The Bridge Over Troubled Water

Sermon Summary for Sunday, January 15th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Kelley Dial

Jesus famously invited Simon Peter and others to follow him and become "fishers of men and women"; they accepted and became Jesus' disciples.  The Very Rev. Rich Pocalyko defined a disciple for us as someone who listens to another for the purpose of learning.  The fishermen changed the focus of their labors not to join an institution but to learn and put their knowledge into action.  At that time there was no institutional church, there was a movement, led by Jesus.  Even after his death, it took some time for the institutional church to appear. Prior to that, people were bound together by what they saw or heard Jesus say and do during his lifetime.  Imagine the impact the Sermon on the Mount had on those seeking fulfillment when they heard "blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven".  Jesus fed their souls. Liturgy sprang from that.  

Jumping ahead a few centuries, in 1990 the Wall Street Journal proclaimed "The Episcopal Church Goes the Way of the Dodo" in an article looking at the decline in membership of non-Baptist, mainline protestant denominations.  In reaction to the long-term decline in membership beginning in the 1960's, the 1990's were declared the "Decade of Evangelism".  In retrospect, the decade might more appropriately be called the "Decay of Evangelism".  It essentially became a decade focusing on "scouts and wampum" - numbers and money.  Toward the end of this decade, in answer to the question, "Do you see any hope for this old church of ours?", James Andrews (retired leader of the Presbyterian Church) responded, "No..........but then there's Jesus".  That simple answer provides the hope and the promise for our future as an institutional church.

In these increasingly complicated times, we all seek out second chances, we yearn for saving possibilities, we strive for relevance.  As an extension of that, we search for a "saving person".  Paul Simon's familiar lyrics from "You can Call me Al" talk about that search:

A man walks down the street
He says why am I soft in the middle now
Why am I soft in the middle
The rest of my life is so hard
I need a photo-opportunity
I want a shot at redemption
Don't want to end up a cartoon
In a cartoon graveyard
Bonedigger Bonedigger
Dogs in the moonlight
Far away my well-lit door
Mr. Beerbelly Beerbelly
Get these mutts away from me
You know I don't find this stuff amusing anymore

If you'll be my bodyguard
I can be your long lost pal
I can call you Betty
And Betty when you call me
You can call me Al

Our longing for a bodyguard, for relevance, for a saving possibility and a saving person takes us back to those four words, "And then there's Jesus".  If we, both personally and institutionally, truly become his disciples and listen to him for the purpose of learning, we will find our salvation and our relevance in this world.  Thanks be to God.

You can view Paul Simon's song here.