The Adventure of Following Jesus
January 22, 2012
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Mark 1: 14-20
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." 16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Here is what happened. Jesus walked out on a bright and shining day and looked out on the Sea of Galilee. He looked down and saw fishermen, throwing their nets and catching fish. He must have thought about them. "How strong and determined they are! How untiring and dedicated! How responsible and hardworking! I need people like that to help Me build up the Kingdom of God!" He recognized their talent!
He called to the fishermen saying, “Fishermen, follow me, and I will make you fishers of people!” There must have been laughter in their hearts when they heard what Jesus was saying to them. They knew who this was. Perhaps this was the culmination of many conversations they had previously with Him. They decided that there was something so wonderfully winsome about this Jesus that they just had to do it. So they left their nets, they interrupted their routine, and they followed Jesus.
It is not enough to look at this passage and say, "What a fine thing happened that day."
It is not enough to say, “What an amazing thing Jesus did with those fishermen.”
It is not enough - until we hear the voice of Jesus calling our own name, saying, “Come follow me, and I will build up your talent and use it to draw people to God.”
Please hear the sound of your name in your mind, won’t you, however you like to be called.
This very day Jesus says, “Come… follow me - and I will take your talent and transform it to be a light for the Kingdom.”
That is when it is complete, when we hear our name in place of the names of those fishermen.
Let’s explore this together.
You see, my friends, the first thing that happened in this Gospel is that Jesus looked at the fishermen and said, “You are talented. You have a special talent. There is something unique and winsome about you. Won’t you use that talent for the Kingdom? “
What I would like you to do is to take your writing implement and the piece of paper that is titled sermon notes and please write down three talents that you have. I am sure that you have many more than three, but please write down three.
They may be very elaborate talents or they may be something simple. They may be a homemaking talent, like making bread well or a personality talent, like your smile. Maybe your talent is singing. Perhaps you have a gift for teaching, or a gift for numbers and finances. Maybe you have a gift of physical strength or a talent for generosity. Please name three and put them on the list.
God Sees Talent in You
Have you got them written? Did they surprise you a bit when you wrote them down? God sees talent in you. Know that! That is the message of the Gospel. There is something special about you - you have talent! God, in His silent and infinitely wise way, is inviting you today to use that talent to help bless His Kingdom.
A Profound Example
There was once a man who was a medical doctor. He was a deeply religious person, a great Christian. He decided that he would use his considerable medical talents for the Lord. He went to the jungles of Africa, he treated people there and used his talent for the Lord.
This man was not only a medical doctor he was also a fine organist. He was a specialist in the music of J.S. Bach. He made many musical recordings and even published his own editions of the music of Bach. That was also part of his talents.
This man was also a theologian, he wrote many books about his thoughts about God. That was also part of his talent. The man’s name was Dr. Albert Schweitzer. He was a world famous figure and a world famous Christian. He was a person who used his talents for the Lord. Jesus said, “Albert, I will take your talents and have them shine for the Kingdom.”
How about you? How about me? What have we got that Christ wants to bless and use so that God's light of love and loveliness can shine ever brighter in the world?
Let’s take our lists and let them shine for the Kingdom. It is not enough that the fishermen of Jesus’s day let their talents shine. It is for you and for me to let our talents shine and draw people to Jesus. That is our challenge, and our joy! How shall we use our talents for the Kingdom?
Albert Schweitzer is a wonderful example of large talents used for the Lord, but there are others people whose talents we might consider more modest, but yet became building blocks of the Kingdom.
Jesus Can Use Every Talent
Let me tell you about a woman named Virginia Thorpe.
Virginia Thorpe had a talent for making coffee. I am sure she had many other talents as well but the one I remember specifically is her talent for making coffee. Some forty some years ago, I met Virginia Thorpe when I was the organist for the Linden United Methodist Church. I was 17 years old. Virginia Thorpe was an alto in the choir. It seems that she took as her responsibility that between the two morning church services she was going to make percolated coffee for the new young organist. She made good coffee the old fashioned way - in a metal percolator on the stove. My Friend, let me tell you - not only was it good coffee, it was strong coffee. And the hymns at the second service were considerably faster and livelier than the hymns of the first service. (Congregation laughs)
Virginia cared. I remember her to be a very thin, frail person, very slight of build. I have no idea what her personal story was. She was always there getting ready for the next service in which she would sing in the choir. But she always made sure that the organist had his coffee - and felt taken care of. She was very kind, and that was her real talent - the gift of kind hospitality.
I remember her and I am thankful for her. I am thankful for her witness and her thoughtful ways. And guess what - I came gradually to discover that Methodists tend to be like that. Kind, gentle, caring, winsome, thoughtful.
Because of her and many people like her, I decided to become a Methodist myself.
You never know how God is going to use your talent to build up the Kingdom.
He is calling us, you and me. He is calling your name - and mine. Come follow me, says Jesus - let me use your talent for the Kingdom.
Use Your Talent to be a Light for the Lord
Consider this, my Friend - you may be the only Bible some people will ever read. People are looking at you. Is there something about you that makes people want to be like you? If so, they might just happen to notice that you are also a Christian. In looking at you, they see glimpses of Jesus.
"I Want To Be Like That"
I remember, when I was a little boy, my parents and I would go to family gatherings at my Uncle Stash’s house. Uncle Stash was my Godfather. How I admired him! I admire him still. We would come in quietly to these family gatherings, my Mom and Dad and I. I was a very shy little boy. Uncle Stash would come to the door, throw his arms open wide and say, “Uncle Joe, Aunt Jeanette, Anthony! You are here - how wonderful! Welcome!” He would give us a big hug and say, “My goodness - you're here! Isn’t it wonderful that we can be together!”
I watched him. I thought to myself: "When I grow up, I want to be like him. Not like those relatives in the corner who never say hello to us or anyone else. I want to be like Uncle Stash." He was a great Christian, a devoted man of God.
Someone is looking at you and saying that they want to be like you. You are a Christian, you are a friend of Christ. Let your light shine for the Lord. There are going to be times this week that Jesus is going to call on you to use your talent. Jesus needs you. Won't you say yes, and let your light shine for Him?
The Promise of Help
One more thing. Did you notice the tense of Jesus’ words. Jesus said to them, “Follow me (it is our decision to make) and I will make you fishers of people. I will. Future tense! This means that the future is bright. Jesus will help you out. This is enormously encouraging, we all need all the help we can get. And what better help than that of Jesus! Not just, "You will become…" but "I will help you!" Jesus is telling us that He will awaken us to talents we didn’t know we had and will strengthen them.
The future is bright. There are good and exciting things coming our way in the days to come from Jesus. And all we have to do is say, "Yes, Lord. I will follow."
God loves you, Friend. I do too. I wish you a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2012 Anthony J. Godlefski