The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost - Proper 7A (6/22/2008)
Disciples of Jesus
Lessons: Jeremiah 20:7-13 Psalm 69:7-10 [11-15] 16-18 Romans 6:1b-11 St. Matthew 10:24-39 Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm Genesis 21:8-21 Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
Prayer of the Day: Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, except that of knowing that we do your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
10.24 "A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26 "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 "Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one's foes will be members of one's own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.."
St. Matthew 10:24-39, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Saint Peter Lutheran Church is a "discipleship congregation." We have chosen Jesus' final words to his disciples in Matthew's Gospel for our mission statement: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." We have articulated "Five Habits of Discipleship" that we seek to practice in our individual and corporate lives. We have even revamped our congregation's structure to include as one of our central Ministry Teams a Discipleship Team - charged with teaching us about discipleship, and encouraging our efforts to practice these habits in our daily lives. Saint Peter Lutheran Church is a "discipleship congregation."
We decided to focus on discipleship because of our belief that this effort could lead us into deeper faith lives, and strengthen the common life of our congregation. We hoped that as leaders and members of this congregation became more committed to discipleship, they would become more effective church members, and our ministries would grow.
I still believe that this was the best next step to take in developing the life of our congregation. And I am still committed to growing in discipleship - personally and corporately - because of my conviction that Jesus calls us to make disciples, and we certainly can't help someone else become what we ourselves have not yet become. But what a different depiction of discipleship our Lord offers in this week's Gospel lesson! Jesus says:
- If they have compared the master of the house to the devil (which they did of Jesus in Matthew 9:34), how much more will they say the same about his disciples?
- Do not fear those who oppose us; the most they can do is to kill us.
- You may die because of all this, but God will notice your death (just as God notices the death of sparrows).
- Disciples of Jesus will not experience peace, but division (even among family members).
- The life of discipleship will involve taking up a cross and following Jesus.
- The only way to find true life is to be willing to lose life for the sake of our faith.
Discipleship, as envisioned by Jesus, is not an easy formula for personal or congregational growth. Rather, it is an invitation into a sacrificial way of life. Discipleship has to do with considering our relationship with God to be more important than any other aspect of our lives. Discipleship has to do with learning to put aside our own selfish and self-centered ways. Discipleship has to do with learning to live with a heart for the Gospel - and for those whom God loves. Discipleship even has to do with a willingness to suffer, if that's what it takes to live in a way that is faithful to our calling.
Discipleship has its costs. But discipleship also has its joys. To live a Christ-centered life is to live in a way that is rich in meaning and purpose. To live a Christ-centered life is to live in a way that honors the one who created and redeemed us. To live a Christ-centered life is to live in the way that we are intended to live - and the only way to experience the fullness of life that God wants us to know.
Let us continue to practice habits of discipleship, trusting that the Spirit will guide us into a deeper faith, and strengthen us for the challenges that will come from following our crucified Lord.
David J. Risendal
Exploring This Week's Gospel:
- What images does Jesus use to describe discipleship?
- What hope does he provide to those who might consider becoming his disciples?
- What is the ultimate benefit of living as his disciple?
Connecting with This Week's Gospel:
- What discipleship habits am I seeking to develop?
- What hopes do I have about growing in discipleship?
- What price am I willing to pay, in order to be faithful to Jesus?