Discipleship

"The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from [the giant]" - David

When we face difficulties, we need to double down on our commitment to do our duty. The giants we face may be insurmountable. David tells Saul that when he goes out to keep the sheep by night, he prepares himself to do his duty, for he doesn’t know if he will face a lion or a bear. He has decided beforehand to be courageous.

For: 
June 27, 2021
I Samuel 16 - 17
Pentecost 8
The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. - Mark 1:12

When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. Note that the verb drove does not mean that the gentle and mild spirit pulled up in an RV and waved Jesus into the air-conditioned cabin before heading off to an oasis with a pool and free Wi-Fi. No, the spirit drove him like a mighty wind away from everything familiar. Covid-19 has driven us into a similar wilderness. Life is, as Scott Peck reminds us, painful. We don’t become mature by avoiding pain. We become all that God calls us to be by allowing the spirit to drive us into the wilderness with Jesus.

For: 
February 21, 2021
Mark 1:9-15
Lent 1
Ash Wednesday
"Follow me and I will make you fish for people" - Jesus

“Follow me and I will teach you all the great truths of the universe.” Jesus didn’t say that. Why have we made the church so much about teaching doctrine and so little about love?

For: 
January 24, 2021
Mark 1:14-20
Epiphany 3
Immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus - Matthew 4:20

Everyone can be a disciple. Not everyone will. The first people Jesus called “left everything.” I put myself in their sandals and say, “I can’t follow Jesus today, because (fill in the blank).

For: 
January 26, 2020
Matthew 4:12-23
Epiphany 3
"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" - John the Baptist to his disciples about Jesus

If we read the Gospels, I think we see what John the Baptist saw. We know that maybe we should follow that Jesus. Maybe we should become his disciples. That leads us to the question, “Who can be a disciple of Jesus?”

For: 
January 19, 2020
John 1:29-42
Epiphany 3
All he said to you was, 'Wash, and be clean.' - II Kings 5:13

So many stories teach simplicity. Jesus says, “Live the Gospel; heal, teach, love.” How about beginning with something as simple as praying with or for each person we know?

For: 
October 13, 2019
2 Kings 5:1-14
Luke 10:1-11
Pentecost 18
“Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” Jesus asked. “We can,” James and John answered.

Often times, preachers will preach sermons on how naive or selfish James and John were for asking for thrones next to Jesus in glory. But, I pray for myself and all of us here that we might have the courage of a James  or a John or a Mary Magdalene or a Mother Theresa. We often hear sermons on how frail and stupid the disciples were. Sure they weren't the quickest to catch on to Jesus' teaching. Still, everyone of those twelve, and many of the women with them, went up that road prepared to suffer and die.

Mark 10:32-40
Palm Sunday
Lent 6
"Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people."

Jesus didn’t start with a blank slate when he called disciples. He started with natural gifts that could be spiritually transformed. May it continue to be so in our lives. May we each become fishers of men.

For: 
February 10, 2019
Luke 5:1-11
Epiphany 5
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

For: 
July 22, 2018
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Pentecost 11

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? 
For: 
January 21, 2018
Mark 1:14-20
Epiphany 3

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.

For: 
January 14, 2018
John 1:43-51
Psalm 139
Epiphany 2

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.

 

For: 
April 30, 2017
Luke 24:13-35
Easter 3
Communion

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.

For: 
February 12, 2017
Matthew 5:21-37
Epiphany 6

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.

 

For: 
June 26, 2016
Luke 9:51-62
2 Kings 6:1-14
Pentecost 8

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. 

 

For: 
November 29, 2015
Psalm 25
Luke 2:1-8
Advent 1
Communion

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