Monday, January 21, 2008

Yesterday's sermon

Meeting Jesus
sermon on John 1:29-42

“How are you today?” we ask, hoping to not get a real answer. "And what do you do?" we ask one another at a party, not meaning that we really want to know what they do. We get a list of accomplishments or a résumé and then an “and you?” And when we tell each other “ I’m in real estate, I’m a stay at home mom.” We know what that means. They’re nicknames, short cuts to the real thing.

I’ve been wondering this week, “What if we asked more of one another in our introductions? What if we skipped the world’s nicknames and moved instead to God’s?”

I’ve been wondering, because of this little story. To tell you the truth, I’ve never paid that much attention to its star, St Andrew. Andrew is in the inner ring of disciples, but not much of a big deal compared to his pals James and John and Peter, about whom we hear lot more about in the gospels. But so much hinges on this story. If John hadn’t told what he knew, if he hadn’t repeated it the following day, if the disciples hadnt followed Jesus, if Jesus hadn’t turned around just when he did, if Andrew and the other disciple hadn’t asked to go with him…..what might have happened? how would Jesus’ life and ministry have begun?

Maybe, if you’re like me, you havent given much thought to this story before – this story that so much hinges on. Maybe it’s time to take Andrew a litlte more seriously and to more carefully consider what he has to offer us.

As I see it, in this story, Andrew gives us two models for living, both of which we can use every day. One is how to share our faith – the other is how to make decisions.

Most of us have the opportunity to share our faith every day, and I bet most of us let that opportunity pass us by, me among them. (Did I take a moment to share my faith with the young lady behind the counter who sold me a pile of tokens yesterday during my son’s first visit Chuck E Cheese? No, I did not. )

(the Four I’s are borrowed from Seasons of the Spirit Curriculum)
How is andrew a model for us in faith sharing? It’s laid out here in a four steps – let’s call them FOUR I’s (inward looking, invitation, istatements and In god we trust).

1. Inward looking: First, Andrew began follwing Jesus. Not right away. He let the words and meaning of the words sink in. When he was ready, he took a step toward Jesus and he followed. In order to share our faith, we have to take care of our own faith walk first. No matter our age, no matter if you have been in this church for one day or for 50 years, your spiritual walk needs attention.

We are heading into the season of Lent, the 40 days before easter. I would encourage you to think about how do you pray and how you connect with Jesus? Look INWARD.

2. Invitation: Once Andrew knew Jesus, he wanted to share his experience with his brother. As we think about sharing our faith, we are invited to share faith with the people we already know. A few people have the gift of faith sharing with strangers, most of us are invited to share within our network. That’s why it’s actually good that I did not start sharing faith with the woman behind the Chuck E Cheese coutner, and why it’s a good idea not to do that in the future, unless (heaven forbid) I make more trips there and she becomes a regular acquaintance. INVITE.

3. I statements: Andrew followed Jesus, he shared with his brother. Then what? He shared, using I messages. Rather than saying “you need to know jesus.” or “your life is a mess” (which may have been true), he said “I have found the messiah.” Faith sharing is best done by personally sharing how god’s love has impacted your own life. I messages are a powerful testmony to God. I-STATEMENTS.

4. In God we trust: Andrew took Simon to Jesus, and then left the results up the two of them. This was a life –changing encounter for Simon, and Jesus in fact gave him a new name, but Andrew did not try to save Simon on his own. Andrew trusted Jesus. IN GOD WE TRUST.

When we make a connection, invite, share our own journey and leave the results to god, we are are bearers of good news in a way that is not offensive but powerfully personal.

OK, but maybe you are not a place to be faith sharing. Maybe you have too many questions yourself, or maybe the 4 I’s are just not your gift. What does this story hold for you, then?

Even if we don’t have the gift of sharing our faith, every day everyone in this room makes dozens or maybe hundreds of decisions a day – starting (if you’re like me) from the first waking moment: hit the snooze button or get up?

I don’t have any little letters for this one, because it is so short and easy, you will never forget. Andrew teaches us. Listen. Just listen.

Every day, Christ is already asking you, as he asked Andrew on the road: “what do you want?” This is not small talk, not “how are you?” “fine” but “what is your heart’s desire?”

If you’re paying attention, you might ask back, like Andrew did, “where are you?” In other words, how can we find you and follow your way?

Listen for christ’s leading and follow christ’s way. You may be on another path altogether, but you can change course! Don’t you think Andrew’s family was tired of hearing him talk about prophet men all the time? “First this John, now this Jesus – ok, pal, what’s next?” you can hear them asking. But Andrew was not deterred. He that he had found the true Messiah and so he followed.

You know you are really in tune with God when these two – the four I’s and the listening to Christ – come together.

Tomorrow we will celebrate MLK day, so this week like many of you, I’ve been thinking about and remembering Martin Luther King’s life and legacy. I was re-reading this week about his first action – the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Here is a young pastor (26 years old!) helping organize a boycott that started out as a one-day protest and grew over the coming months to involve thousands of residents of Montgomery, as well as interested people around the nation and even the world. This is a story we know well. Listen to it again, though. Remember it again, and you might allow yourself to be changed by it again. Do you remember how it goes? How Rosa Parks, after years of training in nonviolent resistance and with the full support of her community behind her, slid over to the window and declared that she would not move. Do you reember how the black leaders of town organized a car-pool, and when that was declared illegal, rallied the workers to walk intstead?

Do you remember how people gave their lives for this struggle for the simplest human dignities, how bombs were thrown, including one into the front window of Martin Luther King Jr’s house, while his wife and baby daughter rested in a room in back?

And do you remember what happened then? How a crowd gathered outside the house, angry and ready for justice, for retribution. And it was Martin who told them, “We must answer this hate with love. Don’t go and get your weapons now. We will keep walking, as we have been doing, and we will defeat this system.” And so the angry crowd dispersed and went home. That was faith sharing by example, of the bravest, most powerful kind.

And then, do you know what happened then? Here’s part of that story I never heard before. After that terrible night, Martin Luther King Jr was stricken with indescision and with doubt. Could he risk the life of his young family? his own life? It seemed too much to ask. He rose early the next day, and sat down at the kitchen table to pray. As the coffee cup at his elbow grew cold, he had a long talk with God. and when he raised his head, this young man, such a young man, he knew what he would do.

Faith was shared, a decision was made. A life was changed. And the world was changed, too.

And so what about the story we heard today? What happens next? A decision made, faith changed and then… here’s what happened. Christ looked into the eyes of Simon, and Christ changed his name. A decision made, faith shared, a life changed. Adnt he world changed, too.

You can call christ by whatever nickname you like – Lamb, Messiah, Prophet, Teacher, Healer, Friend, Brother….Christ answers to all those and others, too. Call him. And then Christ will look you in the eye – so gently, so firmly – and Christ will call you by your new name, the name he has chosen for you. Listen, listen. You can hear it.



Deb said...

You are truly an inspired preacher! I love the way your sermons get to the heart of the scripture so clearly and simply. I also like the way you connected your sermon with Seasons of the Spirit. My Nurture team (formerly the deacons) has been trying to get everybody on board (the education team and the interim pastor, especially) with using SOS to plan the adult worship and not just confine it to the Sunday school. . .

juniper68 said...

Hey Deb, SOS really works sometimes and other times not - but I do try to incorporate it when it makes sense to.