Follow Jesus, don’t just waste time ‘putting on your shoes’

By REV. GERALD LITTLE

First Presbyterian Church

One day the animals of the jungle got together to play football. The parrot picked his team and the monkey his team. Soon the monkey knew that his team was in big trouble. The rhino on the parrot’s team ran for a touchdown every time he got the ball. No one could tackle him.

Finally, with a few minutes left in the game the rhino got the ball again and was headed for another easy TD. Suddenly he went crashing to the ground. Incredibly, he had been tackled for the first time. When the pile uncovered they saw that the centipede had tackled the rhino. His teammates yelled, “Great tackle. But where have you been the whole game?”   The centipede answered, “I’ve been putting on my shoes.”

Many people are like the centipede. They go through life “putting on their shoes.” They are always getting ready for something but never get around to doing it. When Jesus came to Peter, Andrew, James and John he said, “Follow me! I have an important job for you.” The word “follow” is a powerful word, illustrating the obedience that a soldier gives his commander. Jesus summons his would be followers to a mission where they play for keeps. When these men heard Jesus invitation, I don’t know if they were altogether ready to do it but they got up, put on their shoes and followed Jesus. They sensed the seriousness of what he asked. Ready or not they followed. They tackled the task. What does this mean for us?

When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he is calling us to a new direction. Ordinarily, Peter, Andrew, James and John would awake, get their fishing gear together and head eastward toward the Sea of Galilee. There they would fish, not for recreation but for livelihood. It was their way to make a living. On this day, Jesus came and invited them to come westward toward the towns filled with mulling, hurrying people.

Jesus explained that they must become fishers of men! This was altogether a new direction for them. They would have to think and behave differently. The making, mending and the casting of nets would accede to weaving of thoughts, ideas and strategy to win the hearts of human beings to the Kingdom of Heaven. The will of Zebedee for their time and talents would give way to the will of Jesus. Occupation would submerge into vocation.

They no longer had jobs to do, but a mission to live. It is the same for us. Anyone who offers his or her life to Jesus Christ cannot avoid a change in direction. The spirit of Jesus shakes our status quo from lethargy and presumption. If you don’t care about life, then start caring. If you are comfortable in doing much of nothing, then get uncomfortable. And if you’re doing wrong as if it does not matter, then stop it because it does matter! There is a God to serve, a people to love and a life to live. Every minute counts. So put on your shoes and “follow me,” says the Lord.

When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he is calling us to a new future. When Jesus invited these men to follow him, it meant a new future. Exactly what that new future entailed they did not altogether know. They were stepping into a tomorrow that was not readily defined.   They would go places they never thought they would go. They would do things they never envisioned doing. They would meet people they never planned to meet. They would invite them into the new future.

Four women were playing bridge in the recreation room of a retirement center. They were chatting, more than paying attention to their game. To their surprise an older, handsome gentleman walked into the room. None of them had seen him before. He was a newcomer. Quickly the four ladies perked up.

One said, “Well, hello there. You are new here, aren’t you?” The man smiled and replied, “Just moved in this morning.” A second lady spoke, “Well where did you come from?” The man replied, “San Quentin. I was just released from there after serving 30 years.” “Oh is that right!” said the third lady. “What were you in for?” The man answered, “I murdered my wife.” The fourth lady sat up in her chair and her eyes sparkled and with a big smile she said, “Oh, then that means you’re single?”

The greatness of the church is that it is not preoccupied with people’s past. We proclaim the gospel to everyone as if we are asking, “What are you doing with your life now?” We don’t care whether you stole, committed adultery, killed, lied or denied God. That no longer matters! Rather, what do you want to do with the rest of your life? What are you now doing for and in the name of Jesus Christ? It’s time to put on your shoes and follow Jesus Christ into a new future.

When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he is calling us to a new lifestyle. After Jesus’s invitation they immediately left their nets and followed him. They put down things that had immense value for them. What once mattered did not matter as much!   They were willing to shed some familiarity, a bit of security, a comfortable routine in exchange for a cause greater than they had ever known. They adjusted their lifestyle for Jesus Christ.

Once, two small children were accidentally locked in a department store over night. Bored, they looked for something to do. So, they began to change the price tags of the merchandise. They took the price tags from the least expensive items and placed them on the most expensive items, and did conversely for the more expensive items, so that a pack of cigarettes was priced at $1,000 while a Rolex watch was $5. On the following day, lots of excited shoppers and befuddled sale mangers rushed the store. If we take seriously our Christian discipleship, we change price tags too. We change our value system. Things no longer have the greatest value but people do; power no longer intoxicates but love does; quantity no longer drives us but quality does; self-gratification no longer rules but self-mortification does; life takes a mysterious twist, as it is no longer ego who lives but Christ who lives in me!

We live in a world that says in order to be happy we need bigger boats, bigger nets, and more time at sea. But bigger boats demand more money, more painting, and more polishing; bigger nets demand more fixing and more room; and more time at sea means less time with family. On the other hand, a greater value system, the Kingdom of God ever calls us to love one another; forgive as you have been forgiven; do good without ceasing; pray for all people; serve the Lord with joy! Ready or not, put on your shoes! There is a God to serve, a people to love and a life to live.

The Rev. Dr. Gerald A. Little is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Bainbridge.

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