‘Follow me and love one another’
(James Bond theme music) I love James Bond movies. And one of the things I love about them most is the car chases. Film by film they seem to get more and more extreme, whether it’s cars that end up driving down steps, or motorbikes riding along rooftops. It’s all about the people behind following the person in front.
Jesus says to the fishermen, “Follow me.” And he says it to us too. We follow the person in front. We follow Jesus, who has gone before us. The one who loves us, the one who cares for us, the one who forgives us, restores us and offers us new hope and new life.
I’ve got a younger sister, Katherine – about two years younger than me. At one mealtime when we were children, we were at the table with our mum and dad. And Katherine decides to copy me. So when I picked up my fork, she picked up her fork. When I had a drink, she had a drink too. And when I shuffled in my chair. What did she do? (Shuffled in her chair)
I got really fed up with this, and mum and dad hadn’t spotted it. So I decided to sit very quietly and still, and then suddenly (wave my arms and head, and make a funny sound) – Katherine just didn’t know what to do.
And as for mum and dad, they had no idea and asked sternly exactly what was I up to. Fortunately, when I explained they saw the funny side of it.
Katherine was copying me, she was following what I was doing. She was imitating me.
Jesus says, “Follow me.” Copy me, do what I do. Love others as I have loved you. Care for others as I care for you. Forgive others as I forgive you. Offer others hope, just as I do to you.
Jesus says, “Follow me.” That was what the fishermen were asked to do. To follow Jesus. And only then did Jesus give them an inkling of what they would be doing. As well as saying “Follow me”, he says he wants their help to fish for or to catch people – to share God’s love with others.
But before they could do that, they literally followed Jesus around Nazareth and Lake Galilee. They listened to what he had to say, they watched what he did. They asked questions and they made mistakes. But they were following Jesus, discovering what he was doing, saying and behaving – becoming more like him. And on the night before Jesus died, he said, “Love another, just as I have loved you.” Be like me.
Desmond Tutu said these words, “I am because you are.” I am because of what I have seen and witnessed of others. If I have been loved, I can learn what it means to love others. If I have been shown justice, then I know what it means to be fair to others. If I have been treated with respect and compassion, then that is how I will be with other people.
“I am, because you are.”
But John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said, “The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness.”
People often misquote this to stress the importance of social action, of mission and service – caring for the sick, the hungry and the homeless care, mission. But it is actually about community. About being together.
So it is not just “I am, because you are.” It is “I am, because we are.”
What we do, what we say, how we conduct ourselves, and how we care for each other has an effect on all of us. Together in this congregation and church, together (in this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity) as Christians in different churches and denominations, together as a community.
But we don’t do this by ourselves. Let’s face it, we can’t do it by ourselves. The Gospels show that the disciples couldn’t do it by themselves. They needed Jesus and they needed the Holy Spirit – living in them and working through them.
As we are all just the same. We need Jesus, and we need the Holy Spirit living in us and working through us.
Then not only will each of us follow, but we can support each other as we follow together, and we can invite others to follow too. Through activities in the church, through activities across the churches.
Because we can’t and don’t do it by ourselves. We do it with the help and support of each other. And most importantly with the help and support of God.
The one who said, “Follow me” and I will lead and guide you. “Follow me” – learn from me, and become more like me. “Love, care, cherish one another, just as I love you.”
(In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.)
St Anselm’s, 22 January 2023