“Yes, You”                                                                                      January 26, 2014

Isaiah 9:1-4 & Matthew 4:12-23                                               Stephens City UMC

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I.                   I must admit that I have never met anyone with the last name of Zebedee, but like others who have written commentaries on our Gospel lesson for today I find myself thinking about the father of James and John.

A.    What did people say after Zebedee’s sons just got up and walked away from him?

1.     And what went through Zebedee’s mind while he was sitting in that boat and the itinerate preacher named Jesus strolled by and called on his sons to leave everything to follow the man from Nazareth?

2.     It seems to me it must have been hard because not only were James and John flesh and blood but they were business partners.

3.     The so-called better offer Jesus made was rather cryptic – “Follow me and I help you to fish for people” – so what did that mean and why did it entice James and John?

4.     I would like to know what James and John thought they knew about Jesus that made them decide to leave everything and follow him and I’d like to know that about other people who have responded to Christ’s call to follow as his disciple.

B.     As I worked on the message for today I realized that this was a profound matter and if I was to say anything with any depth that I needed help.

1.     When I need help I often think you who make up this congregation so I asked Frances Palmateer to catch up with a few of you in order to gather your answers to four questions.

II.                 The first question she asked some of you: “Have you ever followed somebody other than Jesus?”

A.    This is a significant question because as Robert Greenleaf has written in his book Servant Leadership “Everyone at some time and in some areas , is a follower, and it is just as important to be discriminating in choosing who to follow as it is to prepare to lead.”

1.     I commented on how I’d followed teachers or coaches or friends.

2.     Jacquetta Owen talked about turning to financial planners and health care professionals and other people we view as experts on some matter.

3.     Dale Sigler who is one of our newer members laughed at the question as he does not see himself as much of a follower because he asks too many questions and is too suspicious.

4.     Cathy Ritter made a confession all of us could make as to following friends when we were younger who were not good decision makers.

5.     Stephen Kleffman referenced the temptation to follow celebrities because we think they do cool things, but he pointed out that they really don’t offer much. 

 

III.              The second question Frances asked: “What is the one thing you would need to know about somebody before you followed them?”

A.    Here’s some of the answers people provided:

1.     Stephen said he would like to know their ideals, what they hold dearest to them, why they want to lead, and what they want to do.

2.     For Jacquetta a good leader would be a person of authority but she’d want to know their track record. She’d  examine their authenticity and if they had altruistic purposes.

3.     Matters of integrity and consistently living out what they said were primary for Dale.

4.     Cathy focused on the person’s intentions and their honesty.

5.     My answer began with vision and that the potential leader wanted to lead for the cause of the Kingdom of God.

 

IV.              The third question Frances asked: “What is a disciple?”

A.    Here’s how some of you answered the second question:

1.     Dale defined a disciple as a follower but noted that there’s a whole lot behind that because a disciple tries to live his or her life the way their teacher lived his life. For the Christian that means being deep into the Gospels and into the letters of Paul to the churches he pastored in order to follow Jesus.

2.     Jacquetta emphasized the personal aspect of being a disciple so that a Chrsitian disiciple not only follows the teachings of the church but tells others about Jesus and the ways of the Kingdom.

3.     I answered that a disciple follows in the footsteps of Christ and introduces people to the Lord. The Christian disciple is so concerned about the world that they pray, feed the hungry, heal the sick, befriends the friendless and serves as the hands, feet and voice of Jesus and so points beyond themselves to Jesus.

4.     For Cathy the true believer is a disciple by following in the footsteps of Jesus and then assists others to also know the love of Jesus.

5.     Stephen’s answer was in keeping with scripture in that he talked about a disciple being willing to lay down everything and to walk in the Lord’s footsteps no matter what.

V.                The fourth question Frances asked: “What is it about Jesus that made you want to follow him?”

A.    Here’s how some of you answered the final and very personal question:

1.     Cathy Ritter recalled how she was raised Roman Catholic so she didn’t get a lot of Bible teaching but attending worship weekly allowed her to experience the awe of God through the manger scenes and the stations of the cross and especially a painting at the church of Jesus with angels surrounding him. Those memories stayed with her and after being away from the church for a few years as a young adult she came to this church and started teaching Sunday school. The result was that she learned a lot about Jesus and became excited about Jesus and his love and ways of forgiveness. In other words, the Jesus she had seen depicted in manger scenes and in paintings became real to her and she wanted to follow the real Jesus.

2.     For Dale he is drawn to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Certainly Jesus lived with consistency and integrity, but the key was his sacrifice.

3.     The fact that she is loved by Jesus no matter what she does is made Jacquetta want to follow Jesus. She feels close to her Lord through her prayers of intercession for others and the guidance he provides her. She knows that he is always there; he is constant like the North Star.

4.     Stephen has already realized that Jesus is loving and forgiving and that you don’t find that in everybody. Even though you do everything wrong Jesus will still accept you back to be with him. Though there be sins in your past Jesus will still call you to follow him.

VI.              I want to thank those who not only provided answers but gave testimony regarding their experience of being called by Jesus as he did those two fishermen, James and John, to leave everything and follow him.

A.    But remember that Jesus’ call to come and follow is not limited to James and John or the folks Frances interviewed.

1.     Jesus’ call is to everyone, yes, you, even you, especially you.

2.     So what answer are you going to give him?