Message for Sunday 17 January 2021: “Dare to be a Disciple”

Consider how Jesus gathered his earliest disciples. It’s not surprising that Jesus needed followers. Founders of successful religions must have a dedicated cadre of supporters to firmly establishment their vision.

In John 1:43-51 Jesus began his public ministry in earnest by calling Philip, who then went to find Nathanael and rally him to Jesus of Nazareth. Philip was convinced that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy about Israel’s promised Messiah. Duly excited, Philip rushed to Nathanael, whose skeptical reply questioned Jesus’ origins: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Cynicism is not new, and whether ancient or modern a jaded attitude can obscure a beautiful message

Then quite unexpectedly, Jesus praised Nathanael. It’s as rare as hen’s teeth for Jesus to offer praise, and yet the Lord’s words do precisely this: “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47b). Perhaps Nathanael’s attitude hadn’t turned sour after all. Yet the strange encounter isn’t over. An odd tidbit emerges when Jesus miraculously saw Nathanael under a fig tree before the pair met. Nathanael’s response indicates that he was open to Jesus’ message and that he was willing to become one of Jesus’ closest followers even before speaking with Jesus.

What does all of this talk of Nathanael accomplish today? For one, perhaps you can sense an anticipation or even excitement as God calls you into divine service. As a person of faith you are both privileged and obligated to respond to God’s invitation. Another worthy consideration is your spiritual status. So ask yourself this: Are you a disciple of God? It’s not uncommon to feel uncertain or even skeptical as you seek spiritual direction (as Nathanael was at first). Yet if you remain open you can accept God’s call.

Is this all for today’s message? Not quite. Look around and who do you see? Or, who is it that you don’t see? If our church is to continue our positive momentum then we need to do what Philip did and invite people, again and again if necessary. Outreach isn’t easy, but it is necessary and it is the most effective way to grow any religious organization.

Don’t forget the story: Jesus called Philip, Philip called Nathanael, and Nathanael did his part to continue the process.  This outreach pattern continued until Christianity became what it is today. This simple yet magnificent pattern of outreach—of inviting—remains crucial. With social media and the internet revolution there is simply no excuse for not leveraging the most effective means of communicating.

Finally, realize that Jesus is calling the spiritually aware as much as ever; Jesus calls you and me. Remain ready and awake. Say “Yes!” as the Spirit stirs you to share your faith. It could be that any empty space in the pew next to you will be filled because someone you invite will sit there, connect with God, and become a disciple of the Almighty

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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