Sunday, January 22, 2012

A most inspiring sermon from Mark's Gospel!

      This morning, the Gospel reading was from Mark Chapter 1 verses 14-20.  These words are probably the earliest recorded words of Jesus as the Gospel of Mark was the first Gospel to be written dating from the mid first century (50-60s) AD. These verses deal with Jesus calling the first of his disciples; Simon, Andrew,  James, and John.  The Rev. Luke Lucas preached on this Gospel reading and focused on Jesus' call not only to his disciples but also to each of us. Luke had three main points: 1) Jesus' call to us is unique, 2) Jesus' call to us is a process,  and 3) Jesus' call to us and  his supporting grace.

1)    How is Jesus' call to his first disciples and also to us unique???  Yes, in a sense, everybody's call is unique but one point Luke made was that in the first century students sought out a rabbi to follow not the other way around. Thinking from an academic perspective, nothing much has changed in 20 centuries. Students still seek out the best colleges and/or graduate schools based on faculty, their reputation, etc.  Luke's point was that Jesus called Andrew, Simon, James and John. Not the other way around.  TRULY RADICAL !!! Remember this is not just any ole rabbi, this rabbi is also the Creator, King of the Universe! God's only begotten son!!  I was incredibly humbled to realize that the Creator of the Universe sought out me !!  AND YOU!
       Another point Luke made was that many world religions are more about advice than anything else. As Luke said, there is nothing wrong with advice. There is place for it. However, Luke's point was that so many religions of the world from Buddhism to Islam simply are codified ways to get from where we are to somewhere else- Nirvana, Paradise, etc- thru a lot of advice. If you will just do these things, you will become a better person, you will live in paradise for eternity, etc.  Jesus' call to the disciples does not promise nirvana, or living in paradise if you do certain things. What is Jesus' call? Repent and believe in the Gospel! Also to be fishers of people! What? fisher of people? What does that mean?
        Luke went on to explain that the sentence "Follow me and I will make you fisher of people" is more accurately translated in the ESB as "Follow me  and I will make you become fishers of men. AH...... crucial difference. Becoming........ versus.... be. This lead to his next point which is Jesus' call to us is about a process.

2) Jesus' call to us is a process.  Often in Evangelical Christianity, the emphasis is on the conversion experience. The favorite question often being- "Are you saved?" As if you are O K if you just experience being "saved".  The use of "becoming" here really speaks to that Jesus' call is a process not just a one time event. A call that is a process takes a lot of faith and trust.  Luke mentioned a story, The Princess and the  Goblin written by George MacDonald. While I have not read the story, here is a very brief synopsis from

      "Princess Irene lives in a castle in a wild and lonely mountainous region. One day she discovers a steep and winding stairway leading to a bewildering labyrinth of unused passages with closed doors - and a further stairway. What lies at the top? Irene's mysterious and beautiful great great grandmother, who lives in a secret room at the top of the castle stairs. Filled with images of dungeons and goblins, mysterious fires, burning roses, and a thread so fine as to be invisible and yet--like prayer--strong enough to lead the Princess back home to her grandmother's arms. Can the ring the princess is given protect her against the lurking menace of the goblins from under the mountain?" 

         Luke mentions that the ring Irene is given by her great great grandmother has a very fine thread (as if made of glass) attached to it.  She is told to "follow the thread" by her great great grandmother. When Irene hears some goblins getting closer and closer to the castle and becomes afraid that they will capture her, she starts to follow the thread thinking it will lead her outside and to safety. It does lead her outside but it keeps going, and going, and going until she ends up at a large pile of boulders. She decides to keep following the string and finds she is digging deeper and deeper into the rocks. As her hands are bloodied by the sharp boulders, she keeps digging until she finds a miner boy named Curdie.  How patient are we that we will "keep following the thread"despite being "bloodied" by life's events/problems?  Are we willing to "follow the thread" and trust where it may lead us in life?  This idea reminds me of the response to the questions in the BCP's service of Holy Baptism where we renew our own baptismal covenant: I will, with God's help.  Which leads me to the third point: Jesus' call to us is supported by His grace. 
3)    Jesus' call to us and His supporting grace. I must admit by this point in the sermon, my mind was  spinning with the new ideas that Luke had introduced that I am not sure I "got" the 3rd point. So for this 3rd point, I will depend on what Dietrich Bonhoeffer says about Grace and christian discipleship in his book, The Cost of Discipleship.  [italics mine].

         Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.  Now one point, I do remember Luke making is that Christianity is different in that God comes to us in our form as a human. In many other religions, the goal is for followers to come nearer to the divine however that may be achieved. This Incarnation of God in human form is truly RADICAL in that it is the opposite of what most other religions exhort their followers to do.   

         Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus. It comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

       WOW! I did not intend for this post to become so long but The Rev. Luke Lucas' sermon was  so incredibly inspiring that I had to share some of my thoughts.  I hope my words will help you understand even a little bit better Jesus' call to us.  


  1. Call, response, conversion is the usual course of events.

    It's the "Then what?" stage during which many forget the call, or lose the thread, that converted Christians must be particularly atuned to in order to help people to keep following their call.

  2. Which is why I really enjoyed this sermon. Have not thought of my life in Christ as "a call" but yes that is exactly what it is especially when it is thought of as a process. I understand discipleship to be a process. I remember my amazement when some Pentecostal colleagues ( i was teaching at a christian school) started discussing this new concept of 'discipleship' as they had never heard of such a thing before.

  3. I enjoyed reading this article and your comments at the "Creedal Christian" web-site. I'm praying God's will be done in the recent controversy regarding your Bishop and the persecution he's under from the national office. He is definitely doing something right or he wouldn't be under such attack. May God bless and prosper his ministry and your work for the Kingdom of God. All the best to you,
    BritNorAm Freedom
    Matt. 6:33
    p.s. - The Rector of St. John's, Savannah, the Rev'd G. Dunbar, has asked his congregation to pray for your Diocese and Bishop.
    ( )

  4. I play the harmonica. The only way I can play is if I get my car going really fast, and stick it out the window.
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