First Presbyterian Church
120 Pine Street, Paw Paw MI 49079 
269-657-3111 - 269-657-8969 fax 


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"Fired Up" - November 22

 Scripture Passages:   1) John 18:33-37
                                    2) Matthew 28:16-20
                                    3) Revelation 1:4-8


Read Revelation 1:4-8

Follow: A couple of years ago I shared with you about our backpacking trip that went awry.  The main problem was the trail all of a sudden disappeared.  We could see the lake we wanted to get to, but the trail was gone.  In that valley, between where the trail had disappeared and the lake below, a series of large avalanches had changed the topography of that whole valley.  So the trail which existed on the map I had used to plan our trip no longer existed.  We tried to forge on ahead without a trail, but it was just too difficult.

     Later when I looked at the map I noticed that the geological survey used to make that particular map took place in the 1960ís.  So I quickly learned that following a map based on 40 year old information was not a good idea.

     Maps are one type of guide for this life that we live.  These days instead of maps we may follow directions from Map-quest or a GPS.  I havenít had this problem for several years, but when I first starting using Map-quest on a couple of different occasions the directions did not get me where I needed to go.  I learned that I needed to cross reference my Map-quest directions with another source of information because they too might lead me down the wrong path. 

     Of course men have never had this experience because we donít ever stop and ask for directions, but how often have you stopped at a gas station to get directions and the person gives you directions that get you more lost than you were before.  Humans can lead us astray just as readily as a map.

      Of course, as we all know following our own path, our own perspectives, our own insights can get us just as lost as following someone elseís.  We often are our own worst enemy when it comes to setting a good course to follow in this life.  So is there really any safe person, or map, or gadget to follow?

Beacon: This spring the elders and deacons decided upon a big, hairy, audacious goal.  It has been up on the screen during the announcements.  It reads:


We are a beacon that:


ē         Lights a path of hope and peace.

ē         Reaches out to beckon and guide people to a safe harbor.

ē         Illuminates and responds to the needs of our community.


     When we look at this statement in reference to the topic of following; the audacity of this goal becomes quite clear.  We are proclaiming that we can light a path, for people, a path filled with hope and peace.  We are proclaiming that we can point people to a safe harbor.  We are proclaiming that we have an awareness of needs in our community and we will respond to them.  To do these things we better be following something or someone better than my map based on 40 year old information, or map-quest, or clerks in gas stations, or any of us for that matter.  We better follow someone worthy of following.

     Last Sunday we read a passage from Matthew chapter 23.  In that text Jesus commented to a crowd about the nature of the religious people of his day.  He said, follow their teaching, but donít follow them.  That seems like good advice when dealing with humanity.  So whoís teaching then can we point people to?  Whose teaching lights a path of hope and peace?  Whose teaching guides us to a safe harbor?  Whose teaching illuminates the needs around us and calls us to respond?  Whose teaching will we follow?

     Matthew 28 suggests that the path we want to follow is the path or the way of Jesus.  The teaching we want to follow and point others to is the teaching of Jesus.  In the Revelation passage and in the Matthew passage we hear how Jesus has the authority and the power over heaven and earth and how Jesus has been, is now, and will forever be the truth.  The way of Jesus is the way that leads to life, hope, peace, and safety.  Why would we not want to follow Jesus?  Why would we ever choose to follow our own way, or the way of technology, or the way of the culture?  Does it not make sense to claim Jesus as the one we are going to follow?  Does it not make sense to give Jesus the role of King over our lives?

Christ Our King: Every year on the church calendar the Sunday before Advent marks Christ Our King Sunday.  I think this idea of Christ being our king is particularly problematic for us because as Americans we are skeptical of kings at best and most likely just plain opposed to the whole idea of kingship.  As you sit here this morning how does the idea of following Christ as your King sit with you? 

     Of course one truly radical aspect of Christís Kingship is that Jesus does not force his Kingship on us.  Jesus gives us the freedom to choose Christ as King.  That in and of itself setís Jesus apart as a very different kind of king.  Have you chosen Christ as your King?  Is Christ the way you follow?

Lord of the Rings: One of my favorite stories is Tolkienís Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  It is a powerful story filled with Gospel truth.  There is a particular scene I want to share with you.  In this scene, The Dark Lord, Saran, is about to set his over powering army loose to wipe out the remnant of those who seek the light.  As this small remnant appears to be on the brink of destruction, Aragorn, their future king speaks to them.  Listen!  Play video clip.

Fear to Hope, Purpose, and Passion: The fear in the eyes and posture of everyone is vivid.  But then as Aragorn delivered his speech that visible fear turned to hope, purpose, and passion. 

     Fear is the enemy of faith.  Fear is what holds us back in our following of Christ as individuals and as a church.  Fear gets us to hold on to habits, and beliefs, and traditions that prevent us from growing personally, loving boldly, and witnessing passionately.  Fear limits our singing.  Fear blinds us as we read scripture.  Fear deafens us to Godís voice as we pray.  Fear numbs us to the injustice all around us.  Fear erodes our self image so we downplay or even reject the talents God has given us.  Fear causes us to hoard our resources.  Fear teaches us that it is somehow inappropriate to ask our neighbor to come to church with us.  Fear prevents us from sharing our own faith story even with the people we worship with week after week after week.  Fear will quickly wipe out any remnant, struggling, timid group of Godís people. 

     Look around you.  What do you see in each otherís eyes?  What do you see in each otherís postures?  Do you see fear?  Or do you see hope, purpose, and passion?  When we choose to set our eyes on Christ our lives will be filled with hope, purpose, and passion. 

     This week about 13 of our faith family went to Western Theological Seminary and listened to Shane Claiborne speak.  Shane is one of the most, joyful, hopeful, purposeful, passionate people you will ever encounter.  Shane has chosen Christ as his king.

     Doug did not have an easy life.  For his whole life his eyesight progressively declined.  He went through a painful divorce.  He struggled to stay connected to his children.  He went bankrupt and lost his farm.  His eyes got so bad he lost his drivers license.  Then no one would hire him.  Each relationship he entered ended painfully.  Finally, a friend gave him a room in his already overcrowded Paw Paw home.  And yet, through all that Doug stayed hopeful, and joyous, and passionate, and purposeful in his living.  Why, because Doug chose Christ as his king.

Conclusion: Have you chosen Christ as your king?  Have I chosen Christ as my king?  Have we as a church chosen to follow Christ as our King? 

     As a congregation we have said, that we desire to be a beacon of hope in this world and safe harbor for all people.  If that is truly our desire, then we will need to choose Christ as our king, so that our fears will melt away and be replaced by hope, purpose, and passion. 

     The fact is we all choose to follow someone or some thing.  Maybe it is an outdated map, a well meaning friend, or perhaps our own good intentions.  None of those including ourselves have the power or the authority to turn our fears into hope, purpose, and passion.  Only Christ is worth following.  Only Christ is worth choosing as king.  Amen.

Archived Sermons Listed Below:

Sermon 6-7-09
Sermon 6-14-09
Sermon 6-21-09
Sermon 7-5-09
Sermon 8-2-09
Sermon 8-16-09
Sermon 8-30-09
Sermon 9-13-09
Sermon 9-20-09
Sermon 9-27-09
Sermon 11-15-09
Sermon 11-22-09