Sermon Jan 19 2020 St Chad’s Linwood
Do you remember a time when you were young, and you realised what sort of work you wanted to do? Many young children go through phases of wanting to be firemen, ballerinas, princesses, the President.. and that’s maybe all on the one day! But there comes a point, often when we are in our teens, that something gels, something hits us. Maybe we meet an influential person who we look up to, and say to ourselves, That’s what I want to do. I want to be like them.
Our readings for today deal with life-changing moments like this. In The Isaiah reading, there is a sense of purpose, of destiny, of pre-ordination.
“The Lord called me before I was born”.
There is a certainty about this statement. No longer was Isaiah wondering about what job to do, what sort of work God had for him. He knew this was the future. He goes on to say how God had prepared him:
“He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away.”
God had not only prepared him, but hidden him away for the right time.
In many careers, there are times and seasons for various roles. What you did in your twenties was very different from your role in your forties. The same for other callings – parenthood, pastoral care. The early roles prepare us for the later calling. We are readied, but held in reserve until our time has come.
In first century Israel there was a sense of this sort of waiting. The Jews knew that the Messiah was coming – they had all read the prophets and were desperate for a Messiah to come and deliver them from the hands of the Romans. They expected a political deliverer.
John, when he was baptising everyone who turned up in the river Jordan, recognised Jesus as the One. The Messiah, the deliverer.
But he didn’t start calling for a white stallion to be found for him, for armour and rich robes to make the Messiah look like a real ruler. No, instead, he called him a lamb. What is a lamb? It’s the most vulnerable of the sheep, needing warmth when it’s born, needing its mother’s milk and protection. Lambs that get too cold, or are abandoned by their mother, die. They have tiny little pathetic voices; baaa. A weak, human cry, as the poem “All in an April evening”, has it.
Lambs were humble, completely at the mercy of their surroundings. Not like a stroppy older ewe, who happily faces down the sheepdog, and stamps her foot.
But lambs had another role in Judaism. They were the sacrificial animal of choice. An unblemished male lamb was to be offered as sacrifice, to atone for, to take away, to wipe out, the sins of the one offering it as a sacrifice.
John made it clear that he saw Jesus as this lamb, and that his own role was one of pointing to the one who would come. His role was over now that Jesus had appeared.
The theme of new beginnings and destiny is rich in our readings today. Now Jesus starts to collect followers. The two young men with John heard him say, this is the Lamb of God, and started to follow Jesus. He asks them what they want. Awkward! Maybe they didn’t really know, they just knew that being the Lamb of God was important. Jesus took them with him, in warm invitation, to where he was staying, and there was opportunity for them to talk to each other, for the two new disciples to find out more, and for them to start their new calling as followers of Jesus. One of them was so impressed that he went to get his brother.
Then Jesus did a strange thing – he gave Simon a new name. He also gave him a new role, a job description. You are Peter, the Rock. Some of the Gospels have the next phrase; “and on this rock I will build my church.”
This is a huge destiny for a fisherman, but he had the main qualification. He was willing to follow.
In our Christian walk, we can take this early part of the year as a chance to check our health as followers. Are we ready to follow Jesus? Are we ready to look again at what that means? Sometimes it can become a little stale if we keep on following the same motions but lose track of why we do what we do. This is a good time to imagine yourself as one of those first disciples. So are you excited and a bit scared at what it might mean to follow Jesus this year?
Most of us don’t have the energy of youth, or the ‘rushing in where angels fear to tread’ confidence to change the world. But Jesus sent his disciples to every corner of the world, so that the Gospel might shine everywhere. We don’t need to spread ourselves too thin. We just need to shine brightly where we are, in everything we do, in every conversation, every interaction. Every prayer we offer. We can pray for people all over the world, but how about our relationships with people that might have turned sour over the years? Many people have issues in the family where people aren’t speaking, where there is resentment, lack of understanding, lack of forgiveness. Often there is genuine hurt that is hard to forgive. But maybe it is your destiny as a follower of Jesus Christ, the anointed one, to let His light shine into those dark places of your lives.
This is the big part of the work of being a Christian. The Sunday part is easy really,- come along to worship here in this lovely place, with the beautiful music, and your dear friends around you. We are free to talk to God and worship without hindrance. We know the words of the service – they are familiar. But how about tomorrow? How about when someone insults you, or pushes in ahead, or scams you? How about when you receive bad news? It’s how Christians react in the face of adversity that really shines Christ’s light in the world. That we are disciples becomes known, because we are different from the world around us. We are forgiving where the world would keep the grudge, the feud, going. And probably make a TV series about it. We are kind when the recipient is undeserving. That is true love, true charity, – and people notice.
This week, my friends, I have some homework for you. Every day, before you do anything else, except maybe feed the cat, ask God to give you the words, the love, and wisdom, to show God’s love in every encounter you have.
This is your destiny as a follower of Christ.