26 January 2014

Three short compelling, calling words

Passage: Matthew 4:12-23

A few short words can have incredible power. Incredible meaning. There's a gravitas about them.

Think Nike back a decade or so - just do it.

At heart of today's gospel text - three compelling words, Come, follow me

Some background. Jesus had just spent forty days and forty nights in the desert being tempted by the devil. His mind is focused. There's a clarity of purpose about him. This is a man on a mission.

With John arrested, Jesus takes on John's message: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” The content might be the same, but the context is very different. John was the forerunner. He prepared the way. Jesus embodies the message. Jesus is the message. He is the Way. In his life, his preaching, his ministry, light has dawned -  the reign - the Kingdom of God has come!

Then Jesus does something quite incredible - for first time he calls people to join him. He begins seeking out those people who would help him to take his Kingdom message further – his disciples.

The calling of the first disciples marks a turning point in the ministry of Jesus. When Jesus invites people to join with him – Jesus doesn't ask that people simply listen to him and heed his teaching but rather, Jesus asks that people sign up to what he is doing. To get out of their fishing boats and get on board with him in brand new ways.

Jesus calls four fisherman to sign up to his life and his living and his kingdom - And what does it? Three short compelling words: Come, follow me.

Somehow this three-word call doesn't seem quite enough, does it? From what we know of what happens down the track, perhaps Jesus should have been more rigorous in his selection process.

What kind of qualifications did those fishermen have after all? Had they been to the first century bible college equivalent? Were they the valued moral exemplars in their Galilean community - those that everyone would look up to? Were they regular attenders at the temple ... where they gave generously?

Right from the get go, the intent of Christian discipleship is made clear - being a disciple of Christ - a follower of Jesus is not ultimately about me - though it will change and transform me to the very core of my being. No. Being a disciple of Christ will be about the 'other' - it will be about my neighbour - it will be about "fishing for people". it will be about healing - about compassion - about inclusion - about teaching and proclaiming - about calling each other to repentance and renewal - about partnering with Christ in bringing in Christ's reign. It will be about the "making all things new" mission of God in Christ, in the power of the Spirit.

Come, follow me.

Three words inviting us to take that discipleship journey with Christ. We have a choice - we can accept - we can decline, but if we accept then we must be prepared for challenges to come our way, challenges to how we think, how we live, what we do, even where we are. A wholehearted acceptance to follow Jesus will mean everything - everything is up for grabs - it will affect every part of life - choices, work, relationships, future, values, family, faith.

That invitation is posed again this, and every day. We are constantly invited by Jesus to follow him and join in the new things that God has planned for his people.

It's an invitation I've been hearing all my life. I recall as an 8 year old at Sunday School singing I will make you fishers of men ... if you follow me - actions and all. I wanted to respond.

I recall as a 17 year old on my Sunshine Coast youth camp bed, saying "Yes" again to Christ's Come, follow me invitation.

I recall as a 37 year old at a moving Emmaus Walk communion service responding again to that invitation ... before the weekend was out, saying publicly "I am counting on Christ ... and Christ is counting on me."

I recall early last year - amid a dark time in my life, walking the beach early morning hearing God's baptismal word of hope to me, Child I love you, I have claimed you ... you are mine. I wrote a song in response.

Come, follow me - Jesus' words to each of us - as my friends here at Oxley-Darra UC you move into a new stage of your journey as a living and loving expression of God's kingdom among us. Dale and I won't be part of that journey.

God has called us on. But no matter where we might be in this big, wide, wonderful world, (to badly misquote Led Zeppelin) the song remains the same - the call remains the same: Come, follow me.

We are invited to be like Andrew, like Peter, like James and like John – to be fishers of people. For their leap of faith - for choosing to follow Jesus - they were first hand witnesses to seeing the power of God at work in the world – in the healing of the sick and hearing the good news proclaimed. Their lives were never the same again.

When we take on board those three words of call - Come, follow me - when we choose to be followers of Jesus, we become first hand witnesses to the power of God in our lives, and the lives of those around us. We are never the same again.

Jesus calls his disciples to a new way of life in this reign of God. At its most basic, discipleship means following Jesus, walking in his steps - going wherever he leads. For these first disciples it proves a difficult road. Despite their initial obedience to Jesus’ call, in the coming days they will often fail both to understand and to obey him.

They will sleep through the agony of Gethsemane, they will flee when he is arrested. This same Peter will deny that he even knows Jesus.

Yet Jesus’ message keeps on reaching them. On the resurrection morning, they will hear the angel's words: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him” (Matt 28:7).

They will run and hide some more, but Jesus will never give up on them. He will call them to repent, to turn around and go back to the place where it all began. They will fail, but afterwards they will be called to follow once again.

From these first scenes by the Sea of Galilee through the rest of their lives, Jesus calls his disciples to live out the promise and hope that he embodies.

It's no different with us.

Jesus comes to us with three short words: Come, follow me.

Jesus Christ wants today what he wanted those long years ago in Palestin—people.

Jesus never did want admiring faces and fan club memberships. If he walked this earth today, I'm not sure he would have cared much for how many Facebook friends or Twitter updates he clocked up.

Jesus calls out for people - people with open hands and walking feet toward a new heaven and a new Earth that is making its way here. People with ears to hear, hearts to embrace and feet to follow.

Jesus still seems to think that common folk like us have something to do with this reign of God breaking in. Christ keeps on calling me - calling you - calling with those three compelling words, Come, follow me. And he adds, "I will make you fishers of people".

Come, follow me. Today - as one journey as church ends and a new one dawns, will you drop your nets - will you leave the past behind - and with your eyes and hearts focused on Christ - will you follow?

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