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  • Let all the study of our heart be from now on to have our meditation fixed wholly on the life of Christ…

  • How great a vanity it also is to desire a long life and to care little for a good life…

  • Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.

                 --Thomas à Kempis,

The Imitation of Christ

Some time, in the late 1300’s a young German named Thomas Haemerken, the son of a blacksmith, joined a religious group devoted to a simple proposition. They were “simply determined as nearly as possible to live their lives in imitation of the lives of the early Christians.” This group called themselves the “Brothers of the Common Life.” They did not ask for alms. Instead, they sought occupations in order to feed themselves. They were critical of the lavish lifestyle of the clergy of their day. They were dedicated to learning and teaching others about the way of Christ.

All of this happened during a time of great turbulence. Europe was steeped in various conflicts between church and state. Rulers of different countries across the continent vied with the popes of the 12th and 13th centuries for power. In the midst of this, the Brothers of the Common Life called for a return to a simple life of learning and devotion. They sought to abandon quests for power and riches in exchange for a simple Christian life.

On of the byproducts of that quest is The Imitation of Christ one of the most widely read pieces of devotional literature ever written. It has been published numerous times and in countless languages. It features the statements quoted above.

My question for this morning is this: What would happen if we were to follow in à Kempis’ footsteps? What would happen if we were to renew our devotion to following and imitating Christ, even if just for 2008? What would we discover about ourselves? What would we change about ourselves in an effort to be more like Him? How would our priorities change? What would we be passionate about? What things would this congregation start doing? What things might we decide to stop?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. But if we are going to Change Lives Through Jesus, I can’t think of a better way to start the year than by renewing our commitments as followers of Jesus. This morning begins that renewal. For the next few months we are going to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. We will watch and learn. Who knows how we will be changed. It is our job only to be his followers.