Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sermon: Seeing Caterpillars as Butterflies - Matthew 4:17-19

You can listen to an audio version of this sermon here.

Please open your bibles to our text for today which can be found in the gospel of Matthew 4:17-19.

From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."

This is our primary passage for today as we examine what was it that Jesus saw in these mere fishermen that at the very beginning of his ministry, he sees them and calls them to be his disciples. When we read “he saw two brothers”, what was it that Jesus saw in them? Why would they be the ones that he would so heavily invest in through his time, his teachings and through these relationships? Jesus’ method for discipleship involved calling a small band of people and spending the last remaining years of his life with them.  As we’ll see later, he devotes his earthly ministry primarily to apprenticing these disciples to become His body in the world, to be sent as He had been sent.

Before continuing down this path about specifically investing in a small number relationally, in an apprentice-like manner, we need to step back and try to open our eyes to the way in which God looks at us, and the history of humanity’s true image. So we’re going to take a brief excursus and cover Genesis all the way  to the end of the book of Matthew, seeing the image of God.

 So, in the beginning  God created the heavens and the earth, and he created humanity different and unique , the pinnacle of His creation. In the first chapter of Genesis Scripture says in verse 26: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” and then later in verse 27 Scripture says that God did what he planned “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God formed humanity from the dust of the ground and breathed his very life into him. You’ve heard the phrase “Like Father, like son” right? The same way in which God is spiritual, personal, moral, relational, rational, emotional and creative, so also was humanity created with these incredible attributes, in the very image of God. You see, humanity’s original purpose was to be God’s representatives, his very image and likeness here on earth, and to fill the earth with God’s glory. That’s why the first command that God gives is for his image, through us, to fill the earth as he tells Adam and Eve “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” God’s vision was for the earth to be filled with those created in his image, and thus to see His attributes lived out through us, His children.

Of course, we know that in chapter 3 of Genesis, that something went terribly wrong; a moment that we call The Fall when the image of God in humans was deeply marred and distorted. When our parents, so long ago, chose not to submit to God, to not trust in Him, to not listen to His voice, “[h]umanity’s relationship with God was ruptured. Moral purity was lost, replaced by a sinful nature. Personality was corrupted, producing an array of psychological problems. Knowledge was degraded by false philosophies and vain imaginations. Emotions were turned to selfish desires. Creativity was spoiled by evil purposes and pursuits. The uncorrupted image of God was replaced by the fallen image of the fallen Adam.” (Don Dunavant)

The image of God wasn’t completely destroyed but since Fall every one of us born, life Father like son, has inherited a broken and marred image of the one true God. The Good News, the gospel, is that in the fullness of time, a second Adam, the very son of God who is in every respect the image of God came to restore that image in us. Colossians 1:15 says “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.” Hebrews 1:3 says “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” The same way in which through the first Adam the image of God in humanity was marred and distorted, so through Jesus, the second Adam, the image of God in humanity is restored. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” The good news is that the image of God, which every single last human has, every Son of Adam, every daughter of Eve, that image though it is sometimes barely recognizable is fully restored through the image restorer Christ Jesus, who became human to restore the image of God in humanity and to bring glory to His father as that image is restored throughout the earth.

In Matthew 28, when Jesus says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” he is recasting the original command given by God to Adam in Genesis 1. In Genesis 1 God told Adam to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and thus filling the earth with the image of God. In Matthew 28, Jesus says the same thing, only the way in which we fill the earth with God’s image isn’t through having as many physical children as we can have, but by seeing the image of God in others restored, bringing them to the Master, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has all authority in heaven and on earth, and who specializes in restoring the broken, the marred, the distorted to what our heavenly father intended – for us to reflect his glory and his image through all the earth.

This is the great purpose of Christ’s Church. To see the image of God restored to the ends of the earth. Now in order to do this we have to begin by seeing the masterpiece in others. As part of preparing for this sermon I was able to read a lot of book that actually came close last year to being used as our Church-wide study one year. The book is called Mud and the Masterpiece: Seeing Yourself and Others through the Eyes of Jesus .It’s excellent and after we finish this Church-wide study, I encourage you to consider using it on your own or as a life group. The overriding image that John Burke uses is that we are covered in mud, but we are masterpiece since we are created by the master artist God. If you were walking down the street and you saw a bunch of trash and in the middle of the trash you saw this mud caked piece of art that looked completely worthless, but you notice through the mud, through the gunk, that there is the signature of a master artist. It’s a Rembrant, or a Michelangelo or you get the point, you realize this piece of art, though it’s completely trashed and covered in mud is priceless. What do you do? Do you leave it there, or do you take it to someone who is a master at restoring pieces of art? Well the same is true for us, that when we look at others we should see them not superficially, but as bearers of the image of God, as God’s masterpieces.

We’ve played this video its entirety at our Monday night service before, but I wanted to share with you because this young man, in his art, so clearly speaks about God as a master artist.

“You are the maker’s handiwork, a living masterpiece.” Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” When we look at ourselves, when we look at others do we see with the eyes of God, do we see masterpieces? Or are we experts at picking out the mud?

You may have heard some of these stories about how some pastors have dressed up as homeless people to see how the congregation would treat them. Just this last November a Mormon bishop named David Musselman used a makeup artist and posed as homeless man before church services one Sunday. He said that at least five people asked him to leave the property and that many “actually went out of their way to purposefully ignore me and they wouldn’t even make eye contact…I’d approach them and say ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’ Many of them I wouldn’t ask for any food or any kind of money, and their inability to even acknowledge me being there was very surprising.” Were they seeing the Mud or the Masterpiece? By the way, I thought about trying this out myself but remembered that when I was serving in Orlando at our church’s homeless ministry how often I was already mistaken for being homeless, I guess because of my beard and I don’t dress up very often.

In fact though, the reason I stand before you today as a believer in Jesus Christ, as a servant to you, as a minister of Word and Sacrament, is because when I was 22 years old, fresh out of college and teaching Science rather poorly, a pastor looked at me and saw not who I was, not the arrogance, not the stand-offishness, not the defensiveness, not the whole host of mud that covered me from head to foot, but instead saw the masterpiece that God had created. He deeply invested relationally in me and he pointed me to the master who could restore the masterpiece in me that day by day I might be transformed into his likeness more and more.

Jesus, as he called his disciples, saw them not as mud, but as masterpieces, created in the image of God. John Burke writes “I’m convinced that our problem is not that we need more evangelistic tools, methods, apologetic arguments, or missional strategies— in fact, none of these will be worth anything if we don’t first see ourselves and others through the eyes of Jesus…As I study the life and interactions of Jesus with very sin-stained, muddied people, it becomes evident that Jesus could see something worth dying for in all the people he encountered. Jesus could see past the mud to the Masterpiece God wanted to restore…Jesus demonstrated a spiritual vision that he wants to impart to us— to see the Masterpiece he sees in us, and to renovate us to become people whose hearts reflect what God sees, under even the muddiest sin-stained life. Jesus saw God’s Masterpiece, waiting to be revealed by his grace, and as a result, many people actually became what he envisioned them to be.”

As we continue this series, picking up on what Pastor Michael shared with us last week about Apprenticeship, I want to leave you with this final imagery of seeing caterpillars as butterflies because while the imagery of being a masterpiece is strong, and biblical, it helps us understand how God sees and values people, it is also static, whereas Jesus invested in others not to see them become static pieces of art, but to spread their wings and fly. As we read in Matthew 4:17-19, Jesus called His disciples by saying “Come, follow me” and then saying what “I will make you fishers of men.” Peter, Andrew and the other disciples followed Jesus closely for roughly one year. They weren’t fishers of men yet; they needed to be equipped. During this time they listened and they watched as Jesus apprenticed them for a purpose. Then Jesus, after that year, sent them out to do the very things Jesus had been doing. Do you remember what we read in Matthew 4:17-19? What was it that Jesus began to preach at the very beginning of his ministry? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” About a year later Matthew 10:5,7 says “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions:… As you go, preach this message:  'The kingdom of heaven is near.'  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  Freely you have received, freely give.” Jesus sent them out to do the very things Jesus did for them. They reported back to Jesus and he taught and apprenticed them more and then two and half years later Jesus commissioned them to lead his church, restoring the world wherever they went.

If you want to make a huge difference in the world, focus on investing in a few, in seeing in just a few caterpillars as butterflies. This was Jesus’ strategy. To bring a small number of people alongside him, to invest in them, to apprentice them, to see them becoming beautiful, active, fluttering butterflies. How do you even begin to identify an apprentice? Of course praying is the first place to start. Jesus spent an incredible amount of time in prayer, in Luke 6 he spends all night before calling those whom he would apprentice and disciple. You can also look for a few attributes that Burke points out that help contribute towards a good apprentice. You need to make sure they are F.A.S.T. – Faithful, Available, have Spiritual Velocity, and Teach-ability.

Faithful means that the person is not flaky that you can count on them doing what they say. This is an incredibly important attribute. Could you imagine Jesus getting ready to walk in to Jerusalem and the disciples he sent not bringing the donkey? Checking his sun dial watch, where are those guys?

The second is closely related and that is Availability. Can this person commit to be present? Sometimes work schedules or season of life issues make it impossible to really develop a person. If you had asked me to join your life group and be your apprentice these last 10 months with my own health issues and our son being born, I just wouldn’t have been in the right season of life for an intense, fruitful apprenticeship.

The third is Spiritual Velocity and this comes from the “ApprenticeField Guide” that we’ve been reading together as a staff and on Session. Usually we see a Jesus-centered life as one where someone is either “in” or “out” like in this diagram on the left. As you can see Person A has crossed the point of conversion and Person B has not. Person A is “in” and Person B is out. What is actually better in choosing an apprentice is not whether they are “in” or “out” but where they are headed. In other words in the second diagram you see Person A may have had a ‘conversion experience’ but is not currently living a life of spiritual velocity, going towards Jesus, while person B, is moving toward Jesus but hasn’t quiet crossed the line of faith yet. Do you think Jesus’ disciples totally got it when they were called? Of course not! But, they were moving in the right direction, towards Jesus, and Jesus saw that. Is the person you are considering as an apprentice someone who wants to be in on the mission of helping people find their way back to God, to seeing God’s image, his masterpiece restored in the lives of others? Are they taking steps to live this out? If so, they have spiritual velocity and are ripe for the opportunity to become an apprentice.

The last letter is for Teach-ability. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Is the person eager to learn more about the way of Christ?

I encourage you, holistically we need to see ourselves and others as created in the image of God and needing Christ to restore that image. We need to see ourselves and others as masterpieces, as a living works of Art he wants to restore to it’s full value. We also need to see the potential apprentices in our lives, perhaps ourselves as potential apprentices, and seek out caterpillars who become butterflies just as Jesus sought fishermen who would become fishers of men.

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