Discipleship Sermon Rev. June Fothergill July 3, 2016
Robert Fulghum shares the true story of a man named Larry Walter. At 33 years of age Larry decided he wanted to see his neighborhood from a different perspective. So he went to the Army Navy store and purchased 45 weather balloons. That afternoon he strapped himself into a sawn chair to which several of his friend tied the hone helium filled balloons. He took along a six pack, a peanut butter sandwich and a BB gun- figuring he could shot the balloon one at a time when he was ready to land. Larry thought the balloons would lift him about a 100 feet but when he was cut look the chair soared 10,000 feet- smack into the middle of the air traffic pattern from the LA airport. He was too frightened to shoot any of the balloons and stayed in the chair for more than 2 hours, causing air flight delays. After he was safely back on the ground and cited by the police reporters asked him three questions “ Were you scared?” Yes
Would you do it again? No
Why did you do it? “ Because Larry said, You can’t just sit there. ( Dr. Andrew Wolfe, Look Before You Leap)
What an adventure! It all started with me this week when I remembered the words my father preached one time that I actually remembered- that following Jesus is an adventure. So my translation for the word discipleship this morning is the word All. Christian Discipleship means to me that we give our all in all to the
Adventure with Jesus Christ
Learning from Jesus Christ
Leadership of Jesus Christ
Adventure. Clearly the persons who chose to follow Jesus in the gospel readings we heard today went on an adventure. They all chose to leave behind their livelihoods and follow Jesus around Palestine. If that’s not an adventure, I don’t know what is. Also, they were later sent out by Jesus two by two to do what he did: to heal people and talk about God. These folks were not seminary trained professionals. They were ordinary fishermen and tax collectors. Yet, following Jesus changed their lives all around. They were now healers and preachers. Not only that! To call following Jesus an adventure implies that it will not be easy. Jesus later told them that to follow him would mean sacrifice- to take up a cross ( an instrument of pain and suffering). And then at the end of Matthew Jesus tells them to go out into all the world to continue his work. Do you see that I mean about the first folks who followed Jesus? It was an adventure.
But what about you and me? Are we on an adventure with Jesus too?
Some of you know Amy Adams. She has posted on facebook about one of her adventures following Jesus. She goes regularly into a nursing home/ memory care center to play the piano and sing for the residents. She posts about her experiences of surprise, of making connections with folks who are often forgotten and who have forgotten much of themselves. Yet still music can reach them in their hearts. I think her music is an adventure in healing.
I have a friend Ruth Chamberlain who is working in Klamath Falls with their meals program with folks who are unhoused. She had an adventure some of you may identify with. She tried to help a young person coming to the meals with money and support. Her heart got broken because the person has so far been unable to use that help to make a life change. She experienced the adventure of the cross.
I have to admit each time I take a new appointment as a UMC pastor it is an adventure; discovering a new place, people, culture. I used to think that adventure would mean going to another country and sharing my faith but I’ve discovered there are plenty of adventures here in the USA. Each time I leave behind my old life and take up the new one Jesus ( or the bishop) gives to me, it is a outer adventure as I have said but it’s also an inner adventure: the spiritual adventure or abiding in Christ, of growing in self awareness, of trusting God not myself. In fact, I think as we grow older, the adventure becomes more an inner one as we prepare for the final adventure- eternal life with Christ.
For the adventure of Christian Discipleship is ongoing. We learn from Christ throughout our lives.
So, part of ALL is Learning from Jesus. This we certainly see the first followers doing. In Matthew they sat together on a hillside and Jesus taught them beginning with the passage we read today “ Blessed are you..” Taught his followers an alternative way of blessings and peace in which unexpectedly those many the world would deem less than or weak find themselves blessed. Jesus taught a way of forgiveness where his disciples are asked to forgive one another and seek God’s forgiveness. Jesus taught through stories about the Kingdom or Reign of God which would bring life and hope to all the world. He taught them and showed them how to pray and invited them to learn to trust and put away fear. I could go on and on. Clearly Jesus has much to teach those who would follow him.
How do we learn today when we can no longer linger by his side like the first followers could do?
Fortunately, we have the New Testament chock full of teachings of Jesus and his followers. Fortunately we have the Old Testament chock full of the teachings that Jesus and his first followers would have assumed. When we faithfully and carefully study and read them , these resources of our faith can teach us. We can imagine ourselves on that hillside, we can ponder the meaning of a text and what wisdom or word it has for us. We can read and explore the meaning of texts together with others so that we can learn from one another. So we learn from Jesus all our lives through interaction with scriptures. Learning from Jesus is not just for when we are young, it continues our whole lives long.
We can also learn from Jesus through our life of prayer and worship. When we take time to focus our attention upon the reality of God in Christ, when we sing or pray and open our hearts to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we learn about God and ourselves. I remember one time at a UMW gathering we were singing the song “ Of my hands I give to you, I give to you as you gave to me, of my hands I give to you.” When singing that song, I learned that I had something to offer Christ. I took a step on my adventure of discipleship. And the most important thing we learn from Jesus is that we are forgiven and beloved.
For finally, Discipleship, ALL means accepting the Leadership of Jesus Christ for our lives.
We live in a time with many competing value systems and ideas for our attention. Sometimes we worry that our world has gone rudderless. How do we deal with all the changes, the multicultural world, the pressures to conform to a consumer culture? Professor of Christan Ethics Christine D. Pohl puts it this way, “ Many voices call out to us, demanding our attention and shaping our self perceptions, life choices, interpretations of our past and understandings of our future. In the midst of all the noise and competing authorities, the voice of the Lord, a voice stronger than storms and mountains, break the heavens open to deliver a word of love. “ Beloved” is God’s word for us.” (p. 20 Christian Century Jan. 10, 2006.)
I believe we need an internal guide for our lives. For me, I have heard the call of Jesus and claimed him as my center, my leader. When I am not sure what to do or what to decide, I listen for his compassion and presence in my life. When I have to set priorities, I seek Christ’s way of peace as my guide.
This is not always easy. Sometimes we have hard choices in our lives which don’t have easy answers. Sometimes to go the way of Christ means sacrifice and suffering. Sometimes it means going against the prevailing winds. Yet, I believe that the leadership of Christ will be toward love and the welfare for the most folks. As Prof Pohl says, it is a voice of Love! Jesus is a leader who shows us his priorities through his teachings and actions. He cared for the lost, the vulnerable, the hungry, the sinners, the outcast. He ate with everyone- rich and poor, sinner an d saint. He was willing to die on a cross rather than use violence or harm another. He forgave us all, even when we were all far away, as Paul reminds us. HE calls us his Beloved ones and believes we can be light for the world.
So, I am proud and humble to have Jesus as my leader. That is what it means finally to be a disciple, is to make a commitment to follow a leader. I want to follow a leader who is full of compassion and wisdom for this world. I want to follow a leader who loves me and helps me become my best self. I want to follow a leader who walked the talk, who lived with integrity. IN Jesus the Christ I believe I have found such a leader. What about you? Is Jesus the leader of your life?
As you come to the communion table today, I invite each of us to bring our ALL in all. To bring our whole selves in response to Christ’s amazing love and forgiveness for us by following Christ. This is discipleship: To bring our ALL to join in the Adventure of following Jesus, To bring our ALL to learn from Jesus. And to bring our All to Make Jesus the Lord and Leader of our lives.