The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire


Guest Sermon - January 27, 2019
Pastor Arnie Johnson
Sermon Title: "GO"

OLD TESTAMENT: Joshua 1:7-9, p. 330 - “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

NEW TESTAMENT: Matthew 28:16-20, p. 1553 - Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

EPISTLE: Hebrews 11:8-10, p. 1873 -  By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  

LET US PRAY: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, our Lord, our Strength, and our Redeemer. Amen

          Go! How many times have we heard that said? Just the word “Go!” We all know that we live in a “go-go-go world” trying to make ends meet, pay the bills, get to work on time, pickup the kids from school, get to the meeting on time, and one of the favorites for the kids, go to your room! And don’t forget to “go to church and don’t be late.” Probably in most cases, we already knew what we were being told to “go and do” and to accomplish, and this was just the okay to start doing it.

“Getting to the church on time” reminds me of the song from My Fair Lady where Eliza’s father, Henry Doolittle, is finally going to marry Eliza’s mother, and he sings this song, - sing along if you would like -
“I'm getting married in the morning! Ding dong! 
The bells are gonna chime. Pull out the stopper! 
Let's have a whopper! But get me to the church on time!”

Now, that’s a go-go-go situation! Henry has finally done some thinking and come to his senses and has decided that he should do the right thing and settle down. And here he is, a “mature” adult with an adult child. It goes to show that changes can be made at any time in life, and Henry has faced a tough decision and has decided to “go,” to make amends for his past!

          All of our scriptures today tell us about a few of God’s people being told to “go” and do something. In some cases, they really didn’t know where to go, what they were supposed to do, or even how to do it! So, how did they do it? How could they just believe God or Jesus and just drop everything and do what they were told to do?

          I think we all probably know that it takes a lot of faith to “go” and follow Jesus and continuously do what is required of us to be faithful! Faith is something that can be demonstrated, just like this following illustration:

Two longstanding church members were in a boat fishing with a new Christian. Fishing is a great time for conversation and each was proclaiming his fervent faith and devotion to God. As they were discussing their faith, one’s hat blew into the water. So he stood up, calmly stepped onto the water, walked over to his hat, picked it up off the water, and walked backed to the boat. The new Christian was amazed how this Christian could seemingly walk on water. As the new Christian was pondering this, the other church member’s hat also blew into the water. He also very calmly stepped onto the water, walked over to his hat, picked it up off the water, and walked backed to the boat. The new Christian was overwhelmed at how spiritual these men must be to have walked on the water as they did. Then the new Christian thought to himself, “I have faith, and if these guys can do it, so can I", and so he "helped" his hat blow into the water. He very calmly stepped out of the boat and was inhaling water instantly. As he fought his way to the surface, gasping for breath, the two long-standing church members turned to each other and said, "I think we should have told him about the sand bar on our side of the boat."

          Yep, that man had faith, but maybe a little bit misplaced and used for the wrong reason!

          In the past, we have all been requested to walk, to “go” into our community neighborhood to talk to our neighbors about their faith and beliefs. Now, we may have found that somewhat difficult because our neighbors in our neighborhoods might be quite some distance apart, and walking on some of our roads is somewhat dangerous and possibly unhealthy for a bunch of people walking! We used to be able to reach a lot of our neighbors almost daily at the local neighborhood store. With the change of shopping habits and places, we now rely on seeing others at the Town Office, at church, at work, in other markets, and wherever we may go? Shouldn’t those also be part of our “walk,” our “going,” our “visiting?” I think so!

I’ve known of many ministers who have that God-given ability to meet people where they are. One of those ministers is Pastor Kim Mitchell. You haven’t met her, and I only met her for a week at Licensing School in Missouri in 2011, but from following her and “conversing” with her on Face Book, Kim has that great ability to meet people in their neighborhood which is wherever she is! I started thinking that what she does is like the politicians, “working the crowds,” but politicians greet someone for a second or two and move on. Pastor Kim spends a lot of time with each person she meets. To her, a “stranger” is a person she hasn’t met yet, and it seems like that is what God put her on this earth for, to meet strangers, to tell them about Jesus, in her own friendly non-threatening way, of course! Since I last saw her in 2011, she has completed her educational quest for her Master’s Degree in Divinity while pastoring three churches and accomplishing all the tasks required of each, as well as being a wife and mother! WOW! That’s definitely being a disciple for Jesus Christ, going where He wants her to “go” and doing what He wants her to do!

          Isn’t that what Jesus was telling the disciples to do in today’s New Testament scripture, The Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, ….” The disciples were to go out and make “strangers” welcome so that they were no longer “strangers” to Jesus Christ and the “Way” to God’s heavenly mansion?

          “Okay, here I am, Jesus, a disciple, and you’re telling me to go out and make disciples of all nations! I don’t completely understand! What does that really mean, Jesus?”

I wonder if that question ever came up then as it might now. In the first place, what is a disciple? Well, off to my dictionary friends to try and figure out what all this means. I find on the Internet that a disciple is a personal follower of Jesus during his or her life, especially one of the twelve Apostles; also a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.”

So, here we all are, we’ve been told to be disciples to the world, to all nations, just “go!” As I was researching this message, I found some well-said things from Pope Benedict XVI’s Message, entitled "Go and make disciples of all nations!" for the Twenty-Eighth World Youth Day, courtesy of Vatican Information Service. In his message he told the youth to be missionaries, in the sense of being disciples [quote “It means listening ever anew to the invitation to follow Him and look to Him. … I encourage you to think of the gifts you have received from God so that you can pass them on to others in turn. Learn to reread your personal history. Be conscious of the wonderful legacy passed down to you from previous generations. ... Let us never forget that we are links in a great chain of men and women who have transmitted the truth of the faith and who depend on us to pass it on to others.” …. “To evangelize [go forth] means to bring the Good News of salvation to others and to let them know that this Good News is a person: Jesus Christ. … The more we know Christ, the more we want to talk about him. The more we speak with Christ, the more we want to speak about him. The more we are won over by Christ, the more we want to draw others to him. … It is the Spirit of love, therefore, who is the driving force behind our mission. The Spirit impels us to go out from ourselves and to "go forth" to evangelize [to be disciples].” …. "The risen Christ sent his disciples forth to bear witness to his saving presence before all the nations, because God in his superabundant love wants everyone to be saved and no one to be lost. … Open your eyes and look around you. ...The 'nations' that we are invited to reach out to are not only other countries in the world. They are also the different areas of our lives, such as our families, communities, places of study and work, groups of friends and places where we spend our free time. The joyful proclamation of the Gospel is meant for all the areas of our lives, without exception". [end quote]

          Great words from a great representative of the Catholic Church, words that we, too, can understand and use in our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ!

          Well, now we have some idea of what disciples are supposed to do and where to do it. But, don’t you think the eleven disciples that Jesus was talking to in Matthew were just a bit leery? They were just being told to “go!” They weren’t being told how to do it, just go. Were they to go in twos as they were accustomed to doing previously, or by themselves? Jesus left it up to them to decide that, but Jesus did give them the tools with which to accomplish that great task, just as we have been given the tools, the Bible, God’s Word!

Some people might think, “Oh no, I can’t do it by myself! I’ll wait for someone else to help me. My faith just isn’t strong enough.” That’s okay. Let me tell you a story about something that had big results that many thought couldn’t be done, but it started small with much lack of faith. [“Small Faith - Big Results!]

“Years ago when the Niagara Bridge was to be built, the task seemed impossible. It was prior to the great technologies we have today ... how would they start this suspension bridge over such a large chasm? The solution that was accepted and used successfully is instructional about faith! The first crossing of the gulf was done by shooting an arrow across with a piece of string attached to it! This tiny thread was then removed and a larger string attached, and it was pulled across. The heavier string was replaced with a type of narrow rope and pulled across. Each time it reached one side a larger and larger rope was attached and pulled across until finally heavy cables were used and then the great chains that the bridge was to hang from! Today stands one of the great suspension bridges of all time ... started by a small piece of string shot from one side to the other by an arrow! It is okay for faith to start small as long as we continue to build on it!”

          Very important to remember, we start with what faith we have, and we build on it! As we grow, our faith grows, just like the string to the rope, so that when we are told to “go” by the Holy Spirit, we are ready.

          I think of myself as an example of “going” and having the faith that it was the right thing to do. At the age of 69, on Ash Wednesday 2009, I had an experience that I explain as being “called” by God through the Holy Spirit to enter the ministry. So, I followed that “call”, completed the appropriate education, and was appointed by the United Methodist Church to the Richmond Community UMC where I was their pastor until July of last year when I retired after 7 years to be able to spend more time with my family. As part of my retirement, I was still planning to be available to support others in their ministries, which is exactly what I’ve been doing here at the Fed as a guest preacher and “on-call” pastor. I thank Jesus for making me one of His disciples and supporting my faith to continue to “Go” in His name.

          I also think of your new pastor, Rev. Dr. Joseph Shore-Goss. He could have just as easily decided to stay comfortably in California and continue to minister there, but something led Joseph to “go” and to continue his ministry in a new and unfamiliar place. That was faith, my friends, faith of following what plans Jesus Christ has for him in his present life and future life!

So, now I ask all of you, how is your faith? How is your knowledge of God’s Word? How is your love of yourself? How is your love of your fellow man? Let us all prepare ourselves to do exactly what Jesus told the eleven on that great day, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

And one very important thought of that scripture is the last verse which I repeat, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” God also told us in our Old Testament reading today in Joshua, “for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Remember, whether we are disciples together, or by ourselves, we are never alone. Our Lord is always with us!

And now in the words of Jesus, “Therefore, Go!”