Sermon: Discipleship

At the core of the concept and calling of discipleship is the idea that, while journeying with others as they learn, we are learning more about our own faith, about ourselves, and that God’s Love is around us and within us all the time. And so, it is hard to justify interpreting Paul’s journey to Macedonia as being only to evangelize others or to “save” a rich merchantwoman from eternal Hellfire and Damnation.

BaptistryAtPhilippi
A Modern Greek Orthodox Chapel said to be located on the site of Lydia’s Baptism near Philippi.

Our scripture readings this morning all touch on different aspects of the issue of Discipleship.

In Acts 16, we see Paul and his team of co-workers responding to Paul’s vision that they are to minister in Macedonia. Once they arrive there, we see a woman in turn responding to Paul’s evangelism. She establishes a church within her own home; a church that Paul’s Epistles tell us supported him and his ministry for the rest of his life. Yes, Paul, Silas and Timothy were all Disciples. But, so was Lydia and so were those who succeeded her in the Church at Phillippi, and so are we.

Our reading from the end of the Book of Revelation is John’s penultimate vision of New Jerusalem: descending from Heaven, unifying Heaven and Earth. We will finally see the face of God; forever free from any curse or sin.

Paul’s dream, his work, and ours, are all part of preparing for the New Jerusalem; which is the goal of our Discipleship: the vision in the Book of Revelation is of what will be made manifest when our work, as disciples working together to build the Kingdom of God here on earth, is complete.

But, Literalists tend to see this passage, and the Book of Revelation as a whole, as a declaration of how everyone must become a Christian, and that those who refuse that call will perish. (Meaning us too, since we do not interpret the Bible in the same way they do.) For many of them, the Book of Revelation is an affirmation that there is one and only one true faith, and that it is theirs.  It saddens me how those who believe there is a very narrow path to salvation are often equally certain they are one of the few who have actually found it.

But, did Jesus actually teach this? Is it a helpful interpretation of scripture?

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Our Many Judases

Christ gave us a new command: “Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways.” …In so doing we shall find that we are helping others to be healed as well, for that love is in them too; and even in our many Judases.

JesusWashingDisciplesFeet-EthiopianIcon
Ethiopian Icon of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet (artist & date unknown)

Monday (April 18th) was the 120th running of the Boston Marathon. And again we remember that moment during that race, three years ago, when the hate and anger that had been fanned to life within two young men exploded; forever altering or destroying the lives of many innocent and wonderful human beings.

We’ve seen people coming together in many ways to minister to those wounded, whether visibly or not, by this and so many other acts of inhumanity, both before and since that day. And, we’ve all seen those who were victims of such violence coming forward with their own stories, sharing them in many different ways, so that others who have suffered similar losses might find healing.

These outpourings of love, compassion and care reflect how Jesus calls upon us to love one another and minister to each other, especially in times if crisis, as we see in this morning’s scripture.  But, here in John 13, the disciples have not yet endured the tragedy that we know so well.

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Sermon: Feed My Sheep

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_015
“Appearance on Lake Tiberius” by Duccio di Buoninsegna, ca. 1308

The last chapter in the last of the four Gospels, the Gospel of John, is the final statement in the narratives of Jesus’ walk among us here on earth.  And as such, we can imagine that it has much to tell as we voyage forth into the world, leaving behind the physical presence of Jesus, just as a child ventures forth from home, eagerly heading to school on their own for the first time.

John is unique among the four Gospels.  It was written a few decades after the others and has a great deal of material not shared with the other three.  And unlike the so-called Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, John is very much focused on the future of the community of believers.

The 21st chapter focuses on our role as believers living and working in the world: Are we to be active or passive agents of the Body of Christ?  How will Christ be present in us in this role?  How will our own strength and faith be sustained as we do so?

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A Meditation on John 21:1-9

We aren’t called to be passive in our faith, but to be active, to look for Christ’s presence at all times, for it is always there. We are to employ our hands in the service of the Body of Christ, for it is then that we will enjoy the fullness of all he has set before us. Christianity is not just a faith of introspection and meditation, it is also a faith of service and action, of making a difference.

The last chapter in the last of the four Gospels, the Gospel of John, is the final statement in the narratives of Jesus’ walk among us here on earth.  And so, as such, we can imagine that it has much to tell as we voyage forth into the world, leaving behind the physical presence of Jesus, just as a child ventures forth from home, eagerly heading to school on their own for the first time.

John is unique among the four Gospels.  It was written a few decades after the others and has a great deal of material not shared with the other three.  And unlike the so-called Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, John is very much focused on the future of the community of believers.

John 21 focuses on our role as believers living and working in the world: Are we to be active or passive agents of the Body of Christ?  How will Christ be present in us in this role?  How will our own strength and faith be sustained as we do so?

Continue reading “A Meditation on John 21:1-9”