Sermon from Sunday, January 21, 2024
Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffenried
Scripture: Matthew 1:14-20
Our lesson this morning comes from the first chapter of Mark’s gospel, starting with the 14th verse and reading through the 20th verse. Here these words. Now, after John was arrested, Jesus came from Galilee Proclaiming the good news of God and saying, the time is fulfilled. The Kingdom of God is come near, repent and believe the good news. As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee saw Simon and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea. They were fishermen, And Jesus said to them, follow me and I will make you fish for people. And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little further, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, who were in their boats mending the nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Friends, this is the word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Where are your sacred places? Where are the places in your life that Are holy to you? Or where are those Special places in your life? Maybe the business end of a bass boat Tucked under your favorite tree where your favorite fishing Hole is. Could be the first tee. Standing there with the driver in your hand and hope in your heart because you’ve forgotten That golf spelled Backwards is flog, and that it’s called golf because all the other four-letter words are being Used. It might be in the deer Stand. Early in the Morning as the sun is just starting to peek above the horizon. Where is your favorite space?
Could be the highways and byways and isle-ways of Hobby Lobby or Wal-Mart. Or it could just be that time when you’re home alone. Most of us, when we talk about our sacred Places and our special places in our holy places Revert back to a time when we were growing up. We think about the house where we were raised. The people who were there. The meals that we Shared around the table. or the Times we would spend Together as family. Hopefully we think about the church. Spaces of Worship. Sanctuaries, Sunday school classes. Places where we came to faith in Jesus Christ. Places where we were baptized or confirmed or married. Places where we said our final goodbyes to loved ones.
As we think about the sacred and holy places in our lives, what We realize is happening is we shrink them down. They become very small and very confined. God told the Hebrews to enlarge the site of your tent and let the curtains of your habitation be stretched out. God was telling the Hebrews that holy and sacred space is all throughout creation. It’s all Throughout your Life. It is, if you pay attention, everywhere. Later on, in the Gospel of Mark, not too far into the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has started a preaching and healing ministry, and He’s in Capernaum and so many people have gathered in this House to hear him preach and to be in his presence That the house is filled, and nobody can get into the door. And the four men come carrying their friend on a pallet, however they’re carrying Him, and they can’t get in the Door. So, they go Up and they raise the roof. Literally, they tear the roof Off of the house so they can drop the man down for Jesus to touch him. And heal him.
Whether it is enlarging the side of our tent, whether it is raising the roof. It is time for us as a church to open the door. That line comes from T.S. Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral, where the priest had put bars across the doors of Canterbury Cathedral to protect Thomas A Becket, to protect him from the assassin sins that are coming to do a man and a Becket says on bar the doors Throw open the doors, I will not have the House of Prayer, the Church of Christ, the Sanctuary turned into a fortress. The church shall be open even to our enemies. Open the door. And if you are a historian, you will know what Happened to Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. someplace in Trinity, And I will give you two pieces of homework Assignment in This sermon, some place in Trinity, in this church is Warner Salmond’s Christ at the door. You’ve seen it. Christ is standing at the door, and it’s kind of a rusty door. And the door has no doorknob. And Christ is standing at the door knocking. And every preacher that’s ever preached the sermon about Christ at the door knocking, said, Brothers and sisters, Christ is at the door of your heart and he’s knocking at the door of your heart right now, and you need to let Jesus into your heart because that’s what the painting means.
Wrong. Not even close. That painting is based on Revelation Chapter three, verse 20, and the words Behold, I stand at the door and knock we’re spoken not to an individual believer, but to the church, to the smug, self-satisfied little Jack Horner in the Corner Church of Laodicea of the commercial city of Laodicea. The church is a busy, well-to-do church filled with ecclesiastical, proper, spiritually lukewarm, moneymaking Christians, and it is to them that Jesus says, Open the door and I will come in. And the inference is, I’m going to invite you out. I’m going to invite you out into the world. The time is Fulfilled, Jesus said. And I know a Preacher that on New Year’s Eve preached a sermon standing right here, and he said that over the course of four Sundays in the year to Come, he was going to talk about the word time. And he talked about the word Chronos, the big word for time. In the fullness of time, Jesus came and Chronos is how long my sermon lasts. Okay. It just goes on and on and on. And Chronos is God’s time. It’s the great expanse of history. Well, now Jesus uses another word for time Kairos. It’s the word from which our word crisis comes. And Jesus says, there is a crisis. There is a time that is the crisis time. And what you need to do in a crisis time is to make a decision. The time is fulfilled. The time to decide has come. What are you going to do? And immediately following That, Jesus lays out his plan.
The very next thing we hear in the text is about the calling of Peter and Andrew and James and John. and what’s Jesus asking them to do? He’s asking them to Leave; To lay aside what is important to them and leave. It’s time for the church to leave. It’s time for the church to get outside, to get into the world, to be salt and light, to bring love and mercy, to proclaim the good News of Jesus Christ in the world.
I have a friend that I was asking about her sacred Space. Where is it? Where’s your holy Place? And she said, It’s just out in the world. It’s out in the world. In the Presence of God. It’s out in the world when God’s spirit is with me. And I’m aware of God’s spirit. And I thought, it’s out in the world. Yes, you can have holy and sacred space in here, but we’re called to bring that holiness and that sacredness and that love and that mercy and the grace out into our world. And I got to thinking about that one. Kids go to church camp, and I’m great. I’m grateful that we’re still taking our Kids to camp and that they still participate in camp. And I’ve listened to the calls call stories of ministers, and I’ve listened to other people talk about church camp, and I’ve decided three great things happen at church camp. First thing that happens very often A boy kisses A girl or a girl kisses a boy for the first time at church camp. Where’d you get your first kiss? Church Camp. The second thing that happens is people find faith in Jesus Christ at church camp. Where were you when you gave your life to Christ? Church camp. The third thing that happens at church camp is very often that’s where someone hears and obeys the call of God into the ministry. outside a church camp. Why is that so? Because God called us to be a pilgrim. People, you and I. As much as we love our homes, as much as we love our sacred spaces, as much as we love Ruston and Lincoln Parish and Louisiana and the United States of America. As much as we love it all, we’re pilgrims. We’re just passing through. This is not our home. This is not our destination. We’re going on to glory. And when you start reading the Bible, you read the stories of how God is always calling his people to leave. For heaven’s sakes, He raises up Moses and Moses tells Pharaoh, let my people go in the name of God and God’s people leave. They find themselves in the wilderness. They wander in the wilderness for 40 years and they eventually leave the wilderness. They enter the promised land as they’re following God. and in the wilderness, in the promised land, God develops the tent. The tabernacle.
Here’s your second homework assignment. That tabernacle moved with the people. That tabernacle moved as God wanted it to move, and the people could see the tabernacle moving. And they Knew God’s presence was with Them, and they become settled in the Promised Land. Here’s the homework. I want to know. Did God tell David to build the temple, or did David decide to build the temple? Who? I’ll tell you just a little Hebrew. The Hebrew word for House is Beth, and the house of God is a dwelling. Or the house of God resides in a human being, according to the Hebrew word. So, you Do your homework, Assignment And you can report back next Sunday. And if 50% of you get it right. I’ll cut the sermon by 10 minutes next Sunday. Did God want the people of Israel to build that Stationary static Holy place? Or was that David’s idea? And why is that important? Because the temple is destroyed twice. Jesus didn’t speak very Highly of it. And my thesis for you is God always intended for us to travel. And God wants our holy places to travel. And God wants us to Understand That the Holy Spirit Resides in us. We are The Temple of the Holy Spirit, and we travel.
Jesus told Simon and Andrew, James and John to leave. Leave what you’re Doing. Leave your life, leave your economic security. Leave it all and follow me. We think I Couldn’t do that. and then you read the rest of the New Testament You find out That Jesus
never really intended for poor old Zebedee to be stood up and have to do all that work by Himself. And we know that because they go back to their boats, they go back to the fishing. Jesus actually uses the boats as a pulpit one day. We know that Zebedee is not estranged from James and John because the mother of Zebedee goes to Jesus and says, hey, Lord, can you help my sons when you come into your kingdom? Let one sit on your right hand and one sit on your left. We know that what Jesus did is he said, I want you to leave this lifestyle.
I want you to leave this way of thinking. I want you to enter in my way of thinking. And no longer are you going to fish for fish. You’re going to fish for people.
So perhaps what Jesus is calling you to do is leave a mindset. Jesus is calling you to lead that, which narrows your focus, that which keeps you from seeing the vastness of his kingdom, that which keeps you from seeing that he has called you. He’s called you to be missionaries, to be evangelists. To carry the gospel outside. He’s called you to leave your seats. I don’t want to leave my seat. It’s a comfortable seat. It’s my seat. It’s been my seat for years. My friend Truman texted me last night and he said I did something I’ve never done before. Truman is a Methodist minister. I said I’m not sure I want to hear this, but what did you do? You said, I went to a funeral today. It was a relative of one of his church members. I said, there’s no surprise about that. And Truman said, Yeah, well, what happened was that the Minister that the family Wanted to do the funeral didn’t show up. I said, and what did you do, Truman? He said, I left my pew, and I did the guy’s funeral.
What is Christ calling you to leave? Good disciples leave. They leave What binds them? They leave What holds them back. They leave those things that keep them from feeling the call that Christ Jesus has laid on their lives. What has Christ called you to leave? Jesus left Heaven. came to Earth. He left the glories of heaven. He left the power and the privilege of divinity. He put all that aside, to come to Earth. And after the resurrection, he left. He ascended back into heaven. But he promised. He’s coming again. He’s promised that even though he’s called us to follow, he will not leave us as we are following him. That he’s with us. What has Christ called you to leave?
There’s a story that Luke records for us about a fellow who comes to Jesus and says, Lord, what must I do to. Inherit eternal Life? Jesus said, why are you calling me good? No one is good, but God alone. You know the commandments. You shall not Commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness. Honor your father and the mother. And the young man replied, I’ve kept all of these since I was a little guy. And when Jesus heard this, according to one gospel writer says, and Jesus heard it and loved him, Luke says. And when Jesus heard it, he said, there’s still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. And then come follow me. That’s always the two-parter of Jesus. Leave something to follow me. Take up your cross to follow me. Deny yourself to follow me. In He’s told this man, Give up all that. You have to follow me. But when the man heard it, he became sad for He was very rich. And Jesus looked at him and said how hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. Indeed, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. And those who heard it said who then can be saved. And Jesus replied, what is impossible for mortals is possible for God. Jesus is not condemning wealth. Jesus is not condemning money. Jesus never condemns wealth, and he never condemns money. Jesus is simply saying this man trust in his assets. This man trust in his stuff, this man trust in his money. And until he’s willing to leave his money and follow me, he can’t have eternal life. And I see the rich young ruler because that’s what the church calls him. I see the rich young ruler walking away. He’s sad and Jesus is sad because the man couldn’t leave something behind and follow Jesus. And it’s a poignant moment. It’s a sad, holy, hurtful moment. And we can rest assured in moments like that, Here comes Simon Peter. Okay. The scene I’ve set for you. It’s still going on. He’s still walking away. Jesus is still looking at him grieving and hurt. And Simon Peter says Lord, look: We have left our homes and followed you. Aren’t we good? And Jesus says to Peter and to all that are listening, truly, I tell you, there is no one who is left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the gospel who will not get Back very much more in This age and end the age to come.
Is Jesus saying that we need to leave our sacred places and our sacred things in order to find eternal life? He is. What in your life Is Christ calling you to leave so that you can follow him? It’s a question that at its essence, is a question about what kind of disciple are you? Are you really following Jesus?
Would you stand and pray with me?
You could have asked something easier. Lord, but you ask us to leave. To leave sacred things and sacred people, to leave jobs and career, to leave the way we think, the way we act. You ask us to leave and follow. Help us, Lord, to follow. To follow you. Wherever you’re leading us and not look back. We pray in your name. Amen.