John 6:56-59 (66-67)
Back around 1961 Del Shannon recorded a pop tune called,
"Runaway." Part of that tune always pops into my head whenever I
use or come across the word 'runaway.' It goes something like
this, "...My little Runaway, run, run, run, run, runaway."
In the tune he was wondering why his girlfriend, with whom he
thought he had a strong bond of love, ran away and left him. I
think that Jesus must wonder that about lots of Christians, too.
The bond of love seemed strong-the Christian loving Jesus. The
bond from the perspective of Jesus loving us is ALWAYS strong. We
are the one's who weaken the bond of love as we 'run away.'
"I'm not a 'runaway,'" you say in response. "I'm here at
worship. I'm not a 'runaway'." There ARE people who 'runaway' from
worship, however. They don't like the preacher or the music or the
format, whatever it might be, and they 'run away.' Many don't
attend any other church. They just use that excuse for not going
to church and apply it to the reason why they don't go to ANY
church worship service. Runaway Christians.
But just being at worship doesn't mean you're not a 'runaway'.
There are so many ways we run away. Most of them we don't even
recognize. "Coasting" is a form of 'runaway.' That is, many
Christians, when they get to a certain age, just coast. "I did my
part. Now it's some one else's turn, some one younger." "I can't
do the things I used to do." These folks don't recognize they are
'runaways.' No matter what age we are, God still calls us as
individuals to fulfill a particular purpose; that's why the Holy
Spirit led each of us to join a church, or maybe not join, but to
attend worship regularly and participate in the life of the
congregation. Your purpose in life is not just to fill a pew on
Sunday morning. There are so many positions that need filling in a
lively, vital congregation. Some folks are doing double and triple
share. That shouldn't be.
People know when God is calling them to do something. You know.
Don't run from what you've been called to do. It will only bring
you trouble and a restless spirit. Jesus will help you do what
he's calling you to do through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes God is calling and the person thinks, "I don't know how
to do that, so God must not really be calling me." Well, you're in
good company with folks like Moses and Jonah and lots of prophets.
They didn't think they were up to the task either. None of us
are-it's always ONLY with the help of God that we can do anything
for God's glory.
So, there are lots of folks whom God calls to positions in the
church, but they 'runaway'-runaway with their excuses tucked
between their legs like a tail of a frightened animal. Do you
really think that any of them, or even you, would runaway if Jesus
actually came up to them and asked them? (or you?) I doubt it. And
it IS Jesus who is calling each of us to work for his Kingdom on
earth. Look at the first disciples whom Jesus called-they just up
and left what they were doing to follow Jesus. They didn't
runaway. Neither did so many of the women in the early church who
opened their homes to be house churches.
In our Gospel lesson today we hear words that are very familiar
to us because they are included in our liturgy, "Lord, to whom
shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Those are words
we sing, coupled with "Alleluia" before we hear the Gospel Lesson
for the day. Does it surprise you to know that those words follow
these words in our Gospel Lesson for today: "Because of this (hard
words for folks to grasp and believe that Jesus spoke) many of his
disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So, Jesus
asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" And Simon Peter
answered him, "Lord, to shall we go? You have the words of eternal
Many of the disciples ran away when the going got tough, just
in terms of the WORDS Jesus spoke, not even getting to how tough
it would be following the teachings of Jesus and standing up to
the warped standards of the world. The phrase, 'When the going
gets tough, the tough get going,' doesn't mean 'get going' in the
sense of running away. No, it means they stick it out, work it
through. They don't run away.
Oh, there are SO many ways to 'runaway.' Some people run away
from the world. That is, they don't read the paper, don't watch
the news. Instead of being a Christian working for Christ in the
world, they choose to ignore the news as if that's going to help.
As a Christian we've all been equipped to help-running away from
the world is being a runaway Christian. You can read the news,
watch the news and not be a victim of it. At the very least you
can pray about the situations you read or hear about. Choosing to
be ignorant is not what Christianity is about at all. People run
away from hard verses to understand in the Bible. Rather than
understand, they just ignore those verses. They pick and choose
what to follow in Christ's teachings. If they can't understand or
if it's too hard to follow, they choose to ignore it, to run from
it. Don't be a 'pick and choose' Christian. Don't be a 'runaway'
It is just so incredible to me that Christians don't jump at
every chance to study the Bible, to better understand what Jesus
was teaching us. So many folks are running around with old ideas
about what the Bible says. One woman admitted to me that she
didn't read the Bible, but then, incredibly, she turned around and
used it to support her position. She'd say, "I don't read the
Bible, but doesn't it say in the Bible...." and then she'd
paraphrase the quote she wanted from the Bible, which, of course,
she had wrong. She mixed in secular teachings with Biblical
teachings. She mixed in sayings from literature and made them
scriptural. Even if I told her 'no' that's not what it says in the
Bible, it didn't matter because it was part of what she had built
to support her position and she wasn't moving from that position.
And she didn't HAVE to correct what she was saying, really.
Because there are so many people, some staunch Christians
included, who are not really sure what the Bible says, so they
believe her statements.
These are 'runaway' Christians. They run away from knowing the
truth. They have made up their mind about what the truth is,
without even knowing what scripture actually says. They don't WANT
to find out because it might mean changing their position.
There are some biases and prejudices in Christianity which some
Christians try to support by quoting parts of scripture taken out
of context. The folks who don't know what the Bible says, which
includes LOTS of Christians, believe what folks say who support
their bias or prejudice with supposed scripture, because those
folks are very convincing. So, we have folks who are 'runaways'
from the truth and they don't even realize it.
We have a Bible Seminar, "Walk Thru The Bible," coming up at
the end of September. It's sponsored by the Lutheran Churches of
the Westminster Conference. We are so fortunate that it is
happening right here at Trinity. I would think that we would have
a couple hundred adults and children participating. I would
certainly hope so. It is a fun and lively way to become familiar
with the Bible. There is no note taking. It takes place on one
Friday evening and the next Saturday morning. The only cost is for
the price of the workbook you take home, because Thrivent has
helped us with matching funds.
Don't be a runaway Christian. Don't use old excuses to run from
what God is calling you to. God calls you and the devil gives you
excuses. Which are you going to follow?
Now for those of you who are already doing a couple volunteer
jobs at Trinity, and you feel a call in your heart, YOU have to
sort that out. God may put it on your heart to help someone ELSE
take that volunteer job, not you. If you pile up, take on too many
volunteer jobs, THAT is the devil helping you to 'burn out.'
Over-committing is just as much being a 'runaway' as those who
don't commit at all. Why? Because over-committing means you don't
help others fill those positions. Ever heard the phrase, "It's
easier to do it myself than to try to get someone to do it."?
That's being a runaway-not expending the energy to get someone
else to volunteer. Plus, of what benefit is it for you to 'burn
out' or for you to take a position that someone else could fill?
So, don't be a 'runaway Christian.' Don't just fill the pew
week after week for worship. Don't run away from what God is
calling you to do to use your God-given abilities and talents. And
if you can't do something you USED to do, you need to be looking
at the NEW door God is opening for you to use your abilities in
another way, OR, even that God has given you NEW abilities to use.
Don't be a run, run, run, run, runaway Christian. Instead,
Catch the Vision. Get involved. Answer the call that Jesus has
extended to you-you as a part of Jesus' Church on earth-the body
of Christ. If God has called you to do something, then God most
assuredly will help you accomplish whatever it is to which you are
Don't be a runaway. Stay and be part of the love that comes
from answering the call.