Friday, 16 April 2010

follow me...

A draft sermon for Sunday...
John 21: 1-19 and Rev. 5: 11-14

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?*

It was the adventure of a lifetime –
A bunch of folk,
A band of brothers and sisters
All disciples;
All following a most extraordinary man.
They wandered the countryside
Wondered at miracles
and pondered the wise words of the Rabbi:
their teacher,
their friend.
They’d invested their time,
They’d given up their jobs,
They’d built up their hopes…
But all too soon
the exhilarating adventure had come to a horrifying end.
Fearlessness turned to fearfulness;
Hope turned to despair;
Joy turned to unutterable sorrow…
as they watched the one they had followed die.

It was the adventure of a lifetime,
but it had cost Jesus his life
and it had broken their hearts as well as their spirit.
It was not long after the Rabbi’s death when strange things began to happen:
the women reported an empty grave;
And then, inexplicably, unexpectedly,
he had appeared amongst them –
passing into their midst in a house whose doors had been locked. 
He uttered words of peace and blessing. 
He talked of the Holy Spirit. 
He showed them the marks on his hands and his side.
A week later, in the same house, with the same locked doors, he appeared again –
more words of peace, and a conversation with Thomas.
…  …
Were they just imagining things in the midst of their grief?
Was it possible that the adventure of a lifetime,
which seemed at an end, still had some life left in it?
Perhaps they didn’t know what to think
Or what to believe…
Which is entirely reasonable given something impossible
Something unthinkable
might actually…
be …
and might actually
have happened.  

It was the adventure of a lifetime –
they had followed their friend, the rabbi
and they had been left reeling
in the wake of what had happened.
And so,
confused and numb,
emotionally and psychologically shattered,
they found comfort in the old, familiar patterns…
they did what they knew how to do…
they went fishing,
but, they found no fish.
And then, in the purple-pink of an early morning sky,
he appeared on the shore,
it was the third time he’d appeared since his death.
He told them where to find fish…
and in the finding of the fish,
they found him,
they found themselves,
they found again the call to follow -
to follow the rabbi who had overcome death
and who stood amongst them cooking fish –
because even the boldest adventurers need to be fed and nourished for the journey.
He said ‘follow me’…
Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?
He said ‘follow me’
And for the rest of their lives… they did.

But the adventure continues:
We follow in the footsteps of all those followers
who followed the resurrected Lord of life
down through the centuries.
All of us the imperfect saints of God –
who sometimes get it hideously wrong,
but who also, sometimes,
in those shining moments of Spirit-filled insight,
get it gloriously right as well.
We follow the one who,
as the writer of the book of Revelation states,
is more awesome,
than we can ever begin to fully comprehend
and who is worthy to receive power, honour, riches, wisdom, might...
the one who is so amazing
and so utterly wonderful that the only response that the multitudes in heaven can make
is to fall down and worship,
and rejoice,
and sing songs of praise.
We follow the one who is clothed in majesty,
Who is seated on the throne of heaven…
And who,
In love for us,
left all of that
and became one of us.
Who, through his earthly life demonstrated love and compassion.
Who championed the oppressed and the marginalised,
the widow and the orphan
and cried out against injustice…
who called us to follow him
Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

The adventure of a lifetime,
the adventure of our lifetime as followers of Jesus
involves great moments of joy
but also great moments of sorrow…
There’s a bit of a bizarre myth that sometimes accompanies being a Christian –
It goes like this:
‘Give your life to Jesus and you’ll have no more worries, no more problems’ 
It’s a bit of a ‘happy ever after’ fairytale version of what living the Christian life is all about –
And it’s just that: a fairy-tale… the great ‘Christian myth’,
because more often than not
following Jesus makes life a little more difficult:
following Jesus makes us rethink the way we live our lives as we negotiate the various ethical twists and turns that crop up.
That’s the bad news, in one sense…
But the good news is:
When the difficult times come,
and they have,
and they will;
when we cry out in anguish
or scream in rage at what might be happening in our lives,
or in the lives of those we love,
or in the life of the world…
The one who lived among us…
as one of us…
still hears us. 
We are not alone.
And we are loved utterly.
We are given the tools and the strength to keep going on this,
our adventure of a lifetime -
to keep following the one who asks:
Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

The adventure of a lifetime continues, 
and we are called to follow the one who reshapes us…
and who asks us to ‘reshape the world around’.
He has given us the model, the way to follow:
As he cried out against injustice
we are to raise our voices whenever and wherever we see injustice. 
We are to be a voice for those made voiceless
by bullying systems of power that crush the vulnerable underfoot;
We are to stand with those who have been pushed to the side.
The work of following, the work of proclaiming the gospel,
Is to feed those who hunger in body and in spirit;
Is to clothe the naked;
Is to visit the prisoner –
those behind bars of a correctional institution…
And those who are behind the locked doors of nursing homes imprisoned by failing memory.
It is to weep with those who weep
and rejoice with those who are joyful.
The call to follow is relational –
it is about compassion and caring and community.
It is a call of liberation –
A call to divest ourselves and our world of all that dehumanises and degrades…
And to rehumanise and reshape the bent and bruised and broken ones
in the power of the Spirit,
in the power of resurrected love…
because we follow the one who was fully human,
fully alive
and who has shown us new life,
new ways of being,
and who fills us with new hope:
the hope of resurrection here and now – every morning when we wake up…
And for all eternity.
As Jesus stood by the shore
cooking fish
and calling the disciples to follow him…
He calls us to follow him
and as we respond,
as we follow
like the disciples,
we will discover that we are on the greatest adventure of all.

Let us pray:
 Lord your summons echoes true when you but call our name.
Let us turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company we'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus we'll move and live and grow in you and you in us.

*The hymn woven through the sermon is called 'The Summons', from CH4


Margaret said...

Well done! Don't change a thing.

Sophia said...

Oh, lovely, Nik, especially the interweaving of The Summons. Sang that at a couple of my ordinations :-).

Will you sing the verses or read them out? Is the song being sung elsewhere in the service?

Nik said...

thanks folks!
will read the verses out Sophia - and we will sing it together after the sermon has finished.

Anonymous said...

It's great!!.............................................