Sunday, November 7, 2021

Follow me?

Texts: Jonah 3.1-5,10 & Mark 1.14-20

So...there you are, at home. You're maybe digging the garden. Or preparing the dinner. Or perhaps you’re settling down for warm evening in front of some soap operas...and there comes a knock at the door. On the doorstep is a wandering preacher, who looks straight into your soul and says "Come. Follow me".

What do you do? You've got a family who are relying on you. You've got responsibilities to them, and to your neighbours. You've got an employer who is expecting you to be at work...or a teacher who expects you in class. But there's something about this preacher. There's something inspiring about him.

Of course, you know something about him already. You've heard some of his teachings, and you've heard the rumour that he's out and about looking for followers. But you never expected that he would knock on your door.

So what do you do? Should you simply follow him out of the door? Should you step out on a new adventure...and let all your other responsibilities take care of themselves? Or should you shut the door in the preacher's face?

But you've been intrigued by this preacher's message. You've already heard him, talking about how the 'Kingdom of God'...the new government of coming. You've heard him calling people to turn away from society's normal ways of doing things. You've heard him saying that people need to 'repent' turn away...and to believe that there is good news.

But that's hard, isn't it? Good news. Hmm. Good news for whom?  The last time you heard the phrase 'Good News' was when a politician promised you something extraordinary, painted on the side of a bus perhaps, or proclaimed from a TV studio.  ‘Everything will be better’, they claimed, ‘if you’ll just follow me’.

But this wandering preacher - this Jesus-bloke - he's promising another kind of good news altogether. Or at least that's what you've been hearing. Apparently, his good news is good news for the poor. And for those who are mourning. And for those who are pure in heart. And for those who are peacemakers. That's a bit different than good news for business-men and for weapon-makers...

Perhaps Jesus' good news...good news for the poor, and the oppressed, and the meek...perhaps that is worth following. Perhaps that is worth even laying aside your family responsibilities for a while.

What do you do? Are you prepared to follow this call to 'Follow me'. Because that's what heroes do. Heroes throughout history are always given a call to follow. Sometimes they resist that call. Like Moses who resisted the call to lead the people out of slavery (as we shall hear this evening in The Bible Story).  Or like Jonah, as we just heard, who resisted the call to go and tell the people of Nineveh to repent.

Because calls are dangerous. Calls lead us out of our safe, secure lives into lives of adventure, possible danger, and even death. But isn't it the case that the best journeys are the ones where there is adventure and challenge along the way?

That's a challenge that many followers of Christ have followed over the centuries. It's a challenge to stand up and fight for what you believe in. It's a challenge to leave family and home - and to become a peace-maker, sometimes even in a foreign land. It's a challenge that will certainly include adventure. It might well end in death.

But's it's a hero's call. It's a call to transform a society - perhaps through fighting to save the planet (as at least one of our congregation has done this week in Glasgow).  Perhaps it’s a call to engage deeply with a part of your community?  Perhaps it’s a call to take up transforming power of rendering aid and giving food to starving people though World Vision or the UN Food programme.  Perhaps it’s the simplest call to invite your neighbour or friend to come to church with you, or to share a church publication with them.  Perhaps it’s a call to offer up some time to run a charity shop, or provide a welcome to seekers of peace in the Church.  Perhaps it’s a call to pray, sincerely and deliberately – holding a dying world up before the face of its Creator.  Whatever your individual task, it’s a call to get involved in God’s mission to transform every human system which oppresses others - into a Kingdom of love, justice, peace, and harmony with all of Creation. 

So what do you do?

Do you follow this preacher - this Jesus? You don't know where he might lead you. Wouldn't it just be easier to stay at home.  Wouldn't it be easier to tend your garden, wash your car, survey your holiday magazines, and pretend that everything's alright with the world.  Wouldn't it be easier to never give your time, your energy, your skills, or your money to any other living soul?

Yes. It would be easier. But where's the adventure in that? Where's the challenge? Where's the growth? Where's the chance to be changed from glory into glory ever more like the image of God your Creator?

"Come. Follow me. And fish for people".

You hear the call. You know something of what it means. It's something about doing things differently. It's something about living for others, not for yourself. It's something about acquiring scars and wounds, instead of the latest stuff from the market or the shops. It's something about giving up home and family, and having nowhere to lay your head for the sake of a bigger vision, a better vision. A vision of a new kind of Kingdom.

You've heard the call.

What do you do? What do you do?

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