Rules for the Road

Rules for the Road

Christmas 2 (NL4) John B. Valentine
John 1:35-51 January 2, 2022


It’s 2022! Wow! Just wow!

I scarcely got used to writing 2021 ... and just like that it’s gone!

Speaking of 2022 ... did you know that there are some new traffic laws ... some new ‘Rules of the Road’ ... on the books in the Golden State as of yesterday?

• So ... for instance ... there’s a new law defining what a “sideshow” is ... and detailing what the punishments are for participating in such a thing ... so I trust that ... going forward ... none of you ... including you ... Mister Henry ... will impede the flow of traffic so as to allow your buddies to perform motor vehicle stunts or races.

• Then again ... there’s a new law that mandates that anyone under 18 years old who rides a bike, a non-motorized scooter, a skateboard, in-line skates or roller skates ... or a horse or a mule or a donkey for that matter! ... on a paved highway must "wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet.''

• And then again ... speaking of horse and mules and donkeys ... as of yesterday ... people of ANY age riding a horse or a mule or a donkey on a paved highway MUST wear reflective gear or have a head lamp and a tail lamp after dark!

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Seriously ... can you remember when YOU first learned the rules of the road?

• Was it via some online Driver’s Ed. program like so many kids are doing nowadays?

• Was it part of some in-person Driver’s Ed. class available from a private vendor?

• Was it in Driver’s Ed and Driver Training ... when such were offered back in the day back in high school?

• Was it from your parents ... in the days before Driver's Ed and Driver Training were offered in high school?

Thing is ... somewhere’s or other along the line ... IF you are a driver ...

• You need to not just LEARN the rules of the road ...

• You need to TRANSLATE those rules of the road from mere ideas on paper to practical experiences ...

• And then you need to INCULCATE them to the point that they somehow become second nature.

And that ... I suspect for most all of us ... takes practice. Practice ... practice ... practice.

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Now I grant you that the traffic laws in Jesus' day were a whole lot less stringent than they are now ....

Kids on scooters didn’t need to wear helmets ....

And horses and mules and donkeys didn’t have to have headlamps or taillights ....

In fact .... even though Jesus probably logged ten of thousands of miles in his lifetime ... I doubt he ever got a traffic ticket ... he never honked his horn ... and he never even turned right on red.

But he did ... as he traveled the Judean countryside ... lay down some ‘Rules of the Road’ for all who followed him back then ... and all of us who would somehow strive to follow him still today.

In fact ... the story we read as our Gospel lesson today ... could well be understood to be Jesus basic “Rules for the Road” for his disciples.

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You see ... the text which we heard read just a few minutes ago represents the closing words of the first chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John.

The first part of that chapter was the prologue ...

An explanation of who Jesus was and is in the grand cosmic scheme of things.

And the second part of that chapter told the story of John the Baptist ...

And reminded us that John was a sign pointing to Jesus ... and ... yes ... Pastor Pam ... it was also an invitation for us to be Pointer Sisters too!

So today’s text is our first opportunity to see Jesus in action ... and to begin to get a sense for who he is ... and to get a sense for who we are called to be in relationship to him.

And ... in so doing ... he reveals some “Rules of the Road” that we might well argue are the three most important “Rules of the Road” ever recorded!

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The first one ... “FOLLOW”

As in “They followed Jesus” ...

As in “Jesus turned as saw them following” ...

As in “He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

This first rule is maybe the most basic rule of the road of all ...

Maybe the equivalent of something as basic as “Stay in your lane” is for drivers.

Jesus calls disciples ... followers ...

• He doesn’t say “Believe in me” ...

• He doesn’t say “Consider me” ...

• He doesn’t say “Write books and sermons and songs about me” ...

• He doesn’t say “Venerate me” or “Worship me” or anything like that.

He says “Follow me.”

You see ... to be a disciple of Jesus is necessarily about leaving the route that you were on ... a route of your own devising ... and taking the route that Jesus takes.

Being a disciple of Jesus means following him even when the road gets narrow ...

Even when it takes an unexpected turn ...

Even when nobody else is going that way ...

Even when it doesn’t seem ‘reasonable’ or ‘wise’.

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You know ... or maybe you don’t know ...

A number of years ago I had opportunity to travel to Israel and set my eyes on some of the same hills and valleys that Jesus set his eyes on during his own lifetime.

And ... of all the things I learned on that trip ... and all the places that we saw ... I think the one that MOST changed my understanding of the Bible was the afternoon during which we went and visited this thing called “The Jesus Boat”.

You see ... back in 1986 there was this drought in the Near East the dropped the water level of the Sea of Galilee to a record low ...

And a couple of local fishermen stumbled across the remains of a boat that was buried in a mud flat in the northwest corner of that inland sea.

And they quick enough discovered ... based on artifacts that were found with it ... that it was dated between 50 BC and AD 50.

And after a twelve year long preservation process ... the kibbutz on which the boat was found was able to put it on display.

Now there’s nothing that ... in any way ... links this particular boat with Jesus or any of his disciples ...

But is DOES reveal what boats were like on the Sea of Galilee back in Jesus’ day ...

And the quality of the construction of that boat makes it very clear that the only people who could afford such things were businessfolk with at least a middle-class income.

Which is all a way of saying that ... when Jesus says “Follow me” to Peter and Andrew and James and John and the like ...

He isn’t saying “Follow me if you have nothing better to do” ...

He IS saying “Follow me in spite of all the other things that you have to do ... because while you’ve got a whole lot of ‘urgent’ things on your to-do list ... THIS is an ‘important’ thing.”

For this whole “Following Jesus” thing is not something to be taken lightly.

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But “Follow me” isn’t the only “Rule of the Road” which Jesus lays down for his first followers.

No ... there’s also an invitation in there to “COME” ... is there not??

• As in the “Come and see” which Jesus himself says to Andrew and another unnamed disciple ...

• As in the “Come and see” which Philip says to Nathanael just a day later.

• “Come” ... as in “You’re invited”.

• “Come” ... as in “Your friends and loved ones are invited”.

• “Come” ... as in “You’re an inviter as well!”

Now ... I KNOW that we live in an age wherein invitations to discipleship are looked at askance.

We’re supposed to be respectful of people as they are for who they are.

We’re supposed to assume everyone knows best for themselves.

And we’re definitely NOT supposed to impose our value systems on our neighbors.

But Luther’s explanation of evangelism as simply “one beggar telling another beggar where to find food” is a reminder that we DO have something to offer ... something to share ...

And that invitation may take the shape of a simple “Come and see”.

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Speaking of “SEE” ... isn’t that the third of Jesus’ simple “Rules of the Road” ... or maybe better “Rules FOR the Road”???

It’s an invitation for others to witness for themselves what Jesus is saying and doing.

When Philip reports to Nathanael that Jesus is the one “about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote” ... Nathanael throws up a huge Stop Sign.

That snarky “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

But Philip doesn’t try to argue with him.

He doesn’t try to coerce him.

He doesn’t try to explain it all to him.

He simply says “Come and see for yourself!”

And ... after seeing for himself ... Jesus says to Nathanael that he ain’t seen nothing yet!

And ... at the end of the day ... by the end of John’s Gospel ...

Nathanael will have come to see healings and exorcisms ... signs and wonders ... a transfiguration and a resurrection ...

And he’ll have come experience a journey that will change his life forever.

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You see ... a little bit ago ... at KidTalk ... I asked our kids if they had any New Year’s Resolutions that they were going to try to keep in the year that we’ve just begun ...

But maybe I should ask the question of all of you ... and of me myself.

What resolutions ARE we going to take on in the year that lies ahead???

If you haven’t completed your list just yet ... might I get you to add “Become a better driver on the road that is life!” by following Jesus’ ‘Rules for the Road’.

They’re not that hard to remember ...

• “FOLLOW” ...
• “COME” ... and
• “SEE”.

And I guarantee that they’ll change your life’s journey ... for the better!

“Rules for the Road” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine on the weekend of January 2, 2022.  Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to provide an audible live-stream feed or recording.  Please accept our apologies.