Worship Message Texts

I concluded my final interim pastorate in March 2016, so I am no longer preaching on a regular basis. I am available for pulpit supply and these sermon scripts and videos give a picture of my approach. For pulpit supply, I am happy to write new sermons targeted at specific concerns or needs of congregations, otherwise I will rework previous sermons based on the texts of the Revised Common Lectionary for that Sunday.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

“Time’s Up!”

1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
January 22, 2012
© 2012 Norman Stolpe

I. Monday, January 9 was a full day for me. Besides the usual consolidating Sunday’s conversations and organizing for a new week, a few important pastoral needs called for my attention. I had tried to put together a plan for the day so I could cover all the bases, but each one took just a little longer than I intended. I had planned to go to Charlton Hospital to see Howard Mims at 3:00 PM, but it was after 4:00 PM before I got there. Running behind schedule accentuated my anxiety about meeting someone for the first time when they were a hospital patient. A little bewildered, I stepped off the elevator looking for directional signs to Howard’s room. There, down the hallway was Christine who broke into a smile and waved to me. As we approached each other, she introduced me to her daughter, Tina. After chatting a few moments, Christine walked with me to Howard’s room and introduced me to him. After a pleasant visit, Christine walked with me to the parking lot, and we talked about the timing of my visit. Had I come at 3:00 PM as I intended, she would not have been there. Had I been just a couple of minutes later we would have passed each other on adjacent elevators. Christine said she was sure God I sent me at just the right time for her and for Howard. It felt like just the right time for me as well. I want to assure you that I respect pastoral confidentiality. I would not tell you what I spoke about with Howard and Christine. Christine gave me permission to tell you this story of timing.

A. January 9 is a significant day in the Stolpe family. When I was a college student I fell while rock climbing on January 9. A few years later my mother had significant surgery on her arthritic feet on January 9. When Erik was a toddler, Candy slipped on ice on our New Jersey driveway, fell and broke her ankle on January 9. It took two surgeries and a couple of years for recovery. Does it mean anything that I was visiting Howard Mims on January 9? I don’t think so, but we all ask questions about the timing of events in our lives. Is it all coincidence or does God have a hand in synchronizing our days, hours and minutes? Did God delay my schedule just enough to meet Christine at the hospital on January 9?

B. We like to give God credit when timing seems to work out well, but what about what seems like bad timing. I was a part-time associate pastor for 3 years in the church I served in Illinois. We stayed in that church when I moved to full-time with a marriage and family ministry, but I knew God had called me to pastoral ministry. On Easter Sunday 1980 we anticipated telling the congregation I had accepted the call to First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Holly, New Jersey. At the end of the service, before the benediction, the pastor, had everyone sit down and read his resignation as he was moving to a mission ministry in Florida. Several people who knew I was searching for a pastoral ministry said, “With Dave leaving, now you could become our pastor.” My reaction was, “If we had known about this even a few days earlier that might have been true, but we are committed to FPC in NJ.” I continued to have twinges of regret and asking “What if?” With 30+ years of perspective, we view that day with thanks. Had we stayed with that congregation in Illinois, we would have been far poorer in people and experiences God has brought into our lives. I’d like to think the people God sent us to serve in NJ, WI and TX are also thankful.

C. I urge you to seize your decisive moment immediately! Follow Jesus on your next adventure.

II. Mark 1:14-20 tells how Jesus started preaching at a precise decisive moment. Last week in John 1 we considered how John the Baptizer pointed his disciples to Jesus. Andrew found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus. Philip invited Nathanael to come and see Jesus. Perhaps only a few days, at most a few weeks later, Jesus called some of those John the Baptizer had introduced to him follow him as his disciples.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
A. We don’t know what Aramaic words Jesus used to say, “The time is fulfilled” in verse 15, but Mark uses a distinctive Greek word: kairos. This is “time,” not in the sense of chronology (that would be chronos), the passing of time, but as this is the time, the decisive moment.

1. Jesus did not begin to proclaim the good news of God until John the Baptizer was arrested. Jesus was not in competition with John but started exactly where John left off, with exactly the same message, “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent!” Jesus built on that to add, “Follow me and fish for people.” Getting yourself squared away with God is only the start. Now you are to bring other people to God too.

2. Jesus couldn’t begin until John finished his ministry. We shudder at how Herod ended John’s ministry with lust and power driven jealous violence. How could evil Herod’s arrest of John fit God’s timing for the decisive moment for Jesus to begin his ministry?

B. In Roman occupied Palestine, Jewish rabbis did not recruit students. Those who were attracted to a particular rabbi would ask if they could become a disciple and the rabbi would grant or refuse permission. Jesus broke this mold by calling disciples to follow him. This along with Jesus’ message that the time was fulfilled, gave an urgency to his call to “follow me!”

1. Simon and Andrew immediately left their nets and followed Jesus. A little farther down the beach, Jesus sees James and John and immediately calls them.

2. Though not always translated “immediately,” some form of euthus occurs 41 times in Mark. Jesus brings the decisive moment. Seize it immediately!

C. The 1 Corinthians passages the lectionary suggests to go with the stories from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Mark may seem cryptic and disconnected. We have a hard time figuring out what to do with them. When 1 Corinthians 7:29 says that “the time is short,” it uses kairos not chronos. It is not saying that time is passing quickly; it is saying the decisive moment is urgent, seize it immediately without getting distracted.

D. Jesus still calls you to seize your decisive moment immediately! Follow Jesus on your next adventure.

III. Jesus is calling First Christian Church of Duncanville to follow him at this decisive moment.

A. Calling a new pastor is always a decisive moment for a congregation. With Eldon Irving and Mike Oden, you have a long time of pastoral stability. You will be calling a pastor who will lead you into a new era of ministry for a decade or more. This pastor will invariably guide you onto new, unfamiliar and even uncomfortable paths to follow Jesus. This pastor will prod you out of complacency into urgency. “This in the decisive moment. Don’t wait around. Seize the decisive moment immediately!” I’m praying for God to send you a pastor whose call to follow Jesus will be so compelling that you will immediately leave anything that holds you back from following Jesus with enthusiastic abandon.

B. While pastoral leadership is important, congregational followership may be even more critical. I recently read an article about congregational followership that I wrote about for this week’s newsletter. I see some exciting signs of your decisive moment as a congregation.

1. Many people in the congregation, as especially among both Board and Elder leadership exude a spirit of expectation, believing God is doing a new work.

2. You have a cadre of hard working people who assume and fulfill many responsibilities not just because they have to get done but because they get joy out of serving. I hear a lot more “we” and “us” than “they” and “them.” This is your church, not a religious commodity of which you are a consumer.

3. You have new people coming into the life of the congregation, a number of whom you have brought into leadership. That promotes freshness and adventure. You don’t need to learn how to welcome new folk, you only need to accelerate your hospitality for growth to accelerate.

4. I know ministry with youth and children has been a struggle for a while, but I want to commend those who have jumped in to serve there and the enthusiastic support you have given Emily. One of my goals while I am with you is to make youth visible in worship, not just attendance but participation and leadership. Don’t let past disappointments or discouragement keep you from seizing this decisive moment for children and youth.

5. Perhaps most powerfully, I am increasingly aware of spiritual depth and vitality in this congregation. I keep hearing stories of profound prayer. I keep hearing people tell me what they are learning from Scripture. I keep hearing of awareness of the subtle promptings of the Holy Spirit.
C. First Christian Church, seize your decisive moment immediately! Follow Jesus on your next adventure.

IV. Cynthia Weems is the pastor of 115 year old First United Methodist Church, one of two United Methodist Churches that were just a couple of blocks apart in downtown Miami, Florida. One was a “northern” church and the other a “southern” church. Separated by the Civil War, they remained separate congregations even after denominational unity in 1939. Then one Saturday night in 1965 a 14 year old escapee from a New York reform school set fire to one of the churches. On Sunday morning the pastor scribbled a big sign on what remained of the front door, “Burned out but fired up! Service as usual.” That morning the two congregations worshipped together in the undamaged building. (Christian Century, January 11, 2012, p. 21) The destructive vandalism of the fire accomplished what a century of talk had not been able to do. That was their decisive moment. They seized it immediately. The new congregation was multi-ethnic at just the time the country and Church needed inter-racial leadership. They pioneered urban ministries to homeless and other needy people. They have stayed in the city fishing for people when other congregations moved to the more comfortable suburbs.

A. In what decisive moment is Jesus calling you to follow him personally and immediately?

1. Maybe it’s not an evil Herod or a 14 year old vandal that is putting you at a crossroads questioning the timing of the events in circumstances you are facing.

2. Yet, this might be your decisive moment to immediately follow Jesus. When the time seems urgent, you are out of your comfortable routine. Jesus says, “Follow me on your next adventure.”

B. Or perhaps you are comfortable right where you are. You’re not looking for any crossroads or crises. Jesus says, “Repent and believe in the good news,” and you protest that you’re not interested in repenting. You haven’t done anything all that bad. “Can’t I just wait? What’s the hurry?” Leaving your nets and boats is just too wasteful, too frightening.

C. Either way, Jesus says, “Follow me. Let’s go fishing for people.”

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