September 24, 2006

15th Sunday after Pentecost

"It's Everybody's Business"

(John 1:35-51)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn


INTRODUCTION:

Abe and Sara were an elderly Svedish couple. They tried their best to keep up with the times, but truthfully, they were a bit backward. They didn't have very many friends so they didn't get much mail. But one day Sara received a single envelope in the mail. She opened it and found that it was a wedding invitation. She proudly announced that they had been "invited to a vedding" but that there was one thing she didn't understand. She asked, "Vat does it mean ven it says an R.S.V.P. is required?"

Abe thought about for a few minutes and then triumphantly announced, "Oh, those are the initials for REMEMBER SEND VEDDING PRESENT!" (1)

We all like to get invitations don't we? Whether it's an invitation to a wedding, a graduation or a just a party. Even if you can't go, it makes you feel good that somebody thought enough of you to send you an invitation.

My Mom was no different. I want to show you one of her prized possessions, besides me. When she was younger, my Mom was very politically active. She campaign hard for the Governor of Missouri, Warren Hearnes. I have a photo of my Mom with Governor Hearnes and his wife sitting in our living room. Mom was also very active in campaigning for Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey. So much so, that she and Dad received an invitation to their Inauguration in Washington D.C. If it hadn't been too pretentious, she probably would have framed it.

We all like getting invitations to various events, don't we. Even the early followers of Jesus liked invitations. As we finish up our series titled, "Reaching Out Without Passing Out" listen to the series of invitations in John 1:35-51 (NRSV)

[35] The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples,

[36] and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!"

[37] The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

[38] When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?"

[39] He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon.

[40] One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.

[41] He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed).

[42] He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).

[43] The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me."

[44] Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.

[45] Philip 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."

[46] Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

[47] When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!"

[48] Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you."

[49] Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"

[50] Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these."

[51] And 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."

Andrew, curious about Jesus because of what John the Baptizer said, asks if Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus invites Andrew to "come and see." Andrew in turn invites Peter. The next day Jesus invites Philip with the simple words "Follow me." And Philip in turn invites Nathanael. That's how it began.

And that's how it continues today.

George Barna in his book titled, Marketing the Church writes: "The most effective means of getting people to experience what a church has to offer is having someone they know who belongs to the church simply invite them to try it. Call it whatever you wish - word-of-mouth, personal invitation, friendship evangelism - this is indisputably the most effective means of increasing the church rolls." (2)

From that one observation, as well as the example we find in Scripture, I can only draw one conclusion. Evangelism is "Everybody's Business."


I. PERSONAL INVITATION:

A. We've started the process of breaking down the barriers to the word Evangelism which we've built up over the years. Each week we've given you a new tool.

We've begun by encouraging each other to be encouragers like Barnabas, through the "Barnabas Cards" in the backs of your chairs.

We've developed tools to help take the fear out of sharing our faith through the "Why I Am A Christian" cards which give us a non-confrontational, nonjudgmental way of talking about our faith with others. We've also developed the "SPIRITual Basics Card" to help us talk about how to live as a Christian in the everyday world.

This Sunday we have one more tool. Since we're talking about Evangelism and "It's Everybody's Business" we've developed a Business Card for you to carry which is also an Invitation.

On this car you will find all the basic information about our Church, Worship styles and times, Youth, there's even a map. But this little tent style Business Card is also an Invitation Card. You see, when you open it up, there's room for you to write a note of thanks or a simple invitation to join us for a Sunday service or a special event like Lord's Acre or our Trunk Or Treat Fall Festival. The ushers have 3 or 4 for each of you. Use them at your discretion.

Write a note and leave it at a neighbor's. Get into a conversation with one of the wait staff at a restaurant leave it with the tip. Make sure you make it a generous tip and a generous invitation.

If someone new moves into your neighborhood, drop by and welcome them, bring cookies or bread or something as a welcome gift and attach the card to the gift with a personal invitation.

So, you see, the possibilities are pretty much endless. Use your imagination.

All of the Evangelism Cards will be on the bookshelves in the Friendship Hall and some will be in the Main Office after this week so you can replenish your stock as needed. We'll have more printed when the time comes. Just be creative. And remember, you don't go alone. That was Jesus' promise to us. "I am with you always, even to the end of the age."


II. INVITATION TO THE DANCE:

A. As the children of God we're called to be witnesses AND "It's Everybody's Business." Which means we're called to invite others to experience the love of God which we've experienced. We're called to share the Good News of God's love, the Good News of the Resurrection and the Good News of forgiveness and second chances with those around us.

Do you remember the first dance you ever went to. I was in the 7th grade. I thought it was going to be so much fun, I could hardly wait to get there. All my friends were there. And so were the girls. That was the whole reason for going.

We got to the school and we were cool. But that dance turned out to be less than cool. You see, they wouldn't have needed any chaperones because nobody danced. Oh, a couple of the teachers got out there and tried to break the ice. And couple of the girls danced with each other. But they didn't count. The boys and the girls lined up on either side of the gym and just stared at each other for the whole three hours of the dance.

The guys and the girls all went up and requested all the best records to be played. We enjoyed the music. My buddies and I stood around talking about how much fun it would be to dance and which of the girls we'd like to dance with. We even got up the courage to talk to some of the girls. But none of us ever got around to asking anyone to dance.

There we were all dressed up and ready to dance. We all had invitations to the dance. But nobody asked us to dance and we were too scared to ask any of the girls to dance with us.

B. As I think about it, that's a parable of the Church. You see, Jesus told the disciples, "You are witnesses." And he instructed them to go out and share their message, their Good News of redemption, forgiveness, and eternal life with others. We're called to do the same. We're called to share our message and invite others to the dance of faith.

We have to remember that the Gospel is an Invitation not an Admonition.

It's an Invitation to Grace and Mercy not Ammunition for Judging others.

It's an Invitation to a life giving relationship with the Son of God not Condemnation that separates us from each other.

It's an Invitation to a New Life in Christ and not Castigation for an old lifestyle.

But it's also, more than just an Invitation to the dance, it's an Invitation to Dance with the Lord of the Dance, the Son of God.

In the Church, "It's Everybody's Business" to invite people to the dance. But we're also called to teach those who don't know how to dance; how to dance the Lord's dance. We're called to invite them to dance. You see, a dance isn't a dance unless someone dances. And believe it or not, many folks want to be asked, not only TO the dance, but they want to be asked TO DANCE as well. They want to be a part of a community of faith. They want to be a part of something bigger than them. They want and need to be a part of a larger family which cares for and nurtures them.

About three days after that seventh grade dance, I found out that the one girl I wanted to dance with the most, would have danced with me. It turned out, that out of all the boys at the dance, she was hoping that I'd ask her to dance. I really felt dumb. Because all I had to do was ask.

C. For the most part, that's all we have to do. Sharing the witness of our faith, sharing the good news of the resurrection, sharing the good news of forgiveness and redemption is simply inviting people to the dance. And when they get here, inviting them to dance. We are witnesses to the reality of the resurrection. We are witnesses to the power of redemption and forgiveness. We are witnesses to new life in Christ. We're called to invite others to experience the love of God and the dance of faith.

We have a wonderful message, full of hope and acceptance; a message full of the future. God loves us so much that God sent His only Son to give his life for us. God sent Jesus to Show and Tell us the Good News, that we are part of the family of God.

And we're called to Show and Tell others by Inviting them to the Dance.


CONCLUSION:

A young boy burst into the great throne chambers of a medieval king. The boy was skipping and singing as children do. He was completely oblivious to the regal sobriety of his surroundings.

Suddenly, he was intercepted by an armored guard. "Have you no respect?" hissed the soldier. "Don't you know that the man on the throne is your king?"

The boy wriggled out of the soldier's grasp. Then dancing away, he laughed and giggled and said, "He is YOUR king but he is MY father!" And the boy bounced up to the throne and leaped into the king's lap. And the King welcomed him with open arms and a smile on his face.

That's the kind of relationship which God wants with each of us. But there are people everywhere who've never heard this word of hope. They've never heard the Good News. Why?

Because they've never been asked to dance. They've never even gotten an invitation to the dance. Someone once wrote, "Hope is hearing the melody of the future. Faith is to dance to it." You and I are witnesses to the great Good News of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Dance. We've heard the melody of the future. We know the hope Christ gives. We've taken that step of faith and begun to dance to the melody.

We're called to invite others into this glorious relationship of love, acceptance, and forgiveness in Christ. We are witnesses of the resurrection and we're called to invite others to the dance of faith, and then ask them to dance.

As you go about your busy week this week, look around. Think about your coworkers, your friends and neighbors. Who can you invite to the dance? Who can you ask to dance? We are witnesses.

Take the initiative. "It's Everybody's Business." Invite Someone.

And if you're here this morning and no one has ever invited you to the dance, if no one has asked you to accept Christ as your Savior, then I invite you now. Join in this dance of faith. Give your life to Christ and know the love, acceptance and forgiveness of God as your own. The Risen Christ IS with us.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

______________________________

Bibliography

1. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), August 1999

2. Marketing the Church, by George Barna, published by NavPress, Colorado Springs, 1988, pg. 109

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Other References Consulted

Barclay, William: Daily Study Bible of the New Testament (WordSearch Bible Software Version)

Homiletics, (Communications Resources, Inc., Canton, OH)

Lectionary Homiletics, (Lectionary Homiletics, Inc. Midlothian, VA)

Dynamic Preaching, (Seven Worlds Publishing, Knoxville, TN)

The Clergy Journal, (Logos Productions, Inc., Inver Grove Heights, MN)

Preaching Magazine (Preaching Resources, Jackson, TN)

Circuit Rider, (The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, TN)

The Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1953)

The New Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995)

Lights, Camera...Faith by Peter Malone with Rose Pacatte (Daughters of St. Paul, 2002)

Praying the Movies by Edward McNulty, (Geneva Press, Lousville, KY, 2001)

Movie Clips for Kids (Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, CO, 2002)

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Movie Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, by Craig Brain Larson and Andrew Zahn(Zondervan Publishing, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, 2003)

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SermonWriter by Dick Donovan (Copyright, Richard Niell Donovan, 2000

The Sermon Mall

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Ministry and Media

Internet Movie Database

Preaching.com's Movie Ministry

The Text This Week Movie Theme Index

The Source For Youth Ministry Movie Clips