Get Up and Get Moving
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
I want to commend you on being present.
I know that it took some effort to get up and get moving so that you might gather here in Christ and receive the benefits that come from hearing God’s Word and participating in the Lord’s Supper. It is the standard practice of a pastor to contact you if you have been absent for a while, to check and see how you are doing, but too rarely do I take a minute to tell you how happy I am to see you here in worship, and how I much I am encouraged by your faithfulness and diligence in persevering in the promise of your baptism.
Consider again your baptism for moment.
In baptism we do nothing. We are simply the passive recipients of God’s generous gifts of reconciliation and eternal life. It is a public event that becomes part of our history, where God speaks us into life and draws us out of death. In our baptism, God — Father Son and Holy Spirit — create us and claim us as God’s own child.
What a radical new relationship with God — a child, included in a fellowship with God the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and in this new relationship we hear God speak to us and we act on and respond to that word. That hearing and responding Is faith, the source of our life. That is what we see happening in today’s readings. God speaks and that word evokes a response and in that call and response we understand the nature of the relationship.
In the first reading, we hear God call and commission Jonah again, a second time. This time he obeys.
But the first time, the Lord called Jonah to send him to Nineveh with a message of repentance, Jonah had ignored the Lord’s command and set off in the opposite direction, seeking to sail to the far ends of the earth rather than fulfill God’s command to go and share God’s Word with a people who were unable to hear it for themselves. After a violent storm at sea and 3 days in the belly of fish, after Jonah himself repents of his disobedience to the Lord’s command, God speaks to Jonah again and through Jonah’s proclamation a large city, filled with people and animals and livestock, hears God speaking to them and they change their mind, they turn their lives around and they find God’s love and mercy and peace.
In Jonah’s story, we find a story that can serve as a type of parable for us as God’s baptized people, and it is crisis of this story comes to us at the moment of obedience to the Lord’s command. God speaks to us … do we obey or do we disregard that word and run in the opposite direction, avoiding the conversation. Hiding from God … whatever that might mean for us … is the first sign that something has broken in our relationship with God. God goes looking for us, and we hide or cover ourselves to escape his presence. There are many ways to run from God, to hide from God, to block out the sound of God’s voice addressing you …
Only you can know the particular way you ignore or avoid participating in the relationship with God in Christ, but the result is the same … it is the chilling and deep silence of nothingness … no meaning, no purpose, no hope, no future … and a fear beyond fear that seems like the hopeless resignation to the fate of all. I think of Jonah falling through the depths of the sea after he was hurled into the storm by the sailors. Tumbling into the silent, deep darkness of the sea. How terrible a feeling that is. If you have been there you know the depths of despair and shame that come from having heard God’s word and call and having turned your back upon it.
Yet God, in God’s mercy and love sends a great fish to save Jonah, to save Jonah by swallowing him whole. Three days and three night in the quiet darkness of the fish’s belly, Jonah prays that God to hear him, that God answer his cry of repentance and change. What Jonah longs for is to hear God’s word again, to enjoy that fellowship. Even though we run from God, flee from God, avoid God and ignore God’s Word, God is always near, always listening, always ready to hear and speak life to us again. Jonah’s experience is a death and resurrection of a sort … it points to how God in Jesus Christ makes us God’s children and establishes this relationship in which we hear God’s word and enjoy the communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
When Jesus calls us into life from our watery death of baptism, we find all of God’s gifts and benefits for us in this relationship with Jesus. We might even say that God’s gracious and generous gift is the call, the command, “Follow me.” It is God choosing you in Jesus Christ to enter into the fellowship of God and God’s people. When that word is heard and understood and acted upon we see the beginning of new and eternal life.
That’s the experience of Andrew and Simon and of James and John in our Gospel reading. They hear God’s word, God’s command — “Follow me” — and they obediently respond by physically getting up, getting out of the boat and walking with Jesus. But also notice how in their obedience to the command, they also becomes members of a fellowship of Jesus’ followers. They are all disciples, but they are disciples together. They are all in Christ, but they follow Jesus as part of a fellowship of other disciples, a community of those who have been called into life by Jesus’ command.
Please make no mistake. Our Lord Jesus does not have a provision for life in him that can be carried out from the comfort of our own homes or from the safety of our own minds or from our the depths of you own imagined spirituality. God’s life giving Word must be spoken and it must be heard and finally, obeyed. It is God’s grace and love for us that the voice of God continues to search for us to call us out of the safety of our own homes, our own minds, our own imagined spirituality to come and follow him … to live among God’s faithful people, to live by hearing God’s word and in communion with God in this meal we share, and there is no virtual way of participating or following. It must be done with our bodies and minds, our time, talents and possessions, with all that we have and all that we are.
In a way, from time to time … and perhaps at this moment, we are like Jonah on the beach after the fish had spit him out. Lying there knowing God has loved us, God has rescued us, God has saved us … and yet having to act on the call that we have heard before, a call to live by faith and share God’s story of grace and love with all people. Or maybe we are like Andrew and Peter and James and John. Jesus is here and we have heard the call that welcomes us into a new life as his disciple, and now we must either ignore it or get up and follow with our whole self?
How will you respond to the voice of the Lord that has called you out of death and into new life in Christ? What’s your next step?
Whatever it might be … take a minute hear to write down one action item to take up this week, and answer these questions in the process ...
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