Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Trinity and St. Jacob’s on June 25, 2017, the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost. The gospel reading is Matthew 10:24-39.
Dear Friends in Christ,
The 10th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is all about discipleship. Jesus really wants us to confront this question: Am I a disciple of Jesus or just a church member? The Bishop who ordained me put it this way: We Christians are not called to be successful in the eyes of the world. We are called to be faithful.
As you continue along the path of selecting your next permanent pastor, I pray that the number one criteria you are looking for is a pastor who will diligently teach you about discipleship.
Someone has likened the search for a pastor as driving along a road toward an uncertain destination. Writer Leonard Sweet has an insight on how a disciple travels along that road. He writes, you can’t drive forward without a rear-view mirror, but the front window faces forward, not backwards. What does he mean? Church members are often tempted to look at past good times and successes and try to repeat them, or we want to wallow in sorrow when we must face challenges. What we are called to do in scripture over and over again is this: we move into the future, as uncertain as that can be, and remember some lessons from scripture and from our past experiences.
The people of Israel, out in the desert, faced with heat and fatigue and lack of food and water, looked back to their slavery in Egypt and thought it seemed better in comparison. Then God spoke through Moses and said in essence, “Quit your belly aching, get going, move forward. I want you to head toward the land that I have given you. I will be your guide.”
What are some of Jesus’ words on discipleship that we heard in today’s gospel reading? Here are three: have no fear! The reason that Jesus speaks these words is this: if you are truly acting as a disciple of Jesus, you will encounter opposition and even persecution. It’s a promise! If Jesus experienced these things, then you as a disciple of Jesus will also experience these things.
So, be bold! You have God on your side. But know the costs upfront. You may not have the support of your family at home. You may stir up things so much that there is no peace.
Jesus says we disciples are to take up the cross and follow him. That means to witness to the right, to proclaim our faith, to confront injustice, to depend upon God for everything.
I received a book for my birthday from Joe, my son. It’s a book that you may not read, but Joe knew that it would mean a lot to me. It’s a book of sermons from pastors who preached in Nazi Germany. Talk about the difficulty of being a disciple. I recognize some of the names of these pastor theologians: Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Rudolf Bultmann. As you know, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was put to death by the Nazis for his participation in a plan to assassinate Hitler.
It is Pastor Martin Niemoller who spoke these words in 1946, after the war had ended, that I want to share today. I hope you’ve heard these words before:
They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Friends in Christ, you speak up and be bold and witness and be a disciple of Jesus Christ now and in the future!
Our hymn of the day is “Canticle of the Turning”. I chose it because it has meaning for all of us here today. We can hear an eternal message in the words, about the future of the world and life eternal. We can also hear about a message about this congregation and your search for the next pastor. I hear a message for me as I rejoice being with you for a season and now move to another interim ministry assignment. The words of this canticle are the words of the Magnificat, the words that Mary spoke when she was told that God had selected her to be the mother of his son, Jesus.