Stop, Drop, and Follow

Most holy God, as I deliver the message today, may your Holy Spirit inspire us to faithful discipleship in Christ who calls us in your name. Amen.

Stop, drop, and follow. A strange name for a sermon. But I was thinking about how today our lives are so busy and hectic and how much I forget the more hectic my life becomes. Anyone out there been forgetting things lately? It happens to me a lot. My wife wants to have me tested just to see if maybe there's something in my future that shows up in my 30s. But our life is very fast-paced and hectic, and we all forget things.

And it's no coincidence that it's even the same for children. I recognized this the other week when, down in our Learning Center, part of their learning for the week was fire prevention and how to deal with a fire in your house. My daughter came home with the materials and told me, "Daddy, we need to practice in case of a fire." And I said, "Well, what are we supposed to do?" She said, "Stop, drop and roll, Daddy." I sort of remembered that from my childhood. You might remember too in fire prevention when the fire department comes, they tell children, "If you catch on fire, you stop, drop, and roll until the fire goes out." Very simple, but those three words are crucial. And for three and four-year-olds, that is easy to remember because for those of us who might sit through an adult fire prevention course, there's an awful lot of information, and we might even forget some of that. So for the sake of children, 'Stop, drop, and roll' works terrific.

As people of faith, it is really hard to remember everything in the Bible. It is really hard to remember everything the Bible teaches us about what Jesus wants us to do to be good disciples and to follow in his ways. So I thought we needed something similar. So I decided that the theme for today should be, "Stop, drop, and follow.' And that will become a little clearer as the sermon develops.

If we hearken back to a few moments ago when the Isaiah passage was read, the little introduction says, 'Isaiah is speaking to sometimes forgetful people.' Those words struck me in preparing for today, and that's what leads us to this new phrase of 'Stop, drop, and follow.' Then we move on to Paul's Letter to the Corinthians where he says, 'Be united in the same mind and the same purpose.' Hold that thought because we're going to develop that too. Then we move on to the Gospel lesson and hear a familiar story, hopefully one we all remember. Jesus, as he walked by the Sea of Galilee, called two brothers, Simon (who was called Peter), and Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea and he said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of people." And what did they do? Immediately they stopped what they were doing. They dropped their nets, and they followed him. Hence 'Stop, drop, and follow.' As Jesus went from there he saw two other brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and they were in the boat with their father mending nets. He called to them, and immediately they stopped what they were doing, dropped the net, left the boat and their father, and followed Jesus. As he walked throughout Galilee, Jesus gained more disciples and began to teach them about the truth of God's ways and how we are to live, and how they are to then spread that message. We'll spend the entire season of Lent going through lots of stories about Jesus teaching the disciples how to live as faithful disciples and how to live as faithful children of God.

So I am calling out to you to stop your routines, drop what you are doing, and follow Jesus. And the way we're going to try to do that is by working on being united in the same mind and the same purpose. And how are we going to do that this Lent? Here comes the shameless plug for the Bible study Lenten series we're going to do this year, right? Wrong. We decided this year, instead of the Bible study, we're actually going to have a fellowship meal on Wednesdays at 6:30 for the purpose and sake of fellowship so that we may get to know each other better. We've had thirty people join this church in the last two years. Thirty people who need to get to know the core of this congregation who'd been here before that so that they can feel part of this family of faith so that we may be united in mind. So we're going to hold, on Wednesday evenings at 6:30, a simple meal of soup and bread and salad with the whole idea of this meal, a half hour to forty-five minutes, of getting to know each other, just being together as the family of faith in fellowship.

And then we're going to come upstairs for a brief Lenten worship service. And it's for the whole family, little ones included. And you might have seen one of the posters coming in the door. The one over here is kind of hidden behind the nametags, but it's poking up a little. And the name of the series is The Animals Tell The Story. And the people who put this program together for us picked out animals from the story of Jesus' ministry. And so we hear the story from the animals' perspective. And we'll, of course, hear the story, the Gospel stories as well as we read into that and get to know a little bit more about what it means for us to faithfully follow. Of course, the animal theme should stick out for the kids and it makes it fun for them that the animals will tell the story. But this is a way for us to be intentionally faithful in a very high religious season, a season where God calls us to stop what we are doing, to drop those things and walk up to God. Jesus said, "Come and see." Today he says, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of people." But Jesus has much more to teach us than just that. In this season of Lent as he calls us forward again and again we're making opportunities available for us to be united in mind in fellowship, a family of faith with these meals, but also united in spirit as we continue to grow into discipleship.

Now, I know many of us are seeking ways to deepen our spirituality. And we haven't provided all that many opportunities, other than church services, and we want to do more in the year 2008. So we're going to start first with deepening the fellowship so that then we can be more intentional during these worship services, but then after with a Bible study that will be coming in the spring. And then maybe some intentional movies with discussion that can have us talking about issues of faith. But if we don't spend the time in fellowship getting to know each other and to love each other for who we are, we may find it difficult to respect each other's views if we come out on different sides of the topic.

Now, being the United Church of Christ, of course it's okay for us to have a variety of theological perspectives. And so it's okay for us to think differently on some topics. But it doesn't stop us from following Jesus and from doing the ministry that Jesus calls this church to do. And in that way, as we get to know each other better in fellowship, as we learn a little bit more about discipleship and deepen our spirituality through Bible study and intentional movies that have discussions with them for us to think about, we will deepen our faith, and we will deepen the vision of where this church is going.

You will hear this week, when the Annual Reports get mailed out, that the church is going to be taking a good look at our ministries at the Annual Meeting. A few years back, we did a very brief visioning process. But this church now, with the new faces and new energies, is ready to go into a more in-depth visioning process of who we are and where God is calling us to go. And I think that process is going to begin later in 2008. And it may start with discussion at our Annual Meeting. But for those things to happen, we really need to stop our regular busy routines, drop what we're doing, and follow where Jesus is calling.

My thought is Jesus is calling you to be here on Wednesday nights at 6:30 for a fellowship meal and then to attend the service afterward, which will be about thirty-minutes. It will be a short service so that all can attend. But there'll be nuggets and kernels of things for us to take with us to think about. It's as easy as that. Can it get any better?

Let us pray.

Holy and amazing God, we thank you. We thank you for the stories of Jesus that teach us what it means to be faithful people. We thank you that we are called into discipleship and that, when we answer that call to discipleship and listen to what Jesus is teaching us about the ways we are to live as your children, we know that we will grow in spirit and in truth. We thank you, God, for this opportunity and ask that you would inspire us in our hearts to do those things, especially in this upcoming season of Lent. Be with us and help us, guide us in your vision for our ministry today. In Christ's name we pray.


Read other Sermons by Pastor Steve