Here’s this morning’s sermon!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
January 25, 2015
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Called To Make A (Good) Change
A few years ago, Bruce and his friends decided to go fishing on a Friday night. Having no other plans, I thought I would grab my camera and kayak and tag along.
So here was my first mistake: I thought when a bunch of guys went fishing together, it was like a fun group thing. You know – where they all stick close together and do more chatting than actual fishing. I assumed it was kind of like when I go shopping with my girlfriends – just in a boat instead of a store, holding fishing rods instead of new clothes to try on.
As it turns out – fishing with your guy friends is nothing like shopping with your girl friends.
This became abundantly clear to me when I paddled over to Bruce to show him a photo I had taken of him catching a fish and – after glancing at quickly – he said, “Well, babe, this time of night the fish are on the move!” and promptly pushed my kayak away from his and paddled off.
My point is this: Those of us who are married to hardcore fishermen understand the enormity of what Simon, Andrew, James and John did in the story that we read from the Gospel of Mark this morning.
Speaking from experience, it is not the easiest thing in the world to convince a man – let alone four men – to put down their fishing gear for anything – let alone a stranger proclaiming the good news of God.
But, of course, this story is not really about fishing.
This story is about many things. It is a biographical account of the disciples’ first call to follow Jesus. This story is also a great metaphor for ministry: “Drop your fishing nets and follow Jesus to become fishers of men!” It gives us beautiful imagery to think about and use in our own lives.
But – even more than that – this story, at its core, is a bold reminder to all of us that in order to follow Jesus, we must first be willing to give something up; we must be willing to make a change in our lives in order to wholly and completely be a disciple of Christ.
It is easy to look at this story and think that the most important part happens the moment the disciples follow Jesus. But I don’t agree; I think it happens right before that. I think the most important part of this story happens when the disciples drop their nets in order to follow Jesus.
Jesus’ disciples had to make a change in their lives in order to follow Jesus. Discipleship was not something that was simply going to slip into the routines of their everyday lives. In order for them to follow Jesus – in order for their lives to be changed by Jesus – the disciples first had to first be willing to drop their nets.
What are we willing to let go of in order to follow Jesus? What are we willing to change about ourselves – or about our lives – in order to be changed by Jesus?
I am not just talking about fishing nets; I am talking about pieces of our lives, of our society, of the world we live in. What changes are we willing to make in order to follow Jesus?
This is not something that I really like to preach on. Let’s face it – everyone is busy. Everyone’s lives are hectic. The last I want to do is make it seem like coming to church is complicated or that practicing your faith time needs to be time consuming.
But I really do believe that the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. And I want you to get a lot of our your faith; I want your commitment to being a disciple of Christ to give back to you more than you could ever put into it. I want your lives to be changed by this crazy stuff that we talk about every week.
So let’s talk about it; let’s talk about how willing we are to change for our faith.
In this morning’s reading from the Old Testament, the prophet Jonah was sent by God to the city of Nineveh. Jonah was sent with a message: “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
Now – books from the Old Testament can be kind of hard to follow sometimes, so let’s talk about where we are in the story of Jonah for a second …
This was the second time God had sent Jonah to Nineveh. The first time God called to Jonah it was because the people of Nineveh were evil and wicked and God wanted Jonah to cry out against this behavior so that they would change their ways. Long story short, Jonah was scared, tried to flee so he could escape God’s call to go to Nineveh and ended up in the belly of a whale.
Eventually Jonah gets out of the whale – which is another sermon for another Sunday – and God – again – calls him to go to Nineveh.
Here is where we come into the story this morning.
So again, God calls to Jonah and sends him to Nineveh to prophesy against their evil and wicked ways. This time Jonah did not flee; he travelled to Nineveh and prophesied to the people there.
And the people changed.
And the people of Nineveh believed God … they turned from their evil ways.
This story is not about what God did in the life of an individual or a community. This story is about what that individual or community was willing to change – what they needed to change – in order to allow God into their life.
I think that there are times in our lives when we need to change. I think there are times when we are so stuck in who we are and what we are doing that there is absolutely no room for God to come in and work within us.
Ad God wants to work within us and within our lives, I truly believe that. God wants to transform us.
But it might take some work on our end first.
The Christian Education Committee sponsored a fabulous New Year, New You! program at the beginning of January and during our first session – the topic was health and weight loss – we talked a lot about the changes we need to be willing to make in our lives in order to achieve better health and wellness. We talked about making changes in what we ate and drank, in how we slept and exercised and in our stress levels and the environments that we live in.
So here I am three weeks later, trying to implement some of these changes in my life. Has it been easy? Not even a little bit! I miss diet coke, it is really hard to find time to exercise and I hate not playing Candy Crush on my phone until I fall asleep.
But I feel better. The changes that I am making in my life are good changes; they are making me feel better.
And I think the same is true when it comes to our faith.
If we are willing to make positive changes in our lives that affect our faith, our faith will be strengthened. It is as simple as that! When Jonah prophesied to the people of Nineveh, they changed how they were acting and they were transformed. When Jesus appeared to the disciples for the first time, they stopped what they were doing to follow Jesus and they were transformed.
So what can we change – what do we need to change – about ourselves and about our lives in order to allow God to transform us?
I can’t answer those questions for you; I can only answer them for myself. But consider spending some time over the next week or so reflecting on who you are and the life you lead – and who you want to be and the life you want to lead. What can you change to allow yourself to be drawn closer to God?
You could pray more. If you are uncomfortable praying or are not sure where to start, consider keeping a prayer journal and start by simply listing the people and the things that you want to pray for.
You could commit to reading the bible. If the bible seems overwhelming and confusing, talk to me and we can find you a version that is simple to read and has helpful notes and introductions.
You could try to create more family time. I know our schedules can be busy, but try to sit down for a family dinner at least once a week or take a day every month and do something fun with your family. Make it a priority.
You could focus on taking better care of your body. All of our systems are intertwined – if your body feels better, your mind and soul will feel better as well.
You could volunteer for something new at the church. There are so many ways for you to serve and I guarantee you will get back much more than you could ever give.
You could be intentional about putting your phone down so that you can be fully present in the life you are leading and more aware of what God is calling you to do in this moment.
Is this going to take time? Yes. Do most of us have a lot of extra time on our hands? No. But think about this: How many of us found the time to spend a better part of our week talking about men and their deflated footballs?
We can find the time for this, I promise.
So let’s find the time to talk about a man who lived his life as a living expression of God’s Good News in the world. Jesus is a much more important (and interesting!) man to talk about than Tom Brady is! Trust me.
And then let’s find the time to talk about how we can change so that we can be disciples and spread this Good News in our lives as well.
We are called as Christians, as people of faith, to make a good change in our lives, a change that will allow God to come into our midst and work within us in a new way.
And scripture assures to us that if we are willing to take that step forward – if we are willing to give something up, if we are willing to make that change – our lives be transformed!
So let us change – and be transformed.
Thanks be to God!