Monday, January 15, 2018

Sermon January 13-14, 2018

Title: Jesus calls you to follow him!
Text: John 1:43-51

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

This past Sunday I preached at the funeral service of Patti Dennis in Keego Harbor. I had never met Patti but knew her sister Marlene Wanke a member here at Peace so there was a connection with Marlene and her Son Brian. I learned a bit about Patti, her life and illness, met her husband and heard from family and friends how wonderful a wife, sister, aunt and friend she was. It is funny in death how much we learn about someone’s life.

Serving and preaching at a funeral has connected me to the work of a pastor better than almost anything I’ve learned in my studies. Hospital visitation too has brought the brokenness of life and the need for Christ into sharp focus.

Indeed, it is a privilege to serve as an elder, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, service guild member or a pastor. But it is also an awesome responsibility.

It is therefore important always as we serve that we make sure we share the love of Christ with people so that God by the Holy Spirit can draw people to the Savior rather than by our words and actions drive them away.

44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Finding the savior is not our work but Gods. He finds us even though we at times don’t know we are lost. Jesus found Philip and called him to “Follow me.” To this Philip responded in faith and called to Nathanael, “We have found him!” and “Come and see.”

30 years ago at another death and at another time God called me in a special way to a greater relationship with him. As my mom struggled with cancer and an upcoming death, I too wrestled with death in a profound way. Would she suffer long? How should I pray? What should I pray for?

My own prayer life was limited as it probably is for many. I didn’t spend much time in prayer … except at church … and even my attendance had been falling away. So as I wrestled with her illness and death I simply sat in my chair in my basement and asked the Lord to do what was best for me and my mom and that I wanted to know him better. As I sat I prayed the Lord’s Prayer – the one prayer that I knew – the Lord comforted my hurt and I was able then to go about my business.

God did the rest. He called my mom to his loving arms six weeks later, and he gave me comfort and peace in her reward and then … he drew me to himself through his word.

God calls us to faith and then to action. He called me to a renewed relationship in Christ and then as he continued to work in me through his word – as I attended services and read the bible - he gave me a desire to to serve him. I didn’t know what or how but God’s call – “follow me!” - was clear!

My friend Rob Bourassa is hearing that call right now. He was the one who God used to be a mentor to me early in my faith renewal. Rob was always in the word and sharing the Gospel. When we went to guitar festivals together he would get people’s attention with his guitar playing and then when the opportunity arose would tell them about Jesus. His understanding of scripture and zeal for God brought me to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and God called me to further service at our church through the SMP program at the Seminary. God is now doing the same thing for my friend Rob. His church leadership has asked him to consider the SMP program and service as Pastor of his church. What a responsibility, what a privilege!

God doesn’t always call us to ministry or even to service as church workers, though that is a blessed call. He calls us all first to faith, he opens heaven to us through Baptism, and with we who are his in Christ, he is well pleased. It is then that he uses us as his people to serve others. For some, it is in service here at Peace and Lord knows we have many places to serve. For others he calls us to be a witness to our friends and neighbors just as Rob was to me and Philip was to Nathanael calling him to “come and see!”

I've had the joy of doing both. Where and when will the Lord call you?

Jesus calls you and me though to follow him!

At times it is when you least expect it. Take Samuel in our Old Testament reading for today:
8 And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

I felt the Lord’s calling me to service for the last 30 years but it took quite a while for me to discern his call, and to hear just how the Lord wished to use me and where.

These past 5 years we lost some blessed servants here at Peace who heard God’s call and served. But every time we lose someone who dies in Christ, or is called to move where the Lord needs them, we see the Lord work in the hearts of others to serve. Over the last few years we've had needs of a few Elders. Jim Rich, Bob Poe and Bill Krueger all answered the call. While others continued to faithfully serve. There is always a time to prayerfully consider what the Lord needs and how it might be best for you to serve.

Becoming an Elder Jim Rich told me upon his deliberation: “Pastor, I didn't want to accept the position unless I was willing to meet the obligations of the position but … God kept pursuing me.”

There are so many names and so many stories like this to tell. Ladies guild, Altar guild, Sunday school, worship committee … trustees and the list goes on and on. As we prepare for a Pancake Breakfast outreach to raise money for the Fallen Heroes Memorial Foundation - volunteers are needed and some have signed up. Women, men, boys, girls can all hear the Lord’s call to service. Set up, clean up, or serving others … it all is needed and for those that help we are be truly thankful.

But even though Jesus calls … we sometimes only hear the sinful call of our own selfish desires.

Whether it is our own sinfulness, 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” or the work of the devil to put the football game at the same time that the Lord needs you at church!

No kidding, some years back as I was getting ready for an ordination of a friend on a Sunday afternoon a pastor told him, “I hope you appreciate me giving up the second half of the football game with my beloved Packers to be here!” And, I believe that he was only partially kidding.

Service is hard. It requires sacrifice. Jesus knows you and he knows me. Truth be told, we all would take the easy way out … at first.

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” or it might be interpreted:

“Behold one who is true to the name of Israel, and in whom there is nothing of the Jacob” or as God says of the Israelites: they are a stiffed neck people.

In some ways we too might be in Christ but not of Christ, following the way of deceit and missing the opportunity to serve, missing the mark which is sin.
You might ask, “How do you know me?” as Nathanael did. Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

Christ sees you and me. He knows what we've done. He knows all our sins because they became his sins too. He took the sins you and I've committed and he has taken the ones that we have yet to commit to the cross. There he crucified your sins and mine. And no matter our guilt he has taken that away too.

Jesus calls us to follow him! How will you respond?

49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

It is indeed, a privilege to serve God and you here at Peace but God can use us all in so many ways. Desire it, enjoys it and thank those who serve. It is a privilege and a responsibility. May you always be blessed, as you hear and serve wherever the Lord Our God has called you.

Jesus calls you to follow him!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!


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