“Follow” – as you are.

In yesterday’ gospel story, we heard Jesus calling ordinary fishermen to follow him and become “fishers of people”.

In times of vocational transition, people may experience a lot of waiting, feelings of anxiety, and doubts about meeting a different set of standards and expectations.  For those who are wondering if they are good enough or have what it takes to follow a certain employer, school, or program, this gospel story might be an important reminder that Jesus doesn’t wait for people to apply to him. Jesus calls followers and then uses what they already know. We need not worry if our resumes or letters of recommendation will be good enough.  Jesus knows they are.

“What are you seeking?”

These are the first words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel According to St. John. They are a response to a crowd of people looking for him.

It is also a good question for us to be asking today.

When we gather in church on Sunday morning, what are we seeking?

I believe we have an insight into what our community is seeking when they write their prayer request on our chalkboard sign on Main St.

When the requests of the past year have been compiled the following concerns are most frequently listed: family, love, friends, peace, and hope. 

For us in the church, how can our congregation best meet these requests? Of course, we can’t do everything. But as we live forward into this new year, we can do a great service to our community if we continue to develop ministries that address the needs of our neighbors.

Jesus doesn’t offer an answer to the crowd’s response, but instead he issues an invitation…… “Come and see”.

Emmanuel – “God With Us”

It’s not hard to discern how the call to be God’s hands and voices in the world could be worked out.  It is through acts of service, inclusion and grace that easily shows God’s love.  Simple neighborliness can be a very effective reflection of God’s care. Welcoming others into our lives of faith can be a tremendous act of healing and transformation.  God calls us through our baptism to be “Emmanuel” for our broken world.

“Shared By All”

The word “community” comes from the latin, meaning “shared by all”.   Ironically, as the world shrinks due in part because of advancements in technology,  there is a growing movement of people away from each other.  More people desire to be “a part from”, rather than “a part of”. It often takes a prophet’s distance from the ways of the world, to announce a re-adjustment.  Like the Biblical prophet John the Baptist’s message to “Repent”, hearers are called to change their ways, and re-direct their lives towards God. The Biblical prophet Isaiah’s vision of a peaceful kingdom, where the “wolf shall live with the lamb”, are points to which we are to direct our lives. When we welcome one another. Live in harmony. Hope abounds.

Tune In. Wake up!

In the 1960’s people were urged to turn on, tune in, and drop out – to leave the material world behind in favor of an alternate reality. In the Gospel message, Jesus also urges us to tune into an alternative to the material world, one he called the coming of the Son of Man. In Jesus’ person, the dominion of God comes into the world, and the risen Christ continues to give us abundant signs of its presence.  Jesus commands his followers not to drop out of the world, but to be on the lookout for him in it.

God’s Love Unites Us

It’s important for us to remember as Christians that wherever we may be politically, we come together on Sunday to give thanks for God’s love for the world – the whole world – Republicans, Democrats, rich, poor, women, men, young, old, persons of all races and ethnicities. God loves us all. And we are united not by gender or race or economic status or political affiliation but rather by faith – faith that God created all things and people, sustains all things and people, and will redeem all things and people, all because of God’s overwhelming love for all things and people.

Reformation – Then and Now

Next year, Lutheran churches throughout the world will mark the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. The anniversary remembers 1517, when Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. That action sparked a series of reforms in theological understanding of grace, liturgical practice, accessibility of scripture in the common language, and much more. But the sixteenth-century Reformation was not a one-time event.  Reformation is ongoing. The church of Christ always stands in need of reform. As in Luther’s age, so in ours: God’s word is alive, speaks the truth, and surprises with grace.

It’s About God

In a culture that is filled with self-promoters, and narcissists, our faith reminds us that what is most important is what God has done, and continues to do.

In fact the whole Protestant Reformation was and is an attempt to shift our attention from ourselves to God.

Perhaps we should reserve most of our time, thought, and words for God, the God who creates light from darkness, raises the dead to life, and pulls us all — righteous and sinful, disciples and ne’er-do-well alike — into a realm of unimaginable and unexpected grace, mercy, and joy.

Faith – Our Underused Resource

Like Christians before us, we may feel that we need more faith.  Needing faith just to get through life’s challenges, let alone to make a difference in the world.

When the first disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, he reminded them that they already had sufficient faith to be his disciples. Jesus implies that faith is simply the willingness to do what needs to be done.

Faith is not found in the mighty acts of heaven, but in the ordinary and everyday acts of doing what needs to be done – responding to the needs around us, caring for the people who come our way.

The daily headlines we read, and the obstacles we face in our own lives can make us feel hopeless. But all around us there are signs of hope – God continuing to love and care for the world seen through the simple, ordinary acts of love and faithfulness.