Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Epiphany 3
Traditional sermon

Have you ever been faced with a big decision? I’m sure you have. Life is filled with them.

“Should I be their friend?”
“Which college should I attend?”
“Where should I live?”
“Is the job for me?”
“Can I be a parent?”
“Should I go ahead with this treatment?”

And those are just some of the big ones. Never mind the thousands of decisions that we make over the course of a week or even a day. 

But thinking back to my own life, there have been decisions that have had a deep impact. I remember a decision I made in the first grade to not cheat on a spelling quiz…even though I was really scared about flunking the quiz. And that decision came from a siren call in my heart that you don’t cheat. And I sometimes wonder if I did decide to cheat, though so inconsequential at that time, would it have an effect on me later. Would I be a cheater today?  

Little decisions that we make because we think we know the way, but do we?

How do we make decisions? Some are little decisions…my decision to wear a sweater today, probably doesn’t end up in the annals of history. But there are other moments that have a lasting impact. How do you make those decisions?

Do you pray about it? Do you talk to a trusted person? Do you hem and haw about it or make a snap decision?

How does being a disciple of Jesus impact your decisions and the ways you go?

Wait, let’s stop there and take a step back… Do you know that you’re a disciple?

Maybe like me…you know of disciples…like Peter, James, John, Andrew and the others. But…are we disciples?

It’s a good question to ask given we just heard about it in the Gospel lesson. So let’s start there. Let’s start with the question: What in the world was a disciple in Jesus’ day?

Well, most disciples began their training at a very young age. Jesus, a good Jewish boy of good Jewish parents would go to Bet Sefur from the age of 6-10. And he and the other kids would learn from the local Rabbi. By the end of their time at the age of 10, the kids would have memorized the Torah–the Instructions of the Jewish Faith. The Torah are the first 5 books of the Bible–they would have memorized word for word Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Word for word.

By the end of this time…around the age of 10…most of the kids would go back to their family’s trade, learning the family business, learning how to manage of family household.

But the best of the best would keep going. They would enter into what was called Beit Talmud. The best of the best who had a natural ability for learning and knowledge would go on to memorize the rest of the Hebrew scriptures…Genesis through Malachi, the many books that we have in our Bible today that we call the Old Testament. All memorized.

By the end of Beit Talmud when you’re 13 or 14, most kids would have gone off to learn the family business, but the best of the best of the best would continue onto the next level of education and enter into Beit Midrash. They would go to a Rabbi and apply to that Rabbi to become one of that Rabbi’s disciples.

And a disciple of that Rabbi wouldn’t just learn what the rabbi knows, but when applying to be a disciple they would want to live how the rabbi lived…to walk the walk of the rabbi. 

And the becoming a disciple was a cut-throat world. Not any old applicant would be accepted. This is Harvard and Yale and Oxford applications. If you were the best of the best of the best you would approach a rabbi and ask to be his disciple and that rabbi would grill you with questions because the rabbi wanted to know if this would-be disciple is the best of the best of the best. 

And on the rare occasion that this would-be disciple had what it takes the rabbi would say, “Come. Follow me.” And when you heard these words, as a 14 or 15 year old, you would leave all that you knew behind to go and follow and devoting your entire life to walking in the way of your rabbi.

This is the life of the disciple.
(Doesn’t resemble my life very much or yours… but stick with me.)

So…fast forward to a beach in Galilee and Jesus is walking along the shore and sees Peter and Andrew and James and John tending to their boats. Boats that are part of their family business. If these guys are fishing as a living that means they don’t have a rabbi. If they don’t have a rabbi that means that their not the best of the best of the best.

They’re not the guys who went to Harvard Business School. They’re not the guys who went to Yale Divinity School. These are guys who didn’t make the cut. And yet, this rabbi who could pick the best of the best of the best, chooses them.

Jesus chooses them because his movement is for everyone–he calls the B team… The not-good enoughs…

… because the world is filled with not-good enoughs.

How many of us make decisions based on the belief that we’re not good enough. How many things have you talked yourself out of? How many decisions have you made that you thought were the way to go…but you made them because you thought you weren’t good enough.

“Lead this group? Ah, no, you need to ask someone else.” Translation: I’m not good enough.
“Teach…people? No. I’m not an expert.” Translation: I’m not good enough.
“Sing…out loud? Have you ever heard me?” Translation: I’m not good enough.

Or how much do we fight over something and insult because deep down in those dark places we are terrified that we’re not good enough and we’re trying to prove the world wrong.

And Jesus chooses the not-good enoughs to be the leaders of his movement. The movement that begins with the words,

“Repent, for the kingdom of God has come near.” 

Matthew 4:17

Jesus chooses the B-team, the not-good enoughs and says, “Follow me” and I will take your God-given skills–fishing–and use it to bring the world to God’s kingdom.

This is where you and I come in friends.

Jesus wants you as his disciple. Believe me. You don’t have to be some seminary student or theology student. He wants you for you.

Jesus says, “Follow me” and I will use your delight for children and the vulnerable and “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Jesus says, “Follow me” and I will use your business skills to balance the ledger between God and the world as he teaches us “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Jesus says, “Follow me” and I will use your passion for justice to “proclaim release for the captives, recovery of sight to the bind and let the oppressed go free.”

If Jesus first began his earthly ministry with the B-team…the not good enoughs…then why wouldn’t Jesus continue by using us.

You see…your decisions that you make…great and small…can be made as a disciple. You are one of his disciples. Jesus wants to use who you are and the gifts you have been given. To use them as you make decisions, use them as you are on the way in life, use them to bless the world.

And if you’re like me, and you just don’t think you can cut it as a disciple….that you’re not holy enough, that you don’t know enough, that you’re not dedicated enough, that you’re not good enough…then take heart in listening to the scriptures and hear God’s Word.

Don’t you see…that’s what God does. God chooses the not good enoughs and makes them good. Because as we learn in the very beginning of the story…in the beginning of Genesis, everything that God works with is made good. Very good.

That includes you and me.

How can we live that out when crossroad moments occur? How can we live as Jesus’ disciples? We’ll be talking about this more in February….it’s a bit of a “to be continued” sermon.

But before then, you know and I know that we’ll be making decisions and choices about all sorts of things in the craziness that we call life. And when you do, try stopping and listening for the familiar call “Follow me”

How will you follow?

 

Rev. Sarah Teichmann

Rev. Sarah Teichmann

Pastor of Christian Formation

I love working in a staff where we are able to use each other’s strengths for the glory of God. I am energized by the lay leaders of the church and the creative ways they can extend the mission of Jesus to congregational members and our community.

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