This sermon was preached at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Holliston, MA on January 18, 2015.
Gospel: John 1:43–51
43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth." 46Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" 48Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you." 49Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" 50Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these." 51And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
This past week, I was in Orlando attending a Stephen Ministry Leader Training Course.
Currently, we have an active Stephen Ministry at this church, and I have heard from some of you about being ministered to by one of our Stephen Ministers.
Now, if you aren’t familiar with Stephen Ministry, a Stephen Ministry congregation equips and empowers lay caregivers (lay is a term for people who aren’t ordained pastors) –called Stephen Ministers-to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting.
The ministry gets its name from the model of a man named Stephen, a follower of Christ who the book of Acts tells us came to embody this type of mission.
What really excites me about Stephen Ministry, is that you don’t have to be a nice person to be a Stephen Minister. For clarification’s sake, I think being nice would be a helpful attribute, but the point I’m trying to make, is that being a Stephen Minister is not a calling reserved only for those who always show up at just the right time, with the right words, and a plate of still warm cookies.
At its heart, being a Stephen Minister is about being Christ for others, it is about showing up for those who are hurting, being with them, and personifying the one who’s love is much greater than all of ours. Now, this is by no means an easy calling, and all Stephen Ministers go through training and supervision, but because this calling is to be Jesus Christ, and not a superhuman, it is a calling and ministry that is undertaken and received by all different types of people. Being a Stephen Minister isn’t about having just the right personality traits, it’s about knowing how much God cares for you, and for every other person on this Earth, and realizing that love, God’s love, in the relationship between the caregiver, and the care receiver.
The mission of Stephen Ministry, of giving and receiving the love of Christ, of being Christ for others is such a great fit for our congregation, because this mission reflects on a micro level the exact mission of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, in general, and Christ the King, specifically.
When it comes down to it, the one thing that we as Christ the King exist for, is to be a living, breathing, testament to the type of love, and care that God has for the world and has shown us through Jesus Christ. And, in order to carry out this mission, congregations, like Stephen Ministers don’t have to be nice….though we certainly don’t go out of our way to not be nice.
Now, please bear with me for a moment. Remember that Stephen Ministers come in all shapes, and sizes, it doesn’t matter if you ride a motorcycle, or a motorized cart, Christ uses people in this ministry to bring his life and love to others.
When we recognize this truth on a micro-level, in our individual lives, we can also begin to recognize this truth on a macro, congregational level as well. As we gather this morning, from a human point of view, we could easily see ourselves as not being in a good position to do ministry. The people and dollars we have make it a struggle to continue doing all of the great ministries that have taken place. Some of the people that come to mind in our images of Christ the King are no longer here. Our dynamics have changed, and in this uncertainty, as we grapple with possibilities of loss and letting go, our anxiety feels much more dreadful than hopeful.
Perhaps, ten or twenty years ago, if we had read this Gospel message from John, if we had heard about Philip saying to his friend, Nathaniel, “Come and see”, the sermon could have written itself. It could go something like this, “Look at all these great things we have going on at CtK, be like Philip, go tell those you know to come and see. Come and see all that God is doing at CtK.” Today, what be most difficult for us, is that thinking about asking those we know to “come and see” is an anxious and foreboding proposition, as we’re worried about what it even is, that we would have to show others.
And this is what I mean, when I say that in order to carry out our mission, in order to carry out our purpose as a congregation of Jesus Christ, we don’t need to have everything nice. Our mission as a congregation is to show the life and love of Christ to each other, and to the world, and as we stand today, we are no less capable of doing that than we were in the past. Christ’s presence with us isn’t dependent on what we have or what we can do, and even more so, when things change, and when we suffer losses, Christ does not leave us.
The point of a Stephen Minister, is that when individuals go through changes and challenges in their lives, even if things from an outside perspective don’t get better, that care receiver knows that Christ is with them, that Christ loves them and cares for them. The point of the Church, the point of Christ the King, is that as things go on in our lives, as we go through changes and challenges that everyone goes through, these are a reflection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, not in his abandonment of us, but in his continued loving and graceful presence with us. A presence that gives us the hope of Christ’s resurrected and eternal life that not even death can contain.
Therefor, know this truth of Jesus Christ, in the midst of change, even difficult change, we can surely say, in all things, "Come and see", come and see this person named Jesus, who is giving his life for us.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
From Jan. 11-17, I had the opportunity to attend Stephen Leader Training in Orlando Fl. For more information about Stephen Ministry, click this link!