Discipleship

Where Jesus Fails

Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.

When his disciples needed a rest, Jesus didn’t snap his fingers and heal them of their stress and exhaustion. Instead he tried, unsuccessfully, to find them a place to rest. God will never give us a red bull energy drink when we need to take a day off for our own sanity. There are no cheap fixes for the over-committed life. Even Jesus had to look for a place to hide his disciples so that they could recover their inner calm

Sunday, July 22, 2018
Pentecost 11

Will you follow?

Jesus calls people to follow him. I am always amazed that the first people he called “left everything.” I put myself in their sandals and say, “I wouldn’t follow Jesus today, because it snowed three inches overnight and I have to shovel us out first.” Peter and James may not have had snow, but they had fish to be taken to market, nets to be mended, elderly parents, households to take care of, etc. Looking closely at the story (Mark 1:14-20), I see that John the Baptist had already prepared these people. When we listen to Jesus, our hearts have already been prepared by the scriptures we have learned, the people who lived as Christians before us, the dark traumas of our own lives when God was our only help and consolation. These things are in our past, Jesus is before us, do we follow him?

When people follow him they join up for the same experience the first disciples had:

  1. They become a part of a small group working together to know Jesus. Think the Hobbit. Think of the tightest team you’ve ever been a part of — I ran cross-country and had a very close relationship with the guys on my high school team the year before I became a Christian. If you follow Jesus, he will call you to be a part of a small group.
  2. Hands on experience of helping people. Jesus didn’t ask people to give money to a mission project. He asked people to follow him and do as he did as he met the needs of people. 
  3. A journey to the cross. Lent is coming. Will you follow Jesus more intentionally this year, even if it put some of what you value now at risk? 
Sunday, January 21, 2018
Epiphany 3

Are You Ready?

John wants to tell us what he found remarkable about Jesus (John 1:43-51). He tells us that Jesus was the invisible word that God used to make the universe, and we say, “Yes, but how is that relevant to me?” John then tells us how John the Baptist pointed people to Jesus, and we say, “Yes, but how is that relevant to me?”  Then John gets right down to it. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. Andrew brings his brother to meet Jesus. Jesus says to Peter, “I know you.” Phillip bring Nathaniel to Jesus. Jesus immediately makes Nathaniel aware that he really knows him well, even though they have never physically met. Now it’s your turn. You are brought to Jesus. And he says, “I know you.” Then you discover that Jesus is the teacher that you need right now. If you choose to walk with Jesus, you will discover that Jesus knows you better than you know yourself.

There is an anonymous saying, possibly originating in eastern mysticism, which says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.” These words speak to how we learn things. The process by which we make those quantum leaps in our lives, involves two things; first, our own inner maturity developing to a certain point, and second, an intervention by someone else who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

None of the first disciples were really looking for Jesus when they found him. True, Nathaniel seems to have been very religious and searching for something. Until he came to this moment though, he didn’t know enough to know that he needed Jesus. When he was ready, though, Jesus came to him. Jesus became his teacher. He became a disciple, someone who is ready to learn.

Sunday, January 14, 2018
Epiphany 2

Running From Easter

Who are these guys and why are they going to Emmaus? Recent archeology puts Emmaus at 19 miles from Jerusalem (160 stadia), not seven (60 stadia).  This agrees with some of the oldest texts. Early scribes dropped the one hundred stadia, perhaps because it seemed incredible that someone was trying to walk that far, in sandals, without GPS or an MP3 player. These dudes were motivated.  Even though the women were saying, “Jesus lives,” they were hitting the road, hard. I guess witnessing a crucifixion does that. Especially when you are afraid of being tarred with the same brush.

 

Sunday, April 30, 2017
Easter 3
Communion

Jesus' Higher Standard

Jesus sometimes sets the bar so high that it seems out of our reach. He tells us to turn the other cheek when we are struck, to constantly assume the humbler position (wash each other’s feet), and here in Matthew 5:21-37, to take the ten commandments so seriously that we might maim ourselves to find holiness. It seems prudent and scholarly to downplay Jesus’ words. To say that just like the bit about camels going through the eye of a needle, Jesus is using hyperbole. But, not so quick. Jesus is speaking to the simple country folk coming with their families out to a gentle hill for the afternoon picnic and lecture. He doesn’t want to confuse them or us. What he wants is to set them on a pathway towards personal holiness. 

    The threshold to the kingdom of God is extremely low. The kingdom of God is already among us, we only need to believe in order to enter. But the daily life of a Christian is extremely hard. It begins with our family. When we flirt with a coworker, we put at risk multiple families and potentially harm the children in our care. Adultery is such a serious problem that Jesus says pluck out your eyes if you need to. Don’t go down that wrong path.

Sunday, February 12, 2017
Epiphany 6

Simplicity Overlooked

I feel like I hear my mother’s voice in the Prophet Elisha. Together they say, “If I had asked you to do something difficult, you’d do it -- then, why can’t you take out the trash?” The situation in 2 Kings 5 is that General Naaman, commander of the Pagan Kingdom of Aram’s army, has incurable leprosy.  His undocumented alien servant girl tells him of the healing power of her faith and Elisha’s particular capacity for doing miracles for the hopeless. Naaman sends a message through diplomatic channels asking that Elisha come to Aram and do his magic. This is Elisha’s golden opportunity to play the palace and give a really great evangelistic sermon. 

 

Sunday, July 3, 2016
Pentecost 9

Vocation-Advocation-Hobby?

What is religion to you? Is it your vocation, an advocation, or merely a hobby? The question runs through all the lectionary scriptures for the Sunday that begins our summer vacations. Jesus turns back an overly enthusiastic follower (Luke 9:51-62), presumably because he foresaw the man not being up to the transient and dangerous life that lay ahead for Christ’s designated disciples. With similar language, Elijah tries to send home an applicant who wants to be the chief prophet job when Elijah retires (II Kings 6:1-14). “I’m not the one doing the hiring,” Elijah admits, alluding to the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit. “If God gives you a vocation, then you can take over my spirit and calling.” In these stories the middle ground gets pulled away. The would-be follower cannot simply be an advocate — that is someone who feels called to be a companion to the real professional. A person either has his or her own calling, and spiritual endowment, or one is a mere hobbyist.

 

Sunday, June 26, 2016
Pentecost 8

On the Way

This is the season when we get in the car and journey to see family and friends. When the kids complain because it’s three hours in the car to Grandma’s, we remind them how Joseph and Mary saddled up the old Yugo and drove a hundred miles, the limit of that car’s extended warranty, in order to get tax forms from Quirinius’ office in Bethlehem, because Nazareth was too small a town to have wi-fi. The thing we mustn’t miss in our attempt to explain the oddness of Palestinian life, is that faith is a journey. Jesus invited people to follow him. The first Christians, having no name to call their new religion, simply said that they were people of the Way (see Acts 9:2, 19:9, 19:23). When we share communion, we should remind people that this is bread for the journey. Those who think that they have arrived, aren’t welcome. 

 

Sunday, November 29, 2015
Advent 1
Communion

Ruth and Naomi Part 1

Some people can summarize their entire life’s story in one line. One thinks of Nixon saying, “I am not a crook,” or the hypochondriac who was buried under the tombstone, “See? I told you I was sick.” For Naomi, in the book of Ruth, the line is, “The Lord has turned his hand against me.” Imagine how hard it was for this woman to live with her own interpretation of events. This is one definition of insanity, when we believe our own internal messages, and those messages aren’t helpful.

 

When we seek to explain Ruth’s behavior, her leaving her home in Moab and going to Bethlehem, we tend to imagine Naomi to be a very lovable mother-in-law. There isn’t any biblical support for this rumor. My experience is that once a person believes that they are cursed, that is that God himself is out to ruin their lives, they tend to become difficult to live with. “It’s my cross to bear,” are not the words of a desirable traveling companion.

 

Sunday, November 1, 2015
Pentecost 26
All Saints Day

Lenten Themes for 2015

Our journey towards being the people God wants us to be.

 

Ash Wednesday: “Purity”  - Psalm 51 - “Create in me a clean heart”

Lent 1:  “Wilderness”  - Mark 1   “Jesus was driven…”

Lent 2:  “Suffering”  - Mark 3  “Take up your cross…”

Lent 3:  “Worship”  - John 2  “Zeal for your house…”

Lent 4:  “Salvation”  - John 3  “Everyone who believes…”

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mission First, People Always

The US Army has a slogan: Mission First, People Always. It can be translated for the church as; Witness First, Be Disciples Always. In both the business world and the military, such slogans emphasize the priority of both developing a strategy to achieve your mission, as well as, building an organization that invests in its members. The strategic front-end of the slogan, prods leaders to compete, win the battle, and remain on task. The people-end of the slogan, prods leaders to build healthy organizations, channel resources into training, develop teamwork, and always serve the needs of your members.

Child's Play

Someone has observed that Americans play at their work (hence our declining productivity) and work at their play (hence the billion dollar recreation industry). To those who trick out their computers to play video games, spend hours perfecting their golf swing, and exhaust their weekends in constant motion, the Lord says, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” Many of us don’t know how to rest. When Jesus calls us to come to him and find rest for our souls, something in our hearts says, yes! But then we ignore Jesus and listen to our busy calendar.  Others, though, have a problem being fruitfully employed. The Lord’s word to them is “Six days you shall labor…” Americans have become so enamored with time and labor saving devices, that they have forgotten the value of spending a day at one’s craft. 

 

Sunday, July 6, 2014
Pentecost 9

Why Fishermen?

Those who fish well have certain spiritual gifts. They feel the water and know from the temperature what bait fish will be hungry for. They look at how cloudy the water is and choose the right lure. They view the lake from the fishes’ point of view and know what particular inlets the fish will congregate in according to the hour of the day and the season. These are precisely the skills Jesus was looking for when he chose the first disciples. As we learn to be his disciples today, we must develop a similar sensitivity for those outside the church.

    At the lakeshore, there are two worlds. There is the world of air, bright light, and bipedal locomotion. Then, there is the submerged world where light filters through dimly and diminishes with depth. Sound travels quickly in this world and its creatures are often more sensitive to the direction a word is traveling from than to its content. We live in the airy world of the church. We think that if we say the right things, that is enough. Every action a congregation takes in this world comes from somewhere. If it comes from love and acceptance, we will be effective in bringing people out of the depths of sin. Transparency and authenticity matters more than doctrinal clarity when it comes to speaking to those who are outside the church.

Sunday, January 26, 2014
Epiphany 3

Asset Management

Church members in too many cases are like deep sea divers, encased in the suits designed for many fathoms deep, marching bravely to pull out plugs in bath tubs - Peter Marshal.  When Marshal wrote these words he was addressing the problem of do-nothing-pew-sitting Christians. Now, six decades later, the time has come to apply the overdressed deep sea diver concept to whole congregations. Maybe a third of the churches in America have developed protective policies and resource management skills to the point that they fail to do much good. They have, quite simply, forgotten why Christianity matters. The reason Jesus wants us to make disciples is so that the church can transform the world.

Subscribe to RSS - Discipleship