Going Deeper 5-12-19

From our Gospel text, John 10: My sheep hear my voice.  I know them, and they follow me.  Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Tuesday was sort of a rough day for me.  I woke up in the morning hoping to have a productive day, starting with writing a sermon.  However, after looking at and doing a quick studying of our texts for today, I just couldn’t really come up with anything.  Just kind of drew a blank.  Started off in a few different directions, but nothing seemed to flow.  Just wasn’t feeling it.
And not only that, I just simply was not very productive all day.  There were a few others things I wanted to do but either forgot or just plain dropped the ball.  Then I went over to the school to do my duty as one of the track coaches.  But we had a brief coach’s meeting beforehand and I was informed about another suspension of two more of our top athletes… we have had four such suspensions so far in our relatively short season.  And just the like other two, these latest suspensions involved some pretty serious stuff. 
Then, after practice, someone asked me if I had heard about the school shooting near Denver that day.  Yet another school shooting.
This all ended up putting me in one of those ‘moods.’  You know what I mean?  And all that gloomy weather certainly didn’t help.  I was left just shaking my head and asking “What the heck is wrong with this world?!”
So, after all of this I was led on Wednesday morning to the theme for this morning’s message:  “If we are not following Jesus, we’re… lost!”  And given the fact that fewer and fewer people—at least in our part of the world—seem to be seeking to more and more fully know Jesus, to hear His voice and follow Him more closely, I think there are some very valid reasons for concern.
I am not typically a prophet of gloom and doom, but I do believe that if we don’t get some things moving in a better direction soon our collective future—ours’ and our children’s—look uncertain at best.  There are some serious messes out there, and the only truly effective and enduring change must be led by the Body of Christ, the Church.  And at the very heart of our mission is the task of connecting more and more people to Jesus and calling and empowering them to follow Jesus alongside of us. 
The bottom line is this: what God is doing here—and wherever His children gather for worship and for service—is very important stuff, stuff that is absolutely critical for the individual and collective well-being of His children.  We really ought to have a very profound sense of urgency in our mission and witness.  In other words, if what we are doing is not both strengthening and extending the kingdom of God, as well as caring for as many of His children in as many ways as possible, we probably ought to close the doors and go home.
Did you know that twenty-one times in the New Testament Jesus issues this call: “Follow me”?  We heard it just last week.  It’s what the resurrected Jesus told Peter after the miraculous catch of fish, followed by breakfast on the beach, and asking the one who’d denied knowing Him three times to now affirm his love for Jesus three times.  At the end of the story Jesus tells Peter, “follow me.”
Do you know how many times Jesus said these two words: “Worship me”?  That would be zero.  This kind of makes you wonder why over the generations people have been led to think that being a Christian is mostly about “going to church” when it’s really about being the Church 24/7/365.  Gathering as a body is important, but it’s not everything.  Not even close.
In the video for our study on Ephesians during the Bible class this morning, Pastor J.D. Greear uses the illustration of a football huddle to describe going to church.   He talks about people huddling up to hear the play call and then responding with great enthusiasm: “Hey, great call!  Nobody calls a play as awesome as you do!”  And then they run over and sit on the bench.  And then after a bit they come back together and huddle up, and after the QB calls the play, the players say, “That’s another great call.  You’re the best play-caller in town!”  And then they go over and sit on the bench and then podcast the play throughout the week.  They huddle up every week, but they never run the play.
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.  I know them, and they follow me.”  I urge you to listen to Jesus.  You are His, and He knows you.  He knows everything about you, good and evil, dark and light.  He knows you even better that you know yourself.  He knows where you are hurting, weak, and broken.  He knows your strengths and the gifts He has anointed you with.
Listen to Jesus.  He loves you.  He absolutely and profoundly loves you… no matter what you have done or have left undone… Jesus loves you.  If you have been among the huddling masses who have applauded the play calls but have not gotten off the sideline… He loves you.  If you have left the huddle and sought to run well the play that has been called, but have fallen down or fumbled the ball… He loves you.  Above all, He wants you to know and experience His love.  
That must be what we hear and believe every time we huddle up, every time we gather around His word and sacrament, coming together as family around the table, growing in love for God and for one another.  That is the foundation of the whole game plan.
From that point we listen for the play call, for the calling to carry our faith and our love out into the world.  Here is that call: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, until the end of time.”
Here’s more: “As I have loved you, you also must love one another.”  And more… “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” 
On Tuesday, I found myself cursing the darkness.  On that day I was cursing the darkness around me.  On other days I curse the darkness that is within me.  And there is a time for such things.  But it is always better to light a candle that to curse the darkness.  So shine your lighthouse into the vastness of the sea. Waiting, waiting: many wonders yet unseen.  Someone, somewhere will glimpse your faint light distantly.  Oh you won't know how you saved me.  
That is God’s plan for you and for me… for us.  He has a master plan for using our individual and collective gifts, talents, and abilities to break through the darkness with the light of His love.  Continue to listen to His voice, and follow Him, trusting in His love and His wisdom.  The world awaits… let’s go run the play!  Amen.