Giving Your Life to Christ
by Rev. Charmaine Braatvedt
25th August 2013
Deuteronomy 26: 11 – 15
Matthew 4: 18 – 22
Recently as many of you will know, Geoff and I did a small portion of the Via Camino, the Way of St James. This is an ancient footpath along the border between Spain and France which leads to the town of Santiago de Compostello.
Tradition has it that the bones of St James son of the fisherman Zebedee are buried here in the Cathedral of Compostello and this is therefore the destination of the walk.
It is a very popular walk in Europe and as Geoff and I set off I was very aware of not only the numbers of people who were doing the walk but of the variety of reasons people gave for undertaking the walk.
Clearly some people viewed the walk like a tramp through one of the prettiest parts of Spain.
Others treated the walk like an endurance test, some running bits of it others cycling along at break neck speed.
I heard of one newly married couple who were doing the walk to get to know each other better and so the list of reasons goes on.
My own reason for doing the walk fits loosely into the traditional mode for why the walk was first set up.
For me the Via Camino was going to be a prayer walk, a pilgrimage. I gave six days of my life to praying and listening to God as I walked to Santiago. My purpose was to hear from God. The destination for me was less about getting to Santiago and more about arriving at a new place with God by the time I got to Santiago.
So it was that the destination I had in mind, shaped my journey. I was walking along the same path as a vast number of other people but I was on my own individual journey with God and that made all the difference; same path, different journey.
Today we heard read the story of St James being called by Jesus.
James was the son of Zebedee and the brother of John. James was a fisherman who lived on the shores of Lake Galilee.
One day he and his brother were sitting repairing their nets when Jesus came along. Jesus called them and something in his voice, something about the words he used, motivated these two men to immediately leave the boat and their father and follow Jesus.
I wonder what Jesus said to the two men that made them make such a snap decision?
Was it that he was offering them a vision of a different kind of life, a purpose to their lives?
Clearly it was a powerful compelling call, for James dropped everything got up and followed Jesus and that decision changed his life dramatically.
James was, in today’s language, a small business man working in the family business. Fish was plentiful and so their business would most likely be doing well .1
So why did the two brothers give it all up to follow a wandering preacher?
“Come with me and I will send you out to fish for people”
It wasn’t just James and John that were drawn to Jesus. People like them came from hundreds of miles around to seek out this Jesus as he went to and fro across the region of Galilee.
Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
Jesus was a potent force for good.
We only have to think for a minute of life before modern medicine to realize what diseases were around and here was this extraordinary man, healing people from those very diseases. No wonder the surrounds of the Sea of Galilee were rippling with news of this man.
Yet we all know that Jesus was so much more than a healer, pure and simple, vital though that part of his ministry was.
For Jesus the healings were visible signs of the spiritual healings he was performing. They were signs of the new thing that God was doing through him and signified that God’s kingdom – God’s sovereign saving rule was at last being unleashed on the world through him.
What was Jesus offering James?
Jesus was offering James a chance to join with him to make the world a better place, a chance to be part of a God-given vision, part of a divine mission that would make James’ life swell with meaning and give it a purpose, that would last for all eternity.
James and the other fishermen who responded to Jesus’ call now found themselves at the centre of a mission that was impacting their world in a most satisfying and exciting way and they were on fire, so on fire that they were motivated to drop everything and to follow this extraordinary Messiah. They did so with little understanding of where he would take them and what the future with him would hold for each of them.
They signed no job contract; there were no exclusion clauses, no kiwi saver, and no guarantees.
When James received his call from Jesus he would not have had the slightest idea that within a few years he would be killed on the orders of Herod?
Nor would he have known that down the centuries, some far away country called Spain would be so inspired by his witness as to regard him as its patron saint.
On that day when a charismatic young man barely thirty walked along the shore line of his little town of Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee and called him he would have seen neither the glory nor the pain that lay before him. He would have seen and heard only Jesus and that was enough for James.
I wonder, would it have been enough for me?
Is it enough for me now?
In Jesus, all the treasures of glory and pain are hidden.
When we respond to His call we are responding to the radical vision of His Gospel.
We are responding to Jesus’ call to follow him and to his offer to be part of something bigger and better, deeper and wider, more meaningful than anything you have ever encountered.
We are saying I want to be a part of a quest that will heal broken lives with God’s love and truth, and then we are taking that first step on the journey of following him into a ministry that does that very thing.
We are saying ‘I want to experience the life that Jesus offers and I want that life of being used by God to be what my life is about’ and then orienting yourself in his direction.
We are saying here is my heart. All that I am is yours. Use it for your cause and then allowing our lives, our time, our treasure, and our talents, to flow into that cause.
We are determining the destination for our lives union with God and allowing that destination to shape our life’s journey.
This is what St James did and this is why his life inspired the pilgrimage we call the Camino.
James died in A.D.44.
James said YES to Jesus and his life as a follower of Christ was full of glory and pain. His spiritual reward was that he was one of only three apostles to witness the transfiguration of Christ.
But the joy of following Jesus doesn’t lie in the ease with which we can walk the road; rather it lies in the reason for doing it. (See my sore feet)
James was also the first apostle to die for the Christian faith being put to the sword in Jerusalem by King Herod Agrippa Acts 12:2.
Furthermore, following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean a change in career. Although James left his boat on the day he was called we know he continued to fish. He and the first disciples continued to support themselves by fishing. Deciding to follow Jesus also doesn’t necessarily mean you have to move house, town or country.
St James remained mostly in the area known as Palestine. There is no real evidence that he travelled very long distances in spite of the 7th century legend that he went to Spain.
It was not his career or location that changed when he became a believer; it was James himself who changed.
How we do our work, how we order our priorities, our understanding of the world and our awareness of others is what changes when we decide to follow Jesus.
We are transformed internally.
James was no longer just a fisherman, now he also fished for people. He became an evangelist for the kingdom of God.
He was no longer just a businessman he was also a minister serving God’s people in kingdom work.
He was no longer just James the son of Zebedee he was also James the saint who had an intimate, up close and personal relationship with Jesus, his Saviour, and the Saviour of the World.
You and I are like James. We have been called to live our lives in the context, in which we find ourselves.
Yet whatever our jobs are or our situation might be, we are called to live our lives as followers of Jesus.
Every so often it is good to reflect to take stock on how well or effectively we are doing this. How well we are stewarding God’s call on our lives.
We ask ourselves:
Am I still living my life as a fully devoted follower of Christ?
Do I need to stop what I am doing and make the decision once again, to go where Jesus leads me?
Do I need to recommit myself to his mission and ministry once again?
Do I live my life in Christ so that I may one day die in Christ?
The destination shapes the journey
Where are you headed?
If union with God is our destination then our lives need to be a pilgrimage. We need to commit ourselves once again to being a pilgrim people and we need to prioritise how we use our time talents and resources to reflect that kind of life. We need to give our hearts to Jesus again so that we will be motivated to follow in the direction he is leading us.
Let’s pray the pilgrim prayer together:
We are here today Lord Jesus as thousands of pilgrims have been all through the centuries, offering you all that we are. We are here to learn how to walk through the life you have given us with you as our guide and companion.
We are here because we want to be part of your mission and ministry, understanding that in you we will find meaning and purpose in life.
We give you our hearts Lord Jesus and willingly journey with joy and obedience to you.
May your presence in our lives shine as a beacon that together with other Christian pilgrims like St James we may give draw others into relationship with you and so be fishers of people for your kingdom of love and truth. Amen