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Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’


1 Timothy 1:8-10: Hardship for the Gospelmainslide-come-and-see

Second Sunday of Lent, March 12, 2017

There are many days in our lives when we are too exhausted to hear that discipleship is difficult. We want to hear that someone sees our plight, that we are standing on firm ground, and that help is at hand. This is what Timothy tells us today. There is a source of renewal and strength, and this source is God.

Beloved: bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

There is one who knows the mountains and valleys of our lives, and this one is the Creator. There is one who walks through pain and joy with us, and this one is Christ Jesus. There is one who lives in despair and hope with us, and this one is the Spirit.

God saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to God’s own design and the grace bestowed on us in Chris Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

God says: I see that you are frightened and cannot see how you can possibly survive your present circumstances; but I assure you that the difficulties you encounter are opportunities for you to work with me. The anxiety and fear you experience are windows of grace for you. And the fear and despair you feel are part of the holy design in which you are taking part. Always remember that you are special to me. You are the apple of my eye, the center of my essence. I will go to the furthest length and the deepest depth to redeem and save you. The hardship you suffer now reflects the grace and joy I find in your persistence in following me. I will never forget you. I will love you always.

As part of our Lenten commitment to follow Christ’s lead, we spend time with this Scripture today and we discover that much greater than our works is the grace of God. Much greater than the hardship we suffer, are the loving heart and hands of God.

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Psalm 112: Rising in the Darkness

Monday, February 13, 2017candles

Whether we know it or, once we commit to loving God as we see God in others, we begin to generate light in the darkness.

Those who love the LORD rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

We may be unaware that others are watching us but they are. When we say that are committed to Christ, do our actions betray or support our words?

It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.

If we hope to make a mark in human history, all we need do is follow Christ. In this way we will find ourselves in the story of hope and generosity rather than the story of fear and exclusion.

For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever.

Once we begin to think and move in Christ, all fear falls away for we know that we are not in charge and that the long arc of human history is moving toward the light of Christ.

They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord.

lightWhen we feel ourselves moving in that great tide of humanity that yearns for universal justice, impartial freedom and eternal peace, we will know that all is well.

Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

The honor we seek is not the reward of this life; it is the quiet, humble, everlasting honor that Christ bestows when we follow after him.

They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor; their righteousness endures forever; they are exalted in honor.

We cannot think that our progress is smooth for the way of discipleship is difficult in the best of circumstances.

The wicked see it and are angry; they gnash their teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

And we must remember that in our gladness of living and loving in Christ, we are called to invite all those who weary from their journey of opposition, mistrust, and manipulation to join in this great generation of life and light and love.

Those who love the LORD rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

candles-burningWe give thanks for the times when are the light. We ask forgiveness for the times we have brought darkness to others and ourselves. And we remember to look for the face of Christ in every soul that passes our way.

When we spend time with various translations of this psalm, we find that our hearts are lighter, our path more easily seen and trod, and our journey more full of peace.

 

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Job 6The Reply of the Innocent

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Favorite from September 6, 2009.job-innocent-suffering-300x225

It is true that sometimes we are completely innocent of any wrongdoing and yet we suffer.  One of the primary questions we ask as human beings is this:  Why is it that things sometimes go so wrong for us and so right for others?  We also ask: What have we done to deserve suffering and how do we cope without falling apart entirely?  Some of us even ask: How long can I go on?  Is life worth living?

Today we hear from Job, the man who suffers through no fault of his own.  His fidelity attracts Satan’s notice and so he becomes an object of play in the devil’s evil game.  Job describes with beautiful metaphors how quickly his friends abandon him, being undependable as a brook, as watercourses that run dry in wadies . . . [they are] caravans [that] turn aside from their routes [to] go into the desert and perish. 

In today’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37) we hear the story of how Jesus opens ears and a throat when he says words that he also says to us: Be open!  In MAGNIFICAT, the mini-reflection for Morning Prayer reads: Jesus opened the ear of the deaf man that he might hear in a new startling way the word of salvation.  What we hear as good news, we proclaim as good news: that is our task as disciples.

How we arrive at not hearing is not important; nor is the question about why we have become silent in our isolation.  What is important is this: That one has come who releases all of us from our bondage – whether these chains have been acquired through our own action or inaction, or whether we are innocent slaves.  One has come to call us to unity, and this one calls to each of us: Be open!

Be open to a surprising newness.  Be open to pardoning and being pardoned.  Be open to miracles in our lives.  Be open to the amazing potential we possess.  Be open to proclaiming the good news that we are free and need not toil futilely.  Be open to the life of discipleship.  Be open to union in Christ, with Christ himself.  Be open . . .

This is easy to hear but difficult to do.  We might turn again to Job who knows the pain of separation . . . and also the joy of reunion.

Whether we suffer in innocence or through our own action or inaction, our reply to the one who created us can be the same.  When we hear the voice that calls, let us all answer:  We are open to the possibility that we might live again!  This is our best human reply to the divine.

And this is the greatest miracle of all . . . that whether we suffer through guilt or whether we are innocent . . . we can all be open to God . . . for we are all sought by God for to each of us he says: Be open!

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 6.9 (2009). Print.  

Click on the image above for more on the suffering of the innocent, or visit: http://www.thelakesanglican.org.au/why-does-god-allow-suffering/ 

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Matthew 9:27-31: The Blind

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Jesus: St. Saviour Church - Turkey

Jesus icon in St. Saviour Church: Chora, Istanbul, Turkey

The stories of Jesus’ healing are perhaps the most loved. They tell us in the modern era what we want and need to hear. Miracles happen. Outrageous hope is possible. Love changes everything. Faith, the cornerstone of discipleship, rises from our constant communication with God and brings reward greater than any power, wealth or fame. But to all of this goodness and compassion too many of us are too often blinded by the lures of the world that surrounds us. So great is God’s love for each of us that we are given the daily opportunity to choose Mammon or God. The blind men in today’s story choose God.

THE MESSAGE translation brings this familiar story home in a powerful way.

Two men cry follow Jesus and cry out to him, pleading for sight so they might more fully enter life. And so Jesus said to them, “Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why, yes, Master!”

How often do we ask for God’s help? How often do we reply, “Why, yes, Master!”

St. Saviour Church - Chora, Istanbul, Turkey: Jesus heals Two Blind Men

St. Saviour Church: Jesus heals Two Blind Men

He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. “Don’t let a soul know how this happened.” But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met.

Do we believe that we become what we believe? Do we covet what others have or what others are?

It happened. They saw.

Does our worldly doubt overcome our spirit’s hope? Do we turn to God when we are in turmoil or fear? Do we blab the good news to others or hold it for ourselves? Do we ask for sight and wisdom only to ignore or abuse the gift once it is given? Do we decide that Jesus’ ancient words do not suit our modern world?

Become what you believe.

St. Saviour Church in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey

St. Saviour Church in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey

We are so often blind to so much that takes place around us and this is not surprising since the world is a dichotomy of faith-inspiring creation and the frightening ugliness of evil. But we are created in God’s image, created to rise to the hope of God’s creation, created to sing in harmony with God’s Spirit. So rather than reject with cynicism the possibility of Jesus’ presence in our lives, let us share – as do these two cured men – the goodness and enormity of God’s love. When we find that we are blind . . . let us ask for Jesus’ healing . . . and let us celebrate the miracle of his love.

The image above is not the clearest but there are a number of lovely photographs in this post on the ParMieux Adventures blog at: http://parmieuxadventures.blogspot.com/2010/12/st-saviour-in-chora.html 

To learn more about this church, visit the Kiriye Camii (St. Saviour) page on the Sacred Destinations site: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/istanbul-st-savior-in-chora-kariye 

Compare THE MESSAGE translation of these verses with others using the scripture link and the drop-down menus to see how Jesus speaks to us today through this story.

Tomorrow, why does Jesus ask these men to keep silent about the miracle of their healing.

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Luke 14:25-33: Discipleship

Tuesday, May 17, 2016Grow.-Plant.-Discipleship

If we ever forget what it means to be a disciple, here is a quick summary; and some of these sayings are difficult to take.

Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.
\We can see that following the Master means that God must be before all else, even our most intimate and longest relationships.  I do not believe that Jesus is telling us that family is not important.  I do not believe that we are to reject family and friends in order to be a good disciple.  I do believe that if we must choose to pretend that all is well in an intimate relationship when it is not, then we must do what we know to be correct.  We must exit this relationship but (and this is the hard part) we must continue to leave ourselves open to the possibility that the abusive people in our lives will transform.

Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?

We must pray that the impossible people and situations in our lives become temples for the Indwelling of the Spirit.  We must pray that those who have abused us will find a softening in their hearts and an unbending in their necks.  We may not walk away completely and cleanly, because Jesus does not walk away completely.

Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. 

What we reflect on here is this: in the calculus for building a good and holy temple we must not only plan for the solid foundation and protective walls, but the windows and doors which let in the light, the voice of God as it travels on the wind, and the people who come and go in our lives.  We must allow for both solitude and community, justice and compassion. This is the Way of Discipleship.

Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.

DiscipleshipWe do not travel this way alone.  As we peel away those people and influences which lead us astray rather than toward God, we look for fellow travelers of The Way.  Yet even these friendships cannot come between ourselves and the one who created us.  And even though we will always need one another’s help in remaining open to the resolution of the impossible people and situations, it is God who acts and moves in these fellow pilgrims to bring us pockets of consolation and refuge.  As long as we place God before us each day, we will have a true path.  As long as we abide by the Law of Love, we will know which way is the true way.  This we need not doubt.

Each day, in each prayer we ask that God make us good and loyal servants.  Each day, in each prayer we ask that God continue to show us the Way of discipleship.

This is the cost of discipleship. We do this in Jesus’ name. This is the cost of kingdom-building. We do this with and in the Creator. This is the cost of living in love. We do this through the transformative healing of the Holy Spirit. We will want to figure the cost of this way of life. Let us consider it well.  Amen.

Adapted from a favorite from May 12, 2008.

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John 12:37-41: Incredulity

Friday, April 29, 2016he is risen

“John gives a historical explanation of the disbelief of the Jewish people, not a psychological one.  The Old Testament has to be fulfilled; the disbelief that met Isaiah’s message was a foreshadowing of the disbelief that Jesus encountered”.  NAB cf. page 170

It is always about the conversion of the heart, the transformation of the mind.  Seeing with our eyes and hearing with our ears does not bring us closer to God.  Experiencing the world with our hearts . . . this is what calls us into a state of permanent discipleship. 

Human nature being what it is, we find myriad excuses and reasons for not doing the work of discipleship.  The eye and the ear bring us sight and sound which we are accustomed to reasoning away with lines of thought we are practiced in using.  What good can one person do?  This is what people in my neighborhood do and I do not want to offend them.  This way is more convenient for me.  That has no effect upon me.  I like to shop there.  It’s none of my business.  It’s not hurting anybody.  These are the phrases that trip off our lips easily.

Even Jesus with the fullness of the presence of God was not able to turn all hearts and minds to himself and The Way.  He lived and worked and played among an incredulous people hardened by the tortures of the world.  Even some of those among whom he prayed did not believe . . . and this was after seeing with the eye and hearing with the ear.  In John 20:29 Jesus tells his disciples that those who believe without seeing or hearing are blessed indeed.

And so we have this to ponder.  As Jesus passes among us each day, how do we respond?  Are we the incredulous comfortable crowd?  Or are we the restless, open listeners . . . waiting for The Word?

A Favorite from September 1, 2008.

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John 12:37-41: Incredulity

Saturday, November 21, 2015heart-of-leaf-with-roses

It is always about the conversion of the heart, the transformation of the mind.  Seeing with our eyes and hearing with our ears does not bring us closer to God.  Experiencing the world with our hearts . . . this is what calls us into a state of permanent discipleship. 

Human nature being what it is, we find countless excuses and reasons for not doing the work of discipleship.  The eye and the ear bring us sight and sound which we are accustomed to reasoning away with lines of thought we are practiced in using.  What good can one person do?  This is what people in my neighborhood do and I do not want to offend them.  This way is more convenient for me.  That has no effect upon me.  I like to shop there.  It’s none of my business.  It’s not hurting anybody.  These are the phrases that trip off our lips easily.

Even Jesus with the fullness of the presence of God was not able to turn all hearts and minds to himself and The Way.  He lived and worked and played among an incredulous people hardened by the tortures of the world.  Even some of those among whom he prayed did not believe . . . and this was after seeing with the eye and hearing with the ear.  In John 20:29 Jesus tells his disciples that those who believe without seeing or hearing are blessed indeed.
eye has not seenPaul reminds the Corinthians and he also reminds us that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9We depend on our human resources far too much and far too often, and these eyes and ears and hearts are often incredulous when we begin to consider all that God has in store for us.

And so we have this to ponder.  As Jesus passes among us each day, how do we respond?  Are we the incredulous comfortable crowd?  Or are we the restless, open listeners . . . waiting for The Word?

 

Adapted from a favorite written on September 1, 2008.

 

 

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James 2:19-20: Faith and Wisdom – Part II

Sunday, October 11, 2015the-finance-bar-office-photographs--216_custom-36360f16815c83176350d0e82bc5c5c22aec4316-s800-c85

Yesterday we heard James’ description of true discipleship in Christ. Faith alone or works alone do not put us on the disciple’s path. Today James suggests that a lack of true wisdom can send us astray, can allow us to respond to the kind of thinking that tears down true faith and whittles away at true wisdom.

Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

Spend a few minutes today with this brief podcast from NPR that describes how Marsha Barnes has put her faith and works together in true wisdom. The three and a half minutes are well worth our time. Click on the image above to find the interview or go to: http://www.npr.org/2015/10/04/445595860/got-a-personal-finance-question-dont-miss-the-bus

Tomorrow, James gives us concrete examples of those who walk and live in wisdom and faith . . . through their works in discipleship.

 

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James 2:14-18: Faith and Wisdom – Part I

Saturday, October 10, 2015faith-pray-wisdom-faith-quotes

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?

James continues to pound away at our self-satisfaction and comfort, particularly when we convince ourselves that our words alone are enough to indicate our willingness to follow Christ. James tells us a story by way of example on the chance that we miss his meaning.

For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

God-talk and God-acts. Is one sufficient without the other? Is it possible to have faith without true wisdom or wisdom without acts of faith? James continues.

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.” Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

Use the scripture link to compare other versions to these verses from THE MESSAGE. Let us listen for God’s wisdom and be moved to act in our faith.

Tomorrow, what do faith and wisdom in union look like?

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