A Sermon for Epiphany 3 by The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman
Sermon for Epiphany 3, January 27 2010
Come follow me…
On Friday I went to see ‘The King’s Speech’ (thoroughly recommended). I’m not sure how many people heard the original radio broadcast (one or two may be here today) and were following it word for word, but in the The Times yesterday I saw that it was reported that 1 in 20 of the UK population had already seen the film (and therefore the film version of it) since the film was released earlier this month, that must be close to 3m people. The film focuses on the speech made by King George VI at the outbreak of the Second World War, a time when the nation and the Empire was looking for leadership that they could follow in the fight against the evil that was to come.
Perhaps if the speech had to be made today it would be put on the internet or condensed so it could fit on Twitter. On Twitter it might not have reached quite so many people.
The Times newspaper’s list of the top fifty celebrities with the most followers on Twitter, Stephen Fry ranks the highest, with more than 98,000 followers. His nearest rival is Lance Armstrong, with a mere 53,000 followers. But even that number of followers is more than Jesus appears to start with in today’s gospel reading. Just four of them; Simon-Peter, Andrew, James and John.
We don’t really know why they followed Jesus, or why James and John did but their father, who was in the boat with them at the time, did not. John’s gospel tells us that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist so perhaps the men already know of Jesus, or even know Him.
It’s not clear whether Jesus has done lots of supernatural things to attract people to Himself, or dome great healing or miracles, if so they are not recorded in the Gospels. According to Matthew all He seems to have done is go to the local synagogues and preached a few times. Preached just a simple message of repentance and the fact that the Kingdom of God had come near.
And perhaps the four fishermen were not so much attracted to the message of repentance, but more to the message that Jesus was preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven being at hand, and saw in Jesus the personification of the popular vision of the promised Messiah as a military leader who had come to overthrow the Romans and restore Israel to the Jews. Perhaps in the speech of George VI the people of an Empire were looking for that same show of power.
But follow Jesus they did, and it as a result of their faith and the faith of others like them that we find ourselves here today. And our call to follow Jesus is the same as theirs.
We know that the disciples left their nets and followed Jesus. Following someone like an itinerant preacher like Jesus implied that life was never going to be static and that they were therefore always going to be on something of a journey. There was an initial decision to follow Him, followed by the actions (and upheaval) that it would entail. The disciples did not know where it would lead them or the joy and hardships which were to come, but they followed Jesus. They embarked on their own personal journeys, drawn by the attraction of Jesus and what He said.
And as they went on the journey with Jesus, so their knowledge and experience of Him would evolve and deepen, it did not remain static. They discovered new things about Him, sometimes radical and shocking, and began to understand about what His presence in their lives and the world really meant. The real meaning of His incarnation.
In the same way, Jesus invites us as His followers on that same journey, invites us to come to know more and more about Him and His relevance for us and the world as we walk with Him on the journey of our lives. And in the same way, our spiritual lives should not remain static and our faith should develop from our early understandings as we follow Him. We should expect to learn more about Him.
And, almost by definition, if you’re on a journey you can’t take everything with you. Just like the disciples, we too may be called to leave some things behind as we journey with God, sometimes the very things that give us security and some degree of comfort. But moving on does imply leaving some things behind.
Part of that leaving behind in contained in the key message Jesus gives to all who would seek to follow Him. Repent. Turn (back) to God, because the Kingdom of heaven is near. Coming close to God so He can come close to us as we turn to Him. Turn away and leave the things that separate us from God and turn to the things that draw us closer to Him. Be active and involved in extending His Kingdom.
‘The King’s Speech’ is set at the outbreak of war, and later this week, on 27 January, we remember those suffered, particularly the Jews, due to the destructive persecution that took place during the war. We remember them in the Holocaust Memorial day. Holocaust so named from the Greek ‘holos’, whole, and ‘kaustos’ – burnt. In Hebrew, ‘Shoah’, meaning calamity or destruction.
During the Second World War, two thirds of European Jewry was wiped out. Around 6m Jews from a total of 9m. And on top of that, many more ethnic groups and disadvantaged people, perhaps up to 17m in all were annihilated.
There is no easy answer to why this happened, or why God allowed it, no simple rationale for what was to take place across Europe. No facile, ‘if onlys’.
But as Christians part of our calling is to speak out against injustice and prejudice in the world, to ensure that events such as the Holocaust never happen again. To speak out so that God’s Kingdom breaks through more and more here on earth. And in order that that can happen, we are called to follow Him.
Jesus calls us as His followers to be fishers of people. To go and tell the Good News of His kingdom, the good news of justice, peace and equality for all that others may come to be His followers too. He calls us too to speak
Like the early disciples we may not know what we are being called to. Like them, we may not have witnessed miracles of healing or acts of supernatural activity. But like those early fishermen, we are called to leave or own nets, those things which give us earthly security, and follow Him.
We know that the fishermen disciples from time to time went back to their nets. But when they did it was with a different outlook. Jesus, the Messiah was their security, not their earthly skills or possessions.
Likewise, we may too go back to our own nets, but after an encounter with Jesus we will never see them in the same light.
Ultimately, we are all called to be Christ’s followers. Followers that will join with Him and our fellow believers on the journey of the acknowledgement of the Kingdom of God and its authority in our lives. Followers that will hold their nets of security in the perspective of a God who became incarnate and so live out the journey of repentance and reconciliation with God and each other as we respond to His call.
Come, follow me, says Jesus. The invitation is His, the response is ours.