Sunday, January 22, 2012

Come and Be Found

Note: this post is the Sermon which I preached this morning at Hoover First United Methodist Church.  It is not EXACTLY what I said, but this is the manuscript with which I started.    I also have a note following the sermon to clarify one point that I was trying to make.  Would love to have comments!

Mark 1:14-20      

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen.17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”18And immediately they left their nets and followed him.19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.


This week, I had a friend who posted a picture on face book that really struck me. He had taken a picture of a framed saying that hangs on the wall of his favorite “watering hole.”

The saying is a quote from JR Moehringer. Moehringer is writer in New York and after googling him, I think that this quote is from his memoir.

I want to read you part of this quote
“We went there for everything we needed. We went there when thirsty, of course, and when hungry, and when dead tired. We went there when happy, to celebrate, and when sad, to sulk. We went there after weddings and funerals, for something to settle our nerves, and always for a shot of courage just before. We went there when we didn’t know what we needed, hoping someone might tell us. We went there when we were looking for love, ….. or trouble, or for someone who had gone missing, because sooner or later everyone turned up there. Most of all we went there when we needed to be found.” 
What struck me about this when I read it was that I wanted this to be how people feel about coming to church!

“we went there for everything we needed…. Most of all we went there when we needed to be found.”

In trying to figure out where Moehringer had written this, I read some excerpts from his memoir, The Tender Bar.  And in it he writes,
“Everyone has a holy place, a refuge, where their heart is purer, their mind clearer, where they feel closer to God or love or truth or whatever it is they happen to worship. For better or worse my holy place was Steve’s bar.”
What is YOUR holy place? But, more importantly,
WHY is it holy to you?
Is it a place where you feel refuge?
Where your heart is purer and your mind is clearer?

Is it a place where you feel closer to God?

So, WHAT in the world does how this man feels about a bar have to do with the call of the first disciples?

Why in the world am I sharing this with you this morning?

Well, it has stuck in my brain ever since I read it.
especially the part about
Going to a certain place because you needed to be found.

Isn't that what the church SHOULD be?

The place where we go to find our truest, best selves…

The place where we are found by others…

And then, I think…. What if???

What if other people KNEW that this was the place to come to be found…

Just like my friend really identified with this quote because this bar where it hangs is a special place to him---

The image that keeps going through my mind is “Cheers”-- that old TV show..

Which had as it’s theme song….. Those words that I bet you call could even sing…

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you got
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot
Wouldn’t you like to get away
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…
And they’re always glad you came
You wanna be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same
 You wanna be where everybody knows your name…

So, what do these bar stories have to do with the Gospel??
Why in the world have a started a sermon with this?

Because the passage of Scripture that we read this morning is about Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John…. Leaving everyone and everything in order to follow Jesus…
They must have been so compelled by what Jesus had to share with them, that they were willing to give up all that they had to follow him.

Now, Mark doesn’t give us much detail. We really don’t know if this is the first time that they had met Jesus, or if they had been listening to his message of repent and believe in the Gospel and this is just the first time that they are invited to join him.

But, not only do they follow him, Jesus says that they are called to draw OTHERS to him as well…that’s where these bar stories come to mind…

What compels US to come to church???
Why is that YOU are here today?
Is it because this is a place where everyone knows your name?
And they are always glad you came?
Is this a place where you find your truest and best self?
Is it a place where you come to find courage? (maybe not the liquid kind as the quote suggests)
But is it a place where you come when you don’t know what you need, but hope you will find it?
Is this the place where you come to be found?

Shouldn’t the church be ALL of those places for us?

A place to come for courage and encouragement,
A place to find what we need
And a place to be found

So… WHY do people think they will find that in a bar??
Not at church?

What is the message that we have to share that might be compelling enough today?

This scripture from Mark talks about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and he begins with these words,  “repent and believe”

Too often what we here in those words is condemnation--


But really what those words are about is GRACE!!!

They are a word of grace.
And that is the message that we are called to share…

Believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ
That GOD loves EACH One of us!
That God loves EVERY person..
WE are called to share this message of grace--
share with others

BUT, before we can witness to our faith to others…

We have to be able to share what it is that makes us want to follow Christ.
So, what is so compelling about the message of Jesus that we come here every week to worship?
What is it that draws YOU to Christ-- what is it that makes you want to follow him?

Not many of us are called like Simon Peter and Andrew, like James and John…
Not many of us are asked to give up everything to follow,
There were only 12 disciples and they were the leaders…
But Jesus had many more followers--

So, for all those who followed Jesus there was a decision point-
A point at which they decided that he was the messiah
The anointed one
The one who had come to announce the kingdom of God.

But, Jesus didn’t call ANY of his followers just so that they could be self-satisfied with themselves and their OWN personal devotion…

Jesus came so that ALL might be found….

So that ALL might come to repent and believe.

As followers of Christ, WE are asked to share this message

A message that is compelling enough that we come to church each week to worship a God who lives and reigns.. Who loves and cares for each one of us.

When I read that quote I was deeply sad that for some people the place where they are “found” is a bar…

Surely, the message here is one that is more grace filled…

Come and follow!

Come and be found!

Further Note:  One of the things that I think I "threw in" was that I understand that people feel a sense of "community" at other places and that this is what they are craving.  On a personal note, I have nothing against bars per se.  I just wish more people saw the church as a place where they will be welcomed and find community.

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