Snow Boarding

If you want to learn a new skill, say, snowboarding, for instance, you could buy a board, read a how-to-book, watch an instructional video, and then give it a go and head straight down a snowy slope. Trouble is, you'll likely be falling face first into the snow. Eventually, you might learn surfing through trial and error. You'll get the thrill, but miss out on the skill. If you're not overly careful, you'll probably pick up a few bad habits, too. 

There's a shortcut to learning new skills - find a competent teacher. Find a master - someone who has the know-how and then go to that major player to learn. Andrew the apostle wanted to learn about God, so he started following the Baptist and became a willing student. Later on, when Jesus came walking by, Andrew left John the Baptist, grabbed his brother Peter and said, "I've found the Messiah!" And together, those two brothers went off on the greatest adventure ever. They knew what they wanted to learn, so they went to where the master lived.

But then again, Jesus did invite them to join him where he was staying. It's a great start for any novice to get an invitation to hang with the greatest teacher of them all, and to have the chance to learn the skills that change lives. It is clear in the story that those brothers knew what they wanted. They wanted God. They wanted the Messiah. They knew with whom they wished to apprentice - the Rabbi Jesus, the Messiah. They found the teacher who would give them unsurpassed instruction. There's no point in learning from the second best when the best is available.

And over time, after years as disciples-in-training, Jesus invited the brothers and others like them to become masters like he was. Over the years, he helped them become proficient in the arts and skills of faith so that they, too, could teach.

Now, it is true that Peter never did learn the skill of walking on water, but he and his brother Andrew were pretty good at fishing when they met the master. So, Jesus built on their fishing skills by giving them a new look at life, and then sent them out fishing for souls for God…and they got pretty good at it.

There's an old saying, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." Peter and Andrew were ready. Which raises the question: Are we ready? Are we willing to go where Jesus lives and are we willing to learn?

It is important that we follow Jesus as a student follows a master. That mentor-disciple relationship will help us become the servants of God we're intended to be. The reason we do this is because we know that a disciple learns by watching and repeating what she sees. Jesus teaches the brothers to imitate him. That's what a good rabbi, a good master, does. He teaches by example, by explanation, by allowing for mistakes, by giving correction and by passing on the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed.

In rabbinical Judaism, the whole purpose of being a particular rabbi's disciple was to train so well that, when you were working out in public, anyone who was watching might see the hand of your rabbi in your training, or hear his words or his phrasing in your speech, or witness the wisdom or compassion of your rabbi in your actions.

The snowboarding instructor might say, place your feet this way, shift your weight that way, bend your knees, lean more, do what I am doing, imitate me - that's how the master teaches an apprentice.

Listen, watch, and imitate.

The apostle Paul positions himself as a student of a master, and at the same time, a mentor for others: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Cor 11:1) and "be imitators of God, as beloved children." (Ephesians 5:1) the Bible calls for imitation. If you want God fully in your life, if you want to be as faithful as you can, if you want expertise in Christian living, imitate Christ.

Furthermore, Paul says, "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus" (Phillippians 2:5) To get the mind of Christ, imitate Christ; learn to think like Christ, act with love and compassion like Christ, do what he did, live like he did, trust God like he did.

We do this by accepting the invitation of the Christ to come to the place where he is staying. So, how long has it been since we've been to Jesus' house? Jesus invites us to his house, but we say, "Love to. Can't right now. I've got places to go and people to see, but count me in."

Jesus invites us to his house, but we say, "You know, we've got to get together some day. I don't know why we don't seem to connect. Tell you what, I'm going to check my calendar and then I'll get back to you. But we really must make a point of it."

Jesus invites us to his house, but we say, "Hey, great idea. But why don't you come over to our place first? That would really be a bit more convenient. Let us know. We'll need a little lead time to clean it up before you arrive." You get the idea.

Of course, it might be that we don't know the directions to Jesus' house, so that we can learn the skills - to get the thrill - of discipleship. Well, here's what you'll pull off of Mapquest.

Jesus lives where the poor are. Jesus wants someone who will volunteer to sort and distribute food at the food bank cause that's where you'll find him. Jesus wants someone to cook and serve a meal at the shelter. Jesus lives where the children are because they're special people of the kingdom of God and they need teachers and people who will spend time with them, listen to them, play with them, teach them.

Jesus lives with those who have no one to love them. Jesus lives in the community of faith where worship and study take place. Jesus lives in the written words of Scripture. Jesus lives in the presence of the eternal God and hears our prayers.

But you may say, "Then pastor, we have gone to Jesus' house. We have done these things. We give canned goods and clothing to the poor. We have Ralph to volunteer there. Viola teaches in the prison ministry. Linda's doing a great job with our kids! We have six people teaching Sunday School. We've been to the shelter. We remember how great Luther League was and we're starting up a youth group again.

Then, I say, AMEN. You have completed the first level of your training. You shall be awarded your first degree belt…well that is if you were taking karate. But there's another level to reach for, but that one's a little more difficult. Among many things it requires two major items to accomplish. Courage and belief.

TALK about the pastor you encountered…to preach you must believe.

THEN Once word of the 19th century missionary David Livingstone's work bringing Christ to the peoples of Africa reached the Western world, others wanted to join in his work. An apocryphal story has a missionary society sending him a cable that said: "Have you found a good road to where you are - if so, we want to send other men to join you."

Livingstone's response was a leveler: "If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road. I don't want them! I want men who will come if there is no road at all!"

Are you ready brothers and sisters for evangelism? Are you ready to acquire the desire, the knowledge and the skills to reach out to others that you do not know? Next week is Companion Synod Sunday. It is a time to learn from others who reached out beyond themselves and went places where the road was difficult or non-existent, to take the word of Jesus Christ into all the nations.

Read other sermons by Pastor Joan