February 2, 2014 - Matthew 4.12-23

“Guess Where You’re Going!”

Matthew 4.12-23

February 2, 2014

12Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

How did I get here? I ended up in Mandan because I married a woman from here, and the winds of life blew us around, following where God had led.  Then in 2010 without much preparation or conversation, God indirectly told me, through other people, "Guess where you're going?", and we ended up here in North Dakota.  Then, the pastor search committee met with me God set this whole thing up.  I have to say: I never would have picked this for me, but it has turned out far, far better than I would have imagined and is in fact far, far better for me than anything I would have dreamed for me and my family.


Now, I don't know how you got here to church this morning, what mode of transport brought you here. Did you come by yourself, or were others with you? Are you pleased or displeased to be here this morning? What has God been leading you to and leading you through? How did you get to where you are? Yet none of that matters much because let's face it: all of us are Christians, disciples of Jesus, so in a sense we all got here the same way.


Moses got called by God.  He was hiding out in Midian (Ex 3). He killed a man back in Egypt and he's hiding out, working for his father-in-law, a "priest of Midian" who does a little sheep farming on the side to augment his ministerial income. Suddenly, a bush bursts into flame. A voice says, "I am the Lord your God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I have heard the cry of my people. I have seen their suffering. I have come down to deliver them . . . Now guess where you're going?"


Even though Moses had no theological or oratorical gifts or training, even though he was scared to death of the mighty Pharaoh, he went, reluctantly. Who would call a tongue-tied murderer to do a prophet's work?


Little boy Samuel got called by God.  He asleep in the middle of the night (1 Sam 3). At 3:40 a.m. the child hears his name called. Called three times before the child gets the point. Who would call a child to do a grown-up's work? "The house of Eli will be cast down and the voice of God will be spoken to a new generation," says the voice. "Now guess where you're going?"


Young adult Isaiah (Isa 6) got called by God.  He didn't want to go to church that Sunday but his mother made him. Didn't get anything out of the sermon, couldn't stand the music. Then, without warning, the heavens open, there is a vision, a voice, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?"  


Young Isaiah says, "Not me! I've got baggage from my freshman year of college. Done things, said things I shouldn't have said."


The voice says, "Perfect. Just the sort of truth-teller my people deserve. Guess where you are going?"


See? Many of you think that you are here because you chose to be here, or your mother made you feel guilty so you got dressed and came to church. No. You are here because God put you here, in this faith, walking this way, in this ministry. You are here because God said to you, in some way or another, "Guess where you're going?" And you simply said, "Yes."


It is no mere coincidence that all of the Gospels depict Jesus as we meet him in today's Gospel: as always on a journey, always on the move. It's rare that Jesus ever sits down and alights somewhere. Get the point?


Jesus walked along a road. Saw some men bending over their nets in the boat. "Follow me!" he called, "Guess where you're going?" And they did! He took them places they would have never gone by themselves. Know anything about that? I think you do.   I bet some of you have stories about where Jesus has led you.


Back where I used to be a youth minister, occasionally some teen would wander in and ask me, "How did you get here?" I always found it a hard question to answer. I often wondered if it was not a question about my credentials - "How on earth did you get here?"


I tell them I was a freshman in college, thinking about a lot of things, none of which included the ministry. I just wanted a summer job, so I called up the local Associational office, thinking I could do some type of office work, and then the next thing I knew, I was a summer youth minister. 

It was really weird.  I mean, I knew that God had called me into ministry, I just didn’t think I was ready to do any yet.  “Guess where you’re going?” the guy on the phone told me.  I had won the youth speakers’ competition for South Carolina and went to the national Baptist conference at Ridgecrest NC one year, and it was there that for some reason I felt led to commit my life to Christian ministry.  I had not planned it, I simply heard “Follow me” and I did.

I grew up hearing stories about what it meant to be a preacher – my grandfather had the Klan burn a cross on his front lawn, granny put a pot of water to boil on the stove because she was gonna throw it on them if they came in the house.  My Granddaddy threatened to fight them all one by one if they were brave enough to take off their hoods.  My father told constant stories about being a preacher’s kid, never having much money, always getting in trouble for breaking something in the parsonage, or the church, etc. 

I had always known that being a minister meant long days and sometimes sleepless nights, being on call 24/7, being willing to lead with your neck and say what might be very unpopular to the people that pay your salary, and I never – ever – said, “you know what, that is exactly the life I want!”  I simply heard “follow me” and that is what I have been doing, and it has been worth it.

I didn't know it at the time, because I really didn't know much about Jesus or the church, but that was my, "Guess where you are going?"


Sometimes in popular American evangelical Christianity, we get this wrong. We say, "Since I took Jesus into my heart . . . ," or "Since I gave my life to Jesus . . . ," or "Since I decided to follow Christ . . ." That's not the whole story! The story - Moses, Samuel, Mary, Paul, Peter, you, and me - is that you don't just take Jesus anywhere - he takes you places. You can't "give your life to Christ." It is Jesus’ offering of love and salvation that starts this whole thing!  Before we can ever come to God, God comes to us first, and then God takes on this wild ride. 


Everyone is here because you got put here. For some of you, it was dramatic and life-changing, for others it was a lifetime of quiet leading and coaxing. For every last one of you, God reached in, grabbed you. You got called, summoned.


I got put here as an infant. I can't remember a time when I was not a Christian. My mother and father had me in church the week after I was born.  Fred Craddock says that his journey of following Christ began not with a major conversion event, but rather like a sleepy child waking up in his mother’s lap to find he is in church.


Fred Craddock tells the story about giving his life to God in a series of small gestures, not one grand one. This is what it means to follow Jesus.


It isn't easy work. We are prone sometimes to fail. Thank God we're not called to be successful, or nice, or even friendly. Just faithful. The good news is that Jesus is going places and we are the ones who get to go with him. Jesus is once again on the move. Guess where we're going!

  December 2017  
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