Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

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Thinking Towards Sunday; 2nd Sunday in Lent; Mark 9:2-29

Scriptures for this Sunday: Mark 9:2-29

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

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Prayer of Saint Richard of Chichester

This is a post for TK and the gang…

Original

Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.

O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.

Amen.

AFT (somewhat more modern) paraphrase.

With every day of my life,
With every step and breath that I take,
May I grow in my faith and love of God,
listen to Jesus more intently, and
align the course of my life with
           what God is doing in the world around me.

Approx. Notes for Sunday’s Message; 1st Sunday in Lent; February 18, 2018

NIV2010 Mark 1:9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

May God Add God’s Blessingto
the Reading, Hearing, Understanding and
Living of God’s Word

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Mark does not waste any time or space on minutia. Mark does not bother to explain how Satan tested Jesus in the wilderness the way Matthew and Luke do (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13).

The brevity of Mark’s account leaves me with many questions. Everything in me wants to understand every step that Jesus took in the sand. I want to know how he spent his time there? Was temptation happening 24/7? Did he walk for miles each day, or camp out in one spot? What about sleep and rest; how and where did he do that? What was it like to endure long periods of silence? Did Jesus star gaze? Play with birds and wild animals? Did he chase lizards? Did he daydream?

Mark tells us that Jesus was “being tempted by Satan” (vs 13); did Jesus also talk to God? Did he teach wild animals to play fetch? How did the Angels tend to Jesus?

Mark leaves all these questions unanswered and left to our imagination. All we know is that the Spirit “sent him out into the wilderness,” and that Jesus went.

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“At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness …” (verse 12). It may be a minor detail, but it is an important detail – at least to me. So far I have not met anyone who willingly chose to go into the wilderness. I am not talking about the “recreational” wilderness, where we take a hike or camp for a few days and then return home. I am talking about the wilderness that is called “wilderness” because it is filled with danger, it conjures images of pain, loss, and fear. Time seems to stand still when we are in the “wilderness.” The wilderness I am talking about does not smell good, it does not feel good and it does not resemble Hilton or Marriott.

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Even though we do not usually volunteer for the wilderness, all of us have experienced it. All of us have lived through a wilderness disguised as a hospital room, a difficult relationship, a troubled child, a sudden death, unresolvable situation at work, or a crippling panic attack. The wilderness has a habit of showing up in our lives, even though it is unwanted, uninvited and unwelcome.

That kind of wilderness is a part of life. Although God does not will bad things or suffering on any of us, we live in a fallen world and all of us have and will experience barren periods in our lives. God takes those difficult times of our lives and uses them to bring us closer to God and help us to grow.

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Times spent in the wilderness are about identity; these times are about who we are and how we understand our relationship with God. Just like steel is forged in fire, our identity and character is forged during the times we are in the “wilderness.”

All of us are created by God. Psalm 139:13 asserts, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” It is part of our identity. Before we do anything wrong and before we do anything right, God has named and claimed us as God’s own.

But we are born into a fallen world where we are bombarded by ideas of who we are and to whom we belong: our parents, kids at school, our colleagues at work, the football or baseball team from our hometown: all these try to influence our understanding of who we are.

So could it be that demons attack us by trying to convince us that our identity is something other than God? And if that is true, then as God builds our identity, the devil and the forces of evil do everything in their power to challenge and to question that identity and pull us away from God.

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Today is first Sunday in Lent. The Christian season of Lent is a period set aside to invite followers of Jesus to think about the ways in which we are disconnected from God. Lent is a season when the followers of Jesus are invited to think about the brokenness in our lives. It is a period of time set aside for the followers of Jesus to think about ways of fixing such brokenness, and ways to bridge these disconnects so we are connected to God, so that our lives make sense, so we live the lives we want to live as opposed to lives we are forced to live.

In his epistle to Romans, Paul wrote,

NIV2010 Romans 7: 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

 

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There is a popular misconception that Christianity is about knowing the difference between good and evil so that, empowered with that knowledge, we can choose the good.

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But being good has never set me free the way that truth has, no matter how painful that truth was to face. John quotes Jesus saying, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). In Ephesians 4:15 Paul wrote, “… speaking the truth in love, we will [help each other] grow to become in every respect the mature body of … Christ.”

The point I am trying to make is that nobody gets into heaven because they are 100%, unambiguously and unmistakably good, because nobody is that good (see Romans 3:10). What gets us into heaven is knowing the truth and making changes so that our lives are aligned with it.

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The Season of Lent is about growing in our faith and love of God, listening to Jesus more intently, and aligning the course of our lives with what God is doing in the world around us.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 The time has come,he said. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’”

Thinking Towards Sunday; 1st Sunday in Lent; February 18, 2018

Scriptures for this Sunday: Mark 1:9-15

You can read these Scriptures here: {Click Me}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; John 2:1-11; Scouting Sunday @ Kingswood

This week the community of Kingswood United Methodist Church will celebrate Scouting Sunday.

Scripture for this Sunday is : John 2:1-11

You can read this Scripture here: (NIV and ESV}

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What would you say if you went trick-or-treating on Halloween and saw someone turn a bunch of lollipops into chocolate bars. What would you say if you were at a party and saw someone turn water into fine wine? I don’t know about you, I would immediately invite that person to the next parsonage open house.

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At first glance, today’s reading is about the first miracle that Jesus performed. It is totally possible to hear today’s Scripture and walk away with the understanding that today’s reading IS about turning water into wine. BUT I want to make it absolutely clear that today’s Gospel reading is not about the wine. Today’s Scripture is about Jesus challenging each of us to be a better Christian and a better human being.

I believe that there was a miracle. I also think that what Jesus did at that wedding is a metaphor for how God molds and shapes us on our Christian walk. Today’s reading is about God changing the “water” of our bodies, the essence of what makes you UNIQUELY YOU, and making us into “God’s wine” that symbolizes the blood of Jesus.

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Today’s reading is about God working in our midst, and it tells the story of God challenging his people to be tools in God’s hands. Psalm 36 talks about God’s constant presence in our lives, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (verse 9). Today’s Gospel reading makes it clear that Jesus’ transforming presence is with us and within us throughout our lives, challenging us to be better men and women. And by the way, am I the only one to notice that Jesus did not make a big deal out of this miracle. Jesus did not jump on a table and yell, “Look at me, look what I can do!” Similarly, when we allow Jesus into our hearts and souls, the Holy Spirit of our God changes us subtly and unobtrusively with every step that we take.

That brings me to the next point.

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It is common knowledge that our bodies are made of 65% water. As we allow God to use us as tools in God’s hands, as we learn more about God, and as we change our lives in response to God’s presence, God changes that “water” in our bodies to “God’s wine” with every hope and dream and every accomplishment. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, called this process “the road to perfection.”

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Our hopes and dreams are not an exam that we have to pass and get an “A.” Our hopes and dreams are the things that we are willing to do from scratch, and to learn from them while we figure things out. Our hopes and dreams grow with us, giving us the satisfaction and daily comfort of adding something new to our lives every day.

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I think this is what Sir Robert Baden-Powell meant when he said that the goal of Scouting is to teach the scouts to live, not just to make a living.

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I heard another way to say it from a docent in a museum on the island of St. Thomas, “A man who is not excited about his business is a boring man.”

Scouts! I hope and pray that you are anything but boring. I hope and pray that you will grow and mature to live productive lives. I hope and pray that whatever path you take in life you will be excited about it.

In our culture, “church” is a noun, it is not something that we “do”, it is a “place” where we meet. In our culture “faith” is a noun, faith is something that we have, it is not an action.

Today I want to suggest to all of us that when we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and transform our water into “God’s wine,” our “faith” becomes a verb, our “church” becomes a verb. “Faith” and “church” become something that we not only have and experience, but also something that we do. Our community becomes characterized by outreach, evangelism, action, and mission. “Go forth and make disciples for the transformation of the world….”

Things happen. Things happen in our lives and in the lives of our neighbors. Some of our days are pure magic. Unfortunately, some of our days are tragic. Most of our days are somewhere in between.

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Jesus takes the routine, commonplace, ordinary and “normal” events of our lives, and with his touch fills them with strength, beauty, zest and joy; Jesus turns them into the “wine” of abundant life (John 10:10). He will do this with any of us as we faithfully walk and follow him.

In Memoriam: Bob Power

InMemoriam

 

It is with deep sense of sadness and regret I am posting that Bob passed in his sleep on February 6, 2018.

Viewing will be held at Doherty Funeral Home, 3200 Limestone Road, Wilmington, DE  19808 from 2 till 5 on Sunday, February 11, 2018

Celebration of Life services will be held at Kingswood United Methodist Church, 300 Marrows Road, Newark, DE, 19713 on Monday, February 12 at 1 pm followed by internment at Shelemiah Cemetery, Bayview, MD.

Immediately following the internment, everybody is invited to gather downstairs in the Fellowship Hall at Kingswood for fellowship and food.

Thinking Towards Sunday; Scouting Sunday at Kingswood

This week the community of Kingswood United Methodist Church will celebrate Scouting Sunday.

Scripture for this Sunday is : John 2:1-11

You can read this Scripture here: (NIV and ESV}

Approximate Sunday’s Message Notes for February 4, 2018

Scripture for this Sunday: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

Our Church Council dedicated this Sunday to be Laity Appreciation Sunday.

Immediately after the service we will also have a Souper Bowl Party. So, bring a hearty appetite….

 

CALL TO WORSHIP FOR LAITY SUNDAY

L: We have come to worship the Living God
P: who calls all to live abundant lives,

 

L: to bear witness, and to serve God
P: by serving the world in which we live.

 

L: We have come to praise
the almighty and ever-present God
P: who energizes our lives and empowers us to meet the forces of evil with the power of goodness and grace.

L: We have come to worship the gracious God
P: who chooses every one of us and commissions us
to bear the light of hope. All glory to God!

 

 

OPENING PRAYER FOR LAITY SUNDAY (In Unison)

God the Father understands us!
God the Son redeemed us on the Cross!
God the Holy Spirit fills us with energy and empowers us with the gifts of the Spirit!

 

Together we are a part of the Church Universal and given to each other for the common good. Lord, help us to understand our gifts and to use them to build up your Church.

Amen.

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The Administrative Council of our church has dedicated today to honor the ministry of our laity.

My initial inclination was to use the roster of our lay leadership and point out everyone on that roster and mention their contributions. There are two problems with that.

  1. I will forget someone. If I forget to mention someone personally, it will offend at least some of you (as it should) and I do not want to do that.

  2. Everyone in our church will end up recognized because our church is a small membership church, and everyone is carrying or has carried some responsibility in our congregation.

  3. {NOT TO MENTION!!! – that will make for a really dry sermon. Illustration}

Instead of doing that, I’d like to talk about what makes each of you and each of your individual contributions special.

As a local church we are facing some difficult choices. We are not alone in that. The Church in North America is struggling to come to terms with what is happening in our society and how we can redefine and renew ourselves so that we continue to serve God by serving the world in which we live. The Church in North America is struggling to figure out how to stay relevant, and how to do it with grace and dignity, and how to reach out to the changing and evolving society outside of our walls.

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Today is Super Bowl Sunday. Two formidable teams, the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, will face each other in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Both teams trained hard, both teams are professional, determined and psyched for the game. Both trained hard; both trained well. Both teams are disciplined. Both teams know how to work together, how “to fly” in formation. One of the factors deciding who will win today’s game will be the perseverance and resilience of the team members, of the players themselves.

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Another factor deciding who will win today’s game will be the coaching staff. All together the Philadelphia Eagles have 25 coaches on staff and the New England Patriots have 16. These coaches are intricately involved and are a major part of what their respective teams do. The team whose coaching staff has the most flexible vision, the team whose coaching staff had the foresight to plan and train for most “on-field” scenarios will win.

To win the game, coaches and players must work together. Coaches do a lot, but it is not the coaches that will handle the ball and score touch-downs and field goals.

Just like that, pastors are called to be involved in what the churches where they are appointed do, and how these churches do their ministry. But the actual ministry happens because of all of you.

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What makes each of you and your contributions special, is that it is you who invite people to our church, it is you who tell people what God has done in your life and how God is moving in our community.

And today I want to leave you with a thought to ponder. Most of you are currently serving or have served in the past in a leadership position in the church. How does your committee bring new life and people to the church? How do you personally bring new life and people to the church? How do you help your neighbors find renewal?

These questions are important because our challenge is to make Disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world. The only way we can nurture new life and people is when they are among us during worship, when they join us in disciplined Bible Study and in supportive fellowship.

May God bless our church; and may God bless all our disciple making efforts.

{ Celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion}

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In Memoriam: Mary Tomassoni

MaryT_Cropped

 

Mary Jane (Slack) Tomassoni

December 6, 1921 – January 28, 2018

Mary Jane Tomassoni, age 96, of Newark, Delaware, passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 28, 2018.

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on December 6, 1921, she was a daughter of the late William and Mary (Beaver) Slack.  Mary Jane dedicated her life to her family as a homemaker.

She loved to cook and was very creative with crafting.  Her hobbies included jigsaw puzzles.  Mary Jane was a member of Kingswood United Methodist Church for many years.Above all, she was a beloved wife, mother and grandmother.

In addition to her parents, Mary Jane was preceded in death by her husband, Anthony Tomassoni; granddaughter, Christine Foster; and 11 brothers and sisters.  She is survived by her daughter, Maryann Terpenning of Newark; son, Mark Tomassoni (Nancee) of Schererville, Indiana; grandchildren, Nicole Hughes (Michael) of Middletown, Brandon and Ryan Tomassoni of Schererville, Indiana; and great grandchildren, Kimberly Terpenning and Jillian Foster.

A gathering for family and friends will be held from 2 pm until 3 pm on Saturday, February 3, 2018 at Spicer-Mullikin Funeral Home, 121 West Park Place, Newark, DE, where a funeral service will begin at 3 pm.  Interment will be held privately.

 

Copied from Spicer-Mullikin Funeral Home Website. For original post {Click Me}

Thinking Towards Sunday

Scripture for this Sunday: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

Our Church Council dedicated this Sunday to be Laity Appreciation Sunday.

Immediately after the service we will also have a Souper Bowl Party. So, bring a hearty appetite….

 

CALL TO WORSHIP FOR LAITY SUNDAY

L: We have come to worship the Living God
P: who calls all to live abundant lives,

L: to bear witness, and to serve God
P: by serving the world in which we live.

L: We have come to praise
the almighty and ever-present God
P: who energizes our lives and empowers us to meet the forces of evil with the power of goodness and grace.

L: We have come to worship the gracious God
P: who chooses every one of us and commissions us
to bear the light of hope. All glory to God!

 

OPENING PRAYER FOR LAITY SUNDAY (In Unison)

God the Father understands us!
God the Son redeemed us on the Cross!
God the Holy Spirit fills us with energy and empowers us with the gifts of the Spirit!

Together we are a part of the Church Universal and given to each other for the common good. Lord, help us to understand our gifts and to use them to build up your Church.

Amen.

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Mark 1:21-28; January 28, 2018

Scripture for this Sunday: Mark 1:21-28

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV and ESV}

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Jesus and his Disciples went into Capernaum, where he was invited to preach. In verse 22 – 24 we hear that, “the people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority…” I always wondered what it means to teach with authority…

It just so happened that last week, Debbie and I were binging on PBS’ Victoria. In episode 6 of season 2, then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, is depicted lobbying and working to repeal the Corn Laws. That character of Sir Robert Peel gave me a visual illustration of someone who spoke with authority.

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Without boring you by going into the nitty-gritty details, the Corn Laws favored wealthy land owners by artificially elevating the price of grain. When the potato famine struck Ireland and crops failed in England, people were starving. The wealthy landowners, on the other hand, were doing very well because they were selling their grain at exuberant prices and refused to release any grain to the starving people. They put profits before human lives. Sir Robert Peel was the Prime Minister of the same party as the land owners. When he decided to lobby to repeal the Corn Laws, he went against the policy of his own party. Repeal of the Corn Laws was passed and Sir Robert Peel’s career as a politician crashed and burned as a result.

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Throughout the episode we see the character of Sir Robert Peel addressing Parliament with authority. He was able to do so because he transcended, rose above, his own agenda and the agenda of his political party and put the needs of the people first. His authority came from this transcendence.

We know that ancient Judea was divided. There were many parties lobbying for attention and jousting for influence. I am confident that scribes, rabbis and other teachers of the Law knew their Scriptures inside and out. I think that when today’s reading implies that they taught without authority, it is because they put their ideology above God and people; they were not impartial; they were not able to transcend their own interests.

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While I do not compare the historical person of Jesus with literary character of Sir Robert Peel, we know that Jesus came to put the needs of the people first. We know that Jesus did not come looking for power or prestige; in John 18:36 he even said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (NIV). Jesus’ presence and teaching spoke to the humanity that all of us share, and to the universality of our human condition. Jesus overturned the tables of money-changers (Matthew 21:12) and he also refused to arbitrate distribution of an inheritance between two brothers (Luke 12:14). Jesus healed both the wealthy (Luke 14:1-6) and the poor (Matthew 8:1-4, Luke 17:11-19). Jesus ministered to the righteous (Mary, Martha and Lazarus) and to the sinners (prostitute in Luke 7:36-50).

We can take comfort in that. Jesus did not come only for those who have a million dollars in their savings account; Jesus also came for those who have very little. Jesus did not come for republicans or democrats, black or white, sick or healthy. Jesus came for all of us.

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As Jesus was teaching, “a man … who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!’”

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Today I want to ask you, have you ever been convicted by the presence of the Holy Spirit and discovered that you had a hidden agenda you were not consciously aware of? Have you ever been crushed by the realization that maybe, just maybe, you are justifying doing something while judging someone else for doing something similar? All of us want mercy for ourselves and justice for others.

Thinking Towards Sunday; January 28, 2018

Scripture for this Sunday: Mark 1:21-28

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Mark 1:14-20; 21 January 2018

Scripture for this Sunday is: Mark 1:14-20

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV and ESV}

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As a young man, Albert Einstein was exposed to the new, chic style of painting – Impressionism. In visual arts, Impressionism was the punk-rock equivalent of the day. After staring at paintings that represented light with dabs of paint for a few years, he came up with the theory that light is not only a wave, but also a particle, and developed the now famous formula that most of us do not really understand: E = mc2.

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I am convinced that without exposure to impressionism, Albert Einstein and other theoretical physicists would not have been able to come up with that theory.

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Sometimes we forget that being a follower of Jesus means that there are others around us that point us towards God. Just like the Impressionists influenced Einstein’s understanding of the nature of light, the “others” around us remind each of us of who we are and what we are called to be, and help us to understand the nature of God. When we see God in others, it helps us to appreciate and celebrate the presence of God in us. When we see God in others, it helps us to see how far we have traveled on our life’s journey and to discern what God is leading us towards. When we see others walking next to us, it helps us to remember that God is our Emmanuel, God with us, God who walks with us, and that we are not alone.

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Last week we heard an account from the Gospel of John, of Jesus calling his first disciples. Today we heard another account of Jesus calling his first disciples, this one from the Gospel of Mark.

Both accounts are somewhat different. But there are also similarities. In both accounts, Jesus did not call his disciples to express individualism; Jesus did not ask his Disciples to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. We do not hear Him saying, “You will figure it out. You will grow into the job.”

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Instead Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” The way I understand it, Jesus was saying, “Follow me, and I will teach you how to make more followers.”

That is important. Being a follower of Jesus implies a certain level of empathy and compassion. Being a follower of Jesus implies a certain level of understanding and responsiveness. Being a follower of Jesus implies a certain level of kindness and consideration. “Fishing for people” takes lots of patience and lots of listening.

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Empathy, compassion, patience, the ability to listen and understand, responsiveness, kindness and consideration are NOT inexhaustible resources. It is very easy to run out of these resources; we have all been there. When we are down in the valley, when we have no empathy, no compassion, no understanding, no responsiveness, no kindness and no consideration left to give, we need time and energy to renew and to regenerate. We can only do it with help from others.

For that reason, Jesus called his disciples together, not separately. Andrew and Simon were called together. James and John were called together. Discipleship is not autonomous. When one is down, the others can help to carry the load. When Jesus said, “I will teach you to fish for people,” it also came with “without burning yourselves out, so that the work does not stop.”

The truth is that we cannot do discipleship on our own. We need each other. We cannot learn about God, or continue to mature spiritually and emotionally, on our own. We need each other.

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We see this in the epistle to Philippians chapter 2, where Paul writes:

NIV Philippians 2: 2… then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…

12 … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

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God created us to work towards common goals. I think of it as “flying in formation.” Canadian Geese travel great distances. A group of flying geese is called a skein, and a group of geese that is not in flight is called a gaggle. There are reports of skeins flying over 3,000 miles. The reason skeins can travel this far is because they fly in a distinct V‑shaped pattern, and because they build themselves into an egalitarian society. They do not constantly fight among themselves as to “who is the greatest”; when the leader is tired, another peer takes the lead.

Discipleship, “fishing for people” is like flying in formation. We need peers and colleagues. We need friends and neighbors. We need community and camaraderie. We need others to take risks, knowing that we will take the next ones, and vice versa.

Thinking Towards Sunday; January 21, 2018

Scripture for this Sunday is: Mark 1:14-20

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; John 1:35-51

Scriptures for this Sunday: John 1:35-51

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

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Occasionally I hear someone say that if they saw Jesus, or had a chance to hear Jesus call them personally like the people of Galilee did, they would become the most unwavering followers that there ever were. I mostly hear it from churched people, but from my experience I know that it is not how it works. In Jesus’ time, the people in synagogues, as well as priests and scribes – the people like us – largely rejected Jesus. His own synagogue wanted to throw him off a cliff after they heard him preach and liked his sermon (Luke 4:22, 29). It was the people on the periphery, those who considered themselves sinners and were not committed church goers, that were transformed the most by the message and presence of Jesus. So, what does it mean to be called by God?

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I have struggled with that question ever since the first time I felt the strange sensation of being called to ministry in November 1997. I think that the meaning of God’s call on our lives changes as we progress and mature in our faith and on our lives’ journeys. It is not unlike our maturation journeys.

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In his letter to Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me(1 Corinthians 13:9-11).

“Art is a lie that tells us something about the truth” (Pablo Picasso). Recently, my wife and I were binging on The Crown from Netflix. The first two seasons of the series give us a great example of what it means to be called to something and to accept this call.

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Young Queen Elizabeth is shown to constantly struggle with what it means to be the Queen. While there is a lot of pomp and circumstance in her life, she must also think about being a role model, about setting the tone for the government, and about representing something bigger than herself. That “something bigger than herself” consists of two parts.

  • Something tangible – her Country, and the people who live there.

  • Something intangible – the Crown.

The “what” of being the Queen does not change: she is the Monarch who represents England and she is a role model, challenging her subjects to dream and to bring her country into the future.

The “how” of being the Queen changes by the minute. We see her struggle to find ways to interact with Winston Churchill and other Prime Ministers, with President and Jackie Kennedy, with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (the premier of Ghana), and with Rev. Billie Graham, just to name a few.

In the first two seasons, we see young Queen Elizabeth stepping out and meeting people from all walks of life, meeting them where they are and trying to find common ideas and ideals that would propel the country forward. We watch her mature and grow into being the Queen; it becomes part of her identity.

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Today’s sermon is not about royalty. This sermon is about the nature of being called by God. The literary character of Queen Elizabeth from The Crown on NETFLIX© is an illustration of that process.

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The “what” of being a Follower of Jesus does not change; “Go forth and make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world.” This Great Commission does not change.

The “how” of being a Follower of Jesus changes constantly with the times. {Illustration}

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All of us are called to something. While ordained ministry may be more involved than non-ordained ministry, being called to either consists of two parts:

  • Something tangible – the process of becoming the best version of yourself, the process of continual personal improvement.

  • Something intangible – pointing others to Jesus with every shred of your soul; being a representative of Jesus in this world; allowing God to use who and what we are whether we like it or not.

Today’s Gospel reading is about us – you and I – pointing others towards Jesus. Let me say it differently: Jesus’ finding disciples and followers starts with us.

Today’s reading does not start with Jesus saying, “Follow me.” It starts with John the Baptist seeing Jesus and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). Andrew heard John the Baptist, and went to get his brother Peter (John 1:42) before following Jesus. Phillip who knew both Andrew and Peter, went to get Nathanael (John 1:45).

Today we heard about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. After experiencing Jesus, Andrew called Peter, and Phillip called Nathanael. Today I want to ask you, how many people have you invited to follow Jesus? Last week, who did you tell about what Jesus means to you and what God has done in your life? The Great Commission is, “Go forth and make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world…”

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It is truly simple to be a disciple. Discipleship is simple, but it is not easy. That is why Jesus himself established the Sacrament of the Holy Communion to nourish our souls along the way.

{Transition to the Celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion}

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