Becoming a Disciple
The chosen hymns for this week, Beauty for brokenness and 10,000 reasons can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
Becoming a disciple
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday for 14th June.
At the end of this service we will be celebrating the sacrament of communion so you may want to pause this video now to get some bread and something to drink.
Our reflection today is about Jesus choosing the disciples and
having chosen us as his followers what that means to us.
Let us pray
It seems natural to want to ask forgiveness, to apologize for our discipleship.
The one thing we are probably sure of is that we aren’t doing it right, or we aren’t doing it anywhere near as well as we should be.
We create this image in our heads of what a good disciple looks like or how a good disciple acts, and then we try to reach that perfection, always doomed to fail.
Forgive our foolishness.
For seeing discipleship as an end result, rather than a journey of discovery.
For seeing discipleship as something to achieve rather than something to continually aspire to.
For giving up when we fail rather than learning and growing ever forward.
In this time of struggle, help us to see what discipleship means.
To see the ways we can gently care for others; the phone calls, the emails, the Zoom meetings, the donations to food banks.
To see the ways we can gently care for ourselves; the times for reflection, the times to exercise, the times to read scripture.
To see the ways, and prepare the ways, to celebrate once the lock down is finished; to rejoice in the freedoms we will have had returned, to enjoy the casual fellowships that we failed to appreciate before the lockdown.
May we see discipleship as we should, not as a burden to be fulfilled, but a way of life to be enjoyed and celebrated.
As Christ lived his life to the full, may we follow his example, no matter where it leads.
From Matthew 9:35-10:4
We have been on a journey over the last few months.
That is also true of the country just now, the lock down has tested us and forced us to look at what is important in our lives, maybe more importantly, who is important in our lives just now.
That theme of journey is also true of our scripture readings over the last few months.
We started off with our journey to Easter and resurrection, seeing that although we may not have realised it, that we are a beloved child of God, our worth is so great that Christ himself was willing to die for our sake.
We moved from there to God giving us the Spirit, an inner strength or power or presence, to remind us of that truth, that we now have the chance to see our lives differently. We are not defined by jealousy or selfishness or greed, we are not defined by our mistakes or our flaws. We are defined by a loving relationship with God where we can grow and learn and mature.
But what now?
What are we to grow and learn and mature into?
Well the word for what we grow into is disciple.
There is only a couple of things I would like to say about that.
The first is that becoming a disciple, or a follower of Christ, isn’t the end of the process.
I have five children, they all call me father. At different points in their life they realised that we had that bond, that that bond was different from every other bond that they had and will have.
But the moment they called me dad or father for the first time, wasn’t the moment they stopped growing and the relationship stopped developing.
When my youngest daughter at the age of 10 months said, ‘Dada’ (after weeks and weeks of coaching so that she said that before mum) that wasn’t the end of our relationship developing. That daughter is now in her mid-twenties and our relationship is still changing and developing.
It would be awful if she treated me now the way she did when she was less than a year old.
And not only is that relationship changing, so is the relationships with the other four children, they are all different, growing, vibrant.
And we see that in our readings.
Jesus calls these disciples and his relationship with every one of them is different as they are all different.
Peter, the natural leader, acting first and thinking later.
Andrew his brother always willing to stay in the sidelines inviting others into the group.
James and John always challenging and questioning and arguing.
Thomas trying to work things out in his head and unwilling to commit himself until he feels he has looked at all the angles.
Judas suspicious of everything and everyone.
Simon determined to fight for the rights of the Jewish people over everything else.
Matthew who just wanted peace and to work within the system.
Philip who with Greek heritage would have felt like the outsider.
Thaddeus and Bartholomew and James (son of Alpheus) who were so quiet probably most of you forgot they were part of the group.
There was a place for each of them, they were all called disciples, and they all had the chance to move forward and grow.
As do we.
But then that leads me onto the next question, what are we supposed to do as disciples?
Well Jesus said that he was the Good Shepherd that led the sheep, and then we were to follow his example and become shepherds as well. So as disciples we are meant to become shepherds, leading, watching over our flocks.
And that got me thinking about what kind of leadership that meant.
I have a probationer called John and we have talked a lot about leadership in the church.
And one of the images of leadership we have come back to again and again was the idea of the shepherd leader. We looked at the idea of the shepherd pushing the flock from behind with the sheep dogs at either side encouraging the sheep to go in a certain direction.
Then we realised that shepherds in Jesus day didn’t work like that, they led from the front, sometimes even from the middle of the flock, and the sheep followed the shepherd, so the shepherd was the example to move towards as he led them to a destination.
But recently I have felt something about the shepherd image that maybe we have missed. We see the role of the shepherd, the role of the disciples, to lead others somewhere, to faith, to Christianity, to church.
A bit like Moses leading the people of Israel to the Promised Land.
So we as disciples have the role of leading people somewhere, of achieving something. But if we do that then the sheep become a means to an ends, a bigger congregation, a bigger church, and we see our achievements in reaching this destination, a bigger youth group, more money in the collection.
But the shepherds in Jesus day never led the sheep to a Promised Farm.
What they did was lead them in circles.
They would get up in the morning where the sheep had been kept safely in their pens for the night, then they would lead them out to pastures where they could eat safely, then at night they would lead them back home to the safety of the pens.
The next day the shepherd would lead them back out to the pasture that they had been to the day before, but if he felt there wasn’t enough grazing there, he would lead them to another pasture, then lead them back home again.
Out they would go, in they would return, going round and round in circles.
The shepherd wasn’t leading the sheep somewhere, he was just leading the sheep to where they needed to go to be the best sheep, the healthiest sheep that they could be.
That is our roll as shepherds, as disciples, to walk with others through their life, helping them become the best that they can be.
For some of us like ministers we do that with big groups of people.
For others who volunteer with different groups it may be with smaller groups of people.
For most folk it may be with neighbours, or friends or family.
It is an amazing calling.
To see that we are loved by God, and to show that love to others.
So each day we do what we can do to reflect on the different ways that God shows his love,
through care, through relationships, through challenges,
and each day we walk with others to help them see that love as well, so that they can grow too.
I pray we all have the wisdom and courage to recognise that love,
and the hope and belief to show that love.
Let us pray.
We have received many blessing from your hand.
Friendships and support,
light in the days of darkness and courage in the times of fear.
You have given us the opportunities of fellowship in our times of isolation and the wonder of freedom of spirit even in times of lock down.
In your presence we find hope.
In your Son’s life we find inspiration.
Be with us and remain in us, now and always.
At this point we will be sharing in communion. So if you haven’t already got some bread and something to drink near you, you may want to pause the talk and get some.
The Sacrament of Communion
Thank you for being with us today, either on the video or on the telephone.
Remember you can ask the church to pray for people you care about through the web page.
Until next time...
Happy are those who find their home in God.
May the blessing of sharing space with God and with others fill your day with surprise and joy Amen