Matthew 4: 12-22

Sorry, there is no sermon today!  Can I leave everything with you- I’m not doing this any more, I am off to follow this guy who came and asked me to join him on a journey.

You can probably now imagine how old man Zebedee felt when his own son’s just up fishing and left him.  Left him with the fish, the cleaning and even with an uncertain future.  Who was Jesus or what did he say to make these men leave everything and follow him?

Simon known as Peter and his brother Andrew where generational fishermen.  From all accounts, they were most likely well known and quite well off in the fishing industry; Peter had his own house and was married.  To suddenly do something as radical as leaving their job to follow Jesus, something special must take place when you follow Jesus.

Have you ever been called to follow?  Was it in a job, or a holiday or when you are learning some thing new- when someone said ‘follow me’.  So what does that entail?  Just mindless repetition, like a parrot that only dictates words and actions?  Or is to ‘follow’ something more?  It must be more than this or you wouldn’t follow; Simon and Andrew wouldn’t leave everything if all it meant was to be like a parrot.  No, to follow is far more.
Unfortunately, to follow is not very popular, who wants to be a learner under the control of someone else!  Yet Matthew makes it crystal clear what it means to be a “Christian.” A Christian is a “disciple” or “follower” of Jesus. Our fundamental identity, who we are as believers in Jesus, is not a “leader” but a “follower” or “companion” of Christ.  Jesus says ‘come, follow me’ not ‘come be a leader and fisher of men.’
Despite Jesus call to first follow, we still seem to chase after conferences on leadership and mission.  Yet has anyone here EVER seen a conference on “followership?” Or how about a conference simply on how to be a better disciple? Isn’t it very interesting how we are more interested in Jesus’ position of “Leader” than in our position of “follower?” Perhaps we are putting the cart by for the horse.  Perhaps we need to take a step back and refocus on what it means to follow and why we are followers of Jesus, before we tackle the mission field.

Let me show you a clip from Finding Nemo.

What happened?  Yes, confusion reigned!  Both were followers, one fish thought she knew how to follow and so called the other to follow, but because both of the fish didn’t know what they were following they both became confused and had to changed direction all the time and in the end never arrived no where.

Yes, to have a good leader is critical, but to know what it means to be good follower is just as important.  Only when we follow, can we truly begin to know the leader.  Only then, will we know where we are going, why we are following and where we will end up. After following, we will then be empowered to bring others with us; to follow along with us.

And the only way we can learn to follow is by following.   Jesus promises to make these fishermen into fishers of men, not by empowering them to do this, but by asking them to follow.  Empowerment to call others to follow only happens later in their discipleship, when Jesus ‘calls the disciples to him and gives them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.’  Before they are empowered to be missionary focused they are first missioned themselves by being a follower of Jesus.

Yes, Jesus makes fishers of men, not empowers them.  We are made or created or crafted by God himself to call others to be disciples, not suddenly by some sort of magical blessing, but through following him.  To be followers of Jesus means the same for us as it did to Simon and Andrew.  We are to study him, learn from him and watch the way he did things and have the same concerns and goals as him.  This can be hard work and takes a conscious effort.

In Jesus day, many others accepted his invitation, dozens, maybe even hundreds responded to Jesus’ call.  Crowds followed him around, but many only like a spectator might follow Tiger Woods around a golf course, only watching on, never being involved; never grasping and receiving the joy of salvation that only Jesus can give.

The joy they didn’t grasp, and many today don’t grasp, is the fact that Jesus makes us into followers; its not our doing.  This is why many give up, for them, being a Christian is about moulding and making themselves into followers; its about how hard they work and the goals they achieve in themselves.  But we don’t need to concern ourselves about that, or any other difficulties we will face.

To be a follower does not depend on how we are doing, or how our commitment compares to what others are doing.  Being a follower of Jesus means we follow, allowing him to work in us, even though there are times in our life when we think we have failed.  Yet St Paul reminds us as we follow ‘do not lose heart. Though outwardly we see nothing happening, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’

And this renewal happens as we follow Jesus.  I opened a bob bon at Christmas, and you know the little sayings or jokes you get inside, well the one I got read ‘A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something’.  How true this is for us as followers of Christ.  As we listen to him, study is word and think about how it is relevant to us, after a while we will learn something.
This is what it means to be a follower; to learn about Jesus, why we follow and where we will end up.  It is through this that Jesus is renewing us and making us into fishers of men.  Once we have listened and learnt, then we are empowered to call others to come and follow.
So, as we as a parish look to embark on a mission program and become a parish of fishers of men, let us remember that first and foremost, our calling is to be followers.  So let us commit ourselves to the study of God’s word, make it a conscious goal of ours to provide times of study, and make ourselves available to attend studies or to devote ourselves to the word through home devotions.
Then we know that Jesus is making us ready to make other followers, and then we know, that it is not by our effort that we are followers, but that Jesus is renewing us day by day.  So come with me and follow Jesus.

John 1:29-42

John 1 29 to 42 20_1_08

Take away- what does this mean to you?  We live in a take away society. Everything revolves around ‘taking things away’.  I don’t mean just take away food; I mean ‘everything we do is based on ‘take away’.  And I really noticed this on our holiday over to the far West Coast of South Australia.  Out there, where there is nothing, no shops, no amenities and no facilities; just a beach surf and sand, I soon realized the importance of ‘take away’ and how we rely on it for our very being.

Living on a beach really puts life into perspective.  We can’t do anything without ‘take away’.  What was I do with all my rubbish, who was going to ‘take it away?’.  There is no bins, no dumps, no garbage collection to take it away.  I had to carry it around with me all for the whole week.  Then when we left, I couldn’t just leave the rubbish on the beach, I had to take it with me.  And I still have it with me.  There has been no one to take it away from me.

We love take away because it means we don’t need to deal with things.  Someone else deals with our needs, our food, our coffee, and most important for us – our waste.  We love it when someone else is responsible for the things we don’t know what to do with.

There is one take away that every one of us does not know how to deal with; sin.  It is always with us, our constant companion.  We are never rid of it because it is who we are, as St Paul reminds us ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’, and St John ‘If we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us’.  Its like we are all sitting on Yalata beach with no way of disposing of our rubbish, we just have a big black bag of garbage and call out– ‘will someone deal with this stuff.’

Ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin by wanting to be like God, we have had to carry around with us a big garbo bag of sin; full of guilt, shame and embarrassment over the wrong things we have done in our lives.  Or perhaps we are carrying around a garbo bag of addiction or anger which stops us from being a loving person and stops us from having close relationships with our husband or wife.  And we just can’t get someone to ‘take it away’.

More and more people today are finding the load just to hard to bare and are trying to deal with it themselves.  Suicide, especially among our young people, is becoming an accepted alternative to actually facing the problem.  Many are turning to therapists and self help gurus to alleviate their guilt, or just becoming isolated from society and live lonely lives.  One other way of trying to ‘take away’ sin, which is now very popular, is to play the blame game; its not my fault its my upbringing or alcohol or drugs or my bad schooling.  Yes, we have all done it, the blame game, yet somehow nothing seems to be taken away.

People in Jesus time had the same problem; sin, and were lining up to see John the Baptist.  He was known as the prophet could take away sins by baptising ‘repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’.  Matthew reports ‘Confessing their sins, the people were baptised by John in the Jordan’.  People could unload their guilt, drop of their waste; their garbo bags of shame and sin’.  The water would take away sin.  This was a new thing, a great thing, a way of letting someone else deal with the things we couldn’t.

Yet what was wrong with this?  What are the short comings of John’s take away service?

Yes, it was only local; for those in Israel and it was only around while John was alive and it was only temporary, it could never totally and fully take sins away, because there is no payment for the sin; no atonement.  It was like dumping everyone’s garbo bags at the tip gate but not paying the fee to dump it in; the sins are taken away from the person, but still not dealt with, not buried, never to be seen again.  The price had yet to be paid.  John knew this and told of one to come that would pay the cost to rid us totally of our sins; who would bury them for good.

Then suddenly this person, the one spoken about, turned up.  But John doesn’t say ‘there he is, the one I was talking about’, no, he says something unheard of until that moment ‘Look, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’.  John instantly connects the person of Jesus with his mission ‘to take away the sins of the world’; a universal mission; a world wide mission’.  Jesus is the great ‘take away-er’ of sins.  He will be the one who deals with our waste.  No longer will we need to be on an empty beach with a garbo bag full of waste with no one to take it away.

And how will he do this?  By paying the price for sin, taking them and burying them –totally and forever.  Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  And this title ‘the lamb of God’ connects Jesus with the lambs used for the sacrifice for sin in the temple and so indicates how Jesus will take away sin; through his death. In giving Jesus this title, John may have even had in mind the time God called Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  On building the altar Isaac asked ‘”The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.”

Jesus is the Lamb provide by God himself, as Abraham implied.  He is the perfect sacrificial lamb to take away sin.  Why? Because we are unable to take away our own sins, we will die for them, as Paul reminds us ‘the wages of sin is death’.  And God holds us responsible for each and every one of them, and for who we are.  However because he is compassionate and full of grace and love, he provides Jesus as the person to die in our place- to pay the admission price to enter the tip and dumb all our bags of rubbish, to be buried forever.  Once and for all.

If you want to know more about this, the paying for our sins by Jesus death, can I encourage you to read Hebrews.  It will help to explain this great and wondrous gift to us.

While Jesus is the once for all payment for our sins, his sacrifice is an ongoing action that is just as valid today as on the day he hung on the cross.  The baptism we have today,  the communion you receive today, the announcement of forgiveness you hear today, is as if Jesus is speaking to you directly from the cross saying ‘your sins are forgiven’.   The blood of the lamb which paid the price for the sin of the world, is the same blood we drink to pay for the sins of today.  This is why the sacraments of baptism and communion are so inseparable from the church and Christian faith, they are the means of grace; the means through which our sins are taken away.

To have a place where my sins are taken away is a big relief, its like taking this bag of rubbish, the same rubbish I could not get rid of on the beach, the rubbish I carried around the whole holiday and being able to dump it off in this garbage bin for someone else to deal with.  And sure enough, I know that in the coming week it will be taken out to be destroyed.  This is literally what happens with our sin when we come to church; we dump it and Jesus takes it away.

How much easier it is to walk with no garbage to carry.  We are not loaded down and no longer looking for someone to take it away.  This is the good news about Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  And this is what gives us the freedom we now have and what makes us rejoice and give thanks to God.  Let us now do this very thing as we sing the following song ‘Shine Jesus shine’.