For January 15, 2017
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Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
His name was David. His last name was something decidedly Scottish – McCarthy, McCormick, McGillicudy. He had just graduated from the Presbyterian seminary when he came to be the minister at the little Presbyterian Church just down the dirt road from my grandmother’s house. My family went to evening service there about once a month when we were visiting grandma.
He was nothing like the other ministers I knew. They were all loud, brash, and long-winded; very long-winded. He wore a black robe and a colored stole and in his sermons, he talked quietly for about fifteen minutes, mostly about things Jesus did that showed us that God loved us and everybody else in the world; and about ways we could show that love to others. His house, the “manse,” was next door to the elementary school and we often saw him taking walks in the afternoon. This was a novelty to us farm kids – every adult we knew worked so hard that the idea of taking a walk for exercise was somewhat funny to us. If we were at recess the teacher would often ask him to umpire our baseball games – which he did willingly, competently and without a lot of fuss.
He occasionally came to visit my family, sitting quietly at the kitchen table, drinking coffee, listening to my mother chatter on. After about thirty minutes, he would take out a pocket New Testament, read a bit, say a prayer, and be gone. When I applied to for admission to a Quaker College, it asked for a statement of faith and a minister’s recommendation. I went to him for advice. Though I wasn’t a member of his church, he immediately set to work helping me. He asked me a few questions about my thoughts on Jesus. His able questions pointed me in the right direction, helped me articulate what I actually believed. He also wrote the minister’s reference for me.
It was only later, when I felt the call to go to seminary, that I realized that without him, I would not believe in Jesus, would not be a Christian, would not be in the church, would not be a minister. He was John the Baptist for me. He was the one who pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the Sin of the world!” He was my Saint Andrew, bringing me to Jesus and saying, “He’s the One!” He was the one who brought me to Christ!
Well, actually he was “a” one, not “the” one – because I have come to realize that there have been many “lights” in my life, many people who have pointed the way to Christ. Mrs. Gammons, my Baptist Sunday School teacher. My neighbor Mr. Reynolds, gentleman farmer, grandfather of my best friend, and occasional preacher, who influenced me more by how he lived his life than by anything he said in the pulpit. My mother, sitting at the dining room table on Saturday night “getting up” her Sunday School lesson to teach the next morning. Dr. Boyd, religion professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, who let me know that you do not have to check your brain at the door to be a Christian. The list could go on and on, both for me and for you. Let’s take a minute to remember and thank God for those who were John the Baptist for us, those who like Saint Andrew, pointed us to Jesus.
Let’s also remember that all of us are called to be witnesses. Very often we make this witnessing business more difficult than it really it is. It’s mostly a matter of pointing at Jesus and saying, “He’s the One!” We do not need any special knowledge or special training to do that.
Above and beyond everything else, the church is called to know one thing, and to do one thing. We are called to know the love of God in Christ, and we are called to bring others into that circle of love. That is our purpose for being, that is the reason for our existence, that is the end to which we work, that is our mission, that is our ministry, that is our calling.
Like the Israelites in our lesson from Isaiah, we are beckoned by God to be a light to the nations. It is too light, (too small, too tiny) a thing that we should just talk about Christ and our faith among ourselves – we must share Christ with the world.
It is our calling to be like John, pointing to Christ as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. It is our calling to be like Saint Andrew, bringing our friends to meet Jesus. It is our calling to be like the people who introduced us to Jesus, it is our calling to tell others about the love of God in Christ. It is our calling to announce to the world, “We have found the Messiah.”
AMEN AND AMEN