Sunday, January 24 2021 “Staying in the Game & Try to Keep On Smiling”

Last week’s scripture lessons had Samuel as a boy serving in the temple responding to God’s call with “Here I am, your servant is listening.”  It also had Nathan being invited by Philip to “Come See” Come see if…. as he caustically put it “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  I talked about how God called these folks who we might think are too young or too caustic out of their dark times into the light of his truth and love.

Today as we continue the season of Epiphany, we continue to have scriptures that recall how God call’s people out of their darkness into his truth and life, his light and love.  Last week I likened God’s call to Samuel and Nathaniel as God saying to them, and to us today, “Get in the Game!  Don’t worry about your qualifications if you’re too young or too old, or too jaded.  Don’t worry about that God says.  I’m the one that qualifies the called not calls the qualified.”  God calls us to get in the game and this week God calls us to stay in the game.

          Today we have the call narratives of the prophet Jonah and the fishermen turned disciples Andrew, Simon, James and John.  As we look at these scriptures you’ll see they have reasons to sit on sidelines.  Jonah basically says, “I don’t like ‘em, I don’t care if they need to hear your message, I’m out!”  Then we have those erstwhile fishermen.  They had ready excuses, built in, iron clad, tried and true excuses: I’m too busy, you know family comes first God.  And yet we know how those various rationalizations ended up being broken down by God don’t we?

Jonah- who needs them?? Not my job!  Aren’t we all a little inclined towards Jonah’s attitude? Deep down we hope God writes them off. Amazing thing is God doesn’t want to leave anyone on the sidelines- especially you.  Isn’t it nice at some point in time somewhere somehow God got to you through who knows who, to give you his good news of grace and salvation. God didn’t want to leave the mixed up messed up person known as you on the shoulder of the road to salvation. Instead God gave you his good news through Christ.  Hopefully that’s why you’re sitting in this pew today.

But think about it.  God doesn’t want to leave anyone on the sidelines, even your enemies.  Abraham Lincoln was asked during the height of the bloodiest most violent civil war in our young nation’s history why he treated his rivals and especially his enemies so considerately? His response was simple yet profound “If I make a friend out of an enemy, I have one less enemy!”

How will our world, a world of rage and divisiveness, change if we continue to treat those who are different from us, who don’t share our viewpoints, as disposable, deplorable, or despicable?!  I’m not saying we have to capitulate what we stand for just to have peace with others but we must let them know we care for them not hate them even as we take our stand.  When Jonah finally admitted “These people are worthy of hearing God’s Word, as distasteful as it will be to them.”  Jonah changed not just a city, but a nation wow! 

Speaking of changing not just a city or a nation but how about a world.  That’s what Jesus aimed to do and he chose Andrew and Simon, James and John- hardworking smelly raucous (sailors) to help him change the world!? These are not slick salesmen, not spiritual gurus, not sizeable pocket supporters.  They’re small family business laborers.  What in the world is Jesus doing even approaching them with the idea of leaving their nets and following him?!  Yet, they jump at getting a chance to be in the game. They jump at the chance to change the world with God’s love in Jesus Christ.  Do we?

Perhaps we look at the world through eyes of a reluctant Jonah.  There’s no way they’re gonna change.  Not from some simple message I give them.  I’ve got a proposal for you.  Let’s try to change the world one person at a time, with a simple step that even the most work a day person can accomplish.  I got this idea from Harold McCue our Adult Forum Bible study leader. He wrote on his white board, “I miss smiles.” 

As a retired substitute teacher, before COVID he regularly worked in several schools and then it all went virtual. Thankfully that starting to change and in person school is returning but as it does, its still struggling to get back to “normal.”  For the most part things are coming back to “normal.”  The kids who recognize him, greet him.  “Hey Coach, who are you today?!”  But with all the various masks one thing hasn’t returned as easily.  Smiles!  The greetings aren’t accompanied by big wide grins but wide swaths of paper or cloth covering up what used to be bemusing brace filled or beautiful smiles. He misses smiles.

I miss smiles- A spiritual game changer can be as simple as sharing a smile in a stressful time.  Reaching out with a phone call, card, conversation in time of social distancing. Don’t just be a grumpy Jonah- The world’s coming to an end because you all are serious screw ups... and you know what I’m gonna let it careen out of control. 

Don’t need to be above people Andrew, Simon, James John were “work a day” people, willing to follow a savior.  Wear a smile. I wear a smile because God loves me, has forgiven me and given me an everlasting home. 

I want you to be prepared as you go.  You go to proclaim the gospel you go to do spiritual battle!  The Devil doesn’t bother with dead beat disciples he’s won them already but try to make a difference in Jesus’ name and watch out!  That’s the bad news, that’s the reality of it. 

You share a smile and the Devil’s gonna say, “What do you think you’re doing?!  Wipe that smile off your face- there’s no crying in baseball- ooops – that’s from the old Tom Hanks movie “League of their Own.”  But it might as well apply to the Devil…I mean there’s no smiling on my ball field!! There’s no smiling!!

That’s the bad news… but you know what we have good news.  When Jesus called those fishermen, he was calling them to proclaim the good news. What is that good news? look at those cards… These are statements backed by scripture that every Christian ought to know



· God's got this 

· His Grace is sufficient.

· God is good.

· I am fearfully & wonderfully made.

· I am not alone 

· Christ is enough for me.

· I am a child of God 

· Jesus has overcome the world.

· Jesus loves me

· Sin doesn't define me, Christ does.

· God is able.

· The Lord fights for me 

· It is finished.

· Jesus conquered the grave.

· Be still & know

· I am a new creation in Christ.

· Not today Satan

· Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

· I know who wins!!

· .Joy comes in the morning.


This is great stuff!!  When you know this stuff, when you claim these scriptural promises it may not change your circumstances, but it can certainly change you.  It changes you because now you know it’s no longer Satan’s ballfield! Earth is under new management and it’s a bigger turn around for you to get your mind around than getting your mind around the recent turnaround of the Cleveland Browns!!  I can smile because I know… (review statements)

Stay in the game folks, don’t check out, and make sure you are on the winning team!  God’s calling every Christian who hears this good news to repent and claim this good news. Forget the lies of Satan that you’re not old enough, or too old! The lie that you are not good enough, or you are too bad… you’re not qualified enough or you’re too inept.  It’s not Satan’s ball field anymore and you can smile! Smile because I know… (review statements)

Smile, folks… you’re on “Christian camera!” Most of you are probably too old to remember that old catch phrase “Smile you’re on Candid Camera.”  But I think God is hoping to be able to see, to catch some folks in every day life being counter cultural and sharing Christ’s good news.  That can be as simple as during a time of depression and chaos like COVID to simply smile. 

You ever hear that phrase “Smile, they’ll think you’re up to something!?”  or “Smile, they’ll think you know something, they don’t know!?”  So, SMILE brothers and sisters in Christ!  And when they ask, “Why you smiling, what you up to?  Do you know something I don’t know?”  Tell em, “I smile cause I’ve got the love of God in Christ Jesus in my heart and in my life. Satan may beat me down, but he’ll never steal my joy.  I’ve flipped ahead to read the last chapter of life and I know who wins.  I read the last chapter of history and it HIS story! Christ wins.  God’s got this! 

The pandemic may panic me, it may even take me, but God’s got me, God’s claimed me.  Pandemics and problems may pummel me, but they will never separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Pandemics and political turmoil may be ringing my doorbell daily, but I need not collapse in fear or cower in the corner because I have the promise of paradise and the gates of heaven open to me by Christ Jesus himself! 

That means I can live differently than those who don’t have the forgiveness of Christ, the hope of salvation, or the love of God in their life.  I can live differently than those who don’t have the power of Holy Spirit in their heart and the peace of God in their mind. 

You know those secular atheists are right when they say “Christians they are different kinds of folks.”  But, they mean we are judgmental temperamental broken people who just want to beat down others… that’s what they mean by “they’re different kinds of folks”.  The only part of that definition that should be true is we are broken.

We are in desperate need of God’s grace cause this world has overwhelmed us and broken us… and we are helpless… but GOD IS ABLE.  We are broken, we are sinful, but Christ forgives, Jesus loves me, God’s got this. We are broken and we will never do enough, can’t earn enough, go far enough to complete what needs to be done but Christ is more than enough for us and in Christ IT IS FINISHED.

Doesn’t that put a smile on your face?  Doesn’t that make you want to drop your nets of busyness and bitterness and instead be about the goodness of God?  Does it surprise you now to think about when Jesus offered that to Simon, Andrew, James and John that invitation to share his good news they said yes!  The gospel isn’t about moralism “Be Good” its about God is Good! And God is Gracious! God is merciful to those who repent and believe that IN Jesus Christ the kingdom of God has come near. 

There is no smiling on Satan’s ball field!! But on God’s ball field you can’t wipe the smile off your face!  It may look like the exact same ball field, yet it all depends on whose team your on.  Stay in the Game and if you wonder what team you’re on just check the mirror… are you smiling?!  If not, stop listening to Satan and start listening to Jesus.  Stop looking to Satan and look to Jesus as scripture says, “look to Jesus The author and perfector of our faith.”

Listen folks, as Christians we should certainly be like the secular atheists say “Christians’ they are different folks” but in a good way, in a Great way, in a SAVING way! We’re different in a way that shares a smile because we are not just sitting on the premises of some church property, but we are standing on the promises of Christ’s authority. AMEN? Are ya smiling?  

You know what I miss?... Smiles! but I’ve come to realize with all these masks covering up smiles… they are still there. People are still sharing smiles with their eyes, with their hearts, … with their hands.  Even if there isn’t a smile on our face let’s try to share the smile that Jesus put in our heart the day he called us out of darkness into his wonderful, forgiving, amazing grace filled love.  AMEN? 

Three short things and then I’ll let you go. First, God calls all of his children through the gospel of Jesus to get off the sidelines, get in the game and stay in the game. Second find your smile Christian brothers and sisters cause if you ain’t smiling while you’re playing, (at least in your heart of hearts) you’re playing for the wrong team. Third thing, and this is real important…Playball!!! 

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord…and all God’s people said??? Smile when you say that. Amen!