Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Mark 8:31-38

“What’s Your Response?”

Lent 2   February 25 2018               

            We are now 2 weeks into the Season of Lent, 2 weeks into our journey with Jesus and His disciples as they journey to Jerusalem, where Jesus   will die on the cross for our sins. As we journey with Jesus and the disciples during this Lenten season we see the commitment Jesus made to His mission to die for our sins. It is our prayer that we will also get a new vision for being the people God calls us to be, people who are more committed to Him and to His work in our lives and in the world.

            We have before us 2 passages today, one Old Testament invitation from God to Abram, and the other from the Gospel of Mark, an invitation from Jesus  to the disciples. Both are invitations to greater commitment to God and His will in our lives.

            Our Old Testament lesson for today from Genesis 17 is like the Genesis 9 passage we looked at last week – an example of God making a covenant, a promise for life and for blessings.  However the Genesis 17 passage is different in that here we have an expectation, or a demand, to go along with the blessing.  God makes a covenant, but here Abram must respond to God, and in responding to God he is changed.  His name is changed, but his entire life is changed after he responds to God and he is never the same again. 

            Our Gospel lesson for today from Mark 8 is another invitation from God.  This time the invitation is from Jesus, and it is for the disciples to take up their crosses and follow Him to Jerusalem.  It is an invitation to make the things of God and Christ important to them.

            Two invitations. One to Abram. The other to the disciples.

            What did responding to God mean for Abram?    It meant he would have to believe something that was downright unbelievable.  God had promised him children before, God had promised to make him the father of many nations, a blessing for all the world, but now — well — he was 99 years old.  Surely God didn’t expect him to believe that he was going to have children — any children – – much less that many nations would come from him at this age! 

            But — guess what? God did intend for him to believe that! God did intend to keep His promise! As unbelievable as it may have sounded, God intended to keep those promises He had made to Abram. For Abram, responding to God meant he had to believe in God.  But -responding to God also meant he had to follow God. God not only called Abram to believe in the promise of children and nations, God also called Abram to follow Him.  He had called Abram to move from Ur, then Haran, into a land he did not know, a place that was unfamiliar. God called Abram to leave his family and his familiar surroundings and go where God would lead him.

            Not only did responding to God mean Abram had to believe things that were unbelievable  it also meant he had to follow God into places that were different, that were dangerous,  that were demanding of him, purely and simply because God called him to do so. And how does Abram respond? He believes. He goes. He laughs at God’s promise but he still believes. He still goes. And his life is never the same again. He begins living his life under the guidance and direction of God. He is changed. Even his name is changed. He takes on a new identity because he has been called by God. Nothing about him is the same anymore.        He has heard God and he has responded, and he has been changed. 

            What about the disciples? What did responding to God, or responding to Christ, mean to them? Like Abram, it meant leaving everything they knew – their families – their livelihoods — and following Christ. But where were they going? They may have not been too sure.  Maybe they thought they were going into Jerusalem to take over the Roman government.  But then Jesus said no, He was going to Jerusalem, but it was not to take over the government. His mission was to be crucified on the cross. 

            We can almost hear Peter saying: “Wait a minute, Jesus! This may be more than what I bargained for. I’m not too sure of this cross and denial of self. Are you sure — Jesus? Are you sure you must be crucified and die?” Yes,  Jesus is sure.  He is also sure that if Peter or anyone else want to follow Him they must get behind Him, get in step, and follow Him.  Not only does Jesus have to go to the cross, but those who want to be His followers must take up their crosses, too.

            Quite a demand Jesus is putting upon His disciples. And how do they respond? Even though they may not fully understand, they follow. They let Jesus teach, lead, and guide them and finally they do have their lives completely changed and they give of themselves just as Je, us gave of Himself. 

            God called Abram to follow and he followed, even though God’s promise was unbelievable and he had no idea where God was leading him. Jesus called the disciples to follow, and they followed,  even though they weren’t at all sure of what it would ultimately mean for them. 

            What about us? What about you? What’s your response?

            God calls you to trust and follow just as He called Abram. Jesus calls you to give up all and follow Him just as He called the disciples. That call to deny self, take up the cross, and follow is just as real for you as it was for the original disciples. It is just as real for you as it was for those who originally heard it.

            So, what’s your response?

            God still calls you to believe and follow. Jesus still calls you to deny yourself and let His will be what gives your life meaning.           Jesus still calls you to follow His will and not your own.

            When Peter first heard Jesus talk about going to Jerusalem and dieing he was appalled, not just for what it would mean for Jesus, but probably for what it would mean for him, too.  Peter may have reasoned that, if Jesus were going to have to take up a cross and die, what would be expected of His followers, or more specifically, what would be expected of him?  The same? He tried to tell Jesus that it must not be that way. But what does Jesus tell him? Get behind Me. Get in step. Get in step with Me. Follow Me. Let My will be yours, don’t try to make your will Mine.

            Jesus still calls you to do the same things. Get behind Me. Get in step with Me. Follow Me. Let My will be yours. Don’t try to make your will Mine.

            And what is your response? 

            Lent is a time for you to think about your response to God.  God — who  calls you to follow Him,  to believe Him , and to have everything about you changed by Him.  It’s a time for you to think about your response to Christ — who calls you to get in step with Him, to follow Him , and to make His will yours.  It is a time for you to think about your response to God and Christ. 

            God calls you to follow and believe in Him — to let your life be changed by Him.  What’s your response? Christ calls you to get in step with Him, to follow Him and  to let His will be yours. What’s your response?

            Do you follow God and Christ? Has Christ changed your life? Do you live differently — in a new way — because God has called you to do so? Are you “in step”  with Christ and His will for your life?  Christ calls you to be different because of your faith in Him. Are you? How is your commitment to “getting into” God’s word,  your commitment to participation in church worship, Sunday School  Bible study, fellowship times, and outreach times? Are they in step with Christ’s will for your life? Is the way you live your daily life — your words, your actions, your thoughts, the way you spend your time, the way you treat others, the way you reach out to those in need, in step with Christ’s call to deny yourself and let Christ be in charge of your life?      Are all the aspects of your life in step with Christ? If not — let them be. The only way to find true life in this world and salvation in the next life is to be in step with Christ. 

            God called Abram to follow — and he did — and his life was changed.  Jesus called the disciples to follow Him — to give of themselves — to get in step — to let His will be theirs — and they began to follow.

            What’s your response?

            Fred Craddock was a Methodist minister and teacher of Homiletics at Candler School of Theology.  He tells a story about a boy in his hometown who would   believe anything he was told. If someone told him: “The schoolhouse burned down. We’re not having school tomorrow.” He’d believe it. If someone told him they were giving away free ice cream at the town hall, he’d get excited — “Really? Ice cream?” and off he’d run. If someone could tell him the President was going to be in town the next day he would spend the night at the train station so he could get a good look at the President when he arrived.  Craddock says he remembers one time the preacher preached a sermon on how God loved us and wanted us to follow Him. He says after the sermon the boy came up to the preacher and wanted to give His life to God.  He believed what the preacher said, and this time it was not a joke.  He made his response to God.

            God loves you.  

            God called Abram to follow, and he did, and his life was changed. Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, to give of themselves, to get in step, to let His will be theirs, and they began to follow.

            God still calls you to follow. Jesus still calls you to follow Him — to give of yourself  — to get in step — to let His will be yours.

            What’s your response?  Amen.