Minions by the Bunch

May 7, 2017

When you hear the word “Minion” what do you
think of?  For some, you think of little
yellow people in blue pants. 
For others, you have your own favorite
minions from years past.    The Disney films we grew up with were filled
with Minions, albeit with other names. 
Snow White’s Step Mother had her magic mirror.  Captain Hook had Mr. Smee, and Gaston had
LeFou.
For those with more cultured tastes you
might remember Pintel and Ragetti  who
were minions for whoever was paying the best in the various Pirates of the
Caribbean.
If you grew up with horror movies,
Frankenstein had Igor and Dracula had Renfield.
And lest you think that Minions always
worked for the bad guys remember that Batman had Robin, the Lone Ranger had
Tonto, the Green Lantern had Kato and of course every Han Solo needs a
Chewbacca. 
The Oxford dictionary defines a Minion as “A follower or underling
of a powerful person, especially a servile or unimportant one.”
So in theory
that would make the Vice President of the United States a minion.  Mike Pence might not think so but John Garner who was Vice President between 1933
and 1941 once told Lyndon Johnson “The office of
Vice-President isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.”   
I guess Lyndon Johnson might have disagreed
with that on November 22, 1963.
But for most of us today when we think of
Minions we think of Kevin, Dave and Stuart and their friends. 
These minions first made their appearance
in the animated feature “Despicable Me” in 2010,
which was followed by “Despicable Me 2” in
2013 and finally by their own movie “Minions” in 2015. 
Now the reality is that most of us would feel
insulted if we were characterized as someone’s minion but the reality is that
most of us serve as minions to somebody.
My Grandfather was fond of saying “Beware of the man who
says he’s boss in his own home, if he’ll lie about that he’ll lie about
anything.”   
Peter Moore is presently our assistant
District Superintendent and after July, everything being equal will most likely
be our District Superintendent.  Because
I serve the district in a couple of different capacities I’m kind of a minion
for Peter.  But the reality is, that when
Peter first graduated from University he was my minion.
Over the next 7 weeks or so we are going to
be looking at some of the folks in the bible who were cast as minions, those
who didn’t get to play the lead role or have a place on centre stage.  Those who were asked to play second fiddle
for God. 
Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, was
once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation,
he replied: “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of
first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with
enthusiasm – that’s a problem; and if we have no second fiddle, we have no
harmony.”
Let’s start with a whole bunch of minions,
12 to be exact.
If I was to ask you to name the Twelve
Apostles I would suspect that many of you would be hard pressed to get all
Twelve. 
Most of us would start with Matthew, Mark,
Luke and John.  But only Matthew and John
were actually apostles.  We could
probably add Peter and James, most would get Judas and then we’d start
grasping. 
I remember in my Systematic Theology  class in university a friend of mine was
stumped by a particular question so he wrote “I don’t know the answer but the
names of the twelve apostles’ were . . .” and then he listed them.  The Prof marked it wrong.  As my cousin Rob used to say “Mr Bridgeo had no sense of ha ha.”  
So what do we know about the twelve?  A number of years ago I preached a message
called “Discovering the Twelve” and taught about each of the twelve apostles.  I’m not going to do that today, if you’re
interested let me know and I’ll send you the manuscript.
This is a really, really important group of
people. 
They may have scattered when Jesus was
being crucified, but when public opinion was still on the other side they came
back together.  And after Jesus’ death
and resurrection and his return to the Father there were only 120 gathered in
the upper room. 
That’s about a quarter of the number that
call Cornerstone their church home.  And
through the efforts and leadership of the eleven remaining Apostles those 120
people literally changed the course of history.
Now I understand that God was working, and
the Holy Spirit was moving but it ultimately happened because of these
men.  This was the group that God had
chosen to accomplish his plan through.  
And they changed the world that they lived in, without television or
radio or the internet, without force or violence they reshaped humanity in a
matter of half a century.
And while we might not know everything
about the Apostles there are some things that we know about the twelve, let’s
start with their call.
Mark
3:13-14
 Afterward
Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him.
And they came to him.  Then he appointed twelve of them and called them
his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach.
. .
They
Weren’t Just any Minions, They Were Chosen Minions
Just so you understand, there were
countless disciples but there were only twelve apostles.
The twelve weren’t the only ones to follow
Christ during the three years he taught, Jesus had followers two thousand years
before twitter, but the twelve were the ones who followed him the closest and
he chose them for their role they would play in changing the world.
Jesus had come to the place that his
mission and his message could no longer be fulfilled without the help of
others.  He was working under constraints
that he had put on himself by choosing to come when he came and choosing how he
came. 
He came as a person and he came at a time
when there was no social media, no mass media, no printed media and for that
matter no media period.  If people were
going to hear his message they would need to hear it in person. 
And I’m in no way suggesting that there
would have been a better time or a better way, Paul tells us in Romans 5 that
Jesus didn’t come at just anytime, he came at just the right time.
And because of that he needed help if his
message was going to spread and if his message was going to stick. 
And so he choose the 12.  Notice that he didn’t chose 12 people who
would do their own thing in their own way at their own time.  Instead He chose 12 who would function as a
group.  From the very beginning
Christianity was designed to be a social religion and wasn’t simply to be
something we do by ourselves.
And so Jesus called the twelve to serve a
couple of purposes.  He called them to be
the steady and constant players in the drama of his mission. 
We would see others who would come and go,
but for three years the 12 were with him. 
And he called them to represent him, he couldn’t be everywhere so he
multiplied his efforts when he called the twelve.  It’s a great example of synergy. 
And the scriptures were very clear the 12
were different than the multitude.
Why would he call these 12 and not 12
others?  Because he’s God and because of
that He  ultimately he gets to choose Wesley wrote “With
regard to the eternal states of men, God always acts as just and merciful. But
with regard to numberless other things, he seems to us to act as a mere
sovereign.”   
So, they were chosen, what else do we
learn? Let’s keep reading. 
Acts 4:13-14  The members of the
council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they
could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the
Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.  But
since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among
them, there was nothing the council could say.
While
they were Special Minions, They Were Ordinary Minions
So, who were these “Apostles” and what were
they like?  Well let’s start by saying
they were people, they weren’t statues or stained glass windows they were people.  Living breathing people with all of the
faults and foibles, passions and vision that make us people.
Too often we elevate the apostles up on a
pedestal and point to them and say, “Well I could never be like them.”  But they reality is that we are just like
them and they were just like us.
You don’t have to dig very far before you
discover that Jesus wasn’t recruiting from Ivy League universities or prestigious
firms and institutions. 
He found Peter
and his brother Andrew along with John and his brother James on the beach.   They were
all fisherman. I’m kind of glad he still calls fishermen.
Matthew was a
tax collector and Jesus found him in the tax booth.  We talked a little bit about tax collectors
last Sunday.  
2000 years ago
tax collectors weren’t anyone’s favorite people, I don’t even think their
mother’s liked them.   If you do a search
of tax collectors in the New Testament you find them mentioned with thieves and
prostitutes, drunkards and sinners. 
And it wasn’t
just because they collected the taxes, although to be fair that was a good part
of it, it was who they collected the taxes for. 
The tax collectors worked for the Romans, the occupiers and so they were
seen as collaborators and traitors by their countrymen. 
On the other end
of the spectrum was a man named Simon, and whenever he is mentioned it says in
brackets (the Zealot) which meant he was on the far right on the political
scale.   The zealots were nationalists and in reality,
they were probably terrorists.  Depending
on which side you were looking at them from. 
You would be
hard pressed to have a zealot in the same room as a tax collector without a
fist fight breaking out.   But from the
very beginning Jesus insisted that the most diverse people should be able to
get along.  
I’m pretty
sure that Matthew and Simon never came to a place that their political views
were in agreement, but that’s the great thing. 
We don’t have to agree about politics or hockey or what type of music we
enjoy or the food we like.  But we have
to agree that Jesus is Lord.
And then there
was Nathanial who was a little bit of a racist. 
And you’re thinking “No, one of the apostles could never be guilty of
something so base.” 
Really? Let’s
pick up the story in the book of John. 
Andrew has
introduced Philip to Jesus and now Philip goes to look for Nathanael and when
he finds him he tells him told him in, John 1:45. . . “We have found the very person Moses and the
prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”  
And I love the
response that Philips gets from his friend: 
John 1:46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything
good come from Nazareth?”   
Well maybe he
wasn’t a racist, but he was a cityist. 


If’n I was
Jesus, and I’m not but If’n I was not sure that would have endeared Nathanael
to me.  I’m from Saint John NB, or at
least that’s where I call home and if someone asked, and they probably have
“Can anything good come from Saint John?” 
I’d take it personal, even if there is a certain amount of truth to the
statement. 
But before his
encounter is over we read this  John 1:49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of
Israel!”
We don’t know what the rest of the group
did for a living, but what we do know is that it didn’t merit a mention.
William Barclay sums it up when he
writes:  “Judging them by worldly
standards the men Jesus chose had no special qualifications at all. They were
not wealthy; they had no special social position; they had no special
education—they were not trained theologians; they were not high-ranking
churchmen and ecclesiastics; they were twelve ordinary men.”


So let’s keep going in the story:    Matthew 4:18-22  One day as Jesus was walking along the
shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and
Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.  Jesus
called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for
people!”  And they left their nets at once and followed him.  A
little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting
in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them
to come, too.  They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their
father behind.
They
Were Obedient Minions but They Weren’t Perfect Minions
I love this passage, Jesus says follow me
and the response of Peter, Andrew, James and John is simple,  the bible says 
“and they followed him.”   When Jesus called Matthew from his job as a
tax collector we are told that “Matthew got up and followed him.”
Over and over again in the scriptures we
see the Apostles obeying Jesus’ commands.  
Hand out a few fish and buns to thousands of people, no problem.  Cast your net over the side of the boat, no
problem.  Preach the word, no
problem. 
And that was part of the deal, Jesus told
them John 14:21  Those who accept my
commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me,
my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of
them.”
And it’s easy to see the apostles as super
saints who had an incredible amount of faith and succeeded in everything they
tried.  And again, that becomes
daunting.  The Apostles are way up there
and we are way down here.  And we can
never be like them, so why bother trying?
But they didn’t always get it right.  In Matthew 17 we read the story where a man
brought his son to Jesus to be healed and said “I took him to the minions and
they couldn’t do anything.”  And Jesus
said it was because they didn’t have enough faith.
It was the apostles who couldn’t stay up
and pray with Jesus in the garden while had awaited his arrest.  Because they kept falling asleep.
And this was the group that scattered and
hid after Jesus was arrested.
But even though they blew it sometime, and
even though they didn’t always get it right, they tried and when they blew it
they were willing to get back up, ask for forgiveness and get on with life.
 It’s
so easy to be paralyzed by the fear of failure and refuse to do anything, but
watch the apostles.  For all their
faults, they tried. 
And here is a word of encouragement, there
will be days you will blow it and days that if God could be embarrassed then you
will embarrass him. 
But you still need to try and remember that
in the end his forgiveness and his grace are there and they are bigger than
your failures. 
Don’t be a Judas, and I don’t mean don’t
betray Christ.  I mean don’t give up on
Christ, he won’t give up on you.  I don’t
know what your theology might be but I believe that  if Judas had of accepted the grace and
forgiveness of Christ then he would have been forgiven, he just didn’t accept
what had been offered.
Set your eyes on Christ, make it your goal
to be obedient, but remember his grace is so much bigger than our
failures. 
Acts 1:8  But you will receive power when
the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people
about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends
of the earth.”    And finally we discover that When
Ordinary Minions are Obedient Minions They Can Change the World 
It was just forty days before Jesus had
made that promise that the Apostle had scattered in fear.
If you were to ask anyone the day after the
crucifixion, including the apostles, what the 12  might amount to the answer to paraphrase
Vice-President Garner would probably be that they wouldn’t amount to a bucket
of warm spit.
After the resurrection, there were eleven
of the original 12 left, 11 ordinary people who chose to be obedient.
And they would literally turn the world
upside down.  This was a group of men who
had never travelled more than 100 km from where they were born, and yet before
they died they had taken the gospel to the very edges of the known world.
Tradition tells us that Simon the Zealot
went as far as the British Isles, that Thomas went to India and Peter went to
Rome.  Philip we are told ventured to
North Africa, Matthew went to Ethiopia and we are told that Andrew ventured as
far north as the “Land of the Man-Eaters” which is thought to be modern Day
Russia.
Sources indicate that by the time the last
Apostle died that there were close to 1 million believers world-wide. 
The reality is that
for two thousand years God has been using ordinary obedient people to change
the world.  And he can use you, if you
will let him.

So let me close with the words of  William Barclay who
said “These twelve had all kinds of faults, but
whatever else could be said about them, they loved Jesus and they were not
afraid to tell the world that they loved him–and that is being a Christian.”