Sermons from St
Last week I was on a course with the Diocese at Gladstone library, it’s a course everyone has to do when they start a new ministry in a new place. We were asked the question: how do we make disciples for Jesus? Someone suggested we need to challenge people more. Having been challenging people to be followers for Jesus for longer than I care to remember, I wonder if it is that easy. Or perhaps there is a certain secret to challenging people that instantly produces dramatic numbers of new disciples, I have yet to discover.
When I look at Jesus and his teachings that is more than enough challenge on its own to challenge me and anyone who cares to hear. But are we ready to listen? And if you truly listen will you have to do something about it?
The rich young man in the Gospel had wealth, a sure sign of Gods blessing, and could honestly claim he kept all the religious rules of the day. He showed Jesus the rabbi great respect by kneeling in front of him to ask “What must I do t'o receive eternal life?” And yet Jesus wanted him to do more. Can you keep the commandments including a new one, “Do not defraud.” Yes he says I have kept all of these. Jesus then in effect, asked him to give up everything that guaranteed his status and position in society and become a travelling Rabbi’s follower. “Sell everything you have, give it to the poor and follow me!” There was no suggestion he could do it a bit at a time, in small instalments. Or be a part time follower or pay five denarii a month and join a Ffriends of Jesus club.
No, Jesus looked on him in love, as he looks on each and everyone of us in love. A love that Jesus was prepared to suffer and lay down his life for. My personal story is I wanted to be a follower when I realized that sacrifice was personal to me. If you were prepared to do that for me Jesus, then I want to follow you. Jesus saw that young man's need as he saw mine, and he sees yours too. That is great isn’t it, Jesus the Son of God loves me, and Jesus loves you too. How do we respond to that love; by being prepared to follow, to walk in the path of that love, to leave the baggage of our own self importance, and what we have achieved in the eyes of others at the foot of the cross.
A children’s song puts it so well “I will follow, serve and love him, because he first loved me.” Whether you follow or like the rich young man walk away, you are loved with a love you cannot comprehend. Loved before you have done a thing to be loved for. So why not find more about that amazing love from Jesus himself?
The disciples could not comprehend how someone who literally had it all could not follow Jesus, where the demands of the Kingdom going to be so high? And if the demands were so high could they qualify too? He gives them a riddle, “can a camel go through the eye of an needle?” There’s more chance of that than a rich man caught up, and blinded by his own priorities understanding and following the demands of the kingdom of God. And yet to those who follow him, the Peters, Jameses and Johns and others, rewards in the Kingdom to come and by the way persecutions! This was no incentive to follow anyone. But a true disciple literally followed in everything his teacher did, we know Jesus suffered and was crucified. And for many of the disciples the life of a follower would be short and dangerous. But they followed.
Many still follow Jesus, but it places demands upon you. Demands to live counter to this world's subtle pressures, that make the individual king of the castle. That allow for a similar situations like we read of in Amos to flourish amongst us, with a comfortable wealthy class living at the expense of the impoverished many. It's normal so its OK. As a society we have lost track of the imperative to caring for all our neighbours. We can push the blame onto the politicians and the media, but they exist because we ultimately allow them to.
So whether we are the rich young man in the story who is trying to be a follower and failing because the challenge is too great, he does not want his world changed. Or the disciples struggling with the logic of the upside down values Jesus challenges us with. We all need to know we are loved by God. And then we need to ask ourselves how will we respond.
Perhaps we will look at the Bishop's rule of life as something we should be doing now, or maybe enrolling next Lent on the “Your Shape for God's Service” a six week course we will be running here that looks at five areas of our life and how we can serve God better. Or maybe today you will commit to devote more time to read more of Jesus's challenge, and seek his will in our lives through prayer and meeting around the Altar to receive the sacrament.