Not really feeling the greatest today, so I will post my message from church and call it good. Hope to be back posting tomorrow or later this week. We have a very full week lined up, so hoping that the snow predicted for Tuesday holds off or is mild and that the weekend is as good as is promised. Catch you later.
The title for today was as above and the scripture was: Isaiah 9:1-4, I Corinthians 1:10-18 and Matthew 4:12-23
Just for the record, three years ago on this Sunday, we called off church due to bad weather, and apparently it was not the best winter on record then either. A few weeks back if you remember, I talked about clearing out some of the clutter at my place, and though I had a decent start on that project, I have to admit that I got a little side tracked during that power outage over Christmas. Yesterday it occurred to me that the way I have been feeling the last few weeks, you would think that the outage was a week or two rather than just a couple of days. For some reason, I just can’t get back into doing anything and so if you are wondering why there is no Annual Meeting report booklet in the mailboxes yet, that is the main reason. I have missed a few Wednesdays in the office and the week before this past Wednesday, I really couldn’t get much accomplished beyond the Ministerial Meeting, the bulletin and the Board Meeting.
Last Wednesday Patty was in the office and we worked on the Historian’s Report together. And I will admit that I should have just left it as is, but when I get on a roll it is pretty typical stubborn German-Russian. I took the report home on my flash drive, along with the Pastor’s Report which is likely the last one in the book. On Thursday, I pulled out my stack of bulletins and messages for the year and went over both those reports trying to make sure that nothing was left out. Well, I know for sure that a couple of items were missed in terms of dates, but I see they are listed under the Memorial Report so they are covered. The bottom line is some people are not capable of making a long story short. I admit, (and I bet none of you knew this before) it is really easy for me to make a short story long.
The point of all of this is that in taking the time to write up those reports, I stopped and looked through the papers and notes that I kept from this past year, and I was reminded of some of the things we did as a group, some of the discussions we had, and the scriptures that we studied. I also learned something from the notes that I kept in regard to our attendance. I was amazed at how many times we have visitors in church with us. Sometimes one or two, sometimes several, and so many different people here just seemingly on a whim, not always with someone as a guest. And through the whole thing, I was amazed again at how much we were able to do together. The key word being: Together.
I don’t believe that it is a coincidence that every year about this time there is a scripture lesson that touches on how Jesus “called” his disciples to follow him. Last week we looked at how John wrote of Andrew and Peter coming to take a look at the work Jesus was about. This week we look at the passage in Matthew when Jesus very specifically passes by the boats where Andrew and Peter and then down the shore a bit where a second set of brothers, James and John are working, and he calls out to them to follow him. The actual text before translation was “come behind me.”
As Jesus calls these two sets of brothers he asks them to come and fish for people. He recognizes that they know how to fish and he invites them to fish not for the creature in the water that is sold as food, but to fish for humans that are looking for a fulfillment you cannot get by eating. In the Old Testament there is a place in Jeremiah that refers to fishing for people and it means “fishing” more like we think of as “fishing” for information so you can catch someone at something. They were more about “catching” someone to send them to judgment. The “catching” Jesus was referring to was to catch someone in order to lead them to salvation.
One of the readings I came across this week gave me some new information about these men and their occupations. I was always had the belief that these fishermen/ disciples were likely poor in relation to someone like Matthew the tax collector or some of the religious leaders of the time. Apparently the water that they fished was very productive and they likely made a decent living, in fact it was noted that James and John’s father employed other fishermen and so it was a fairly good business. When they answered Jesus’ call, their lives were disrupted and it was sort of a big deal. For some reason, I just had this idea that they were young men who really had not established themselves and so accepting this call wasn’t much of anything. So, I learned something.
But the difficulty of their call is not really the focus of today. The focus is the idea of them being called, together, at the same time, to join in a group to work with and for Jesus and be with him as he fulfills his mission and then to carry on his mission. We see the importance of that when we look at the words written by Paul to the Corinthians.
This passage which we read at the beginning of Corinthians is about the early church there and how something is happening that is causing friction inside that group of believers. Paul writes to them reminding them of the grace of God that has been given to them and then flat out says that he has heard of some division among their members. He appeals to them in the name of Jesus and says that they should be in agreement with no division among them. Mostly he was meaning division about which person: Paul, Appolos or Peter has the correct view of how to follow Christ. Paul reminds them that the only one they need to follow is Christ.
As we read this scripture today we are reminded to work together as a fellowship of believers. Just as the fishermen were called together from the seashore to follow Jesus as he walked throughout the area teaching and healing and preaching the way to salvation, we are called together as a church to share the message of Jesus with those around us. And as we are called, it is not just as individuals in our own corners of the community or of the world, but we are also called as a group, as a church to fill a void, a mission in our community. And as we do so, we do it together, maybe not all of us at the same time or even most of us, but some of us working together doing what we can to share the mission and love of Christ.
Hopefully next Sunday I will have another power-point for you of what we accomplished this past year. I have been digging around in my photo stash and Marva sent me some of what she took, and I have plans to put them together this week so that during the service we are reminded of what we did, so that when we get to the meeting after church, it will help us decide what we should continue and what we should perhaps change. And though some of us might want to say, but what we did was great, why mess with it, change is ok too and so I hope we all are willing to speak up about what we liked or didn’t and add a new idea or two.
Our Old Testament reading, the text from Isaiah is something we probably want to associate more with the words that we read during Advent. Note: especially the second verse where it says, “The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.” We only read a small portion of this chapter that clearly points to the birth of Jesus the expected Messiah. The light that is mentioned is clearly a metaphor for Jesus who is considered the Light of the World.
If you were here on the 23rd when we celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, as we were about to do the candle lighting at the end, you might remember that I said something about how when a candle gives its light to another candle, it doesn’t lose any of its own light, I found the place I read that the other day. The exact words are: “A candle loses none of its light by lighting another candle” and the author is unknown. Apparently I was bored one day when I was substituting and I wrote down several quotes.
Also on that sheet: Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you are right.” Vince Lombardi said, “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” And at the bottom of the sheet, I added my own version, “There is no I in teamwork or cooperate.” Last week we talked about being called, sort of like the disciples were called individually to join Jesus in his earthly walk around the Holy Land. Today I hope we have heard that when they were called it was not just as individuals, but together as a group, as a fellowship of disciples.
We as a church are made up of individuals who are similar in some ways, but different in many ways, which is really a benefit when we have jobs to fill in the life of the church. Mostly we as a church are called to work together to fulfill the mission of the whole of the congregation. We are here to be the light that Christ needs in this place and time. Let us continue to do that as best we are able. Amen!