What do we do with the changes in life that Life brings us? Matthew, the tax collector, may have thought about life changes before and Jesus may have asked him more than once to “Follow me” but for some reason today Matthew just got up from his IRS desk (tax collecting desk) and followed Jesus.Change can be exciting and good and fun. Last week it was announced that there is a new kindergarten teacher coming into Pam’s department at her school.
He is so excited to get be able to have his own kindergarten class this fall. Pam is so excited about the new teacher. He is a male.
He came to visit his new department last week on the last day of school and had some fun with some special effects on the last day. He said “hi” to the teachers. He told Pam, “We are going to have some fun next year.”
His words are believable. It is easier to believe a person who says “We are going to have fun next year” when that person is dressed to have fun.
He had pink hair and pink eyebrows for the last day. Just sprayed on for effect.
Pam, who likes to get down on the floor and have some fun with her kindergarten students, believes it will be a very good educational year to teach with a male teacher who will wear pink hair and pink eyebrows in order to let folks know he is serious about teaching.
Radical. But believable.
Three boys from our church graduated last night and are heading off into life this summer and fall. Tom Bartels from Montgomery emailed me and reminded me that as a father I am proud of where Daniel is heading in life (Germany this summer for one year) but that Pam is probably just thinking about how much she is going to miss Daniel. I thanked Tom for that reminder. Changes mean different things to different people.
Duane DeWald, who was a senior minister, cattle rancher among other male cattle ranchers, and the highest awarded Marketing Department teacher at Texas A&M University at the time, knew how to have some fun with his youth group and church. He told the Youth Group that if they could reach 50 in attendance at a special youth function then he would dye his hair pink. They did and he did. He came into the large 500 student Marketing class at A&M with pink hair. Of course, he had to tell them why he had pink hair. Great testimony time for him to share his faith with 500 students. And Duane’s youth group and church knew he was serious about his love of God.
Radical. But effective witness for the Lord. Last week Duane interviewed at a Presbyterian Church in Wyoming. Big change.
Today is John Ed Mathison’s final Sunday as Senior Minister at Frazer United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. 36 years. Went from 166 members to its current 9,000 members. The Church has a mandatory age 70 retirement policy so today is it for John Ed.
John Ed would wear a fake pony tail under a ball cap to church picnics. Kids loved it. John Ed’s favorite song is “My God is an Awesome God” and he loved to sing it and act it out with the kids in Frazer’s pre-school and in church and in Sunday School classes with them. They loved their pastor singing and acting out with them.
What do you do at age 70 when you are full of life and love of ministry and have to take mandatory retirement? What a change in life, huh, after 36 years of doing the same thing.
Something radical. John Ed is Co-director and co-founder of a new World-Wide Ministry established to sponsor and organize the starting of 5 million new churches and to bring 10 billion people to the Service of the Lord over the next 10 years. Huge vision, huge figures. Radical. Matthew’s decision to follow Jesus was radical also. John Ed is combining efforts with pastors and bishops all over the world in the spirit of John Wesley’s views to bring the world to Christ through ministry and service.
Radical. But believable. Matthew was sitting at his desk, collecting taxes. An adult thing. Serious matter. Taxes.
Jesus said, “Why don’t you give up your job and come and follow me?” Matthew shrugged, quit collecting taxes and grabbed the hand of Jesus to follow.
That night he and Jesus ate dinner with some sinners. Church leaders cornered Matthew, who had just given up a good job in order to follow Jesus, and criticized him for eating with sinners. Matthew just ate and let Jesus do the talking.
Radical changes of life will bring criticism from the critics. That is what this Matthew story reminds us. Within the day of deciding to follow Jesus, Matthew was being criticized for the company he was keeping and for eating with sinners.
I don’t know what prompted Matthew to just get up from his desk, quit his job, eat with sinners, and follow Jesus. He just did it. Radical change is like that. You just do it.
Some days you just wake up and decide to do some things differently. Wear pink hair. Face a new way of life. Give up tax collecting. Eat with sinners. Go to Germany for a year. Go to college. Start over in life. Battle to stay alive.
It is always the little things that impact us, isn’t it? Two little words — “Follow Me” – and Matthew just got up and followed him. The teacher just painted his hair. Facing mandatory retirement age and not wanting to call it quits, John Ed is starting a new world-wide ministry at his mandatory retirement age of 70. He is heading up a world-wide Ministry in the Spirit of John Wesley with plans of funding and organizing the starting of thousands of new churches in the coming years.
In 1984, I heard Dr. Reverend (now Bishop) William Willimon preach the most memorable sermon at Texas Christian University Minster’s week. He told of serving an established United Methodist Church in the south, where he gave an Invitation each Sunday, inviting any who wanted to come forward to the altar and confess their sins and accept the Love of God into their lives. He would always challenge his congregation to Follow Jesus by coming forward and making a public commitment to do so.
One morning a prominent couple of the church walked to the altar during the singing of the Invitation Hymn. It confused Willimon. They were already Christians; they were already committed to Christ. He was a doctor and she was a community leader.
They knelt at the altar and Willimon asked what they wanted to pray about at that moment. They told him they had decided to sell their house and their worldly possessions and Follow Jesus to where they felt led…to the mission field. It all stunned Willimon. He announced it to a stunned congregation who celebrated with the couple about their decision in life. The couple reminded Willimon, “YOU are the one who gave the Invitation to Follow Christ!”
After the congregation emptied out of the sanctuary, Willimon walked back to his office, closed the door, walked around behind his desk, sat down, and pointed his finger into the air and said out loud, “God, you better NEVER do that to me again!” I love that story! God has some fun with us, as Willimon understood completely.
We are gonna have some fun next year, Pam. Sounds like the same thing that Jesus said to Matthew. Come on, let’s go grab life and shake it up a bit. Just for the fun of it.
Pam is losing her son for a year after graduation as he moves to study in Germany, but she did get her front yard done as she has wanted for five years. Our neighbor lived in their house 18 years prior to fixing up their front yard. Hosting a Church Christmas Party at their house is what prompted them after 18 years to fix up their yard! So Pam is a mixture of sadness and gladness over Daniel’s graduation. She loses a son but gains a nice yard!
Next month Tommy will be giving his third Children’s Sermon that he has owed me since Super Bowl Sunday in February. During next month’s Children Sermon, he will have hair clippers and will be giving a burr haircut to his minister. Can’t wait. Amen.
By GARY L. SMITH
Reverend – Christ the Redeemer Church