Friday, November 14, 2014

The Sent Ones (John 1:35-42) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

A pastor writes:  “While I was attending seminary, our two older children, ages 9 and 7, seemed to attract every other child in our apartment complex for after-school games of hide and seek.  Our youngest daughter, Carrie, was not quite 3 and in the minds of the older siblings, was always in the way.  Whenever she played with them, in just a few minutes, she would start crying because she would get pushed aside, ignored or skin a knee.  One afternoon she walked into the house crying for mommy.  My wife, Elizabeth, gave her her two freshly baked cookies to comfort her and said to her: "Now, shhh, this is just for you, don't tell the big kids, I haven't baked enough for everybody yet.”  It took less than three seconds for Carrie to run to the screen door, fling it wide open, and yell to the big kids, "Cookies, I gots cookies!"  Good news is hard not to tell!”

This morning we celebrate our Scottish Presbyterian heritage.  I know you agree that the peaceful, quiet, and soothing sound of the bagpipes, played by piper, Laurie Scott, sets the mood.   Today, we shine the light on the disciple Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.  Protestant churches around the world celebrate St. Andrew’s Day in November of each year.  

Andrew's life dramatically changed upon discovering that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah.   His heart’s desire was for persons to come to know Jesus personally. For example,  Andrew found a young boy, who had five loaves and two fish and brought him to meet Jesus.  Jesus performed a miracle that day and fed 5,000 people.  Andrew also invited some gentiles to go with him and introduced them to Jesus. 

Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist.  He was spiritually hungry and waiting and searching for the advent of the promised Messiah.   Jesus read Andrew's and the other disciple's hearts and asked them:  “What are you searching for?”   It is a good question for us today.  What are you searching for?  The two followed Jesus and spent the day with him,  a day that forever transformed their lives.  Overflowing with spiritual energy, Andrew set out to find his brother Simon Peter.  Andrew finds him and says: “Peter, we have found the Messiah.”  Andrew introduces Peter and Peter dedicates his life to Jesus.   Tradition says that Andrew was crucified upside down on a cross which looks like an X.   It is actually the Greek letter Chi, the first letter of the word Christ.  Andrew wanted to be crucified in this manner, because he felt unworthy to be crucified in the way Jesus was.  It is called the St. Andrew’s cross.  

Fast forward a few centuries and we meet Columba, an Irish missionary in the 6th century, who brought Christianity to Scotland.  He founded a monastery on the island of Iona which became the base camp from which monks launched their missionary travels around Scotland.  In the 8th century a Benedictine Monk brought relics or bones of Andrew to a settlement in Scotland.  A church was built and the relics were placed inside the church, and that settlement was named St. Andrews.  Andrew was canonized as the Patron Saint of Scotland. 

In the 16th century during the Scottish Reformation, Scotland broke with the Catholic Pope under the leadership of Reformer John Knox and Scotland embraced the Protestant or Presbyterian faith.   In the 18th century, the Scots and Scots-Irish immigrants brought the gospel to North America and around the world.  This Scottish church has a distinguished evangelistic legacy, of spreading the good news, because like that 3 year old girl, good news is hard not to tell.  Arguably, this small country has sent more missionaries around the world than any other nation.  

Without question, today we live in an increasingly secular, pluralistic and post-modern age, an age of relativism, with the claim that there is no absolute truth.   Worship attendance is reported at about 40% in America, but polls like Gallup claim it may be half that.   The influence of religion on Americans is wanning.  Polls also say spirituality, and the definition of  spirituality varies, is on the upswing.  One conclusion of this picture is we don't have to send missionaries to Africa, where Christianity is growing, we are living in a mission field right here at home.    

It is into this context that Christians are called to bring the gospel message of God's forgiveness in Christ.  In Romans 1:16 we read: “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.”   The gospel is not an opinion.  It’s the absolute divine message of grace in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, which through faith, brings freedom, forgiveness, hope and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  When you witness to your faith, you are sharing in the power of God unto salvation. 

Jesus declared: “When the Holy Spirit comes, you shall be filled with power, and you shall be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth or in Pacific Beach, in San Diego and California, and to the ends of the earth.” 

John 3:16 says:  “God so loved the world that he sent His only Son.”  God sent Jesus into the world to bring salvation.  Jesus sent his disciples into the world to share the gospel.  Recall the Great Commission: “Go therefore, and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, for I am with you always to the close of the age.”  The word apostle literally means, “one who is sent.” 

God sent Jesus into the world and Jesus sent his followers into their towns, and villages and communities.  The Sent One, Jesus Christ, sends us.  So another name for Christians is “The Sent Ones,” sent by our Lord to bring the gospel to unbelievers.  Christ summons us to connect with the community around us.  Christ summons us to love our neighborhoods.  Churches must not be isolated from their surrounding communities.  This is being disobedient and unfaithful to His calling.

Christ sends us because God loves people and desires for them to know Him.  Because God desires to bring salvation to people.  Because people matter to God.  Because God values all people and seeks to reach the lost of this world.  God desires to change people, to free us from the power of sin, and to reach those who live lives separated from God.  God desires fellowship with human beings and sent Jesus to bring humanity back into relationship with Him.  We are the sent ones under the authority and power of the Sent One.

Susan Steinmetz is a meteorologist and Christian who finds spiritual analogies in her studies of weather patterns and the natural sciences.  For example, she says that there is water vapor in the air over even the most parched land on earth, the Mohave, the Sahara, it makes no difference.  The problem is not the lack of water; the problem is how to get the water in the air to condense and fall to the earth as rain.  Water vapor condenses by wrapping itself around tiny dust particles.  She points out that humans are referred to as “dust” in the Bible and that Jesus is referred to as “living water.”  Only as we allow our lives’ to be wrapped up in Jesus, will we be able to refresh and renew a parched world.  God has chosen to make His will and His way and His truth known to the world, through particles of dust like you and me. 

How are some churches sending believers into their communities?  Churches are planting community gardens on their properties, and inviting neighbors to cultivate their own plots in these gardens.  Churches are going out and cleaning up streets, parks, beaches, rehabing old buildings, planting new churches, joining neighborhood watch groups, starting prayer and Bible groups at local schools, offering tutoring programs for students after school, feeding homeless people in parks or on the bay, setting up a Bible study where they work, or working with the courts and offering communty service opportunities for kids.  I read a story of how one minister, who has a black belt in Karate, challenges all comers to fight him.  If they win, he pays they $100.00 and if he wins, they must attend church with him.  The ideas are endless.  We at PBPC are reaching out into our community with our SNF, and our young adults handing out water bottles in the wee hours of the morning once a month, and our Friday Free Pizza and Movie night for families in our community among other activities.   Are their other things we could be doing?

Christ sends you and me out in His name. Remember we as a congregation and you as an individual are not alone.  Trust in the power of prayer, the power of the gospel and in the assurance that you are witnessing in the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus says make connections, develop relationships, love the community around you, be visible in your neighborhood.   

Rev. Rick Warren writes: “God has given you a life message to share.  When you became a believer, you also became God’s messenger.  God wants to speak to the world through you.  You may feel you don’t have anything to share, but that’s the Devil trying to keep you silent.  You have a storehouse of experiences that God wants to use to bring others into His family.

We are the sent ones.  Pray daily for God to give you an opportunity to share Christ by your word and deed.   God is overjoyed when someone hears about Jesus, when someone is prayed for, when someone enters into His Kingdom, when someone joins the family of God.  May the power of Jesus Christ, the witness of St. Andrew and the awesome sound of the bagpipes motivate you.  For good news is hard not to tell.  Amen!

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