Tag Archives: discipleship

‘Immediately they left their nets and followed him’ (Epiphany 3A, 22 January 2017)

Reading
Matthew 4.12–23

Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death. (When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship)

In Matthew’s Gospel, these are the first words John the Baptist speaks:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

By the time Jesus begins his public ministry, John has been thrown into one of Herod’s prisons. At this stage, Jesus was a ‘known associate’ of John’s; what would you do in Jesus’ place? Hide out? Run away? Change the message into something safer, more palatable?

I don’t know what you’d do, but I would take one of those alternatives. What does Jesus do? He preaches exactly the same message. He cries out:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

Let’s stop for a moment and look at this. John has come across political opposition. This isn’t the first time political opposition has come in the Gospel of Matthew. It was there from the beginning.

First, Herod the Great tries to trick the wise men into revealing the whereabouts of Jesus, because he wants him dead.

When Joseph and Mary return from refuge in Egypt, they live in Nazareth because it’s off the beaten track and therefore safer.

Years later, John is arrested by Herod Antipas. Herod the Great, who wanted to kill the baby Jesus, was his father.

After John’s arrest, Jesus does withdraw from Judea, the southern part of Israel, where John was baptising. He goes to live in the north, in Capernaum on the shores of Lake Galilee.

But he wasn’t going into hiding! ‘From that time,’ we read, ‘from that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”’

Jesus wasn’t being cautious. A lot of Christian people are cautious. But Jesus had a mission, and he was far from cautious.

Jesus preached about the same thing as John: the kingdom of heaven.

What is the kingdom of heaven?

It’s not where you go when you die.

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When Jesus calls, you follow (Epiphany 3A/Australia Day, 26 January 2014)

Reading
Matthew 4.12–23

Let me tell you about something that happened to me. 

I was fourteen, and painfully shy. Mum and dad arranged for me to go to the local Methodist youth group so I could make more friends, and so I went along one Friday night.

And that’s how I found myself unexpectedly going to the 1968 Billy Graham Crusade at the Brisbane Exhibition grounds. When I got into the bus to go, I had no idea what would happen that evening.

After Billy Graham had finished preaching, there was an ‘altar call’, where people who wanted to give their lives to Jesus were invited to come forward. I’d never before heard of altar calls. In the end, I just had to go out to the front. The thing I still remember was just marvelling how anyone could stay in their seat. I could not resist the pull to come out. I tried hard to remain in my seat, but I just couldn’t.

I’m not sure grace is always ‘irresistible’, but I certainly couldn’t resist it that night. Continue reading

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22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C: 29 August 2010)

With glad and generous hearts

A Sermon on Stewardship


Readings
Hebrews 13.1-8, 15-16
Luke 14.1, 7-14

We’ve reached the final week of our series on Mission and Stewardship. In our series, we’ve heard that the Church is here for the benefit of those outside, not for the benefit of its members. But we’ve also said that the Church is here to benefit us in one way: that is to meet our truest need, the need to become disciples of Jesus, the need we have to be made more like him.

We’ve also heard that the life of discipleship opens us up to the abundant life that Jesus promises.

We’re talking about stewardship today. Perhaps you haven’t realised it, but we’ve been talking about stewardship already. Stewardship is about being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Disciples of Jesus are good stewards of their time, talents and treasure. And by doing that, they live the abundant life that Jesus promises.

A minister had served a church for a few months in an interim position. During the last Sunday service that he was to spend at the church, his hat was passed around for a freewill offering.

When it returned to the minister, it was empty. He didn’t flinch or hesitate. He raised his hat to heaven and said, ‘I thank you, Lord, that I got my hat back from this congregation.’

Were the people in this story good stewards? Maybe they were. But I’d guess they were terrible stewards. Why might I think they weren’t good stewards? I think it’s because they hung onto things instead of sharing them.

Stewardship is about generosity, it’s about being a generous disciple. Stewardship is about using our time, talents and money generously, abundantly. A good steward is not afraid to give of themselves in sacrificial ways. Continue reading

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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (15 August 2010)

Disciples are…

Readings
Hebrews 11.29 to 12.2
Luke 12.49-56

Today is the second of our August series on Mission and Stewardship. Last week, I shared a quotation with you from William Temple, who among other things was Archbishop of Canterbury during the early part of the Second World War. I said that I hope you will remember this quotation always:

The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.

I said that it’s a great thought, but not a consoling thought. It’s an unsettling thought.

Some of you suggested after the service that the Church must exist in some way for the benefit of its members. If you think that, I’ll concede that you are indeed quite correct. There is one way (and one way only) that the Church exists for the sake of its members:

The Church exists to make its members disciples of Jesus; the Church exists so that we may be formed into the image of Jesus.

In other words, the Church exists for our true benefit. The thing is, becoming a disciple of Jesus is a bumpy journey of repentance, not a journey of calm repose. We just need to read the Gospels to see that. Being formed and re-formed into the image of Jesus can be a painful process. But: it’s all for our benefit. Our true benefit.

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