He felt mired in the muck of mediocrity, that was for certain.  The Book lay open before him on the desk.  The damnable cursor on the computer screen blinked.  And blinked again.  And as if for good measure, it continued blinking well into the night. “Go into all the world and make disciples…”  The words mocked him.cold weather

It was Saturday night and inspiration had escaped again.  Perhaps it went out the window on Thursday afternoon when the parishioner dropped by to tell him that there were lots of problems with the church.  “We just can’t seem to get our act together and go any one direction.”  Go into the world and make disciples…

Perhaps it had left even earlier in the week.  Tuesday maybe?  That was when the counters let him know that there was not enough in the end of the year offering to meet the total obligations that they hoped to pay to the denomination.  Something left him them.  He wasn’t sure if it was inspiration or hope.  Go into the world and make disciples…

Or maybe Saturday morning when the other parishioner stopped by to say that he was leaving the church.  “Nothing wrong,” preacher.  “I just feel it is time to go on in order to keep the peace.”  Yeah…that could have been it.  Go into the world and make disciples.

He got up from his desk in the little study and stood by the Kuerig© as he waited for another cup of decaf to brew.  He walked over and got a couple of the leftover chocolate chip cookies.  He then stood in the living room where his family was watching some movie or another on the screen.  “Sermon fuel?” his oldest child asked.  He swallowed and nodded and then took the ten steps back to the study.  Go into the world and make disciples.

“This really shouldn’t be that hard,” he said to the blinking cursor or himself.  Or maybe it was a prayer uttered to God.  He really didn’t care all that much.  The coffee was hot.  The cookies were good.  His mind wandered back to the mornings earlier that week when the wind chills were well below -20.  He thought of the so called “Polar Vortex” and how interesting it was that meteorologist always seemed to be coming up with new names to call weather patterns that had been around for years.  “Winter Storm Ion?  Really?  We are naming snowstorms now?” he thought as he finished the last cookie.

A song played in the background – something from YouTube. His mind continued to dwell on the storm and cold and he remembered the phone call he received on Tuesday just after the counters left.  Someone wanted to do something about the few homeless people in the small town they lived in.  Maybe they couldn’t do it for this cold snap, but there would be others.  They had places for people to stay warm.  There were plenty of people around to help open doors, prepare food, share seats and conversations.

The cursor stopped blinking about then and letters started to appear on the blank page.  Go and make disciples.  Go, make, disciples.

Ask Almost Anything (Leftovers Again…)

One question that came up during the Ask Almost Anything sermon series – where I received text messages and emails from the congregation during and after worship and answered those questions during the sermon time – was a question that I believe is very basic to our understanding and living of the faith: What is the definition of a “Disciple”? 

Now, when I first saw this question, I didn’t notice that the word had been capitalized.  My immediate (and as usual, sarcastic, response) would have been: “I don’t know…why don’t you try looking in a mirror!”  🙂

However, I think the person askikitten-or-lion-which-is-itng this question is looking on two levels.  First, I think that they want to know what the definition of a “Biblical Disciple” was in the days shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  There has always been some interest in identifying the “Twelve” and distinguishing them from others who followed Jesus and giving further distance to those who made up the “crowd.”

This first part of the question can be answered fairly briefly: a “Disciple” is one of the Twelve, was  one of those  Jesus called to follow him and who were witnesses to his resurrection.

A second a deeper part of this question, I think, has to do with what makes one a disciple of Jesus today.  And the answer begins in the same way…those who are called by Jesus to follow him and who are witnesses to the power of the resurrection in their lives.

There does need to be a sense of “calling” for someone to be a disciple.  Those callings come in many ways.  Some hear or feel the presence of God leading them to some deeper relationship to him that is found in Jesus.  Others feel some sort of void or absence in their life that only the presence and calling of Christ to become a part of something bigger than themselves can fill.  Either way…a person is called.  (I guess in United Methodist circles, we would call this the grace of God at work in our lives even before we are aware of it – something called prevenient grace.)

A disciple also should be able to show that they are witnesses to the power of the resurrection.  (The original “Twelve” did the same, however, they were also physical witnesses to that resurrection.)  I like to think about it like this…As those who have heard some call from Jesus and answered it to follow him, we discover that this man chose to give up the power of heaven to become human while remaining the very Son of God.  As that person who walked, talked and taught among other humans, Jesus found himself constantly on the outside of both religious and political power by introducing us to a new way of seeing the Kingdom of God being present with those around him.  Eventually, Jesus was arrested and killed on a cross for the sin of humanity – failure to see the power of God at work in the humbleness of the servant Jesus, the servant God who wants to be in relationship with each and every one of us.

In a very real and powerful way, Jesus showed his love for all human beings by allowing himself to become this sacrifice for us.  God accepted that sacrifice and resurrected Jesus to show that death – the ultimate price of sin – would no longer hold power over anyone who followed Jesreflections-in-mirror 1us.  We become witnesses to the power of the resurrection not when we talk about the glory of heaven or about the gift we will receive for following Jesus, but when we do the very same thing Jesus did – love one another as he loved us.

So, the brief answer for the second way of looking at this question can be found in John 13:31-35.

You can know a disciple…by the way she or he loves.  Short and simple.

Until the next question…keep heading towards home!!