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10th Feb 8am + 10 am LSM

As a child my mother used to say that if I had done something wrong I should own up and the punishment would be less than if she had to find out.

Even so the moments before plucking up the courage to confess were very anxious.

Isaiah finds himself in the presence of God and quickly realises just how far short he, as a fallible human being, is from the ideal. My mother was scary enough at helping me see just how far below her expectations my behaviour was. Coming before God? Scary beyond imagining.

 So here we have Isaiah feeling very guilty and fully expecting punishment. What does he get instead? Absolution and purification followed by a challenge. Who will go?

Not even knowing the details of the task he could pretty well guarantee it wouldn't be easy or make him any friends. and  yet he famously says "here I am, send me"

What was his task? To tell the disobedient Hebrew people that God had lost patience and they were to be exiled, split up, their homeland destroyed like a burned, blackened tree stump.

 But there is hope in the future; from that blasted stump new shoots will grow, green and promising new life.

And so what of Jesus in our Gospel story? We find him not in God's house shielded by seraphs and  shrouded in smoke but in a boat on a lake, visible to all, heard by all. What better amphitheatre than a boat put out a little way from the shore?

At the beginning of his ministry he is calling disciples, growing his team. Those who will be closely involved in his project.

What you may ask, is the difference between a disciple and a follower?  The very word 'disciple' (in the original Greek) denotes a pupil who follows his teacher so closely that he is covered in the dust put up by the master's feet.

We might use the analogy of a football team. Many people have a favourite team they follow closely. They buy the latest kit (maybe even queuing at the club shop when the new strip comes out), attend home and away matches, know the names and history of all the players and support their club financially.

Sometimes it goes further; one player may be a hero in their eyes, the best. So admired that the hairstyle, the mannerisms, the likes and dislikes are copied carefully. The aim is to become as much like this player as possible. They have become a disciple.

Followers are hugely important. Without their unfailing support the club would not survive. However, the disciple will go on to become the best footballer they can be, practicing every spare moment with real dedication. They may well become famous too.

Many children join sports clubs enjoying the challenges and the sheer enjoyment of physical activity and perhaps becoming skilled enough to compete at county or maybe national level.

Many parents spend many hours being taxi drivers for their enthusiastic offspring. Some spend long, cold hours watching, cheering or sympathising. They provide hospitality for visiting teams and wash loads of kit. They fund-raise in all sorts of imaginative ways. They are the followers - the supporters without whom there would be no club.

 A few go further, they become coaches (or leaders) taking the relevant courses in their own time and usually at their own expense in order to support not only their own child's dream but the dreams of others too. They have become disciples.

So we see Jesus identifying people, in his case men (in accordance with the social principles of his time), who would be willing to join his close team. Men like Peter, then known as Simon, men of integrity and honour who were strong in faith.

They saw something in the man Jesus that inspired them, something that persuaded them that this was more than a man maybe even the long awaited Messiah,

The miracle Jesus performs with the huge catch of fish (from the wrong part of the lake at the wrong time of day IN FRONT OF EXPERIENCED FISHERMEN) was enough to convince them that THIS man was unlike any other and they wanted to be with him, to learn from him, to work for and with him, to become like him. To dedicate themselves HEAD, HEART and HANDS to his cause.

That phrase "head, heart and hands" echoes the version of the Law we heard earlier, 'love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength'

In other words to become disciples.

We know there were 12 disciples, we also know there were many followers; fundraisers such as Lydia, those happily offering hospitality such as Mary and Martha. In order to continue his mission as an itinerant teacher Jesus and his disciples would need lots of practical support from lots of people in many places

Many of you here this morning give of yourselves unstintingly serving this community in a wide variety of voluntary roles.

There are many opportunities to grow within our church family. should you, perhaps, have a little voice in your head that tells you to try something new, or maybe revisit a skill you left behind years ago.

Maybe as a treasurer, a flower arranger, a school governor, a welcomer, a sound desk person, a musician -  as well as many others. You won't be left to struggle, there's lots of help on offer.

I invite you, over the next weeks and days as we approach Easter, to look into your hearts and, decide for yourselves whether you are a valuable follower of Jesus or whether you have you taken that extra step and find yourself covered in the dust from his feet on the road, as you strive to be as much like him as you can.

 Or, maybe, you are like Simon Peter, waiting for a miracle to prove to you

that you really ARE called to be a disciple.

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