St Francis, Terriers - Trinity 15 (04.09.2016)

Tony Dickinson

Who was around at Lighthouse in July? Did you sing lots of worship songs? Are there any that you remember in particular?

Did you sing “It’s an adventure, following Jesus”? That used to be one of our son’s favourites many years ago. We still have it somewhere on CD.

I mention that song because today’s gospel reading is about following Jesus – and he certainly makes it sound like a real adventure. What do we think of when people talk about adventure?

Here are a few thoughts that come to my mind when people talk about adventure. It’s exciting. It’s sometimes scary. It can be spectacular. It needs careful planning if it isn’t all going to go horribly wrong. And it costs.

It’s like building a tower. Does anyone know how much it cost to put up the Shard, or the Cheese-grater, or the Walkie-talkie?

It’s like fighting a war. How much does it cost to put an army on the battlefield and keep it supplied? How many soldiers will a king or a general need to make sure that he wins?

It’s demanding. Being a disciple isn’t just about coming to church and saying your prayers and reading your Bible, though I hope we all do those things. It’s about following Jesus, being close to Jesus – not just in church on Sundays, but always and everywhere. And that, as he warns the crowds in our Gospel, can be tough. It’s about loving Jesus more than you love your family. It’s about loving him more than you love yourself. There’s a church in the Midlands where the congregation has a very simple mission statement: “Follow Jesus and die!”

Following Jesus can mean being unpopular. It can mean going out on a limb, throwing away all the things we rely on to protect us. It does mean being in the company of the people with whom Jesus kept company, who are not always the people we would have chosen and a few of them, maybe, are people we would definitely not have chosen.

Today in Rome Mother Theresa of Calcutta will be officially recognised as a saint, largely because of her work among some of the poorest and most wretched people on earth.

It didn’t start out like that. As a young woman she had joined a community of nuns who were well-known, and very well thought of, as teachers and she had begun work with them in India, tackling poverty through education. It was ten years later that she felt God calling her to work directly with the poorest people of the Kolkata slums, caring for people who were ill, people who were dying, people who were disfigured, disabled, rejected by their own communities. Mother Theresa carried out the work to which God had called her for the rest of her life. Her one house and twelve sisters in Kolkata became a worldwide community of nearly 5,000 sisters (and a great army of volunteer helpers), working in 133 countries, running hospices, orphanages, schools, clinics, hostels for the homeless, soup kitchens – and all because in their company she knew that she was in the company of Jesus. That was what mattered more than anything else.

It mattered – it matters – because Rowan Williams has written in his new book “Being Disciples”, “our discipleship is not about choosing our company but choosing the company of Jesus – or rather getting used to the fact of having been chosen for the company of Jesus.”

In six weeks’ time, we shall be presenting a small group of candidates for confirmation. If you’ve been thinking about the possibility of confirmation during the summer – and haven’t been totally put off the idea by what you’ve heard this morning – it isn’t too late for you to sign up. Please have a word with me at the end of this service. If you are already confirmed and wondering about what that means at the stage of life where you are now – thinking, in other words, where your Christian discipleship is leading you today, please also have a word with me on the way out. We never stop (I hope) growing as disciples of Jesus, but every so often we need to reconnect, to recommit ourselves to the journey with him and rediscover that sense of adventure with which we began to follow him. And to him, with the Father…