Follow Me

Sermon for Sunday, January 24, 2021 || Epiphany 3B || Mark 1:14-20

I wrote two sermons this week. The first I wrote on Tuesday during my normal sermon writing time, and it was an excruciating few hours in which I never found the flow that normally comes when I’m writing. I wasn’t in tune at all, and the words came out all wrong, and I couldn’t find an ending, which is a sure sign that I never found the thread I was looking for. I finished this unwieldy collection of paragraphs, shrugged, and said to myself that I would clean it up on Saturday. Perhaps it was salvageable. 

But I’ll never know because on Wednesday, I listened to the young poet, Amanda Gorman, speak at the presidential inauguration, and she lifted my heart and soul with her poetry. If you haven’t listened to her poem. “The Hill We Climb,” I encourage you to do so later today. Find it on YouTube, and let her words lift you too. I listened to Amanda Gorman’s words, and her flow pulled me back into resonance with my own flow. And I knew I needed to write another sermon. This second sermon began forming in my mind even as I listened to her speak. The invitation Jesus extends to his first disciples sang in my heart, this invitation to “follow me.”

And I wondered, what is the next word of this invitation? In what ways can we imagine Jesus completing that sentence? The invitation is a complete sentence, true. There is an implied subject “You”; a verb “follow”; and a direct object; “me.” But the invitation is also delightfully incomplete. We could add so many different words in order to clarify Jesus’ message for us. Follow me…where…with whom…to whom…away from what…toward what…Follow me like which examples from my followers?

The invitation is open-ended because there are myriad ways that our following of Jesus happens. And when we prayerfully and creatively imagine the ways Jesus might finish that thought, we discover where he is leading us. I wonder what words you hear Jesus adding to his invitation? What does he say to you after he says, “Follow me?” The rest of this sermon are some of the words I hear him say when I listen for Jesus’ invitation. In my heart Jesus says this:

Follow me with humility.
There’s no such thing as futility 
when success is not the goal. 
The goal is wholeness,
For one alone, for all together
All tethered to one another
And gathered towards fullness.

Follow me with joy in your soul,
Joy and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit,
Joy rooted deeper than topsoil of happiness,
Joy coiled `round both gladness and sadness,
Joy that outlives your disappointment
And gives to your tears a healing ointment.

Follow me with courage,
Which means to lead with your heart.
My love is there: it’s the part
Of you
That is always true,
So trust it to guide you from inside you,
And when you decide to
Love, remember,
You are tied to my supply
So love without reservation
For a gushing well
Needs no preservation.

Follow me away from
The desire to dominate.
Don’t get mired in the quicksand of hate.
Follow me away from 
Fear-based lies,
From biases that blind your eyes.
Follow me away from
Accumulation of stuff,
And learn to recognize
When enough is enough.
Follow me away from
From envy, from greed, from callousness. 

Follow me towards the waters of justice
Step into their flow
And let go of your pettiness.
To thrive, some need more:
That doesn’t mean you get less
So dive in the river
Come alive in water
And strive to make real God’s wonderful dream,
Let righteousness roll like a mighty stream.

Follow me towards the outskirts of town,
And widen the center so the margins are gone.
Follow me towards those you think aren’t like you
And realize that such a thing never was true.
Follow me towards the foot of the cross,
And beyond to the tomb that is empty at last.

Follow me like Mary Magdalene,
Who grieving heard me call her name
And then became
The first to proclaim
My risen life.

Follow me like Simon Peter,
Who headstrong stumbled into truth,
Who fled and returned,
Who bled and discerned
That all were welcome without delay
To join my Way.

Follow me like Nicodemus,
Who opened his mind after years of sameness,
Felt the wind of the Spirit moving him,
And brought the perfume
To my burial tomb.

Follow me like Cleopas,
A dumbfounded disciple on the road to Emmaus.
He welcomed me to walk with him,
To talk with him,
To meet with him,
and eat with him
And felt the flame of faith rekindle within him

Follow me like my own Mother Mary,
Who said “Yes” to God
Even though
The world was saying “No.”

Follow me like Monica,
Who patiently loved her son Augustine
Into his passion for me.

Follow me like Benedict,
Who wove together a community,
Who strove together to follow a Rule
Of work and prayer and charity.

Follow me like Julian,
Who comforted, counseled, and compelled,
Who spoke the truth that all shall be well.

Follow me like Francis,
Who showed my love from deep in his core,
Who chose poverty over privilege
So he could truly love those who are poor.

Follow me like Harriet,
Who made a way out of no way,
A show way to lead them,
Her people she relayed to glorious freedom.

Follow me like Desmond,
Who did not let imprisonment on Robben Island
Rob him of his deep desire to love.

Most importantly, follow me like yourself,
For I yearn for you to burn with the singular light within you,
And sing with the melody God sang to begin you.

And finally, follow me along with others
So you can serve one another on the Way.
Embolden others with my love,
Enfold each other in my love,
Be golden threads
Woven into the tapestry of my love.
Be a member of my
Beloved Community.
And remember that I will be with you
Into eternity.

Art by Ann Musto, oil with pallet knife. I have the wonderful privilege of having this painting hanging in my home, a gift from the artist. Check out her art. It is amazing!

One thought on “Follow Me

  1. Thank you, Adam, for this lovely poem/sermon and for the reminder of that wonderful sermon/poem of the energetic, uplifting Amanda Gorman.

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