Forgiven and Called

Sermon, Epiphany 2A, 19 January, 2014

St Petri

John 1:29-4229 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”[a]35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter[b]).

I heard of a tourist who visited a church in Germany somewhere. She was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb near the top of the church’s bell tower. She asked the locals why it was there and she was told that when the church was being built, a very long time ago, a workman fell from a high scaffold.

His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him dead. But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured.

How did he survive? Well, it just happened that at that very moment of the fall a flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower, and this bloke landed on top of a lamb. The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man was saved. To commemorate that miraculous escape, someone carved a lamb on the tower at the exact height from which the workman fell.

Landing on top of the Lamb…. Saved by a lamb… John the Baptist saw this in Jesus, who he names “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” in our text (John 1:29).

It is a strange name to be called but it also name rich in spiritual life for us…

It is a name that is pregnant with meaning from the Old Testament experience of God’s people and john the Baptist and then john the Apostle see this and proclaim it to the world.

Let’s take a quick look at the rich texture of this name of Jesus and what it means for you and me.

We have to see Jesus in terms of those big events way back in the Exodus with Moses and God’s people. In the crescendo of those 10 plagues and the defeat of evil, God tells his people kill a choice lamb and smear the blood of the lamb on their door frames so that their lives would be spared from God’s final judgment and defeat of Egypt and its gods. The people of the Exodus were saved by the blood of the sacrificed Lamb.

Later on, when God had given his people a ritual pattern of worship there was the one day of the year (Day of Atonement) when the High priest was called to enter the holy of holies in the tabernacle and later in the temple to sprinkle the blood of a sacrifices lamb over the mercy seat or ark of the covenant containing the ten commandments God gave his people. On this day the priest sprinkled blood over the ark of the covenant thereby enacting God’s forgiveness of all their sin and the re-dedication of their life with him by his grace and love.

Also a sacrificial lamb was sent out of the city into the desert to “bear the weight” of the people’s sin. This lamb or goat was called a “scapegoat” because by its sacrifice the people were saved from God’s judgment on their many sins. (Leviticus 16:15-22).

In the Prophets of the Old Testament, the promised Saviour is often pictured as a “Suffering Servant” who will be like a “lamb led to the slaughter” as he bears the sins of many (Isaiah 53)

So, in the Old Testament God both gave his people ways in which they could ritually get rid of their sins by means of the Passover Lamb, the scape-goat, the ritual offerings of lambs and other animals and that special day of year when as a nation their sins were atoned for by the sacrificial lamb.

No wonder John the Baptist and John the Apostle along with the other gospel writers and the early church could see Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away their sin and the sin of anyone who comes to him in repentance in and faith.

This is not just some Old Testament Jewish history thing but a spiritual now thing for you and me. This is not just some nice info to have on the bible should you ever have to answer a bible round at a quiz night somewhere, this is living faith now…

In the water of baptism we fell immersed in the water and the Word and there Jesus, the sacrificial lamb who was condemned by God in our place, stopped our fall with his own life. There we were dipped in the blood of the Lamb and made pure. On that rugged cross he was crushed by our sin and in his amazing grace he sat us up straight and sure with a new life lived in the very presence of our God.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, has given us the gift that makes all the difference in the world – he gave us the supernatural gift of forgiveness. John says that this is what Jesus, the Lamb of God specializes in – forgiveness, forgiveness of that “other us” that separated us from the love and mercy of our God.

Not only has God given us the gift which only He can give – forgiveness of any sin and dark thing, freedom from having to follow our dark impulses as they tear ourselves and others apart, and new life lived in the pure and wonderful light of God’s grace and truth – he has given us these greatest gifts for a purpose.

John the Apostle makes it clear in our text that Jesus is the forgiver of our souls alright, and he also caller of our souls. He forgives and calls. His forgiveness and new life are also a call to follow – follow him and every word that he speaks.

We come to a problem when we think of our calling – or our answering the call. To have a calling is to set our hearts and minds on the one who calls. To live our calling as Jesus’ own people in our world means following his direction, listening to what he says and then doing it – because he says it.

Often we don’t know what to do or say or even doubt that doing anything that Christians are supposed to do really are worth doing. Often I think we find ourselves doing everything but following the word of Jesus and doing it in practice everyday. We have misguided goals.

Our Misguided Goals:

I read this during the week and it struck a chord with me….

There’s an emptiness in pursuing anything less than God’s call. Darrell Bock is one of those baby boomers who has entered mid-life. A teacher at Dallas Theological Seminary, he writes in Christianity Today how as a young, idealistic man, headed for seminary, he thought being a successful Christian meant “being a winner for God, taking control, and doing all I could for his kingdom…The essence of our spirituality was to do all we could for God in the 40 or so years we had.” Now, at mid-life, he has discovered that such spirituality is empty. Much of it was influenced by American culture with its bent toward independence and self-fulfillment. Darrell writes: “Many pews on Sunday morning are filled with people seeking God, praying like mad, studying the Word, but who still wonder why God seems so distant. Maybe it is because our culture has taught us to pursue goals that do not bring us closer to him. Perhaps those goals undermine the relationships we are to have with him and with others.

What are some of our misguided goals?

  1. “Where our culture says, ‘Seek your place in the world!’ our God says, ‘Seek the kingdom of God.’

  2. Where our culture bids us to ‘find yourself!’ God calls us to ‘lose yourself, and so find life.’

  3. Where our culture calls us to ‘be your own self-made person!’ our God calls us to become ‘members together of one body…’

  4. Where our culture teaches us to ‘look to your own needs and interests!’ God calls us to have ‘the attitude of Christ Jesus, who took on the nature of a servant.’

  5. Where our culture promises, ‘You can have it all!’ God calls us to ‘consider it rubbish, that we might gain Christ.’

  6. Where our culture mandates, ‘Be at the top of your game!’ God calls us to ‘be crucified with Christ.’

Friends, Andrew found out first hand that his life was centred on and surrounded by the call of Jesus to come with him and take away the sin of the world. He must have discovered such clarity about life as he left his old life and took that hardest step of all – the first step in answering the call of Jesus.

He had to tell his big brother, Simon. He went and found Simon and Simon was changed forever and given a new life, now as a man called “Rock” (Peter). These brothers would live the call with their heart, mind, hands and feet and they would give up their lives earlier than they should have following the call of the One who alone could change their hearts and make them so much more that they ever could have been.

Through these two people, and another 10 like them, the history of the world as we know it would be altered beyond recognition and people on the other side of the world would know what happened this day when the Lamb of God sent from the Almighty to restore the human race to its original place in God’s heart of love called two brothers into his community of forgiveness.

Here we are and here is the Lamb of God who has taken away our darkness. Can we give up trying to figure it all out by sheer intellect or super-spiritual activity and hear the call and follow?

The Lamb is still forgiving and calling normal people like Andrew and Peter and making them strong a significant part of his mission to forgive the sins of the whole world.

He even is calling you – no matter how young, old, smart, tired, busy, wounded, happy, weighed down or successful in the world’s eyes you may be.

He is calling us this year to be different, to get on board his mission train, to throw caution and any self-worship out the window and love each other and the people of this community.

He is calling, will you follow….

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Share your high a low for the week or Christmas period.

Read the text slowly noting anything that stands out to you….. If there was a biblical scholar in the room, what would you ask?

trace the “Lamb of God” theology that is mentioned in the sermon – from the Passover to the Worship of Israel to the Prophets to John the Baptist adding in any other key parts f that theme you know about (if any) and then think about Jesus as that sacrificial Lamb whom God has given to us and the whole world so that people’s sins can be dealt with – not in judgement but in God’s grace. Share your thoughts/understanding of this rich biblical teaching on Jesus….

I said we are “forgiven for a purpose”. That comes from this text about Andrew and peter and the others being called by Jesus – the Lamb of God who takes away the world’s sin.

i also referred to baptism as the moment in time that all of the benefits of of Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sin and death came to us. Romans 6:1-7 on that….

We are “forgiven and called”. What have you been called to in your life? Has there been one calling or a few? Share a part of your story….

if you could name just one “misguided goal” you may have had what would that goal be and how did you see this and return to trusting Jesus for forgiveness and a new start? Share your story…

I contrasted God’s goals with ours…..,

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  1. “Where our culture says, ‘Seek your place in the world!’ our God says, ‘Seek the kingdom of God.’

  2. Where our culture bids us to ‘find yourself!’ God calls us to ‘lose yourself, and so find life.’

  3. Where our culture calls us to ‘be your own self-made person!’ our God calls us to become ‘members together of one body…’

  4. Where our culture teaches us to ‘look to your own needs and interests!’ God calls us to have ‘the attitude of Christ Jesus, who took on the nature of a servant.’

  5. Where our culture promises, ‘You can have it all!’ God calls us to ‘consider it rubbish, that we might gain Christ.’

  6. Where our culture mandates, ‘Be at the top of your game!’ God calls us to ‘be crucified with Christ.’

Which of these stands out you you a the moment and why?

Close with a prayer asking the Lord to help us receive his forgiveness in baptism and the Lord’s Supper and then be people of his cross who give up our own lives for the life and hope of others.

#Calling #Andrew #peter #Epiphany2A #John12942 #LambofGod

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