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Sermon given at Isham & Pytchley, 22.1.17

Readings:              OT/Epistle Isaiah 9: 1-4                    Gospel  Matt. 4: 12-23

I wonder what adventure books and films you enjoyed as a child – and that you enjoy now?  We all have different characters, different temperaments, so we want different things from our adventures.

Has anyone planned an adventure?  Gap year, special holiday etc.  Our plans are based around our desires!!

As anyone been offered an adventure out of the blue?  I might accept (North Pole perhaps, NOT Burma jungle, balloon flight but NOT bungee jumping!)

Jesus offers us the adventure of a lifetime!  But there’s one very big difference between the adventure he offers us and the adventures we dream about – he does the planning, we don’t!

When we dream about adventures we actually picture the sort of adventures we’d choose to go on!  When Jesus offers us an adventure he says simply: Follow me!  He doesn’t lay out an assortment of adventures that we might like to tackle – like going to a travel agents, or surfing the net to find something you fancy.

Jesus attracts us to himself because he offers us things like love, acceptance, forgiveness, fullness of life, eternal life – the sort of things we all long for and dream of – and then he says: Follow me!  Which basically means, follow me into the unknown!  I’m going to choose the adventure, I’ll show you the route you have to take!

If we accept his challenge, if we decide to follow Jesus, it means allowing him to choose the direction of our life from now on – it actually means following him into the unknown rather than following a plan that we’ve carefully designed for our life.

Going into the unknown is always both challenging and scarey!

Scared (don’t want to) ————- challenged (excited by it)

We all want the fullness of life that Jesus offers us, don’t we?  We long to be loved unconditionally & forgiven for our failures, we want God to cherish us and preserve us, both in this life and beyond, don’t we?  We want the bright light that Jesus offers us, don’t we?  ……. Well … perhaps not always!!

Think of how we spend our evenings in this country.  In the summer the warmth and light of the sun allows us to enjoy the outdoors, to walk around without fear, to have BBQs and things!  But in the winter there’s no sun, so we make our own.  We have electric light in our houses and central heating, and perhaps a nice bright fire to sit round.  It’s warm and cosy, a nice change – but our lives are limited by the cold and the dark (greater fear of slipping over, of being mugged, the cold is uninviting).

If we accept Jesus’s invitation to follow him it’ll be like a summer evening.  We’ll be bathed in his warmth and light: loved, encouraged and guided by him we’ll be much more adventurous, travel further, do more things than if we settle for the man-made light and warmth of a winter’s evening.

Following Jesus is like a summer evening – our horizons are opened up and more things are made possible.  Rejecting Jesus is like a winter evening – our horizons become limited by the dark and the cold, but in our limited world it feels comfortable, known and warm.

Sometimes we fail to follow Jesus because our lives seem to be full of light and warmth – we’ve got a good lifestyle, a happy family, plenty of friends.  So why leave the light and warmth of the life we’ve created for ourselves?

Sometimes we fail to follow Jesus because we prefer to accept the limited life that we know rather than follow him into the unknown.  To take a fairly extreme example to illustrate what I mean: someone with agoraphobia may decide that they’re actually quite comfortable living within one set of 4 walls.  They know it’s a limited lifestyle, but it’s a life they’re familiar with – and deciding to follow Jesus means being healed.  The process of healing for someone like that can feel a very scary prospect.

So whether we’re sitting round the lounge fire because we’re happy with our lives the way they are, or because we’re scared of the healing process itself – either way we’re not going to accept Jesus’s invitation to follow him unless we’re very, very, sure of the rewards he offers us.  We have to be absolutely certain he can deliver the goods.

Well, God knows us inside out – well he should do since he created us in the first place!  So he knows we need reassurance, some guarantee of the outcome if we decide to follow Jesus.  So from time to time over the centuries he’s shown his hand quite clearly – he’s made known his desire and his power to cherish us in obvious and dramatic ways.  Hence the Exodus, the dramatic rescue of the Hebrew people from their slavery in Egypt.  Stories like Daniel’s escape from the hungry lions.  And Jesus’ healing miracles.  And finally, of course, the greatest and fullest demonstration of his power, Jesus’s resurrection.

It’s because God has done these sort of things that the prophet Isaiah was able to speak of a glorious time to come just as darkness was about to descend on his country as the enemy hordes gathered on the borders ready to over-run Israel.

It’s only because God has demonstrated his power to heal and renew us that we can ever have the courage and the impetus to step out and follow Jesus.   It takes courage, and we need something to give us a shove, some sort of impetus, before we take that step – because we can’t choose the adventure – Jesus is going to choose it for us.

It was the same for the disciples – they saw enough of Jesus to reassure them that he could deliver the rewards they sought.  It must have been very scary leaving all they knew to follow him into the unknown.  They had good enough lives – not wealthy but not poor either – but Jesus offered to open their horizons – and they upped sticks and followed him.

Well they certainly had adventure and excitement enough.  But sometimes it was dangerous, some ended up being crucified.  Yet they obviously thought the adventure was well worthwhile because they wrote their stories to encourage us to follow Jesus too.  Matthew and John wrote their own stories, Mark wrote Peter’s story, and Luke was a member of the early church.  So there’s another source of reassurance for us!

Let us pray that God will give us the courage to follow Jesus on the adventure into the unknown that he offers us – an adventure that will bring us into a life of peace and joy and love.

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