Blog Archives

I Have Decided, to Follow Jesus! (Controversy? Not so much…)

Follow Me

Follow Me (Photo credit: Fr. Stephen, MSC)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day…

 14  “So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. 15  But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”     Joshua 24:14-15 (NLT)

15  “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16  But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17  You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18  So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19  I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. 20  “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21  Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.   Revelation 3:15-21 (NLT) 

 I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intellegence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith. In this Church, He generously forgives each day every sin committed by me and by every believer. On the last day, He will raise me and all the dead from the grave. He will give eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. Yes, this is true! (1)

When God our Lord gives us his grace, when he calls us by a specific vocation, it is as if he were stretching out his hand to us, in a fatherly way. A strong hand, full of love, because he seeks us out individually, as his own sons and daughters, knowing our weakness. The Lord expects us to make the effort to take his hand, his helping hand. He asks us to make an effort and show we are free. To be able to do this, we must be humble and realize we are little children of God. We must love the blessed obedience with which we respond to God’s marvelous fatherhood. We should let our Lord get involved in our lives, admitting him confidently, removing from his way any obstacles or complications. We tend to be on the defensive, to be attached to our selfishness. We always want to be top dog, even if it’s only to be on top of our wretchedness. That is why we must go to Jesus, so that he will make us truly free. Only then will we be able to serve God and all men. This is the only way to realize the truth of Saint Paul’s words: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2)

There are going to be some friends of mine who are going to strongly react to the title of this blog entry.  They are going to wonder if I have returned to my days of teaching “decision theology”, or somehow have abandoned the  Lutheran Confessions, or don’t believe they are an accurate explanation of scripture.  (the third quote is from Luther’s small catechism and I agree with it without any reservation)

However, deciding to follow Jesus is different that deciding I want to be saved by Him.  It is not the action of initial salvation, but a response to His invitation to take up our cross and follow Him, to interact with Him, to humbly partner with Him, as He leads us through life as a man leads his partner across the dance floor.  It is what we  are called to – as disciples, as friends, as working beside the greatest example of humility and servanthood.

But we rebel against this idea – much as St. Josemaria indicates, we are defensive – and we can even use our theology to “back” that selfishness, to defend our “precious” (see Tolkein’s Hobbit and LOTR charachter Gollum)  Indeed, the only freedom from the idols we would partner with instead of God, is found when we let God strip them from us, as we instead are focused on Him, devoted to Him, (again – these things are His work – not ours) drawn to Him.  That’s what following Jesus is about – letting Him lead in life, letting Him cleanse us and set us apart to walk with, to dance with, Him.

Joshua challenge us to this – if you aren’t going to interact, if you aren’t going to engage in the relationship, go follow other gods and see where they lead you.  John is directed to write in Revelation – open the door – don’t be wishy-washy.  Live life as one united to Christ in baptism.  IOW – Let God direct your steps – and engaged in worship – you then will follow Him, even as the lady moves with her strong dance partner.

So decide today – my fellows Christians, those who claim to trust in Christ, to follow where He leads you…. even, especially when you can’t see where you are going – for then you are looking at the right place – at Him!

We cry out, “Lord, Have Mercy!”  But will we see and hear…that He has?

(1)   Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 745-756). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Hear His Voice, Know He Knows You, and Follow Him!

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pan...

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pantocrator; Istanbul, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hear His Voice, Know He Knows You, and Follow Him!

John 10:22-30

 † IHS †

May you hear the voice of Christ, calling you to walk with Him into the Father’s presence…and being assured by His love and mercy as you begin to dwell in His peace.

 Hear, Know, Follow

I love the scene described in Revelation, and what I really love even more is that we see a little of it here, this morning.  Consider verse 9, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes,

And though we don’t have a great multitude here, we do have people from so many places.  Little Chloe, our newest sister in the faith, here family is from Nigeria, and Helli, who read that passage so beautifully, is from Germany, We have people from the Philippines, Denmark, Switzerland, Indonesia, India, China, Guyana, from Boston and even that really foreign place… Los Angeles!  Five continents, gathered here by God to this place today, to share in His love, a foretaste of the gathering that there will be in heaven!

But there is another part of that reading – that just saw the preliminary fulfillment of today, as this little one was claimed by God, and united to Christ’s death, and His resurrection,

 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

That’s our little sister, Chloe, and it is us, those who have been gathered by our Shepherd, those who are the sheep He protects and who are given to Him by the Father.  And it is us that Jesus described in verse 27 of our gospel

27,  “. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Remember these words,  Hear.  Know.  Follow.

Hear – passive…yet empowering…

I don’t know if this happens to you ever, but it seems to happen to me more and more as I get older.  Kay is in the kitchen, and she’s about to come into the living room, so I ask her to get me a diet coke on her way.  She says, “okay”, and I go back to reading.  About ten minutes later, I realize I am still thirsty, and remember asking about the soda, but never “getting” it.  So I get up, go and grab another one, and as I go to put it down on the table next to where I sit, I see the one Kay brought for me.

If it was a snake… I’d be bit a thousand times.

Sometimes we can be pretty “oblivious” to that which is going on around us, and I bet I am not the only guy who is occasionally oblivious to the things his wife does for him.  Hopefully the occasionally aren’t more than 2-3 times a …

That is how the people of God were, as they surrounded Him and asked Him to tell them “plainly” if he were the Christ.  I mean – didn’t the healings, the freeing people from demonic possession and oppression, the teaching that was so unlike that others because it spoke with God the Father’s authority – wasn’t that enough “evidence” of the fact that Jesus was the Christ?

It is like the story found in the gospel’s about Jesus healing the man not just blinded – but born blind. When the Pharisees question him about the healing and Jesus,

30  The man replied, “This is amazing! You claim to know nothing about him, but the fact is, he opened my eyes! 31  It’s well known that God isn’t at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will. 32  That someone opened the eyes of a man born blind has never been heard of—ever. 33  If this man didn’t come from God, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.” 34  They said, “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” Then they threw him out in the street. 35  Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36  The man said, “Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him.” 37  Jesus said, “You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?” 38  “Master, I believe,” the man said, and worshiped him.
John 9:30-38 (MSG)

 

Hear, and specifically hear God when He calls to you, when He invites you to be part of His life, with the understanding that it means that He gets to be part of yours. No, not just part – but He becomes your life – and the focus of it.   But like those people – we need to heard when Jesus tells us He is our Lord, and our life  And we need to believe, we need to trust Him,

Which brings us to the second word….

Know… He’s the one to Know

 

The first was “hear,” the second is “know”.

Some people have said it isn’t what you know, but who.  In this case it is neither, it is Who knows you.

Hear, Know, Follow.

It is this middle one, this know, that is the key.  We have to learn, to experience that Jesus knows us.  We have to hear His voice – calling us to let Him cleanse us, even as He cleansed Chloe this morning of all sin.

The cross wasn’t just an event in history, it is the call of Christ, like the bugler calling reveille, and like the last trump will be, when He calls us all to come home.

The summons to gather is also because He knows us, He calls us, not to be perfect, not to get our acts straight and be holy and clean all the mud and sin off of our lives. He calls each one of us, knowing the work to be done, to make us clean and pure and holy. That is why He calls us to the cross, the place of cleansing, the place where He invites us, knowing exactly who we are, what we’ve done, good and sinful..

He knows us, and He still chooses to be our Shepherd, to call us to His side…

Follow – you really have little choice!

Hear, Know, Follow……

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

It is evident in the first two words, that we are passive – we are the recipients of incredible blessings.  In order for us to hear – He has had give voice to His love, to call us to be His.  We could do nothing.  Neither could we do anything for Him to come to know us, to do the work to cleanse us, to take care of us, to wrap us in His mercy and love. We are passive in both, recipients, not the gives and one who act,

I am not sure we get the same idea about the word follow.  It sounds like a choice, an action that we have to be continually in, focusing upon it as if our eternal destinies depend on it.

We hear follow – and we think of people on the trail – with Jesus setting the pace, with His deciding which path to take, when there is a branch.  That He is some kind of spiritual trailblazer, giving us the narrow road to follow.

Yet there is another way to hear “follow”, one that seems more akin to the word in Greek.  It is the word as it is used in dancing, where the lady is to “follow” the movement of the gentleman, where the moves are synchronized and yet so fluid, where the man’s gentle guidance turns and leads the woman, as combined He leads her in such a way, that following is not only natural, but incredibly beautiful.  So it is when we hear Christ’s call, and when we realize He does really know us, and invites us to follow Him.

We then find ourselves moving, “following” His lead, feeling His guidance, knowing His presence, for it closer even than any couple has ever danced.

He has made us His own, marked and sealed us in Baptism – united us to Him in such a way that nothing could ever snatch us from Him, that nothing could ever separate us from His love.  For He has joined us to Himself in Baptism, He has untied us to Himself, and therefore following Him becomes truly, how we live.  We simply hear, and respond, all the time focused on our Shepherd…

Hear…. Know… Follow…

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

 Where, in His company, they live in an incredible peace, for He calls and keeps their hearts and minds in that peace, the peace of the Father that goes beyond any explanation.  Even as Chloe has now entered that relationship – may we all remember and hear, and realize we are known, and follow our shepherd’s lead.  AMEN?

(the original intro was…)

When one is trained to preach, there are some simple communication tools given to a pastor.  Some of them, like the KISS principle, we “borrow” from other places where people are trained or taught.  For example – the KISS principle comes from the military and is an acronym for “Keep it Simple… “.

There are other tools – like using repetition and sequence.  That is what we’ve been doing for the past several weeks.  Let’s see if you remember them.  The first is, “The Tomb is….”, therefore we Praise God for He is Risen! (pause) which brings us to the truth that “The Lord is….” And the last one- anyone remember… If the Son sets you ….

 

Today I am going to go with the KISS principle, for a number of reasons.  Three simple words that I want you to remember, that if you do, will open up your memory and help you recall the gospel reading, and more importantly, the way it reveals Jesus and His love and care for each of us, from young Chloe to Oliver.

If you can do that, I will give all of the praise to God – for it is His heart, His love, that is revealed.

So the three words from our gospel reading to remember today are….

 

Hear!  Know! Follow!

We find those three verbs describing Jesus’ people in verse 27. )

%d bloggers like this: