Monday, November 06, 2017

BB Enrolment Sermon: Mark 1: 14-20 Attention! About Turn! Quick March!

Now I’ve got a question for the members of the BB. What is so great about BB?

And what kinds of things do you do at BB? Anchor Boys? Junior Section? Company Section?

I know that there are lots of things you do at BB. But the one I want to focus on this evening is drill. So who is the best boy at drill? Come on up.

Now, you’re going to take on one of the officers at drill. Who are you going to take on? Who will win?

Drill competition - Stand at ease; attention; turn about - about turn; move to the left, left turn; move to the right, right turn.

Well done!

When you’re doing drill in the BB, you need to know who you’re listening to. So imagine, when the BB Battalion parade comes around, and you’re marching down the road towards the church, when someone from the crowd shouts out something. In the middle of the parade, this voice suddenly shouts out ‘squad will retire, about turn!’ Would you do what the voice told you?

Hopefully not! Instead, you listen out for the officer who is giving you commands. You don’t just listen to some randomer on the street. You listen to your commanding officer, and do what they say.

Well tonight, we’re listening in to something our commanding officer is saying - not James, or John, but the Lord Jesus himself. He is our great Captain and Saviour, so we want to listen to him. And the things he says in our reading from Mark’s gospel are illustrated by some of the drill moves.

So first up, if you’re standing at ease, what’s the first command? Attention! And what does that look like?

So when you hear the command - attention - you know that you’re to be listening, ready to obey. Some important commands are coming, so you need to be ready for them. And we see that in verse 15. Jesus says: ‘The time has come. The kingdom of God is near.’

Jesus appears on the scene here at the start of Mark’s gospel. And he says - pay attention!

I’ve got a question for you - whose alarm goes off the earliest in the morning? You’ve maybe been off school for a week, and tomorrow is back to school, but who gets up the earliest? What time does your alarm go off?... Any of the adults beat that for an early alarm?

The alarm clock in the morning is saying - pay attention! It’s time to get up, the time has come for you to get up for school. And Jesus appears on the scene saying, pay attention - the time has come, I have arrived, I’m here.

Jesus is the king, and so the kingdom of God is near (or has arrived). For thousands of years, the people had been waiting for God’s kingdom to come. For the last 400 years, there had been no prophets. No word from God. Then Jesus appears - the king is here. So pay attention. Listen up! Get ready for action!

The next drill movement is this - about turn. So what happens in an about turn? You change direction. If you’re facing this way, you face that way. Or if you’re marching, then you move from going one direction to going the opposite direction. You turn around.

Jesus the king says that we need to turn around. That’s what the next word in verse 15 means: repent.

Jesus says that we all need to repent, to change direction, to turn around. We’ve been going our own way, we’ve been doing things that are wrong, and we need to turn back to him.

If I decided to go to Portadown some day, so I go out onto the main road, but instead I’m heading towards Armagh, is it ok if I keep going the wrong way? Well, no, not if I want to get to Portadown! I need to realise I’m going the wrong way. I need to admit my mistake, and turn around and go the right way.

Jesus the king says, repent, about turn. Stop going away from God (by your sin), and instead turn back to God.

The last drill movement is this - quick march. What happens when you hear that command? You go! And that’s what Jesus wants us to do - when we hear him telling us to pay attention; when he calls us to about turn; then he tells us to go in the right direction - ‘repent and believe the good news.’

Believe the good news means to hear that Jesus is our Saviour, that he went to the cross to take away our sins, and to give us new life - to hear that good news, and then believe it - to throw our weight upon Jesus.

To go with Jesus as our Saviour, and to go with Jesus as our Lord, obeying all that he wants us to do. And we see in the rest of the reading what that looks like - Jesus calls Simon and Andrew to follow him, and they leave everything to follow him. James and John are next - he calls them, and they also followed him.

Twenty-five years ago this month, I heard Jesus calling to me. The time had come for me to follow him - I was always in church, I was involved in the BB, I thought I was good, but I needed to repent (to about turn, turn around), and quick march with Jesus. I was the same age as some of you - I was 11. And it was the best decision I ever made. It’s why I’m here tonight in Richhill.

It’s why the BB exists, to help you to hear and follow Jesus. Through the BB I went on the Mid-Ulster Battalion camps. I made some of my best friends there. I even got a brother-in-law through that camp - Lynsey’s sister married one of my best friends from BB Camp, and he’s now a Presbyterian minister (we’ll not hold that against him!). At last count, out of the boys and officers from my few years at the camp, six or seven of us are now ministers, and many others are still or became Christians through the camp.

Jesus says pay attention - the time has come, the kingdom of God is here, because the king is here - Jesus is here.

Jesus says about turn - change your direction, turn back to God.

Jesus says quick march - Go on with God, as you follow Jesus and trust him to be your Saviour.

This sermon was preached at the BB Enrolment Service for 1st Richhill Boys' Brigade Company in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday evening 5th November 2017.

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