Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Voyage: The Captain & the Crew

September 13, 2009
Genesis 6, Jonah 1, Luke 5

The Voyage is a series of four
messages for the upcoming Sundays. I want to explore the faith life through the metaphor of a voyage at sea.

Have you ever paddled a canoe by yourself? It is possible for the skilled to do this well, but imagine you are in a single person canoe in a shallow pond and all you can do is paddle in circles? Not much of an adventure, is it?

Sometimes our faith life can be like that. Not much of an adventure, paddling around by ourselves, going in circles, trying to have an adventure in shallow faith waters.

God wants so much more for us! Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly!” God intends for our faith life to be an adventure, like sailing in the deep waters.

Volvo Ocean Race is a sailing race that through 10 legs of racing takes sailors around the world. The race begins in October and ends in April. Now that’s an adventure! The subtitle of the race is “Life at the extreme.” This is much more of an adventure than paddling in circles in shallow waters.

The faith life is intended to be like that…setting sail for deep waters. For the next four weeks we’re going to see what it looks like. We are going to remember who the captain is and decide if we’re going to be on the crew. We are going to realize how we can possibly survive the storms at sea. We’ll discover the importance of shipmates and determine to set sail for deep waters.

So this morning I ask you three critical questions.
1. Who is the Captain of your life?
2. Are you a passenger or a member of the crew?
3. Are you going to set out for deep waters?

Who is the Captain of your life?
When we say Jesus is “Lord,” that is to say Jesus is the captain of our lives; to let go of the helm and let Jesus steer our lives; to sing, like the faithful have a generation or two, “Jesus, Savior, pilot me,”; to live directed by Jesus’ ways.

Now the relationship a captain has with his crew is one of friend and fear. The same is true with those who make Jesus the captain of their lives. If Jesus is the Captain of your life he is your friend: someone you can go to when storm hit; someone you can trust; someone you talk to often; someone you feel closely connected to.

If Jesus is the Captain of your life he is also feared, in that Old Testament understanding of “The fear of the Lord.” That is a fear that means Jesus is to be respected for his position in your life, to know that Jesus is powerful in your life, to say that we have confidence and trust in him.

Who is the Captain of your life?

Let’s look at how did our Biblical characters answered that question.

In Noah’s time God is disappointed in humanity. God is grieved that God created human kind. God’s remedy for the situation is a flood to destroy everyone. But then God notices Noah who scripture calls a righteous man. The Bible says that “Noah walked with God.” God decides to start over with Noah and his family. God asks Noah to build the ark (a big boat) to save them. The scriptures say, “Noah did everything God commanded him to do.” Noah knew who the captain of his life was – God.

Have there been times in your life when you did exactly what God asked of you, no matter how silly and ridiculous you might look?

Jonah lived in the time of the Ninevites. The Ninevites were always unsatisfied – always trying to conquer more people, more land. God told Jonah to go there and tell them to change their ways. It was to be a warning. If they didn’t change their ways, they would be destroyed. If they did change their ways, God would be gracious to them. Jonah doesn’t like the Ninevites. He would prefer God skip the intermediate step and just get on with destroying the Ninevites. Instead of doing what God asked, Noah said no. He boarded a ship and headed for Tarshish. Can you get a picture of what this is like? Jonah went in the exact opposite direction that God called him to go. Jonah runs from the one who is supposed to be the captain of his life.

Have you ever run from God? Run in the opposite direction?

The scene in Luke 5 is before Peter is a disciple. There’s a crowd around Jesus and he needs to get some space to be able to speak to them. So Jesus climbs into Simon’s boat. Now Simon has been fishing all night long. He’s tired and wore out. The last thing he wants to do is go out fishing again. And besides that, this Jesus character is going to tell him where to fish? Peter’s the fisherman, not this guy, Jesus. But Simon sets out for the deep water, anyway. He says to Jesus, “Because you say so, I’ll do it.”

Ever feel like God calls you to do something you don’t want to? But for some reason, you do it anyway.

Peter had a sense that this Jesus could pilot him on the sea of life. Peter was willing to go out into deep waters, simply because Jesus said so.

Who is the Captain of your life? Which seafarer are you? We tend to be like each of them at some point in our lives. Sometimes we are running from God. Sometimes we are walking with God. Sometimes we do what God says, even though we don’t know exactly why. Who is the captain of your life? If Jesus is the captain of your life, and you follow his guide and direction, you will receive blessings you did not expect – like Peter and his big catch of fish or like Noah did when God saved him.

Who is the Captain of your life?

Are you a passenger or a member of the crew?
Think cruise lines, here. Passengers are guests on the ship. Everything you want as a passenger is delivered to you. You are expected to do nothing more than enjoy yourself. You are to lounge around, catch some sun, drink cool beverages and eat at endless buffets. And while this may appeal to you for relaxation and vacation, the real action on any ship is being a member of the crew! The Crew on the ship are there to serve. The crew on Jesus ship are to serve. It is as if we are saying, “These are my hands and feet, Lord. What do you need me to do?” That’s where the adventure is! Seeing where Jesus calls us and going.

Here’s the thing: you have to decide not to be a passenger anymore! No more “what’s in it for me.” No more coming to worship because the music or the message serves me. No more looking out for what I like or what pleases me. A crew member is looking to please the Captain. Is it all about you? Or are you serving and finding out your receiving at the same time?

It’s OK to be a passenger for a time – early in your faith journey. There is a time for receiving. But becoming a member of the crew is a sign of spiritual maturity.

So are you going to be a passenger or a member of the crew?

Are you going to set out for deep waters?

Staying in port is safe, but lacks any adventure. You can’t stay in port forever. We bring the ship into port 1 day out of 7. We get our provisions, are reminded of the captains orders. That’s what we’re doing this morning. But we are never meant to stay in the safety of the port. We called to venture out into the deep waters of our faith, to be about the work of God as members of God’s crew. We’ll talk more about setting out into deep waters in the weeks ahead. For now it’s enough to know that deep waters is where the faith adventure is. And it is also where the storms of life hit… which we’ll talk more about next week.

May you trust Jesus as your captain.
May you choose to be a member of the crew.
And may you know the godly adventure of deep water faith.

Rev. Becky Jo Thilges, Lead Pastor
Homestead United Methodist Church

Rochester, MN

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Women Were Disciples, too!

September 6, 2009
Labor Day
Luke 8:1-3, Luke 24:1-12

Today we meet Joanna in the gospel of Luke. Joanna is the wife of Chuza, a steward of Herod. Chuza was high up in power in the Roman government, so he is a person of means because of his position.

Joanna is one of the named women who followed Jesus. Luke says she and others had been healed of some form of sickness. We don’t know what that was for Joanna, there are no other details. She was one of many women who provided for Jesus and the other disciples. She likely used her husband’s means to support Jesus’ ministry. Now that’s an interesting thought, as her husband would have had to have been agreeable to this. Perhaps initially he was agreeable out of his gratitude for whatever healing Joanna experienced from Jesus.

Luke says these women travelled with Jesus and the other disciples while Jesus ministered and taught. We don’t know much about the details of Joanna’s time with Jesus. She was with him in his ministry. She had a place in that ministry, though we don’t exactly know what place. She was remembered by name, like the other disciples were.

The other story we have about Joanna comes at Jesus’ death & resurrection. Presumably she is one of the women who’s looking on at the death of Jesus, one of the women grieving that Luke mentions, though she nor any of the others are named.

She is also there on the first Easter. The women are named here. They have come to prepare the body for death, perhaps as one last time to provide for Jesus out of their means. There at the tomb, they experience the two men in dazzling white, who tell them of Jesus’ resurrection. And the women are also reminded of something Jesus taught…that he would rise from the dead. The women believe and run to tell the “others” – i.e., the other disciples. And while the “other” disciples think what the women are saying is “an idle tale”, eventually the “other” disciples learn that what they say is the truth.
That’s what we know about Joanna through scripture

Joanna was a disciple. There were women disciples in Jesus’ day. Writings other than the Gospel of Luke speak to this fact. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, for instance, tells of Mary teaching and preaching to the disciples after Jesus’ death, trying to encourage them to believe.

The gospel of Luke indicates that these women were disciples for two reasons: they followed Jesus and they learned from Jesus.

These women followed Jesus. They were with Jesus and the other disciples as he taught and healed. They didn’t admire him from afar. They were with Jesus, following where he went.

These women also learned from Jesus. When they are at the tomb, the two men in dazzling white speak to them. “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that…” they say to the women. These angelic figures knew that the women had been around when Jesus taught. They knew that the women would remember Jesus’ teachings. These women learned right along side of the disciples who were men.

The question I have for you today is: Are you a disciple like these women were? Do you follow Jesus? We cannot literally walk with Jesus today. But being a disciple, as a generic term, meant “imitating the one whom you follow”. How are you doing at that? How close are you to the original? Are you staying near enough the teachings and the stories of Jesus to remember what the original is all about? Being a disciples isn’t about admiring from afar. It’s about getting an up close look at Jesus and imitating his ways. It’s about caring for the sick. It’s about preaching good news. It’s about standing up when you see injustice. It’s about giving voice to the voiceless. It’s about welcoming everyone and excluding no one. How are you doing at following Jesus?

Do you learn from Jesus? As I was reading this week on topic of discipleship, I read a question for discussion for a small group I thought was interesting. Have you read the “guide book” (The Bible, of course) all the way through? Being a disciple involves studying the words of Jesus. Digging into them and learning them. Reading everything in the Bible. Studying to know the character of the one we want to imitate. Studying enough to be able to follow. So how are you doing at studying the “guide book”?

Being a disciple is a choice. Joanna had a choice. She had to have had a comfortable life before Jesus. She had money and position from her husband. She probably had no wants or needs. But she chose to follow Jesus. Something about him intrigued her. Maybe it was the healing Jesus did for her. Maybe she was impressed with the words he said. Perhaps it was the way he treated the outcasts, women included. Who knows what it was that intrigued Joanna. But whatever it was, she had a choice. And she chose to follow Jesus. She chose to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

You have a choice, too. Will you follow at a safe distance? Getting a nibble of the Bread of Life now and then in worship? Sipping the Water of Life now and then in a thin devotional? Catching a glimpse of the Messiah as he passes by in the life of someone else?

Or will you be a disciple? …following Jesus closely…soaking in the word day and night…delighting in the things of Jesus…and doing the things he commanded.

You’re here on Labor Day Weekend. That already says something about your choice. You want to be a disciple.

The question is, are you going to take it all the way?

Rev. Becky Jo Thilges, Lead Pastor
Homestead UMC, Rochester, MN