Serve & Follow

April 2, 2017

 

 

Posted on April 2nd, 2017 by Ray Thomson

Serve and Follow

 

 

"Serve and Follow"

An atheist was enjoying a quiet day’s fishing in Loch Ness
when all of a sudden he was attacked by the monster.

In one easy flip, Nessie tossed both him and the boat
high up into the air.
Then the beast opened its mouth to swallow them both.

As the man flew head over heals, he yelled out,
“Oh God, help me!”

Immediately the scene was frozen in time,
and as the atheist hung suspended in mid-air,
a booming voice came down from the clouds,
“I thought you didn’t believe in me!”

“Come on, God, gi’es a break!” pleaded the man.
Two minutes ago,
I didn’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster either!”

Have you ever had something terrible happen to you
and then looked back on it later
and realised that it wasn’t the terrible disaster
you thought it was at the time,
but something good actually came out of it;
a good that would never have come to fruition
if you had not had to deal with the seeming-disaster.

Of course this is not always the case for us.
There are many tragedies which knock us for six,
and we find it almost impossible
to make any sort of proper recovery
to the way we were before the disaster struck.

These tragedies stay with us and remain painful
for the rest of our lives.

However it can happen
that when something crucial is lost
we often find something new to occupy us
and lift us out of our despair
by taking our life in a new direction
we had never thought possible before.
When this happens,
we can find that we grow
and become a very different new person
because of the great change we go through
because of the great loss in our life.

This is the sort of change that Jesus was thinking of
when he gave the image of the grain of wheat
being put in the ground and seeming to lose its life
before rising to be a healthy and fruitful plant.

1. The short text from John’s Gospel is rather confusing.

There were some Greek citizens in Jerusalem who were Jews.
They had come over from Greece to celebrate the Passover.

While they were in Jerusalem, they had heard of Jesus
and they were exited by the possibility of meeting him
and hearing what he had to say.

He must have sounded
a rather strange kind of religious teacher to them,
when they heard of his exploits,
arguing with the Pharisees
and causing a scene in the Temple precincts,
in addition to the astonishing healings and new teaching he was bringing to the people.

So they went to Philip, who in turn consulted Andrew.
Andrew and Philip then asked Jesus if the men could meet him.
But instead of giving a straight answer, Jesus said that the hour had come.

Even his own disciples must have wondered what he was on about.

They didn’t understand the significance of the parable of the seed.

2. Yet the passage contains
one of the most difficult things we have to understand.

Christ’s own crucifixion and resurrection
were being compared to the dying
then coming back to life of the seed
that is put into the ground.

To know that you are only a matter of weeks away
from a cruel and painful death
must be one of the blackest situations
anyone will ever have to face.

Yet Jesus faced it with courage
because he saw it as part of God’s plan of salvation for the world.
He recognised it as part of God’s plan for our salvation.

He suffered great loss,
as we witness in his moving prayer in Gethsemane,
yet he was still able to say he wanted God’s will
to take precedence over his own.

3. The image of the seed,
which must shed its coat – to decay--
before it can rise to a new and better life,
is a good example for us to contemplate;
because it raises questions we must answer
if we are to successfully rise from our present state
into a life that is given over totally to God.

We must ask ourselves
what we have wrapped around ourselves so tightly
that neither can we let it go
nor can God or anyone else break their way
through our “protective wrapper?”

What in our life needs to soften and fall away
so that we can be released from its clutches
so new roots can grow
and new areas of service can be achieved?

Just what are we stuck in
that we can’t get out and leave behind
so we can be fruitful
for the cause of Jesus Christ and his church?

Jesus tells Andrew and Philip
that those who love their life will lose it,
and those who hate their life in this world
will have new life and keep it for eternity.
Of course, that’s not the sort of thing we like to hear.

What is wrong with enjoying life
and getting the most out of it?
Is it wrong to be happy and live life to the full?

But Jesus is not suggesting
that we should all be miserable, hating our very existence.

His teaching is all about who or what comes first in our life.

When we love all the enjoyment
and material possessions we have in our lives
more than we try to live out our faith by serving God,
then we lose out on the life we could have with him.

When we are able to examine ourselves closely
and consider what it is that separates us from God,
then we will be well on the way to finding repentance, dying to the old self,
and experiencing the new life which follows.

Often when we act selflessly
and do something for someone else’s benefit
rather than from selfish motives,
we find that we receive an unexpected blessing.

That is a way in which we can die to self
and take on the new life that Jesus Christ offers us
as our layer of self protection withers,
leaving us free to experience the new growth that awaits us.

Following Jesus Christ means walking with him
all the way to the foot of the cross.

It means standing there and considering
whether we are always working harder
at saving and increasing the prosperity of our own life
than at following Jesus Christ and promoting his cause
in the world that we inhabit.

Following Jesus Christ is not a glamorous role to take on.
It means assuming the role of the servant,
not that of the master.

It means following Jesus into the places
we would rather not go:
it means giving up our comfort
to go where the real need is,
to places where we feel very uncomfortable indeed.
Yet as strange as that sounds,
it is the very paradox of the gospel.

It is where we will find sorrow and pain,
but if we persevere we might just find
that our tears and our frustrations give way
to a deeper joy and fulfilment as we rise from our gloom
into the new life that Jesus Christ has promised us.

Let us be willing to cast off the old
that we may, in God’s good time,
be made ready to take on the new.

Amen.

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