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BELIEVE THE MESSAGE!
Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20 Bigfork Community United Methodist Church
JANUARY 21, 2018 – Third Sunday after Epiphany
We continue to hear of Christ’s call to us. It is not a call to become more like a man named Jesus. It is a call to become more like children of God, more like the Son of God.
What this means to one person may be quite different than what it means to another. What it means to you today may be entirely different than what it meant to you years ago, weeks ago…or an hour ago.
What it means next week or next year will be entirely different than what you hear in his call upon your heart today.
It changes, but it is constant. It is as eternal as the Eternal Present. But each present moment brings its own sound, its own hope and its own truth into the world.
It’s like the ancient Buddhist saying that you cannot step in the same river twice. But the river is always there.
So what kind of life is it that Christ calls us to when he calls us to himself! He calls us to be awake, aware, seeing clearly, breathing deeply, living fully. That is what it is to love God…to love our neighbors.
Some people are born this way. They have a head start on happiness. Roy Gabel was a pillar of the church I served on Huntley Project before time opened a way for me to come here.
He always had a smile on his face and it was impossible for anyone to see Roy without smiling back at him. Even when he was conflicted, that smile never deserted him and it helped him…and everyone involved …work their way through the most difficult, illusive and complicated situations.
When he passed away and I asked his family what he would be remembered for, they said his work ethic, his work ethic, his work ethic and his work ethic.They remembered him saying, “We’re here for all day and we work until the job is done.”
He was a farmer on The Huntley Project and his daughter in law said she would stop whenever she saw him changing pipes in a field. It was a work of art. He never moved the same pipe twice, a master work every time.
He had found the secret of happiness somewhere and I had always marveled at his constant smile. It was his shield and armor, his sword and his cross.
At the funeral I went in to the viewing room to say a prayer over him before the service started. There he was in the casket, looking like he was only sleeping. And he had that same smile on his face.
He was born with a smile on his face. It was a good start. It was a great gift. Maybe it made it a little easier for him to find happiness and help others do the same.
This God-given gift of joy was a gift he found in everything he did and shared with everyone he met.
There was something about Jesus, too. We read last week that Philip saw immediately that Jesus was the one from God, the Promised One, the Savior of Israel…which is often translated as “the people of God.”
He came to call us…to God…by calling us to himself. He was born with a joy in his heart for God and for all those who followed him…they were the people of God
But he did not limit himself to the Jews. In fact, we read elsewhere that, “He was in the world.The world came into being through him.Yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.”
So the Word…Jesus…was rejected by those who had received it. The fulfillment of the Law went unnoticed by those who had carried the Law with them for thousands of years.
Those who had…by the time Jesus was born…celebrated the Prophets for 500 years rejected him as they had rejected Jeremiah and Isaiah and all the other prophets.
But he had not…and has not… rejected them…or any of God’s children. He called to the tax collectors and the lepers, the lame and the blind…even to the Gentiles…even to us.
When I hear people say they are spiritual but not religious, I want to tell them there is a really good book… a Good Book…about someone just like that. We call the book the Bible, and history knows the person as Jesus of Nazareth, the Promised One, the Good Shepherd, the King of Kings…Lord and Savior of all the world.
Of course, you have to read a book to get to know him, but if you take it in a little bit each week…and just keep doing that…it will come to you. Each time you read the same passage, there is a new phrase added to the story, and it is even true than it was the time before.
The truth deepens inside you. You are renewed in your mind and your spirit. Life is more meaningful and you are equipped to respond to life in new and more meaningful ways.
He calls to us still. And then he puts us right where we need to be. A couple of weeks ago we had a memorial service for a wonderful man that few of us knew. He took ill on Christmas Eve and died the day after Christmas. His family wanted to have a service for him here in Bigfork and we are a community church. We said yes.
It was a blessing to us all and to all his friends that day. But the moment that took my breath away happened in the fellowship hall, not during the service.
Clayton’s widow, Kay, was greeting people who had come to pay their respects to him and express their condolences to her and the family. Then she looked beyond the person in front of her and saw Kay Gough.
It was as if her prayer had been answered. “Oh, Kay!” she said. “You have been through all of this!”
Today we read of Simon and Andrew being called by Christ. They were fishermen and they would always be fishermen…like I am a United Methodist.
There was something they saw in his face that changed their understanding of life…of God… who they were and whose they were. They immediately dropped their nets to go fish for people, that they might hear the Lord’s voice… see his face…feel the power of his presence.
Like Kay seeing Kay…it is so interesting to me that they both had the same name…they finally understood something they had been pondering deep in their hearts, one for a little while, the other for years.
One who was wounded was healed…given hope…by one who had been wounded long ago. And I think the healing went both ways.
When I was caring for my mother the last three years of her life I attended a caregivers support class. It was amazing how many of my questions could be answered in very clear ways by other members of the group, and it was even more amazing that I knew a solution for some of their quandaries.
It was amazing, too, to discover how empowering it was to me to realize that I actually knew something about what I was doing. I began to trust my inner voice more and I was able to deal more patiently and more successfully with those little challenges
…like Mom finding a dishwasher full of rinsed but unwashed dishes and helping me out by putting them all away in the drawers and the shelves and the cupboards. You have a perfect opportunity to wash all of your glasses and silverware and dishes. That was the best result you could get in that situation.
Members of a group who feel bereft, left behind, and alone confront themselves in the face of another and are liberated from circumstances that had imprisoned them.
We are not called in spite or our hurts and our mistakes. We are called because of them.
After such a moment we know we are not alone…and we are friends in a new and important way. Our lives will never be the same. They will be better.
We can say at the close of each day that our lives will never be the same. In some way each day changes us forever. Sometimes we are the victim of events, but sometimes we can act meaningfully.
We become self-actualized. We are suddenly living our lives…our lives are no longer living us.
Maybe wefind an important new way to express our creativity.Maybe we have a breakthrough in our quest for spiritual enlightenment.
It’s like catching our second wind in the pursuit of knowledge. Maybe we even discover the desire to give to, and positively transform, society.
Lord, what is it that you want to do through me this day? That prayer seems to be hanging in the air around me these days. Jesus seems to be getting in my face.
And where is it that all those ways that self-actualization can occur?...expressing creativity…achieving a new spiritual understanding of this wonderful gift called ‘life’?…embarking upon a new quest for knowledge? …pondering ways we can make our society better?
As the voice in my GPS guidance system puts it…the app on my phone that tells me to go this way and that to get to my desired destination…finally it says, “You have arrived at your destination.”
That place is church. We are focused on that. We have a heart for that. We do not want the people who sit on our side of the aisle at church to get all the credit for the good stuff, nor do we want the people on the other side to get all the blame if we are wrong.
That other way…when we get all the credit and someone else gets all the blame…is the path that Jonah took. He didn’t want the people in Nineveh to be saved. God called him to do something he didn’t want to do and he hoped he would fail
He ran away and after he told the sailors that he was the reason there was a great storm, they threw him overboard and the seas were calmed. He gave his life that they might be saved…and he made believers of them.
Then he went to Nineveh and did a half-hearted job of delivering God’s message to the heathens who lived there. No explanation. No hope of salvation. It’s going to happen. He didn’t even start preaching God’s message until he was a day through a city that took three days to cross.
He got the worst outcome he could have feared. They relented. God repented. They were saved… because of him. He grumbles off into the sunset at the end of this least likely of all the stories of the prophets. He didn’t want credit for that….because it felt more like blame…but it was the will of God and he brought it to heathens…in spite of himself.
But in church, there is neither credit nor blame. There is the Word and worship, community and faith. We do what we do because it is the right thing to do.
It is the answer to our prayer, “O Lord, what is it that you want to do through me this day? “ We want Jesus to get the credit…knowing that his will …God’s will…might be actualized on earth through us as it is in his presence in heaven.This more than a paycheck. It is a blessing.
We are blessed to be a blessing. We are loved that we might love. We are saved that we might call others to a great work before us, so they and we might…together…continue to pass the faith…the torch…to more and more people.
We read from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible today. He calls it The Message. I think he agrees with me on an important issue.
Jesus did not bring the message. Jesus was…and is…and evermore will be The Message. May God give us the grace to believe The Message.
He will make a new kind of fisherman out of us…and we will fish for people. Amen.