Invited to Follow

Invited to Follow

Watch our Oldtown Short related to this sermon and read the text of the sermon below

Jesus Calls the First Disciples
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Luke 5:1-11 (NRSV)

I recently got an invitation to a bridal shower for the daughter of an old friend. It has been a while since I’ve been to a bridal shower, but I’m looking forward to celebrating the beautiful bride-to-be and gathering with a few friends. Now I know that bridal showers today are often quite different than they were back in my day, so it’s sure to be an adventure. As I looked at the invitation, I quickly noticed that it is somewhere that I have never been before, which only adds to the joy of the journey as I get to discover and visit new surroundings.

Invitations often do that, don’t they? They invite us to new places and introduce us to new things. Now sometimes that can feel a little intimidating, depending on where the invitation is calling you and what it is calling you to do. But every invitation invites us to go somewhere or do something. We don’t often get an invitation to stay home in the comforts of our own surroundings, drinking tea and watching the news. Invitations call us to something bigger, something more exciting, and something outside of our regular day-to-day routine.

Friends, I’m going to invite you to take a look at that first sermon box for just a minute to think about the last few things that you were invited to and where they took you.

This week in Oldtown we are celebrating Scout Sunday. Now in Scouting, depending on the age of the scout and the type of scouting they are a part of, scouts are invited to join a troop or a pack or a den. They are invited to try new things and go on new adventures. They are invited to meet new friends and to learn and grow as they earn badges and expand their horizons. And they are invited to follow the paths of past scouts while also blazing new trails, to experience something bigger, something more exciting, and something outside of their regular day-to-day routine. And all a scout needs to do is follow the invitation and give it a try.

There are several stories in the Bible about Jesus inviting people to follow him. And he invites everyone! Fishermen and tax collectors, sinners and outcasts, Romans and Greeks, Jews and Gentiles, the rich, the poor, and everyone in between. Because the invitation to follow Jesus is not about where you are, but rather where you are going. It’s not where you’ve been and what you’ve done, but it is about who you are invited to become and what you are invited to do.

Folks, when we accept the invitation and we choose to follow Jesus, it’s not just a box to check on a form, or a title to carry that tells you where to worship, or an empty claim to fit in, or to please your parents or your spouse or your friends. The truth is, when we choose to follow Jesus, living lives of faith, it’s not a “one-and-done” decision that we make one day then return to the comforts of our own space, doing what we have always done and whatever makes us happy. But it is constantly listening to God’s call in our lives and having the courage to listen over and over again and say, “Yes!” Yes, to new adventures and journeys that bring us beyond our normal surroundings and activities to experience something bigger, something more exciting, and something outside of our regular day-to-day routines.

Okay, let’s take a look at that 2nd sermon box. I wonder, when you think about following Jesus, where do you imagine going and what do you think he calls you to do?

Folks, thirteen times in scripture we hear Jesus say, “Follow me!” “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” “Sell all you own and give it to the poor then come follow me.” “Pick up your cross and follow me.” “My sheep listen to my voice, and they follow me.” But I wonder, have you ever heard Jesus say, “Follow me and I’ll let you stay exactly the same?” “Follow me and don’t worry, I won’t push you out of your comfort zone.” “Follow me, it will look good on your resume?” Or “Follow me and I’ll let you be in total control?” I don’t believe those are things that Jesus has said.

Now in each of the four gospels, Jesus invites disciples to follow him. But what I like the most about the call of the disciples in the gospel of Luke is the relationship that is built between Jesus and Simon (who would later be called Peter). You see, the story begins with Jesus inviting Simon to help him. As scripture says, people were pressing in all around Jesus. He saw two boats on the shore that fishermen had left because they were busy washing their nets after a night of fishing. Jesus got into the boat that belonged to Simon and he asked (or “invited”) Simon to push off a little from the land so that he could continue to teach the crowds that had gathered on the shore. Now though Simon was tired and frustrated from an unsuccessful night of fishing, he took the invitation and did as Jesus asked.

When Jesus had finished speaking to the crowd that had gathered, He gave Simon another invitation. He invited him to go out in the deeper water and drop his nets assuring him that he would catch some fish. Now Simon had been fishing all night and he knew that there were no fish out there, but something deep inside told him to follow Jesus’ invitation. Well, he did and there were so many fish that his nets began to break! So he called to James and John, two fishermen that were on the shore, and they came out and filled their boats too.

Folks, I wonder, what would have happened if Simon had said “no” to Jesus’ invitation or request for help? Or to Jesus’ invitation to go out to deeper water? The fact is, Jesus’ invitation is always open to anyone and everyone. It’s just up to us to decide to follow and to say “yes.” Folks, over the last two-thousand-plus years, there have been many that have chosen to follow and many that have walked away, because the choice is always ours. Jesus never pressures people. He doesn’t use hard-sell techniques, and he doesn’t judge those who are unable to say “yes.” He simply offers an invitation, saying, “Come follow me.” Then it is all up to us. Are we brave enough or courageous enough? Are we ready for a new adventure? Or are we just comfortable where we are?

Friends, the most important part of accepting the invitation to follow Jesus is allowing yourself to be open to change. It’s allowing yourself to have hope and faith in new possibilities. It’s allowing yourself to let go of your need to control, allowing Jesus to lead. It’s allowing yourself into the mystery of something bigger, something more exciting, and something outside of your regular day-to-day routine.

The invitation to follow is always there, my friends. But it’s up to you, each and every day, to make the choice. Are you comfortable where you are right now? That’s okay. Or are you ready to listen to that call, that invitation to follow, and say “yes!”? Yes, to new adventures and to journeys that bring you beyond your normal understandings and surroundings and activities. Yes, to experience sacred surprises and unexplained mysteries and miracles. Yes, to finding and standing on holy ground in the midst of our broken world. And yes, to an invitation to be who God created you to be as you share God’s love and light with the world. The choice is yours, folks, I hope you choose wisely.

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen!

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