Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sermon: Sunday September 4th revised

Discipleship Comes First
September 4th, 2016
Luke 14:25–33

"Lord, let me go and bury my father first." —Matthew 8:21

Jesus would not allow a potential disciple to first bury
his father. Many Scripture scholars have commented 
that this man's father evidently had not even yet 
died, and also we have been taught that
anyone who wishes to be Jesus' disciple must 
renounce all hispossessions, including a potential 

Elsewhere, Jesus said that if anyone comes to him without 
hating his father and mother, that person cannot 
be his disciple, 

Hate is a strong word. In the language of Jesus' time, 
there were no words to express the concept of loving 
more and loving less. The only words in that language were 
to love or to not love, that is, hate. For a disciple, 
Jesus said, loving God comes first. All other relationships 
by comparison then seem to be hateful. 

That doesn’t sound like God to me. 

God calls us each to be disciples to learn and then to 
teach others Jesus’ message.  We have been taught 
there is no turning back. Following as a disciple of Jesus 
comes first. So what does it mean to be a disciple since 
Jesus did not actually found a church? 

 It means recalling what he taught and doing the same. 
Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, in other words, 
Matthew 25 lays it out for us. 

We are told to make disciples of others by our example, but there seems to be a discipleship deficit in many of our churches. And it isn’t just for lack of resources. 
So, what is it? Church leaders are asking questions like, “What should we do?” and “How should we do it?” They want to know the best ways to turn this discipleship deficit into the kind of robust discipleship that will matter along the way. But often they are thinking of making church members. 

But is that what Jesus taught? And is that what the earliest disciples actually did? 
I am going to suggest something different. 

I suggest Jesus taught us to serve one another. To take care of the poor and to clothe the naked and visit the sick, feed the hungry….to even give those that are thirsty something to other words…take care of one another.   
We think God doesn’t need anyone to do anything for God, or for anyone else. We think God is quite capable of doing everything that needs to be done all by Godself. 

Except…we actually are the hands of God. God is Spirit. And God’s Spirit constantly attempts to persuade us into service. 

But first we have to respond to God’s Holy Spirit.  

God is fulfilling God’s promise to us to always be with us and to give us the Holy Spirit, and God wants us to join in the work in order that we can be shaped us into our best person and to help others reach their full potential as well. 

Paul explained that when we become new creations in Christ, we are drafted into service. We go out on God’s behalf and offer reconciliation to the people in our lives who are hurting. We don’t replace God, but we do join God in the grand plan of developing the kingdom of God. And after all…the Kingdom of God was the basic message of Jesus. 

On multiple occasions Jesus challenged the faith development of his disciples. As they followed him, he instructed them. There was much he did on his own. But as time went on, he expected them to step out in faith and believe and respond with more consistency. He expected them to step out and offer service to those who were in need with greater confidence. 

Something happened in the days following the crucifixion that transformed the disciples from uncertain followers to heralds of the Jesus message, evidently willing to die for their convictions. While we will never know the details of how the Jesus of their daily lives became the Christ presence of their future, the gospel accounts are testimony to people’s hunger to know more of what was expected of them.   

Whatever happened in the days following the crucifixion, the followers of Jesus were propelled into a new way of living and relating to this Galilean peasant they had been following. They were compelled to re-evaluate their Jewish heritage in ways that accounted for their experience of Jesus, …both in his temporal life and as a spiritual presence in the present.   

With only the gospel accounts as our guide, we, too, are left to re-evaluate our heritage in ways that account for the clearly non-historical resurrection stories and our experiences of a spiritual presence we call the Christ.

And how so we do that? In Jesus’s day, he challenged his disciples to make great sacrifices. Jesus believed the world as we know it…. and he knew it…. was about to end. He believed in the end times and he believed they were upon his disciples. So they needed to make great sacrifices to change the world of his day into the Kingdom of God. He believed the time was short and that the end time was right upon them. We now know that did not happen. Two thousand years have passed and we are still awaiting the end time. So what is expected of us now? 

We have the same challenges facing us that Jesus found in his world. We still have hungry homeless people. We still have people who are in need of clothing. We still have sick people. And most of all, we still have lonely people. 

And we are still challenged to work for God’s kingdom to become a reality. But we need to be a part of the solution. We are God’s hands. 

We are the hands of God and because we need to be developed into the best person we can be and help others to realize their potential and help build the best community possible. Wherever we are. 

He commissioned his disciples to go out, show compassion, offer healing and teach others to do the same. When they failed, he called them out for not faithfully becoming who they were called to be.

Discipleship is not just a solo effort—though it takes personal action and engagement. Discipleship is a group sport—best done in community! And our church is driven by the concept of community! 

And so what do we as disciples have to offer? Is it personal salvation? Not really. Many other churches will offer personal salvation to persons if that is what they feel they need. But what most people really need is to feel needed and to feel a part of a wonderful fellowship. What we have to offer is “Community”…that is why the name was chosen. We, as a church are attempting to help God build his kingdom on earth…peacefully…not like the Romans…using war and force.. but by actually caring about others as Jesus so often illustrated. This is the message Jesus spent his life declaring. 

As I have mentioned before, the earliest congregations drew people because they were a caring group who took care of the sick instead of leaving them to die beside the road. They made each person a part of a congregation that cared for one another.  They established “Community”. 

God has given various gifts to the Church. Each person has something to offer and offering that is part of their personal growth and discipleship. Paul was constantly telling the early believers that the health of the whole body is impacted by how each one uses their God-given gifts.

There are no Lone Ranger Christians. (And even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.) We are responsible for and to each other. It has been said that the gift God gave you is not for you. Instead, it is to be shared with others.

When we truly believe that our actions will impact the lives of others, it will change the way we live and it may change the way they live.  We are responsible before God to be involved in discipleship—ours and others. Our individual gifts bring even greater responsibility.

Jesus commissioned his disciples to go out and make disciples, teaching them about caring for one another…no holds barred…no one as an untouchable…and making them all a part of the community. That's personal and communal. Discipleship is a personal profession of faith by the individual. And finally, it is a community experience. 

We are responsible to be involved in our discipleship and to make disciples of the work and mission of Jesus wherever we go. And unfortunately, that requires us to set priorities. As a community of disciples, we need to be active in the church community and also in our own communities. That's a part of how discipleship works. And it should also come first in our lives.


Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

Beautiful message, Margie! :0 )

Margie's Musings said...

Thank you, Deb. Thanks for visiting!