Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"The Great Invitation: Follow Me" - Sermon, January 22, 2017

Community United Methodist Church, Quincy
“The Great Invitation: Follow Me”
Pastor Andrew Davis
January 22, 2017
Matthew 4: 12-23

        Just imagine that you’re out fishing at Geritol Cove on Lake Almanor, the Haskins Creek arm at Bucks Lake, Mallard Cove at Lake Davis, or with the many others at Turkey Point at Frenchman Lake when someone just comes up to you at random and tells you to leave your gear behind and follow him.  --- Now at first, I would think that this is a scam to get me to leave my nice fishing gear behind, only for someone to take it.  But if this person says that he will make you fish for people, I’d probably raise my eyebrows a little further than usual.  Now if that person came up to me and passed out a business card telling me he’s a local minister nearby, that would make a little more sense, since after all that’s part of our job, to make disciples.  Or to take it a little further, in The United Methodist Church, it is our primary task and mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.” Even more important, such an instance can be a great invitation to follow Jesus by initiating the conversation in one of the most ordinary of places by the lake shore, especially when we meet people where they’re at.  Some of our lakeshores can be in different contexts, but nonetheless, our great invitation is to take up Jesus’s invitation to follow him and invite others to join the adventure. 
      Just imagine that day when Jesus was walking along the lakeshore along the Sea of Galilee (which is really a large lake) when he encounters Andrew and Simon-Peter who are casting their nets into the lake and they up and follow Jesus, no questions asked.  They don’t say “but Jesus, this is our livelihood,” or “but Jesus, we just can’t.” They follow Jesus willingly.  Then James and John leave their father Zebedee, leave their nets, and follow Jesus.  As we explored in John’s Gospel last week, Jesus gives us the great invitation to come and see what following him is all about, but today the great invitation becomes much more intentional, as Jesus invited these fishermen to come and follow him. At the same time, Jesus is inviting each of us to follow him as well.  But follow me is where Jesus is calling to us, and is the great invitation for us to follow too, but also the opportunity to invite others to follow when they are ready. 
Like we talked about last week from the Gospel of John’s account, Jesus invested in a relationship with Andrew and another of John the Baptist’s disciples, but this week in Matthew’s Gospel, the invitation is more direct and forward.  It’s kind of like being invited on this journey where you don’t know exactly where you’re going, but you’re hoping it’ll be good and you’re trusting Jesus when he says “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (Matt. 4: 19, MSG).  Reminds me of that Sunday School song, “I will make you fishers of men; fishers of men; fishers of men…I will make you fishers of men, if you follow me.”
Fishing for people is an interesting way of putting it, but instead of hook, line, and sinker, we fish for people when we extend the invitation, we invest in a relationship to come and see, and then we extend the invitation to follow Jesus.  And some of us may be on the journey where we’re not quite sure we’re ready to jump right in and that’s okay too, as we can follow Jesus when we are ready.  We have the relationship first and that’s important.  And sometimes following Jesus takes us into different places, places where we don’t expect to go.  I know I’ve shared this before, but I fully intended to be a full-time music minister and ordained deacon, not a church pastor.  Following Jesus sometimes takes us where we least expect to go, just as I’m sure the fisherman didn’t anticipate where all they would be going when they decided to follow Jesus. 
So why do we follow Jesus, a question we also asked last week?  It seems like a lofty task to come and follow Jesus, leaving everything behind.  But that’s also the challenge that we have when we are invited to follow Jesus.  We are being invited into a whole new way of life, a life of peace that we have been singing about this morning as we also observe this day of peace, but following Jesus also brings a way of living into compassion, looking at those who society may look down upon, serving others, and speaking out against injustices that happen in our world.  Following Jesus also means doing what we can to build bridges, especially in this divided world and nation, as we can change the world for the better by following Jesus. “When it comes to following Jesus, “perhaps our greatest service as disciples comes not from big and dramatic things, but from the small acts of kindness and compassion and the one-to-one acts of justice we practice every day.”[i]
This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the Gathering of the Orders with my clergy colleagues from the California-Nevada Conference and while joy was a big theme of our time, compassion and justice were also topics.  I was particularly moved by our new bishop, Minerva Carcaño’s witness on Tuesday night about the compassion that she learned in looking out for those who are normally looked down upon, but also in conversation with her at lunch on Wednesday.  As she leads our clergy and our conference (which is the regional body of the UMC), her challenge to all of us is to embody compassion and kindness, which is something we can learn when we take Jesus up on the invitation to follow him, something the disciples will learn along the way as we explore Matthew’s Gospel a little further in the coming weeks and months.  And you know what? Following Jesus can happen right here in our own back yard too, as he calls us and folks outside of our church to follow him.  When Jesus says “follow me,” “he calls us to answer that call in the specific context in which we have been placed.” So where are we placed to follow Jesus? Where is your lakeshore?
Each one of us has this great invitation to follow Jesus before us, and it’s up to each one of us to make the world a better place by following Jesus, just like when he calls us the same way he called the disciples.  The people Jesus called to be his disciples were ordinary people, some who worked professions that the mainstream society tended to scoff at, but also ordinary  people who had their imperfections and quirks.  The possibilities are endless where we follow Jesus into “and there are many ways for God’s people to follow Jesus into the adventure of serving.”[ii]
As we go into this new week, what are some adventures in serving that you can think of?  Where do you hear God calling you to join Jesus in the adventure when you hear him say "follow me?"  We have this great invitation to follow Jesus, to hear him say “follow me,” even today.  Especially since “Jesus came to bring salvation to all people, no matter who they are, no matter where they live, and no matter what kind of life they have led.”[iii] Jesus calls the millworkers, the baristas, the search and rescue teams, first responders, grocery clerks, school teachers, school administrators, shopkeepers, business owners, forest service workers, law enforcement, and you.  Jesus calls everyone and anyone to follow him.  So when you hear the great invitation and hear Jesus say “follow me,” embrace the adventure, and invite those you know to join you on the adventure!! 

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen. 

[i] Ministries, D. (2017) Follow me — preaching notes. Available at: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/follow-me-preaching-notes (Accessed: 19 January 2017).
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid. 

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