St James' Church West End Come and see for yourself

Homily for Patronal Festival

Preached by Carol Kidd LLM on the evening of 26 July 2020: St James West End Patronal Festival

May I speak in the name of Jesus Christ who calls us to follow him, Amen

Six short verses from Mark’s gospel provide word-pictures of Jesus that have echoed down the years: The Sea of Galilee, working fishermen – boats and nets. Jesus calling people to follow and proclaiming the kingdom is near!

Images portraying Jesus calling the fishermen to a new direction in life; and their reactions in immediately leaving nets and following.

Calling and following – two essential factors of discipleship.

Hearing Jesus’ call, and choosing to follow, changed James’ and the other disciples’ lives. How do we hear the call, follow and serve Jesus today? Nowadays the tendency is not merely to follow directions and commands – but to chase alternatives. By applying freedom of choice, we follow orders and advice, but often only on our own terms.

Sadly, some Christians even apply personal boundaries in deciding who is good enough to help build God’s kingdom by choosing to invite those of physical or financial use, or who share the same mind-set as themselves. Not so with Jesus’ inclusive invitation – the call to ‘repent and believe in the good news’ was the message to any and all who came out to hear Jesus preach.

James’ faith was sufficient to leave his father’s business and follow with no clear vision of where it would all lead. For us too it answering the call to follow is a leap of faith. Jesus’ invitation will mean leaving behind familiar aspects of our lives with an unknown path ahead, one thing we do know is that as for James, life will never be the same again.

Invitations to ‘follow’ are central to this era of social media and decisions often speedy. The ‘follow’, ‘like’ or ‘share’ options are chosen as instant emotional reactions to a headline or an image, often because friends, people we know, have already responded.

James and John would have known Simon and Andrew, maybe seeing their friends already following gave them the impetus to follow too. Yet Jesus did not just call them to follow he also provided a purpose: they were specifically chosen to be ‘fishers of people’ – to share the gospel message. Even today Jesus calls everyone for a purpose and each of us will have a role to play in bringing others to faith – Jesus needs ‘fishers of people’ as much today as when he called the fishermen of Galilee.

So, how do we follow the call to share the good news in the circumstances where we find ourselves?

During lockdown sharing the gospel message and worship moved to the internet: to Face Book, YouTube, Zoom and other resources. Face Book informs each account holder how many ‘followers’ they have and suggests names of people to invite to ‘like’ their page…. Yet this does not tell the whole story.

Jesus’ call to ‘follow’ expects readiness and willingness to engage – to actively share with others his good news – not just to click and send a quick emoji response – for surely being a Christian is not just about ‘liking’ and ‘following’ from our computers – as in a hobby or brief interest – but calls for commitment, prayer, perseverance, repentance, letting go and stepping out on a new path.

It is imperative to remember that many do not have the technology or skills to engage with online resources so to encounter those from our congregation, our community and new seekers, we cannot simply send a ‘link’. Jesus ‘went out’ – we need to determine to serve him not only via computer screens but in finding new safe ways to go out into this world of social distancing in the power of the Spirit, and in his name, to meet and share with those who have not yet heard the good news.

James left overhauling and mending his nets. Given a new sense of reason and purpose his life was renewed but not without challenges to be faced. Are we prepared for the challenges that Jesus’ invitation brings, as well as the joys that it offers? Are we ready to embrace Jesus’ call to follow him, to repent of our failings and, like James, be strong in discipleship through good and difficult times?

Every day Jesus calls us, as individuals and as a church, to seek ways to renew our faith – to react to Jesus’ calling – to be prepared for the consequences of following. We need to work together to find new ways to follow Jesus’ call to share the gospel message.

So, are we ready to leave our safety nets, put old ways behind and take fresh steps forward filled with faith and purpose? Let us consider, pray and discern what it is that Jesus is calling us to do at this particular time and then work together for the good of God’s kingdom as we journey on with Jesus as our guide. For, what better purpose is there for our lives than serving Jesus who calls us to follow?

A few thoughts for our Patronal Festival.

Amen.