Sunday, April 10, 2016

Follow me

Scripture Lessons: Acts 9: 1-6 and John 21: 1-19, NT pages 115-116 Sermon Title: Follow me Preached on: April 10, 2016 I was eating lunch and eavesdropping on the table in front of me. I’m not always so nosey, but sometimes I am, and this conversation was so loud and so interesting it was hard to ignore. It was between a young man who was sitting with two young women, and the young man said to these two young women, “She called me today,” and then he paused for dramatic emphasis, and I noticed myself leaning in just a little bit even though that was totally inappropriate. Then he continued: ““She called me today asking where the divorce papers were. I told her they were in my car, and so she said, “Well, when are you going to take them to the lawyer’s office?”” Then he leaned back and crossed his arms to position himself for dramatic effect, “So I said, I’ll get them to the lawyer’s office when I get around to it.” It would have been even more nosey if I would have said something at that moment, but here’s what I would have said if I were even more nosey than I am already. I would have said to that young man, “Is that how you prioritized her when you were married? Because if that’s how you treated her I’m not sure I blame her for wanting this divorce.” I’ll come home…when I get around to it. I’ll fold the laundry…when I get around to it. I’ll take you out for dinner…when I get around to it. I’ll say I love you…when I get around to it. Now that’s no way to be, but sometimes people are that way. The problem with having a lot of time (says the man who spent his lunch hour eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation) is that you create for yourself this illusion that you have plenty of it and so you can postpone the things that you really need to do. I had a baseball coach in high school. David Dunham was his name, and from time to time he’d hear from one of his players, “You know coach, mom and dad want me to quit the team because I don’t have enough time to study,” and Coach Dunham would respond, “You do whatever your parents think you need to do, but when I was in high school I had just enough time to study because of baseball practice and baseball games. In fact, outside of baseball I only had time to study, so during the season my grades actually went up because I didn’t waste any time doing nothing.” The great preacher William Sloane Coffin said about the same thing, but used fancier words: “Death is more friend than foe. Consider only the alternative – life without death. Life without death would be interminable – literally, figuratively. We’d take days just to get out of bed, weeks to decide “what’s next?” Students would never graduate, faculty meetings and all kinds of other gatherings would go on for months. Chances are, we’d be as bored as the ancient Greek gods and up to their same mischievous tricks. Death cannot be the enemy if it’s death that brings us to life. For just as without leave-taking there can be no arrival; without growing old there can be no growing-up; without tears, no laughter; so without death there can be no living.” “Without death there can be no living.” Think about that and hear again what Jesus says to Peter: “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” Now, why would Jesus say these things? Why would Jesus look this disciple in the eye and tell him how he would die, what life would be like in the end? What could be the point of telling Peter that in your last days “someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go?” Think for a moment about what this sounds like to you. It sounds to me like what life is now, right now, what life is now like for my grandfather. We were able to visit with him last week. Going to Charleston, SC – all the way to Charleston, SC is good for a number of reasons, but one reason it is so good to me is that I can go to my grandfather’s room at his nursing home, I can sit in the chair next to his, I can see his smiling face and I can hear his voice – but what is different now is that he is too deaf to hear mine. Not only that, while his memory is good enough to remember my face, I don’t know that he remembered my name, and when he does get up out of that chair he needs someone to help lift him, and when he walks down the hall he needs a walker to stabilize his steps, and when he gets dressed he needs someone to tighten his belt. “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” I am so thankful today that I have so many memories of my grandfather. On so many occasions he took the time to tell me that he loved me and he never hung up the phone without telling me that he was proud of me, and I say that I am thankful. For while he could. While he was able. During that time when he was fastening his own belt, he said what I needed to hear. Now here’s the message for Peter, and here’s the message for you and me – if we are lucky, we will grow old and we will stretch out our hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around us and take us where we do not wish to go, so we must quit fishing and follow Jesus. Did you notice that – did you notice that those disciples were fishing when Jesus showed up on the beach. This is the third time he appeared after rising from the dead, and after he taught them, fed them, kneeled and washed their feet, gave them his body broken and his blood for the forgiveness of their sins, and sent them out to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel to the world – what do they do but go back to the place where he found them in the first place as though nothing had happened at all – they just go back to those boats and fishing nets that he told them to drop way back in the Gospel of John chapter 1. What were they thinking? After all they had been through – all they had heard and all that they’d seen – how could they just go back to life as normal as though nothing had happened? Or maybe they said to themselves, “I’ll be a disciple, sure…just as soon as I get around to it.” You, me, none of us, have as much time as we think we have. My little girls who were just born yesterday – one can read books, they both can ride a bike without training wheels, and rarely does a week go by without someone saying, “don’t blink because they’ll be going off to college before you know it.” It just goes by so fast, so don’t say, “I’ll get them to Sunday School…just as soon as I get around to it” or you’ll be sending them off to college without any clue about who they are in the eyes of God and how they should be living. Don’t say, “Once I have a chance I’ll talk to them about growing up and what happens in parked cars and what they should stand for and what they should watch for and how they should be” or you’ll be sending them out into the world like innocent lambs in the midst of wolves. Don’t say, “I’ll visit grandpa just as soon as I have some time,” because you don’t know how much time he has, nor do you know how much time you have. And don’t say, “I’ll take some time to appreciate Dakota Hill one of these days” because the clock is ticking and Beethoven Jr. is about to move on to the next place. We just can’t go back to fishing because the sheep need to be fed, and if we really love Jesus – if we love him as Peter said he loved him – then it’s going to take waking up and doing something today because we may not have tomorrow. Without death there can be no living. So hear this: Someday you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not want to go. We are not spectators to the Gospel, but participants in it. We are not just hearers of the Good News, but preachers of it. And while we live in a consumer culture – being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not only about what you stand to gain – it is also about what you might contribute. So if you are waiting to live as his disciple, if you are waiting to feed his sheep, if you are waiting to follow him – then don’t you dare wait any longer because before long we will all be like those led where we do not want to go so follow him now. Amen.

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