Scripture: Matthew 10:40-42
The church is one very interesting group. Often we get this idea that in a church everyone agrees all the time, and that the people inside are perfect lives with no problems at all. Those of us here realize that at times life in the church is as dysfunctional as congress during a budget debate. Although these ideas are imagined fantasies, they tend to weigh heavily on many.
These ideas were similar to the ideas that Jesus spoke of in the passage we discussed last week. Man against father, daughter against mother and all. We endure all this strife on a daily basis, and then we have a community of faithful just as messed up as the rest of the world. It is mind boggling that we would want to put up with it at all. We have enough problems the way it is.
Someone comes in that will at their wits end, they are broken and hurting, they feel as if there is no one or nowhere to turn. They come to realize that there is nothing left for them to do, they are so worn out and tired of keeping up appearances and they just open up to the community of faithful. This is where miracles happen, in this vulnerability where the strength we act like we posses has left and we stand vulnerable before God and His church. What do we do?
Today Jesus is sending his disciple out into the communities around Israel, he has already warned them of the struggles they will face but now he speaks of the miraculous. Jesus did not send the disciples out to minister among the wealthy or the righteous but the lost sheep of Israel. He sent them out to the broken and hurting, the ones that had run out of appearances and were left naked and vulnerable. He sent them out to do something that the religious community neglected; He sent them out to minister to these vulnerable people. He sent them to eat with the homeless, to speak to the prostitutes, to help clean the ones incapable of helping themselves. Why, because it is among the least of the kingdom that we can see God’s power.
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” This term of welcome is one that peaks interest. On the surface we may believe that this passage is calling us to be unified in belief and that we all should be in agreement in all things. But the reality is something quite different. It is term of reception. To welcome someone is the beginnings of building a relationship or friendship with someone. To welcome someone is to open the doorways of conversation, and is an invitation of potential friendship.
Welcoming is the beginnings of the ministry that Jesus is sending his disciples on. We must be welcoming so that people may enter into conversation with us, so that we can encourage them into conversation with God. The interesting thing is that Jesus is not speaking to the disciples in this manner, He is not commanding them to be welcoming but is speaking of those that they will be meeting. Yes we must be open to others around us but for them to begin a journey of faith they must be willing to open themselves up.
Do any of you find that odd? The people we are called to serve must be welcoming to us? It almost seems upside down and wrong side out, but it is true. We cannot serve people that reject our service. How then are we to serve?
To be able to serve those around us and to encourage them to welcome us we have to first open ourselves up to them. John wrote in his epistle, “We love because he first loved us.” For others to welcome us we first must imitate Christ in loving them first. Loving them when they disagree with us, loving them when they annoy us, and loving them when they are living in ways that we know are not exactly nurturing a deepening spiritual life. That is the beginnings of how we serve.
When we love first, they will reject us at first, but eventually as we welcome them they will begin to open up to us and begin welcoming the conversations. They may even begin to take steps toward Christ.
Jesus begins by letting us know that our job is not to bring people to convert, but to welcome. Our job is to open our lives to others so that they will open up to the ministry that Jesus has called us to. We are called to love first to become vulnerable to those around us so that they begin to open up to us, only after that do we engage in any other form of ministry.
After the initial discussion about opening on the reception of others, Jesus then goes into the use of the gifts of ministry. He mentions the prophet and the righteous. These are two different types of ministry. The office or gift of the prophecy is probably one of the most misunderstood gifts of the Spirit. This is largely do to dispensational theology where those seen as being prophets were ones that saw into the future. The gift of prophecy or the ministry of the prophet is not to forecast the future, but to speak. The ministry of a prophet is spoken ministry or the giving words of encouragement or wisdom into the life of those around them.
There is a time to speak and a time to listen. There are times to encourage and times to just step back and let those we work with have their space. Although we may have knowledge and wisdom we will be unable pass that knowledge or encouragement on to those around us unless they welcome the message. If we speak to soon we close the doors of the relationship, and if we speak too late again the doors may close. To be a prophet requires discipline and discernment. It requires knowledge and wisdom and the ability to discern and read the situation at hand. Most of the dysfunction in a community is caused by words imprudently spoken and welcoming doors that were once open being closed, not because those that spoke were wrong but they failed to discern the proper timing.
Jesus also mentions a second ministry, the ministry of the righteous. This too is a confusing term because often righteousness is seen as legalism, or rules. But righteous can also just, or upright, or in the right relationship with someone. The ministry of the righteous is the ministry of deeds. Being righteous is living our lives among others with justice and relationship in mind. The ministry of the righteous is the ministry that is seen by others. How we treat a customer, how we respond when we are under pressure, it is how we treat those that annoy and disagree with us. The ministries of the righteous see an injustice in the community and take action to put things into a right relationship again.
Prophecy is the spoken ministry and righteousness is service, both are vital to the kingdom of God. If all we do is speak but never take any action in confronting the injustices of our society our words will fall on deaf ears. And if all we do is serve without speaking and teaching to restore relationships between humanity and God, our actions will do nothing in building the kingdom.
Jesus ends by speaking about giving a cup of cold water to one of these little ones. Which also sound odd initially. He ends this passage, which is a pep talk as he sends out his disciples into the ministry, by speaking about little ones. The little ones that Jesus speaks about could be the ones that are lesser in society, the unimportant, or the young. In either case, Jesus is saying that in all that we do we should focus all of our attention in encouraging those less mature than ourselves in age or spirituality to grow. Not only are we to encourage them but offer them cold water. This is of significant importance, because cold water is refreshing, it is as if Jesus is telling them that in our dealings with the less mature in faith our words and deeds should be a source of refreshment and rest so that they will be more prepared to face the world around them.
We are challenged to welcome, speak, act, and refresh. Even though we may be mocked, shunned and turned away. But if we continue on in each case there is a reward. What is this reward that Jesus speaks about? The word translated as reward is the wages of employment. It is difficult to think that we get paid if we participate in the ministry of Jesus, but in actuality we do. The payment, wage, or reward is not one of economic value but one of relational significance. There is nothing more rewarding than to see the light of faith growing in the eyes of someone we invest our time into, there is no monetary value that can be placed on watching and encouraging someone to deepen their relationship with God, or to assist in the restoration of a relationship that has been strained. The wages that are rewarded to those that participate in Jesus’ ministry in word and deed are hard to explain but they are great. But the reward is only given if we are participating for the right reasons, if all these things are done outside of genuine love for God and others the reward will be unfulfilling.
So someone enters this meeting at their wits end, standing before us vulnerable and hurting and I asked what do we do, how do we respond? This question is one that I hope each of us considers very diligently, because how we respond will actually dictate the very future and effectiveness of our collective future. Do we respond out of love or judgment? Do we respond in action or word? Or do we respond by offering refreshment and rest? When we go out to our jobs and neighborhoods are we leaving this place open to those around us extending hands of friendship even to those whom may not have similar beliefs as ours or are we closing doors and building walls that may potentially leave people isolated from the God that loves them? I ask these things in total and complete honesty, because if we claim the name of Christ then every word and action we engage in should reflect the name in which we claim. Are we a people of justice and mercy, truth and grace, love and devotion? These are questions that each of us must answer on our own, but our individual answers affect every one around us, because we are a community. We live our lives together as well as alone, we serve united and individually. We are the church. Each of us uses our own gifts so that together we can encourage those around us to deepen their faith, some have gifts of action and other of word, but each of work together to build the kingdom of God within the community He has called us to. And when we unite and serve together to bring cold cups of water to the little ones among us our reward will be great and we will see God’s mighty hand working amazing deeds among us. But this all begins with welcoming each other in love.
As we enter into this time of holy expectancy and communion as Friends, let us consider these things together. Let us think of how we have done this in our past and how we can improve in the future. And let us consider where God is calling us to serve today.
Scripture: Matthew 10:24-39
The past couple of weeks I have encouraged us to consider the future of the Church. At times I may have set some of us a bit on edge, but there is a reason for this. We live in a world of constant progress and change. This leaves each of us having to face the ever-changing culture around us and examine our faith and lives.
This is not exactly the most pleasant feeling. Just when we believe we have everything figured out something happens that causes us to question yet again. What in our current culture is causing this?
Today’s passage we meet Jesus speaking with His disciples as He is sending them out into to minister among the people. He is sending them out to minister to the people of Israel in a manner quite different than the people of faith are accustomed to. Jesus does not send His disciples to the righteous people of but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and to cast out demons. Sending them out without payment, taking no gold, silver, copper, bags, or tunics. This is not exactly the most common form of ministry during that day. But Israel had seen ministry like this before, during cultural shifts where something was about to change within the religious community that would change the future direction of the religious community. In each case these shifts had a prophet that began to minister, and in many cases only after the prophet lost their life did the religious see the value of their message.
Cultures shift there are technological advancements, that move into industrial advancements, bringing about economic advancements, that give way to a satisfied life, and then almost as suddenly as the good life hits there becomes a new challenge that causes us to question things. We have been faced with these sorts of challenges during the past few years. Technology has advanced rapidly, industries have developed around these technologies that have caused the economy and our standard of living to advance and then there is a correction that causes us to feel a pinch. These are cycles of life. But even when the recession was at its worst the changes to our society that the advancement had brought on still remain. If we are honest, there are luxuries that we have come to expect that many of us never considered doing without in the hardest times. Our culture as a whole still purchased Internet service the industry that drove the economy prior to the recession because we have come to see this not as a luxury but as a necessity. We still as a whole held on to our cell phones but many had allowed our landlines to go unused, again because our culture views that the wireless lifestyle is of greater value.
But there are some within our culture that were hit harder than other. Our culture advanced to the point that most employers only accept applications online, so those that lost their Internet connection became unemployable. And as they sunk deeper into the economic whirlpool they would eventually lose connection with the culture at large. There were some who were judged by the culture as being the cause of the problems and received harsher treatment and others received assistance. I do not wish to rehash the past decade of hardships but I mention this only to allow us to see that our culture is not the same as it was a decade ago, it is not the same as it was twenty or fifty years ago and to be honest we would not want to go back to those days because the comforts we enjoy have become too important to us.
Israel at this time was in one of those pivotal moments in history just as we are today. Jesus is sending his closest friends and his most dedicated students out into this volatile community where fingers a being pointed and blame is being place to minister. Sending them to minister to the ones left behind by the cultural mechanism that had left them behind. Jesus warns them that they will be faced with challenges that they may not expect but to stand firm in their faith and commitment to Him. “I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves…” Jesus says to them.
Jesus was causing trouble in an already troubled era, He was shining light onto the practices of the people that said one thing but often lived another. The leaders of the were threatened by His ministry because he was building up a following among those people that they would rather have left in obscurity and as a result they called him a servant of the devil.
Let us just sit there for a moment. The religious were calling the one we call Lord, king and master, Beelzebul or the lord of the flies. Why? It is difficult for us to even consider such words being spoken of Jesus because we hold His very name in high esteem. But I want us to consider how easily we use words against those around us that we do not agree.
We live in a time very similar to this. We live in a culture that seems to be split and people on either side are hurling insults or worse across the chasm, yet neither side is actually seeking to do anything of real value, and woe to anyone who might happen to have a view that does not completely hold to the party line. It is difficult to live in eras such as these because you are damned either way, unless there happens to be a different path all together to begin to tread.
Jesus sent his most devoted students out into the world to minister to those left behind in the culture, He sent them to preach the Gospel, to tell the people living among them that the Kingdom of God is near. They were to preach this in a place where for many, it seemed that God was nowhere to be found.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” These words and those that follow are some of the hardest words to contemplate in all of the New Testament. What exactly is Jesus say? Is He saying that we must go forth proclaiming the Gospel with a sword in our hands beating the infidel into submission? In the past years I have actually heard this being proclaimed throughout the church in many ways, I have read articles demanding this just in the past week. But does this fit with the character of Jesus?
I have sat with this passage studied it and prayed with it over this week. Questions came to mind that were not really comfortable. What exactly is peace? What is the sword that Jesus speaks of when we know that Jesus eventually says those that live by the sword die by the sword? It leads us to even question the very point of why we have entrusted our lives to God in the first place. The answers to these questions shake what we know as church to the very core. Because to often we have come to believe that if we have faith our lives will be perfect. But Jesus is literally saying, “I have not come to bring that sort of life.” Peace is freedom from worry, harmony, tranquility, and in some cases welfare and health. These are the things that churches across our nation have been preaching for the past century. But that sort of peace is a selfish peace.
Jesus did not come to us to give us the good life, he came to restore and heal the relationship between God and His creation. This is where the sword comes in. Jesus is not speaking literally in this passage but figuratively. The sword is a representation of discord or unease, division and conflict. He is saying to His disciples if you move forward with me there will be trouble, but it will be worth it.
These men live in a nation that is divided between two major camps. On one side is the status quo those that control the temple. On the other stand the righteous the ones that say if you perform certain things correctly, God will give shower you with blessings. Each party works to grow their influence over the people, leaving many behind to suffer. Those that control the temple demand perfect sacrifices, and they will provide those for a price. Some offer a life of devotion that they will teach you for a price. Jesus comes in and gets between these parties offering something different freely. He speaks to the lame telling them their sins are forgiven and then tells them to walk. By doing so those in the two parties are left without influence, if he can forgive sin there is no need for the sacrifice or the devoted life to earn favor.
This does not bring peace but discord. He is turning the entire cultural perspective of faith upside down. He did not come to bring these two parties together but instead to render both useless. Why?
Both of these views use fear. They use fear to control the people for personal gain. They distort the truth of God to hold power over those around them. The truth is that the Kingdom of God is near. This means that God is in our midst all around us. Fear is a weakness of faith. Fear does not believe in God, but places faith in our own abilities. There is no love in fear, no light only darkness.
We live in a culture of fear. This fear is not only in the world, but churches across the nation promote fear. They fear Islam, they fear the loss of our way of life, and they fear the loss of control over the nation. The world fears because they have nothing else to rely on but themselves. The church should not fear because our faith is in someone that overcomes the world. But why then do we fear?
We fear because we have not been faithful to the one that preserves our souls and have chased after other gods. We have grown comfortable in our own abilities and have neglected the relationship with our God. We have become intoxicated with power over our culture and have neglected our calling. We fear because we know that we have not been good and faithful stewards of the gifts that God has given us. Our faith in Jesus is not bringing peace but the sword. We lash out at those around us casting blame on others instead of placing it where it should be. We have failed our nation because we have failed to love. But perfect love cast out all fears.
Jesus says, “It is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.” Jesus is calling each of us to come out of the shadows of fear and to walk with Him into the light. To follow Him in His life and His lifestyle as we move forward into the chaotic world around us. To not worry about what others will say or do, because none of that worry will accomplish anything, but instead to teach that God is near each of us today and always. God will lift us out of those shadows and set us on a new course. We live in a new era; one where we have the ability to communicate and encourage in ways history could never have done before. Yet still we are called to minister right here in our community encouraging those people God has given us to walk along with as we become more like our teacher and master.
We are called to become a people loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others. That calling and that mission is not one dominated by fear, but one inspirited by relationship. That relationship is fueled by the spiritual rhythm of Jesus’ own life of worship, prayer, and service to others. If we are to walk in that path it will cause discord and discomfort for those that refuse, but it will also provide a peace that passes understanding. But we must first face our fears and ask ourselves whom do we believe? Do we believe in only in ourselves and our culture, or do we believe in God? Let us reflect on these as we enter into a time of prayerful contemplation and communion with God and each other in open worship.
Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20
What is the purpose of the gathering of the church? This question is asked often as cultures shift and one era of history emerges into another. This is the question that many today are asking as well. Today several different expressions of the church are gaining more ground and followings. There is the missional church, which focuses on ministry outside of the church walls providing service to the community where you are and putting little emphasis on the meeting house. Then there is the emergent church that is seen as a blending of various spiritual and theological practices both ancient and contemporary. This emergent church is one that focuses mainly on providing spiritual experiences that will urge people into a deeper devotion to Christ. Then the last exciting concept emerging in the contemporary church is the new monasticism, communities are being built and orders are being formed that focus on continual and constant prayer.
What each of these movements show is that something has happened within the culture around us where what was once seen as being the primary method of ministry seems to be ineffective. The people of the world are closing themselves off from the gospel and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to reach out to those struggling in life with the hope we have in Jesus. Our culture has shifted from attending worship services weekly to something much deeper. Those outside the church no longer see value in attending church because the church seems to have become comfortable with itself and its place in society, no longer is it a force of hope and change but is often seen as an instrument of oppression and exclusion. Each of the contemporary movements have similarities, they notice that the church needs to address certain traditions that have become commonplace and revitalise them. The missional movement revitalizes the evangelistic mission of goo g to all the nations, which must first begin at home before we can become effective in the world. The emergent movement addresses worship practices and theologies and attempts to bring light back into the meeting for worship. And the new monastic movements encourage prayer, not just in the intercessory manner but deep contemplative and relational prayer. This is one of the most exciting times of the church because church and being a Christian is becoming something much different these movements require each person to become more active, no longer can one just be a spectator bit your faith must become a lifestyle.
I know that none of this is new. This is what church has always been but at times the meetings get lukewarm. Throughout history the church has gone through periods like these, and a new movement emerges to revitalize the church. But it goes deeper into history than just the 2000 odd years of our current era. The Jewish history also has cycles great devotion, complacency, and a reemergence. We can read about this throughout the old testament and in the oracles of the prophets. It is in one of these cycles where Christ comes and the church is built. The church as we know it has its roots going back to the beginning of time, yet in each age it has had to recalibrate to encourage each generation into a deeper relationship with God.
This is where we find the disciples in today’s passage. The church is in its infancy and is nearly getting its feet under them to begin to move without the assistance of a physical lord before them. This setting is just prior to the ascension, they meet together on a mountain which Jesus called them to, and they are in a state of awe and doubt. Jesus meets them when they see Him they begin to worship Him. They worshiped him, they provided Jesus with an honor only allowed to be performed in the temple, yet here they gave it to Jesus. In the midst of this honor, Jesus tells them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
All authority, do we understand what this implies? To most of us it means that Jesus, has been given authority to rule,, jurisdiction, and power, but it can also mean freedom to act. All freedom to act in heaven and on earth. That is an interesting concept, not only does he have the power and ability to rule but he has all freedom to act upon what is necessary. Jesus demonstrated this authority in many ways as he lived and ministered in Galilee and Judea. What is important is that by Jesus say the words, “Go therefore,” Jesus is transferring the authority he has to his followers, sending them out in His name. When someone with that type of authority sends someone out in their name they have the exact authority as the one that sends them.
So Jesus sends them out under his authority and says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” First off we need to look at what is meant by the term nations. A nation is a people or a large group based on various cultural, physical or geographic ties. It can also refer to heathens, pagan, or Gentiles. Jesus is sending them out to all people, including all the heathens, pagans, Gentiles, and Jews. All the nations that is pretty hard to imagine. The apostles were given this task with authority passed down to them by Jesus himself, and that authority and mission has been passed down to each one of us because all the nations have yet to be reached. This is a task that will last through ages and ages to come. With each new birth of a child it extends the mission of Jesus Christ. With each new cultural shift and change we as agents of Jesus are given the freedom to go therefore and minister among them. We often get caught in the trap of thinking that the mission is over and that the culture is in decay leaving us to just wait around until the day that Christ is to return, but that is not what we are called to do, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”
We are called to go to all the nations and among that call we are to make disciples. A disciple is a student of a master. It goes beyond just believing that something is true, like I was saying a couple of weeks ago there are different levels of belief. The first is knowledge, the second is trust and the third is to entrust. Disciples are people that have moved along that path past the knowledge stage and are in the process of moving from trust to entrust. I say this because to be a disciple you must walk along the path of the master, one cannot walk that path until they have moved into some form of trust. The term disciple is a committed student. In the first century a disciple of a particular rabbi would leave everything and begin to walk where their teacher walked, eat what their teacher ate, they would imitate everything their teacher did until they themselves were equal to their teacher and could lead their own students. To be a disciple requires one to leave their current direction in life and to become totally committed living for and with their master or teacher. Often we try to soften the cost of discipleship make it easier in some way so that there can be greater growth among the followers. At other times we make even more rules so that only the very best can enter into the ranks. These are the very things that have prompted every reform of faith within the people of God, this swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other. At one point there is a focus on strict adherence to the law at other times it is free grace for all. Both of these are not telling the whole truth these reforms are only looking at the outward expression but discipleship holistic. Discipleship deals with the mind, body, and spirit. The goal of discipleship is to change the entire person and form them into something better.
Jesus sends his closest friends out saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” leaving us with a logical question, how? This is where the various denominations make their splits. Most real differences are about how we train and encourage people along the path of faith. We use different tools, examples, and experiences to encourage a person to take the steps through the process of true belief. Jesus tells us how to make disciples when he continues to speak, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Makes total sense right? When we read these words every one of us had something go through our mind as to what this means. For many when the word baptize is mentioned we immediately begin to imagine a religious ceremony of either a baby having their head rinsed by a priest, or a repentant person being plunged beneath the water’s surface. We each have a theological stance on which if any are correct, but in those many years of tradition the meaning has somewhat lost the power. We can pull parallels from the ancient hebrew practices of ritualistic cleansings and show how those traditions are passed on to the church by Jesus, and we can even look back in to the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and see John the Baptist performing this ritual in the Jordan, but often we fail to recognize that these rituals were just a shadow or illustration to what Jesus and John for that matter were trying to express. The term Baptize is to immerse or saturate and it was not used in a religious context until John the Baptist used it, prior to that and even well beyond it was a term used for the dyeing for fabrics.
To baptize someone is to dye them so that they no longer look the same but have a permanent and beautiful stain. One that dyes must totally immerse the fabric into the solution and let it sit for a portion of time and then remove the fabric and rinse it. It is a time consuming process in conditions that are not exactly ideal, the dyes smell funny and at times can even cause harm to the ones doing the work, but the end product is a beautiful fabric with uniform color throughout. The fabric is transformed into something of greater value. When John the Baptist cried out in the wilderness to repent and be baptized he was not just saying be washed but be transformed, even he said that what he was doing was not complete but the one that was to come after him would come with the true baptism. This true baptism is to take on the color or essence of Christ, so that every aspect of our being is touched and shaded in the hues of Jesus. To be baptised is to be immersed in the very life of Jesus, letting it saturate and color every aspect of our being until we are totally reflecting that that is Jesus. Consider that for a moment. We are dyed with Christ. Washed in the blood of Jesus takes on a totally different meaning. Saturated and colored by the very blood shed for us.
Blood is a connective tissue that flows through every part of our bodies. It connects and nourishes every system and function we need to survive. Blood is a great illustration for what it means to be baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, because blood saturates and connects everything that makes us live. This is what discipleship is, it is allowing the spirit of God to saturate every facet of our being. If blood does not get to a certain part of our body that area almost immediately begins to die, the coloring of the tissue begins to change and then the systems around them begin to shut down. The result is numbness or pain, or even sever cases the loss of an organ or life. To be a disciple to be baptized is to have every aspect of our being totally saturated with the God.
“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 that I have commanded you.” We baptize by the act or the participation in the teaching of Jesus. Jesus taught with more than mere words, and the light he showed us was for more than just the afterlife. Jesus’ teaching was a lifestyle. It was a rhythm of living. It a balance of worship, prayer, and service to others. It involved discussions and the passing on of knowledge, but most of what he taught was in action. He would often use the service he provided to others as a means to express a deeper meaning or understanding of life with God. But it was the life of Jesus that is important in disciple making. He lived among us. He ate among us, He worshiped with those around Him and he showed us how to deepen and maintain a relationship with God. He saturated every aspect of humanity with His divine presence. He demonstrated how to work and honor God in it. He showed us how to honor God in our celebrations, feasting, and interaction with other. He taught and he demonstrated with his life. That is what Jesus is calling us to do. To go to all nations, all people, races, genders, heathens, pagans, people that don’t believe and people that believe differently and live a life saturated by God among those people, teaching them in our words and deeds. Walking with them as we go and helping when we can. Jesus has given us the freedom to act with his authority in these areas.
This is why the contemporary emerging movements of the church are so important. They are challenging us all to reconsider various aspects of our lives and our activities to see if we are actually making disciples or if we are just trying to fill the meeting houses. The Missional movement is challenging us by asking us if we are actually Going. The emergent network is asking us if we are actually following his teachings by questioning and experimenting with different techniques. The new monastics are challenging us to actually look at our lives and see if we are devoted completely. We could sit back and complain that maybe they do not have sound theology or that they attempt ministries without being prepared. We may even consider them lazy, and wish they got real jobs. But they are attempting to advance the church, they are attempting to make disciples of people many would like to over look. They are challenging us to become the church again.
God is working among us, he is calling us into ministries that may be uncomfortable at this time, but how will we respond? Will we saturate those God brings us to with the essence of Christ, will they be able to see that we ourselves have been saturated in Him? Will we be willing to walk and do what Jesus calls us to do here in our community?
I want to revisit the illustration of dyed fabric. Not all fabric is suitable for all things. People are different as well. We are not called to make copies of ourselves in all nations, but disciples of Jesus. We do not control what the final outcome will be for anyone, some will be called to preaching, others to teaching, some to giving and others to hospitality, some to heal and others to organize. These things are called Gifts of the spirit, meaning God gives them these Gifts not us. God has sent us out to make disciples and to baptize or to saturate and dye the people in the name of the triune God, but God is still in control of what they become in Him. Today is Father’s day and I want to acknowledge those men that have been instrumental in discipleship of my life. Often our parents are the first and most important influences of our lives that will set us on the course to God, but our parents do not control our destiny. My father, both of my fathers, taught me through words and actions. I saw them pray and worship, I saw them help others in need, I learned from my father the importance of giving to God first. My grandfather would often encourage me to look at things from a different perspective. My great Uncle taught me to never judge before you hear the whole story. These men in my life were saturated in the love of God, they lived it in every aspect of their lives, and they encouraged me to do the same. Fathers are to train their children in the way they should go, or point them down the right path. These men did that, but I doubt any would have expected what God would fully do with the fabric of my life.
Our jobs are to make disciples not play God, our challenge is how do we direct people down the right path without crossing a line where we play god? This is where the rhythm of life that Jesus taught us is so important. This is where spiritual disciplines are key. It is through this disciplined life where we develop and build our relationship with God and where His spirit will lead and guide us in our words and deeds. It is in worship, prayer, and service that we see ourselves in the true light, and in that light we will be able to see others the way God see them.
We are in a pivotal point in history. In many cases the western church is in decline, but that only means God is beginning a new work in those of us who are already His disciples. Again we are called to Go Make and baptize nations here and to the ends of the earth. As we enter into this time of open worship and communion as Friends, consider discipleship, and baptism and if in your understanding you are where you need to be. Then take a different look at those things and consider where you and our church should be in God.