In social media sites like LinkedIn or Twitter, to follow a person or organization is to subscribe to their posts in order to gain instant access to their thoughts or ideas. In the realm of research or public service announcements, receiving instant updates to posts can be a great way to benefit from the most recent, up-to-date information. Sometimes on-line information appears authoritative and worth following when it really isn’t. And a pervasive trend is the phenomenon of “following the crowd” in reading customer feedback on Amazon or restaurant reviews on Yelp. In a massive controlled experiment of Internet users published a few years ago in the journal Science, product ratings were found to be highly susceptible to irrational herd behavior. Comments that received fake positive reviews from researchers were much more likely to receive positive votes than those from the control group. At least when it comes to on-line shopping, it seems, people really do follow the crowd.
Jesus’ question to the disciples in our Gospel reading this week prompts the question to each and every one of us, “Who are you following?” In the realm of faith, this of course encompasses so much more than the daily news, the latest pop trend, or what others might think about the most efficient vacuum cleaner. It has to do with matters as profound as the meaning and purpose of life itself…the source of true peace…the origin of love and the empowering of our own expression of it. Who are you following? As we begin to answer that question, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit turns our attention away from the hype and the hoopla, away from the crowds and our own short attention span, away from our all-consuming need to profit and improve, to what truly endures: the forgiveness of our sins and the love of God for the world delivered through the death on the cross of God's own dear Son, Jesus Christ. Though we fail to follow Jesus as we should (though we may at times even think of faithfulness as a tool to manipulate God into letting us escape the pain of life) Jesus sacrificed ALL on the cross for us, sinners that we are! And now, through the water of Holy Baptism, we do carry a cross on our foreheads and over our hearts. We have been made followers of the cross-bearer...disciples of the crucified and risen Son of God! Finding meaning and peace in the cross of our Lord and Savior this week, we look for ways to invite others into that space, too. Who can you tell about the One you follow? With whom might you share a story of God's sufficient strength in the face of your own insufficiency, this week?
Sermon Outline Fill-in-the-Blanks, 2/25/2018: 1. Answer/Expectations; 2. Failure/Cross; 3. Reward/Defeat