Some went further
Third Sunday after the Epiphany Year A, RCL
1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23
Have you ever noticed how differently people view Christianity? Even within Christianity, we find all kinds of variety. There are those who think they can be a Christian without ever being in fellowship with another human being. Those who believe every jot and tittle of the Bible is the word of God as if God wrote the Bible in English. There is no consensus across denominations about what is considered moral. And we find others whose loyalties rely more upon their denominational stripes than on Christ or God.
Paul speaks to a church filled with people whose loyalties lie in various places. Some of their loyalties reside with the pastor with whom they relate most closely. “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos.” Some even claim to belong to Christ. As Paul points out, it is this later group that has a better way of thinking.
As Christians, we only belong to the one, Son of God, Christ himself. We may have a fondness for others. We may prefer the teaching style of one person over another, but we can only belong to Christ. For it is through Christ that we belong to the Family of God, heirs to the kingdom. We as Christians often hold up our differences, those things that set one denomination apart from another; those things one group finds important and others less so. Some may say, “I’m Roman Catholic,” or “I’m Methodist,” or Baptist. (Insert any of the thousands of denominations you would like). But the truth is all Christians from any denomination belong to the same Christ, the Son of the Father, the one God. And this is what the word catholic means. There is only one universal Christian Church, under God, of which Christ is the head. And for the most part, the differences we argue about are the less important things of faith; the way we interpret words or ideas in the Bible; or the things that WE believe are necessary for salvation. And though there are important differences in these theologies, the basic tenants of these various Christian traditions remain the same. Christ lived, died, and was resurrected, so that we may receive grace for the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life.
Paul even says that baptism is not the most important thing he does. He says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the Gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.” The most important thing for Paul is telling the story of Christ to others. He almost makes it sound like he does not use eloquence on purpose. He seems to say he needs to speak to the people in a way that makes sense to them. You don’t need to oversell it or have all the fancy terminology and jargon. You just have to tell the story.
This takes a lot of the pressure off us. We don’t need a seminary degree. It might actually be easier if you don’t. You don’t have to worry if the person understands, believes, or follows. That is up to the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is tell people, invite them into a conversation, show them the doors of the church we love, and say I will be there with you.
We are a great church. We are warm and welcoming. We love to be with one another even if or maybe because we don’t have to be just like our neighbor. We can see life from differing views and still come together to eat the same bread and drink from the same cup. Living without pretense, being yourself, and allowing others to be themselves, makes for a place of rest and comfort from the world beyond. A world that says we should all be the same and want the all same things.
I believe it is because of this acceptance and our authenticity that we are growing. People are enjoying coming to Church, learning, and exploring what it means to be a Christian in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I could tell you the details about our growth; the record-setting signs of stability; where we are seeing energy and formation. But that is what we will talk about after the service at the annual meeting. Right now, I want us to focus on the Lord. What the Lord is telling you. How you feel God’s presence in your life and how you might act on that feeling.
Last week we read from John’s Gospel account. We heard the calling of the first disciples. Today we have another account. Though some of the details and the setting might be different, there is one thing that is unmistakably the same. When these people first saw Jesus, they stopped what they were doing and followed him. They literally dropped their nets. Even in the presence of their dad, they got up and followed.
Opportunities come to us in life. We hear the nudge or whisper and we have the choice to ignore it
or follow. A few generations ago, it seems to me, people would just leave what they were doing and look for better opportunities. I think of the early colonists leaving Europe. Leaving everything behind, just hoping for freedom and opportunity in a new land. There were the frontiersmen, who moved West, seeking a piece of land for themselves. Just hoping that they could make it and survive. Some went further West, seeking Gold. The Emancipation Proclamation started the great migration where formerly enslaved people moved north, once again looking for freedom and opportunity. For whatever reason, all of these people felt a call, stopped what they were doing, and followed it wherever it took them.
We know the disciples left their families, occupations, friends, and those who loved them. Much like the Star Trek Enterprise, they left into the unknown. What they discovered was God. A God who walked with them, talked with them, and led them into a new understanding about the people and the world around them. For any of us to venture into the unknown or learn something new, we must leave something behind. Even if it is our preconceived notions of people, the world, or the things we think we know. God is always with us when we follow him in faith. And I pray that you may feel his presence wherever you go.