Sermons



Kerry Evans
5th May 2019
What is Jesus Asking of Us?

My name is Kerry and I am currently working through what is called the discernment process, to try and work out where I am being called to serve God in the years ahead. Part of that process means coming along to a different church, to see how things are done and that’s why you’ve seen me here since the beginning of the year. It’s great to be able to share with you today. I have really enjoyed my observation placement here at St Matthew’s; I must have, as the suggested six weeks have turned into well over four months!

As Easter people, what is Jesus asking of us?

We have journeyed together through the death and resurrection of Christ over the last few weeks, we have wondered, and last week we considered the doubt in us, or the fear of missing out or being left out. Before Easter becomes something that was just a few weeks ago, before the pages in the calendar turn again, can we ask ourselves, what is Jesus asking of us, of me?

Is he saying, “trust me to provide for you”?

Or, “follow me, do as I do”?

Or, does he say, “turn to me, listen, be transformed by me”?

Our passages today help us to see the differing ways that Jesus connects with us all, he is not one-dimensional, and a one size fits all Christ. We don’t have to all be the same, act the same in order to be a follower of His. Of course it’s likely we display similar characteristics as fruit of the spirit, those of a peaceful, kind, loving, forgiving Jesus, that marks us as His followers, but we still remain individual.

Trust me to provide for you
We hear about seven of the disciples in John’s gospel, who are getting on with their lives. Led by Peter they go out fishing, they fish all night but they are unsuccessful and must have been pretty fed up. Interesting to note, that instinctively they do as the character on the beach tells them to. Jesus, whom they did not at first recognise at first, asks them to cast the fishing net on the other side and they were successful, so many fish were caught.

These disciples we read about had spent time with Jesus, they had ate with Him, they had prayed with Him, He had washed their feet. Yet when they were deep down in their busy lives, they did not even recognise Jesus, who was there for them. Then, once the disciples do respond to His presence and as they haul the boat ashore, there they find He has provided food for them to fill them and nourish their tired bodies.

Are we people who have just got busy in our lives, we might still be instinctively being like Jesus to others, but maybe not recognising the further call to action from Jesus in our own lives? Is Jesus waving to us from the shore, to tell us something, give some advice that will mean our endeavours are more fruitful too? Or is Jesus calling you ashore to rest in Him? Does He want you to spend more time at His side, to be comforted?

What is Jesus asking of us?

Are we like the disciples, blessed, but perhaps afraid to ask that burning question or to acknowledge Jesus is there in our lives? Is He saying “trust me to provide for you”? Or “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”

“Follow me, do as I do”
In the passage we then hear of Gun-hoe Peter, who upon hearing it was Jesus on the shore, dives right in the water, but not before of course making himself ready to meet the Lord, by putting on his tunic, as was the right thing to do in those days.

Had he in part stepped back to his old ways, his old ‘Simon’ ways? Jesus uses the same name as he did when he first called Cephas or Peter, ‘the rock’. “Simon, Son of John” he asks, saying it three times, do you love me? Maybe Peter answers the questions with a yes I love you, in the way he loves a friend, maybe he is ashamed. Then he feels hurt at the number of questions. But does Jesus want Peter to give his all? And in the last question Peter answers with the kind of love that we might have for our children, an unconditional, ‘I would give my life for you’ type of love. This trio of questions and following confessions of love were needed to give way to unfold the three denials that Peter had previously made of Jesus. At the final yes, Peter is now ready to follow Jesus and to give his life.

Have we fallen back to our old habits, have we forgotten what it really means to follow Jesus, like Peter. Perhaps the phrase ‘out of sight out of mind’ was relevant for him. And of course how much harder for us who were not there, as Jesus told Thomas in last weeks reading ‘blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’. Or maybe we feel hurt? Or have we misunderstood what is being asked of us, just like Peter in the passage.

What is Jesus asking of us?

Is He saying, it’s ok I know you completely; we can undo the things that have been said or done, follow me, do as I do?

“Turn to me, listen, and be transformed by me”
In the book of Acts we read of Paul’s conversion, conversion as in, he turned completely away from his behaviour and his previous name of Saul. Saul was not living a wholesome life. He was a persecutor, a scoffer. That is until he was stopped dead in his tracks, whilst on his way to find more people who followed Jesus, those of the ‘The way’. Quite a journey, quite determined, Saul was determined to bring those he found before the authorities, which could have ultimately led to their death if they were not acquitted. Unlike the disciples, Saul did not know Jesus, he did not like Jesus, he hadn’t met Him, but he was not on His side. Yet when he saw the light and was shook to the core, he responded instinctively as Jesus asked “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me”? with the words “Who are you, Lord”.

What is Jesus asking of us?

Is He trying to break through in our lives to transform and change us?

I was a scoffer. Not quite on Saul’s level, but as a young adult I worked for the Halifax Building Society, as a cashier, in those days when we all still used cash! In the back office of a building society, cheques and cash were processed. Doing this work was an administrator, he was an older gentle man called Brian, and he was a born again Christian. I could not understand what he meant when he said this statement and I regrettably used to make it known to him that it was nonsense. I used to say, “What do you mean, born again, how can you possibly be born again”. I left the branch in Canterbury and I sadly don’t know what happened to Brian. But I do know that I had been hurting a friend of Jesus and therefore back then, I was hurting Jesus too.

Many years later in my own kitchen, I, like Saul was stopped in my tracks, he saw a light from heaven and heard a voice. I was standing there in what I can only describe as a warm shower of light that seemed to be pouring into me, I wasn’t afraid just comforted, and felt reassured that I had been filled with the love of God, or the Holy Spirit, as I would learn later.

My experience was not as dramatic as becoming blinded, but a new vision and a new love for Jesus became part of my life. I didn’t know anything about Christianity but instinctively I knew God was breaking though into what had been a hardened heart and what had started to be a messy and complicated life.

In this Season of Easter, as the eggs are nearly finished and summer is on the way, before we forget the death and resurrection and wonder, lets ask.

What is Jesus asking of us?

And will we be ready to respond to his questions when they come?
Is Jesus, like he did with the beloved Disciple, James, Peter, Paul saying to you:

“Trust me to provide for you”?
“Follow me, do as I do”?
“Turn to me, listen, be transformed by me”?

St Matthew’s has been such a welcoming place to spend the first third of 2019; you are warm to those who visit, and a family to those of you who have been here longer. People like me will come and go. I hope you continue to be guided by God to reach those who find a safe haven here, and help them to also ask the question. What is Jesus asking of me?

 
 
John 21: 1-19
Acts 9: 1-6