Sermon 19 Jan 2014 – The First Disciples – Isaiah 49:1-7; Ps 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42
I greet you in the name of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
While reflecting on today’s topic of the First Disciples I tried to imagine what it must have been like for John the Baptist to witness the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus. Imagine how he could not wait to spread the good news – and how Andrew and then Simon Peter had such faith that they dropped everything to follow Jesus “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. This discipleship meant learning from the teacher not only about the scriptures and faith and how Jesus died to save us, but also how to love and care for others as a servant of God, and in so doing, inviting more disciples.
“Each One Teach One”
This multiplying effect was like one of the Mandela commemorations on TV. It started by interviewing someone who spoke of their experience with Mandela, then the person is framed in a picture, and then that person is joined by six others, then doubles and doubles until there is a sea of faces. This multiplying effect also reminds me of a slogan from the South African student movement in the 1980s: “Each One Teach One”.
So the first disciples followed that idea of Each One Teach One. From John, Andrew and Simon Peter the number of disciples grew to not only the 12 apostles but to hundreds of disciples and it says in Act 11:26 “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch”. One of the most famous disciples was the apostle Paul who travelled far and wide in the Holy Lands, Asia Minor, Greece and Italy to spread Christianity and to advise Christians on issues they faced in the early church – issues still relevant 2000 years later. In today’s letter to the people living at Corinth, Paul encourages them – and also us as Christians today – that we do not lack any spiritual gifts in our discipleship. Jesus Christ will keep us strong to the end as God has faith in us and called us into fellowship with his son Jesus Christ. What is important is we share this gift we are so lucky to have – our faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Don’t conceal your love
The Isaiah passage speaks about the coming of the Redeemer who is the light, and the importance of serving God including bringing God’s “salvation to the ends of the earth.” (NIV Isaiah 49:6)
Today’s Psalm includes celebrating God’s wonders in our lives – too many to recount. It also is a prophecy about Jesus the Messiah and setting out the foundation of faith – sacrifice and the desire to do God’s will. Gifts and sacrifice cannot earn God’s forgiveness of sins – giving is a practice to show love for God – not to achieve the love of God. The psalm also talks about the importance of sharing God’s love with others and putting our full trust in the Lord. “I do not seal my lips… I do not hide your righteousness in my heart. I speak of your faithfulness and salvation …I do not conceal your love and your truth.” (NIV Psalm 40:10)
Ask to Pray Together
As Anglicans we must not be shy to profess our faith. On Friday, before taking my friend Mpho to Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital to see to a foot injury from broken glass in the grass he was cutting, I took a chance and asked if he would like to pray (even knowing he had left the church). He was at first wide-eyed but agreed and was so pleased. After fetching him and hearing the drama of the procedure during which he screamed as the doctor removed the glass deep in his heel, he said the whole time he was remembering my prayer that included guiding the medical staff! He is ok, by the way, and when I phoned him yesterday he had returned to the hospital to style the hair of the nurses in the ward!
So what does being a disciple mean for us at St Andrew’s. Are we ready to drop everything and follow Jesus? Do we put God first in our lives – on top of everything else? Can we openly pray for our friends and family and bring them along to church?
Being a disciple is about learning, believing and acting out in our lives what Jesus told us to do, and to tell the good news to others. In John 8:31 Jesus said “If you hold to my teachings you are really my disciples. (John 8:31). However, the most important part of being a disciple is to love one another. As Jesus said: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Plan your journey
I was blessed to attend the planning session at St Andrew’s last Saturday led by Reverend Beverley. The idea was to refresh our vision while planning events for the year. What became clear was the huge amount of commitment among the members and the excitement at all the great ideas put forward. Rvd Beverley reminded us about the vision of the Anglican Johannesburg Diocese, which is our guide. The vision includes 5 pillars – Practising the Ministry of All Believers (which means all members are ministers), Lifelong Spiritual Formation and Growth, Visionary Servant Leadership whose example empowers others, Creating a Vibrant Christian Community, and undertaking Focused Outreach efforts. A major focus this year will be spiritual formation and growth. This will involve uplifting and informative courses and events so that we are nourished and strengthened in our faith, helping us to be stronger Christians and more committed disciples and servants. The events also include fun and fellowship as we need to get to know one another more so we can better care for each other. Our first event will be the Valentine’s Day Karaoke so start practicing in the shower!
Remember those who helped you
One suggestion in a small group was to think about how we as individuals came to know God and people along our journey who made a difference, and why we joined St Andrew’s. This will help us to be better disciples and help others along their journey. I remembered when pregnant with my son Keorapetse (who is now 19) I had a calling to visit the church two blocks away from our house which was in Yeoville at the time. So I tottered along one Sunday morning and the people were so kind and welcoming that I joined St Aidan’s church and renewed my faith. Those wonderful disciples included Meirert, Marilyn, Martha and Edward, who are now members here at St Andrew’s. I am also so grateful to Diana and Alan Keartland. Diana even invited me to join her prayer group and for months Keorapetse was an honourary member, mostly feeding and sleeping as an infant as we prayed. So it was with great shock that I heard the sad news that Diana suffered a stroke and passed away on Friday. May her soul rest in peace and rise in glory, this great disciple and woman of faith.
In remembering great disciples, there are three things we can do going forward:
- As believers in Jesus Christ, we can all be active ministers and disciples;
- We can grow spiritually by reading the Bible, taking courses, and serving others;
- Most importantly, we must love one another.