+ 3 Epiphany B
TEXT: Mark 1:14-20
DATE: January 25, 2015
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Dallas
Have you read through the bulletin of reports
for our annual meeting this afternoon?
It takes forty-five pages
to remind ourselves of all the committees and activities,
leaders and doers,
outreach and community care,
giving and spending,
learning and serving we do.
And now, out on the board in the narthex
is a collection of seventy-seven
responses from you
about what matters most to you about your faith,
why the church is important to you,
and what you think is worth
inviting others to come and see.
I encourage you to spend some time looking at them
and sharing with others
what you’ve found and what you think about it,
and most importantly, telling others what you wrote.
And now, with all that before us,
we hear this story of four of Jesus’ disciples
called to follow him.
And they do it. Immediately.
All these things –
the reports of our annual meeting
and our own stories, proclamations, and invitations
are how we, too, follow Jesus.
They certainly have a lot to do
with our life in the church.
Many contribute to preparing and leading worship,
preparing and leading Sunday school
and other education events.
Many give their time and compassion
to caring for those of our congregation
who are suffering, grieving, needy, and also rejoicing.
Many help prepare and lead fellowship activities
that contribute to our sense of community and belonging,
many help and lead a wide variety of ministries and activities
that are a part of our congregational life.
And when we think about
inviting others to come and see,
it is almost always to come here – to church
and see this – us, our community and our activity.
None of that is wrong or bad.
It’s just that this story
of Jesus calling Simon and Andrew, James and John,
reminds us that our call to follow
isn’t limited to the time we are here in church,
but is a call to follow Jesus
in particular ways
in our everyday lives.
When Jesus calls us to follow him,
it doesn’t mean that we somehow agree
to some general, generic idea.
Or even that we profess some type of creed.
It means changing our lifestyle – forming our lifestyle
to following him – imitating Jesus –
in our everyday lives.
When Jesus announces
that the Kingdom of God is near,
that we should repent – change our lives
and live a kingdom-of-God style of life,
it doesn’t mean leave the world,
come to church to escape it,
and live different lives here.
It means living that kingdom-of-God style of life
in the world,
in the everyday moments of our everyday world.
At work, at school, at leisure, at home, on the road.
Now hear this closely:
I’m not against you coming to church!
This is critical
to the praise and worship of God
and to our own nurturing in faith and community.
And you know you’re in Jesus’ presence here.
But Jesus is living and active in the world, too,
and that is where we need to follow him
and bear witness to his presence to others.
It’s in the everyday events of our lives
that we are called to follow and imitate Jesus
and his kingdom style of life,
because that is where we bear witness to him
by imitating him
for the sake of the others who see us.
And that’s really what following Jesus is:
Doing the things Jesus did.
Living our lives according to the same principles Jesus showed.
He reached out to outsiders.
And he healed.
And so when Jesus announces that God’s kingdom is near
and he calls us to follow him in that way,
these are the things we can think about
in the choices, relationships, and actions
we find ourselves in each day,
in each moment of the day,
with each person we encounter in our day.
So, for instance, how does a boss reflect those principles –
reaching out to outsiders, loving, forgiving, healing?
How does an employee show forgiveness, healing,
acceptance of others, and love?
What can a teacher do, or a student
to live these ways?
How does one parent with these ideals,
and what about the child?
How can we live out these ways
of accepting others, love, forgiveness, and healing
at the job, at the nursing home, in the school,
in the home?
What do we do with our finances, our time, or our things,
that reflect these principles?
What gifts do we have
and how can we use them for the benefit of others –
for their wellbeing, their wholeness,
their entertainment, their encouragement?
When Jesus calls us to follow him
we follow him is specific ways
in our everyday moments,
and that, I think,
is how we follow him immediately,
just like Simon, Andrew, James and John did.
In the distinct ways you do that
with the specific moments of your life,
you imitate Jesus
and let the kingdom lifestyle
inform your decisions, your relationships, your activities,
and immediately, you follow him.
This is the calling God has given us
not because we deserve it,
not because we are worthy of it,
not because we are prepared for it,
but by God’s sheer mercy and grace alone,
Jesus calls us to follow him.
By the Holy Spirit God pours into us,
God works to make us worthy of that calling,
and equips us to live the kingdom way
and imitate the lifestyle of Jesus to follow him.
Think about those lifestyle principles –
accepting others, love, forgiveness, healing –
and how they might inform
your decisions, relationships, and activities
in this coming week.
Follow Jesus. Immediately.
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