St Michael’s, June 23rd 2019
Readings – Matthew 4:18-25; Galatians 1:11-24
Everyone has a different story.
I’d been to Sunday School as a child … sent, not taken … and occasionally went to my Gran’s church as I stayed with her at weekends from time to time. My Mum had taught me to say the Lord’s Prayer – but didn’t explain it. I went to church on and off through to my teens, but didn’t really like the people there very much, and didn’t learn anything about the Bible or hear anything about Jesus, except at Christmas and Easter.
When I was 13, the Gideons visited my school and gave everyone in my year a New Testament and Psalms (in the King James’ version!). Inside was a reading plan … taking you through the New Testament and the Psalms in a year. I was always a good girl, so I began to read as the plan suggested … a short passage every evening at bedtime. I’d read it through more than once before I got bored, and gave up. Just about that time, a friend at school invited me to her church youth group, and at the end of the evening, we had an epilogue – a short talk on becoming or living as a Christian. It all made perfect sense to me, made sense of what I’d been reading … so I asked if I could also go to church with her that Sunday.
I was 16 when I began to go to church regularly. I joined the Christian Union at school; and aged 17 became chairman of the CU committee. I was 18 when my best friend Hazel told me that she was going to be baptised. I asked her what that meant, and she told me that it was a public declaration of faith in Jesus, of trust in his death and resurrection for your sins, and a commitment to follow him in every aspect of your life. I thought to myself that I could say that, so I was baptised too, just before I left school.
So I don’t know precisely when I first believed, but in my baptism, I made a conscious decision that Jesus would be the foundation of my life. I could go on and on about the ups and downs of my Christian experience, but over 40 years later I’m still hanging in there, still reading the Bible, still learning, still struggling to pray – but he is still faithful. And I can’t think of anything I would do differently.
Everyone has a different story.
In our Matthew reading, we heard how Jesus called Simon & Andrew, and James & John to give up everything to go with him. We know from John’s gospel that they already knew Jesus – Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist – but this was something more. Jesus was calling them to leave their trade, their families and their homes, to go with him on the road telling everyone they met the good news of the kingdom of God (v23).
Paul’s story in Galatians 1 is different again. Paul hated Christians. He was a Jewish prodigy, trained by the best Rabbis to uphold the traditions of the Jews … and he was on a mission to destroy those who called Jesus the Saviour because it threatened everything he believed in. You can read the miraculous story of his conversion in Acts 9 – the original Damascus Road experience – a vision of Jesus that led to a sudden, total reversal of all he believed, that turned his world upside down.
Everyone has a different story … think of some of the characters we met recently in the story of Acts … Cornelius who had a vision and called for Peter to come and explain it … Lydia who met Paul at a place of prayer in Philippi and heard his teaching … the Philippian jailer who witnessed Paul & Silas miraculously released from prison … everyone has a different story of coming to believe and trust in Jesus.
But there is one thing that everyone’s story will have in common. Believing in Jesus changes everything.
James, Andrew, Peter and John became itinerant disciples of Jesus. Lydia opened her home as a meeting place for the church family. Paul was called to take the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles. Some will face opposition from family and friends. Others will be called to serve in the local church, or overseas, or to give generously to support those who spend their time in ministry or evangelism. Everyone will want to tell others the good news of Jesus.
Think for a minute about your story … it might help to think about these four questions …
- When did you first start going to church?
- When did you first believe and trust in Jesus?
- What difference does following Jesus make in your day to day life?
- How does belonging to a church family help you follow Jesus?
Everyone has a different story … what’s yours?
At this point in the service, we invited anyone who wanted to, to share their story … either using these four questions, or in their own words. We had a number of different contributions, and would love you to join in by sharing your faith story with us in the comments 🙂