Our Sunday message introduced the twelve disciples who followed Jesus. Interestingly enough, twelve young people happened to be joining our church. So, twelve empty chairs were placed up front and as the name of each disciple was read, one child came quietly forward to sit in an empty chair. The message was simple but profound: Jesus said to the disciples and to each of us: "Follow me!" As the names were called, and children took their seats, I remembered very recent and vivid examples:
Friday night, Marge faced more chemotherapy because the cancer, twice battled successfully returned. She cried, talked to her family, gathered strength and then after a prayer announced with a steely look of determination: "Larry, I'm ready! I'll see you Sunday and I'm coming with a smile." The next morning, I visited a family caring for their son dying of cancer. It's a sad situation but no one is complaining as they rally their resources and give him the best possible care they can. They too continue to come to church secure in the knowledge they will receive strength to continue on.
"One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers-"
Rain now covered the windshield as I drove to check a house that two churches, including ours were helping put up a roof. Jim, the foreman of the project wrote: "I had visions of many youth scurrying around picking up discarded old shingles. What really happened was
the other church showed up in force with an average age of 60 plus. An 89 year old lady discarded her walking cane and for over an hour stooped to pick up roofing nails, raked shingles and inspired others to do the same. Other elder members of the church would load them into trash cans and cart them over to the dumpster. Not only was this an inspiration but it was followed by lunch fit for a king. The fellowship was wonderful and the conversations mixed in with the pounding of roofing nails served to replenish friendships."
"…he saw two brothers-Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew-fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen."
Coming back to prepare for Sunday worship I noticed a familiar truck in the parking lot. Wallace was busy, working in the garden. For months, he and a dedicated crew of volunteers have been patiently planting, weeding and watering to turn a newly finished construction project into a place of beauty.
Later in the afternoon, I joined Percy and Shirley to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Included with their friends and family was a Sunday school class formed only three years ago. This class in such a short time bonded and learned to support each other through crisis as well as celebration.
"Jesus called out to them, 'Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!'"
On Saturday evening, staff and volunteers came together to serve twenty of our youth dinner before they left for various school proms. The idea actually came from the youth themselves who wanted to share this special time together and with their church. So, they received a wonderful meal served personally by the church staff and were treated like royalty. "We have a surprise," I announced. Your limousine has arrived." There were squeals of delight from the youth until they peeked outside and saw the limo was actually our old church van driven by Donnie, the youth pastor: "Maybe next time."
"And they left their nets at once and went with him." (From Mat 4:18-20)
One by one, children playing the 12 disciples continued taking their places. But we still had a problem. Who would be Judas Iscariot? No one wanted to be the person who betrayed Jesus. So, we left one chair empty signifying our hope there would be no Judas at our church. Yet, this also meant one child would not go up front. Who would be left out? Without hesitation someone generously volunteered and we promptly gave her another role. Our newest members received Holy Communion, the sacred gift of Christ's body and blood and then helped us serve the congregation. What an extraordinary moment!
You don't have to be special to be Christ's disciple. You simply say, "Yes!" to God's call, "Follow me!"
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