Sunday, 17 April 2016

'Follow Me' - transcript of sermon for St Anne's Brown Edge 10/04/16

St Anne’s, Brown Edge 10th April 2016

Psalm 30 Acts 9.1-6 [7-20] Revelation 5.11-14 John 21.1-19

Pulling all of our readings together there is one phrase that stands out – FOLLOW ME.

Moreover, we have plenty of information about who the ME is.

The Psalmist ends Psalm 30 with such an exuberance you can almost see someone dancing and singing loudly…

For You have turned my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, so that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Then, from the Book of Revelation we get a glimpse into the throne room of heaven. Here, we hear the praises of the Lamb who was slain now receiving power, and wealth and wisdom and might.

We know of course that the Passover Lamb is none other than Messiah Jesus.
Who, having given himself up to death was gloriously raised to life on the third day, a sign of vindication and a seal of truth of all that he said, did and revealed of God. 

In addition, we meet two people in our readings, Peter and Saul – who in all probability, also danced and sang songs of praise to God Almighty. 

Both were good solid Jews, one who had followed Jesus and was one of the first to declare Jesus as Messiah, the Christ.

Matthew 16.16

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

However, Simon Peter appears to be a man who opens his mouth before he puts his brain into gear.

Spectacularly so, as when following this declaration, Jesus began to teach them that he was going to be a sacrificial lamb, to be tortured and killed. Peter received a stern rebuke from Jesus for saying that this must not happen.

Then we have been hearing about Peter again recently as we recalled the story of the Last Supper.

But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same.

As an aside, it is stories like this that give a sense of the authenticity to the Gospels. If you were writing a publicist piece, would you really include such bad press stories?

It has been suggested that John’s Gospel comes to a more natural conclusion with the end of chapter 20.

John offers a summary of the reason he set out to write his Gospel.

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Then we move on to an epilogue – a beautiful story that tells us about Peter’s restoration. 

We have had resurrection appearances. We have we have heard of Jesus’ appearing in various ways and too different people.  However, the question remains, now what do we do?

Peter reverts to type and sets about doing the one thing he knows well enough, fishing.

The story is masterful as Jesus appears and guides them to a great catch. Moreover, here is Peter also reverting to type, putting on some clothes and diving into the water to go and meet Jesus who has a breakfast barbeque set up and going, ready for some fresh caught fish.

Reading between the lines a little, we see Jesus asking Peter to walk with him a little away from the others.

Lovingly and with such tenderness Jesus asks Peter three times to declare his love, matching the three-fold denial. Peter is restored, redeemed, rescued and receives his commission.  Then Jesus says to him very simply, ‘Follow Me.’

Note this isn’t go – but follow me, indicating to Peter, and to all who respond to that same call, that we follow Jesus, we never take Jesus anywhere.

Then we have our other character, Saul, and this amazing story of his conversion.

Much has been made of this story that is recounted in slightly different ways three times in the Acts of the Apostles.

Indeed, the very phrase, a Damascus Road experience has passed into common parlance as a way of talking about people suddenly seeing things in a completely new way, of them experiencing some sort of conversion.

Conversion is one of those things that we often struggle with, especially in the Church of England.

In part, that is because we have a legacy of being a Church birthed into Christendom.

The mere fact of being born in a Christian country meant, axiomatically, that you were a Christian.

The evidence of this is seen in the regularly occurrence of people either going into hospital or filling in surveys, declaring themselves ‘C of E.’

However, that no longer applies, especially among the younger generation who will describe themselves in a myriad of different ways.

For some of you here this morning I would hazard a guess if asked you would say that you have grown up with the Faith, which you have imbibed by a kind of osmosis over very many years beginning when you were a child and brought to church.

Looking carefully at Saul’s conversion however, we can see and can easily imagine the journey he had made. Perhaps it began, as he was witness to the stoning of the first martyr Stephen.

Saul, whom we come to know better as Paul, had amazing credentials that he outlines in some details in Acts 22.3-4

"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. "I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons,…

God had prepared him for a great work, only Saul/Paul had no idea of what this was. He thought it was being zealous for God and chasing after followers of The Way, who claimed to follow the blasphemer and false prophet, Jesus.

However, Saul’s journey reached a crisis point, which means ‘making a critical decision,’ albeit God had to knock him of his horse to get his attention. This encounter and subsequent events was to change Saul/Paul’s life and set him off in a direction that was beyond his wildest dreams.

Paul left a legacy of a great corpus of written material as he struggled to understand and help others understand the significance of the life, death, resurrection, ascension and second coming of Jesus as God’s anointed and appointed one.

Using Paul’s Magnum Opus, the Letter to the Romans, I want us to make a journey this morning. To see if we can get a better understanding of just what conversion might mean and what steps we can take towards becoming a Christian.  It is called the Roman Road to Salvation and offers a basic Gospel outline.

3:10 As it is written, there is no one righteous, not even one.  

3:23 Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God 

5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man and death spread to all because all have sinned

5:8 But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. 

6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

10:13 For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’

10: 9-10 Because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

However, however, however, this is not merely a private matter of gaining some sort of assurance to go to heaven when we die. It is more, much more than that.

Peter’s life was turned around and took a very different direction and so did Saul’s’ and so might yours when you openly confess your belief in Jesus and his 

With the resurrection of Jesus, the Kingdom of God, that one day will be fully revealed, has broken into the present and it is shown by the power of God at work among his people.

If we have been truly converted and declare ourselves Christians and Followers of Jesus, then we are called to live out the life of faith and demonstrate and work towards and pray earnestly for the Kingdom of God to come upon earth. For God’s will to be done, right here and right now, as it is in heaven. Your Kingdom come, your will be done in Brown Edge as it is in heaven.

Let me leave you with an analogy that you may find helpful when considering a journey towards conversion and becoming a Christian.

Think of a journey to marriage. It begins with attraction. That moves onto a developing relationship, in old fashion parlance, courtship. This moves into an engagement. Today, this may well lead into living together at some time or other. 

Then there is the wedding and getting married.

It is at this point that what was private and provisional becomes public and permanent.

A convent relationship is entered into between two people. Life will never be the same again with joys and constraints, a giving and receiving.

I made this journey and was married Jane on the 23rd July 1982.

I made a similar journey to Jesus. On the 1st January 1975, I made a New Year’s resolution to become a Christian. I confessed with my lips that Jesus is Lord and believed in my heart that God raised him from the dead.

In both cases, my life was changed.

A question for you to consider this morning is - where are you in your relationship to Jesus?

If you would like to take a further step forward in your relationship with Jesus, I would be delighted to talk with you and pray with you afterwards.

If you are a Christian, then I would be equally pleased to hear of what difference this is making in your life and in the community where God has placed you.

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