Rev. Sandy Johnson
Come, Follow Me: Transforming
I grew up about three miles outside of Eugene, Oregon. Our bright yellow, two-story house was situated on the side of a hill, in the middle of two acres. It was surrounded by super tall Douglas Fir trees and little else. We couldn’t see our closest neighbors who were half-mile away. Frequently we saw deer and squirrels in the acreage behind our house. We had lived in town the first few years of my life, and we moved into the forest, when I was in 4th grade.
Soon after we moved my dad got the bug to plant a garden. So, each spring he would prepare the soil with his rototiller, a Mother’s Day gift to my mom. (That explains why they divorced several years later! Who gets a woman a rototiller for Mother’s Day?! Well, my dad did.) My dad would spend hours churning the soil under and mixing it together, creating a perfect bed for the seeds. He planted potatoes, corn, beans and carrots. There was green onions, pumpkins, cucumbers and strawberries. It was a wonderful place to spend the afternoon, checking on the growth of so many great vegetables.
My dad would let me help when he planted the corn. We would dig a small hole, drop in a handful of seeds, then pile the dirt back on top, press it down firmly. We created dozens of hills of corn. And then we would wait. It seemed like it took forever for something to pop out.
Now, imagine those seeds, planted deep in the earth, surrounded by the cool dark pressure of the ground. From deep within this cocoon of dirt, this little seed begins to transform. First it swells a little, and it starts to develop a crack in the outer shell of the seed, then appears a small root that knows somehow to stretch itself downward into the soil, reaching for the sustenance offered in the rich goodness of the earth.
Next a shoot appears that goes in the opposite direction, pushing upward. And before you know it the ground begins to bubble with the pressure of this new life, this new growth bursting forward. The leaves begin to be visible as it reaches skyward, and they begin to unfold in light of the sun.
Some seeds germinate quickly, in a day or two, some take longer, up to 7 or more days. Then there are some seeds that only germinate in response to some kind of environmental trigger. Probably the most often common are those that have cones that are tightly formed, holding the seeds inside until a fire unlocks their potential. The sap is melted and the cones pop open, seeds falling to the forest floor, ensuring a new forest will replace the one burned by fire.
Transformation happens before our very eyes.
We too are called forward to be transformed through our relationship with Jesus Christ. We have been learning about that these past few weeks, becoming a disciple and giving ourselves encouragement to follow Christ Jesus, to be called a disciple in our own right.
Transformation happens as a result of that decision. When we say yes to following Jesus Christ. When we say yes, I want to be his disciples. When we say yes, I want a life transformed. I want a life that’s different. I want a life that has meaning and purpose. I want to endure the pressures, the darkness or the fire and in spite of my fears, I want to burst forth. I want to bloom and grow.
Our scripture this morning shows Jesus coming to where the disciples were. They had of course seen him twice before, after his resurrection when Jesus appeared in their midst on the evening of the first day of the week. The disciples were hiding behind locked doors out of fear of the Jews. Jesus appeared among them, saying, “Peace be with you!” He then commissions them, sending them out as the Father sent him. John 20:22 says that Jesus breathed on them, sending the Holy Spirit into them and je charged them with taking his place, and sharing God’s love.
A week later Jesus appeared a second time, this time in front of the disciples including Thomas. Thomas had not believed the account the disciples had shared of Jesus being among them, after all he didn’t see it for himself, the holes in his hands! They were all delighted to have him appear a second time. So, what happened?
We read that seven of them were out fishing one night. And it was a bad night fishing at that. Why were they fishing in the first place? Were they simply fishing for their dinner? Or for something to do? I can imagine Peter sitting around bored and telling the boys, “Come on, let’s go fishing.” I can say that a bad day fishing beats a good day doing just about anything else. Is it possible that they had been discouraged and had given up on their pursuit as Disciples of Jesus Christ?
Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I would like to believe that they hadn’t given up. I want to believe that their transformation that had started three years before along this same stretch of shoreline, was continuing forward, as they regrouped and came up with a game plan to share the news that the Messiah had come.
Regardless of the reason they were fishing, they returned to shore without a guppy to their name. Exhausted and ready to find a warm bed to rest, they returned to shore. Before they could get out of the boat, a stranger tells them to “throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”
Even though they didn’t recognize Jesus at first, they did what the stranger commanded them. Why? Your guess is as good as mine! I know for myself that I don’t ever want to come in from fishing, you can ask JJ, and if someone gives me a good tip on where the fish are, I’m always one to try again, and again, and again.
This was a good tip! Jesus directed them to the hot spot and soon their net was overflowing with fish, so many they had to really work to haul the net into shore. In that moment, one of the disciples, “the one whom Jesus loved, said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”” They came ashore and saw that Jesus had already built a fire and was roasting fish and had some bread for them. “Come, he said, and let’s have breakfast.”
And we wonder why we love to gather and eat today? Jesus, in that moment, created the potluck, right there on the beach!
Jesus emerged in their midst, offering encouragement and sustenance when they must have needed it most. For some reason, Jesus knew that they needed him to fulfill the transformation and to press them forward into service. He also had some unfinished business with Peter. Following breakfast Jesus restores Peter to favor when he asks him three times if Peter loves him. Restoring Peter to his rightful place as the foundation, the rock that the Christian Church is built upon.
Transformation is the byproduct of our relationship with Christ. When we begin to live a life mirrored upon Jesus teachings, we can’t help but be transformed. Life can never stay the same once we have said hello to the Savior.
I’ll follow you where you lead me.
Ordinary is not expected; get ready for extraordinary! Get ready for a life transformed by the loving grace of the Messiah.
And this Messiah comes to us, where we are today, just as Jesus did with the boys on the beach. And just like his disciples, we don’t have to “get it” the first time. It may take 2 or 3 or 20 times before we surrender our lives and commit to living fully and completely in alignment with God’s plans for our lives. God continues to pursue us until our lives are transformed. He won’t leave us on the beach doing our normal mundane duties. Jesus insists that his followers live a transformed life.
Our own transformation allows us to become who we are authentically born to be. God created each one of us as unique and beautiful spiritual beings. Our role in life, if we accept it, is to fully embrace those gifts and become that person God created us to be. As we embrace the call of God we can dare fully be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Each one of us is on our own transformational journey. Some of us remember the day when we began the journey of leaving behind our old selves and putting on the new garments of Christ. When the old fell away, replaced with all the possibilities that a life in Christ has to offer.
Many of us began our transformation from self-focused to God-focused lives, as a result of failure or tragedy, grief or loss. I don’t know what it is about us human beings, but we don’t seem inclined to turn to Christ when things are going well. It is the cool darkness, when we are under pressure, or in the heat of the fire that our potential is unlocked. When it seems that all hope is lost, that is exactly when Jesus reaches down and grabs our hands and lifts us up through the soil and into the light of Christ.
Don’t let the transformation opportunity slip away. When you feel the most challenged, look for Jesus’ hand that is reaching out, so that you can come into his presence and begin your own personal transformation into the likeness of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.