Monday, January 24, 2011

This Wonderful, Frightful, and Life Changing Story

It seems appropriate on the day of our annual meeting that our Gospel reading for this morning is about the call of the disciples, because annual meetings are about a call.
A call we hear from God to do the work of the Gospel in this time and this place.
In Matthew’s Gospel the call for all Christians and all time is presented at the end, “Go therefore into all nations baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
But in today’s Gospel we have the start of that call, the beginning of the extraordinary story of Jesus life.
This morning we hear Jesus offer a call to some fishermen on the shores of a Lake.
Fishermen who are going about their business one minute, and the next being called into participation in a wonderful, frightful, and inspiring story.
We too are called into that same story.
Today at our annual meeting we do more then pass budgets and hear reports on meetings held this past year.
We discern together what it is God is calling us to.
Where is Jesus telling us to lay down our nets and follow him?
Where is our story connecting with the story of Jesus?

Think about the disciples who leave their nets in order to follow Jesus.
They leave a steady job to follow some long haired hippy idealist talking about the kingdom of God.
I can only imagine the conversation they had with their families when they tried to explain their next big career move.
The message of the call is clear.
God, not just in this case but all the cases of calls in the Bible, says it is too safe to simply continue to go about our business as usual.
Jesus is calling us away from that into something more, into a story more than we can imagine, into places yet unknown.
Churches are famous for playing it safe.
Churches are famous for doing the same thing over and over.
The line, “That is the way we have always done it.” I am pretty sure was uttered by one of the disciples inside the upper room where they were hiding after Jesus crucifixion.
You can hear the discussion right now.
Peter saying, “Why are we in this room? We should get out and do something.”
John saying, “But this is what we have always done.”
So every year I think it is important to ponder the question where is Jesus calling us this year.

Consider that Jesus own life in the Gospel of Matthew was not one of ease.
Jesus was always moving about never having a home.
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus is an internet preacher moving about always into new uncharted territory.
This morning for example we are told that Jesus moves into Gentile country.
Away from his home and what he had known into uncharted territory in order to follow the call.
Jesus then calls us away from what is familiar and easy into what is unknown in order to follow God.
What will that be for our congregation this year?

Last year we embarked on the Heart for the Homeless campaign.
For our congregation it was stepping out into an unknown world into new territory.
And this last year we listened for the ways that God was calling us to help those in need.
Because we were open to that call we have done some extraordinary work together.
We have helped many people.
We started a community circle to help a refuge family here in Concord.
For many of us this was new territory.
We did not speak the same language, there are many cultural differences, we were not sure what we were getting into, and we were not sure we can do it.
But that group of people has really done an outstanding job.
They heard God’s call and stepped out in faith.
This year we heard about the need in Concord for help for families and children who were homeless.
We started to organize a Family Promise organization here in Concord.
It has been difficult there have been set backs.
We are not always sure it will work.
But in faith we feel God calling us in this effort.
We have heard the call and are following into unknown territory.

This is true not only in our life together.
But also as Christians who live outside of these walls.
What are the ways that you have been called by God?
Where are the places in your life that God has called you to spread the Gospel?

Has God called you to a new vocation?
Has God called you to witness to someone in your life that needed God?
Has God called you to love someone everyone else dislikes?
Has God called you to forgive a wrong done to you?
Has God called you to leave something you regret behind?

Perhaps today is a good day to hear the call of Jesus.
Come and follow me and I will make you fish for people.
Come and follow me join my story to your story.
Come and follow me make your life about my life.
Come and follow me to what is unknown, scary, and yet life changing and wonderful.
Do we dare?

As Paul says to follow Christ is to take the story of the death and resurrection and make it our story.
“For the message of the Cross is foolish to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
To follow Christ is to make the Cross about our story.
To be saved to find and discover the power of God in following the one who has no home except where people need God.

This is where our church belongs following Jesus.
Because otherwise we find ourselves following something or someone else.
This is what is happening in the church at Corinth instead of following Jesus people have begun to take up factions and follow certain leaders in the congregation.
This of course has caused different groups to fight.
It reminds me of the story about a young rabbi who found a serious problem in his new congregation.
During the Friday service, half the congregation stood for the prayers and half remained seated, and each side shouted at the other, insisting that theirs was the true tradition.
Nothing the rabbi said or did moved toward solving the impasse.
Finally, in desperation, the young rabbi sought out the synagogue's 99-year-old founder.
He met the old rabbi in the nursing home and poured out his troubles.
"So tell me," he pleaded, "was it the tradition for the congregation to stand during the prayers?"
"No," answered the old rabbi."
“Ah," responded the younger man, "then it was the tradition to sit during the prayers?"
"No," answered the old rabbi.
"Well," the young rabbi responded, "what we have is complete chaos! Half the people stand and shout, and the other half sit and scream."
"Ah," said the old man, "that was the tradition."

Our tradition is not about who sits or stands, what songs are sung, what food is served, or what battles have been won and lost.
Our tradition is simply Christ crucified.
Jesus died so that we may live.
And today Jesus is calling us to hear that call from the shore.
Away from what is familiar and safe, and into a greater story.
We are called.
What will it be this year for Concordia Lutheran Church?
What will be the wonderful, frightful, and inspiring ways that God calls us this year?
Let us go forth and be ready to hear the call and follow Jesus on this wonderful, frightful, and life changing story.

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