A couple of years ago, I was at a continuing ed event for pastors. I don’t remember much about the particular presentation I was at, but I do remember a film clip that the presenter showed.
The clip was from a Will Ferrell movie called “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” I’m not a Will Ferrell fan – and I’ve never watched the whole movie – and I wish I could show you the film clip – but I can’t, because, some of it is kind of crude and – well, this is church. Anyway, Will Ferrell plays the title character of Ricky Bobby – a successful NASCAR driver.
Ricky Bobby is morally and ethically bankrupt. The only things that matter to Ricky Bobby are winning races – and self-indulgence.
But Ricky Bobby is somewhat religious. He even prays when it suits his needs. In one scene he is saying grace before a meal. He prays, “Dear Lord, baby Jesus . . .” And he continues to address Christ throughout the prayer as “Lord Baby Jesus.”
Finally, his wife and his father-in-law decide to interrupt him as he prays to the Lord Baby Jesus. Carley, his wife, says, “Hey, um, sweetie . . . Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him baby. It’s a bit odd and off-puttin’ to pray to a baby.”
To which Ricky Bobby replies, “Look, I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I’m sayin’ grace. When you say grace, you can say it to Grownup Jesus or Teenage Jesus or Bearded Jesus or whoever you want.”
Let me suggest that what Ricky Bobby says about liking Christmas Jesus best, just might be true for a lot of folks. I think that helps explain why we routinely get well over a thousand people here on Christmas Eve. Talk to any pastor and they’ll tell you that attendance soars on Christmas Eve. And that’s a good thing. The thing is – there’s so much more to learn from – so much more to learn about Jesus than just that he is the Savior of the world born in Bethlehem. Ricky Bobby’s wife Carley is right when she says, “Jesus did grow up.”
I think the appeal of Lord baby Jesus is just that. As a baby, he makes no demands on us. But as a man – he has plenty to say about what it means to follow him and be his disciple. So yeah, I think there may be some people who just might like the Lord baby Jesus best.
So here we are today in Mark’s gospel – the very first chapter. And Jesus is all grown up. You see, Mark skips all of the stories about the birth of Jesus. No Sherpherds. No wise men here. The first thing we read in Mark’s gospel is about John the Baptist baptizing people in the Jordan River, and that Jesus is also baptized by John. The next thing we find is in our Gospel reading today, where Jesus – grown up Jesus – is busy proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has come near – with a call to repent, and believe the Good News.
Yeah! Grown up Jesus lets us know right off the bat that we need to – number one – repent, and number two – to believe the good news. No wonder so many folks like Lord baby Jesus best. Grown up Jesus puts demands on us. But the good news is that – the Good News he brings – really is good news. The Good News is this: God loves you, and God sent His Son Jesus on a rescue mission to forgive our sins, and to reconcile us to God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Good news doesn’t get any better than that!
The next thing we find Jesus doing in Mark’s gospel is calling the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James and John to come follow him. And they do. They drop what they’re doing – just drop their fishing nets where they are – and they up and follow Jesus. Listen to what Jesus tells them. He says, “Come follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
Now, you know what Jesus is saying when he says, “I will make you fish for people,” right? Yeah, he’s telling them, “I want you to go get others. I want you to tell others about the Good News of God’s grace – God’s undeserved love and favor – that is theirs – and I want you to invite them also to come and follow me.”
Last week, I told you about the disciple Philip who, when he first became a disciple of Jesus, went and told his friend Nathanael about Jesus. And when Nathanael asks if anything good can come out of Nazareth, what does Philip tell him? Yeah. Three little words. What were they? “Come and see.”
This week I want to add three more little words to that. In essence what Jesus is telling the disciples – and by extension you and me is – “Come and see. Go and tell.” You see, not only does Jesus call Peter and Andrew and James and John to go fish for people – he’s telling us that that is what he wants us to do too.
But you know what? Going fishing – ala the way Jesus is talking about going fishing – can be scary. It can be downright scary. One of our challenges is that we talk an awful lot about fishing – doing the work of evangelism – but most of us never actually do any fishing.
Well, first off, let me say that in order to do this kind of fishing, you don’t need to go door to door. That’s kind of a turn off to most people anyway. BUT when we do go fishing – we do need to go to where the fish are.
And just in case you’ve never tried your hand at fishing, ala Jesus, or you’ve forgotten how to fish, let me give you the following tips for fishing. A pastor by the name of Linda Jacobus wrote these in her blog:
Go where the fish are. Be with people on their own turf.
Be real, be vulnerable, and be honest.
Be creative. We don’t have to do things the same old way.
Be spiritual, but not "churchy".
Be ready for surprises!
Be willing to step out of your comfort zone.
Be on the lookout for where God is at work.
In a song we sang last weekend called “The Summons,” there is a line that goes like this. “Will you risk the hostile stare? Will your life attract or scare?”
If you’re willing to consider going fishing, ala Jesus, there just may be those times when people will look at you strangely – you know – they’ll give you the hostile stare. When my son Matthew was on a travel league soccer team, Nancy and I would go to the games. When the other parents found out that we are both pastors, we found them avoiding us. I don’t know what they thought we were going to say or do – really, we were just there to watch the soccer game. There were only two sets of parents willing to sit next to us – two couples who were members of this church!
Look! As disciples of Jesus Christ, evangelism is part of who we are and what we do. That’s what going fishing ala Jesus means. Remember what I told you last week? That perhaps the greatest hero in your life could very well be the first person to introduce you to Jesus Christ. And that you can be someone else’s hero simply by introducing them to Jesus or by ministering to them in the name of Jesus.
Let’s go back to the Summons for a minute. That other phrase, “Will your life attract or scare?” What is it about the lives of other Christians – heck, let me make it personal – what is it about your life that would attract someone else to Jesus Christ?
Pastor Billy D. Strayhorn tells the following story. Listen. “A mother tells how her daughter used to work for a pizzeria, and Mom had the job of picking her up from work every evening. When her daughter would get into the car she'd smell so much like pizza that often times Mom would go back into the store and buy a pizza.
Strayhorn goes on to say, “When we give our lives to Christ, when we spend time with Christ and seek to live for him; when we let His love, grace and forgiveness cover us, then we'll have Christ's aroma in our lives. His love will spread and shine through us for others to see and breathe in. And when we live like that, our lives become an invitation. And when our lives are an invitation, others will be compelled to seek him and ask questions about our faith.”
So – what about us? Will your life attract? Or scare? Is your life – is mine –giving off the aroma of the love, grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ? Most of your opportunities are likely to come in casual conversation. And when the opportunity comes, gently tell that other person who you are, and to whom you belong, and why. What you say does not have to be dramatic, or filled with churchy words. And for God’s sake, please don’t be churchy. But feel free to tell them about your church. Feel free to tell them about Jesus Christ and what he means to you. Simply – when given the right moment – simply tell that other person why you are a Christian. You don’t have to argue with them. That hardly ever works anyway. Just tell your story, because that’s something that no one can ever take away from you.
You are here – we are all here today to worship the Lord. That’s one of the things we do each week as disciples of Jesus Christ. We are here to worship– the grown up – resurrected Jesus. We are also here to be fed. And as a Catholic priest once told me, “People are going to go where they are fed.” So I hope you are being fed. But when you come to this place – or to any other church – it’s not the same things as going to a restaurant – where you are waited on and where you are fed. The difference is that here – after you’ve enjoyed your fish fry – it just seems to me – that at some point – we’ll also learn how to fish ala Jesus.
And why is it that we that we’re not afraid to tell others about that restaurant where we like to eat? The best steaks. The best Friday night fish fry. Why not tell them about your church? Why not tell them about your Savior?
It all boils down to listening – being sensitive to the needs of the world around us – meeting the need as you are able – telling your story – and offering a simple invitation. “Come and see.” “Come and see….and go and tell.”