes in us! That is a huge difference. Let me repeat that – Jesus does not invite us to follow Him because we believe in Him.

But that He invites us to follow Him because He believes in us!

 

He says, “Follow Me and I will make you” (Mt 4:19).  – To whatever he calls us to.  What this verse says to me is very encouraging to us as the body of Christ  at St Peters and that is because He knows what we can become when His grace touches our lives.

 

And when he calls us, we come as we are.  We come with our self-righteous or sordid past.

We come with our halo or our hang-ups.

We come, even though we wonder if He can do what He promises.

All we need to do is to let His power and presence rub off on us.

What do you we have to lose?

Often we have tried our way and it didn’t work; now we need to try His way. Come, he says – because we will not be disappointed.

I’m sure these first disciples were not disappointed – because when they followed him they saw and experienced many wonderful and amazing things.

They saw and experienced amazing things because they were willing to not just follow – but to get their hands dirty, by giving things a try they were able to see and to experience amazing things, which then led to them doing amazing and miraculous things in the name of Christ.

 

The closing verses of our story today tell us that Jesus performed many miracles and healings and that people were set free.

We too can see him doing these things through our ministries – when we faithfully serve him, and when we are willing to get our hands dirty.

 

And to conclude – if you are still uncertain as to how to respond to a possible call then let me share with you what was shared with me many years ago.

Write down what you feel called to – or maybe if someone has invited you to be part of something God has called them to – but you are uncertain.

Write down in 2 columns – first column – the pros, the second column the cons.

Then pray through all the things you have put in both columns and you will find a definite answer.

My experience has shown that even if the cons out way the pros – that after prayer and discernment the answer stands out.

 

The other thing that God does, even if we get it all wrong – is that he starts to open doors and close doors before us. The hardest part is accepting those open and closed doors – of not being stubborn to admit that we may have taken the wrong turn. I too believe we get there eventually – but maybe we end up taking the long way round.

 

The other point I want to make is that when we are called and accept Jesus as our Lord, along with his calling – then we must take a step of faith. We can’t just say yes to Jesus and then stay where we are – Jesus DOES NOT call us to be pew sitters. (Old Joke – pneumonia – Pew monia)