Discipleship. Following Jesus Christ. On “The Way.”
What does that look like?
Go look in the mirror. I know, right? It’s not tattooed on your forehead. It’s not that obvious.
Discipleship looks wholly (and holy) different person-to-person because it depends on how you wear it. It’s individual. Unique.
In Mark 12:29-31 Jesus gets asked: “Which commandment is the first of all?” And he answers: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
All those years ago, long before there is a church, The Way is a lifestyle. Hence the name. Christianity is a lifestyle first, before it’s “doctrine.” Before it’s a set of beliefs.
Disciple is literally who you are.
I’m starting to get the feeling that we don’t know what it is because we’re so caught up in it that we can’t see it anymore. Or we forget it. Or maybe we never did see it!
So, ask yourself two things:
“Do I love God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind, and with all my strength?”
“Do I love my neighbor as much as I love myself?”
And then go and do likewise. But what does it look like?
Here are some discipleship practices that might ring your bell:
• Texting a friend to encourage them. • Listening to a devotional on your commute. • Dropping off soup at the church for those in need. • Coming to church to worship God on Sunday. • Showing kindness to the checker at ShopRite • Teaching your children to thank God before a meal.
Just for instance.
Discipleship looks just like you, made in the image of God, perfect in your imperfection. You can, but you don’t really have to think too hard about it. It just is.
God loves you first. Always in all ways. And you don’t do anything to “earn it.” Just. Be. You.
So, the confirmation class is rolling. And I’m looking ahead at the work we’re doing. We’re coming up on some interesting conversations like: If we’re equal parts sinner and saint—created in the Imago Dei (image of God) yet total sinners—how can we be both?
Do we take that literally and can we see God just by looking in the mirror? Do we take on the sinner part literally?
Is it all metaphor for spiritual image, spiritual sin? Or what?
What is sin, anyway? Doing bad things? Breaking the “rules”?
You see the problem. And what’s always fascinated me about the “Presbyterian conversation” is that we are most often left with more questions than answers. Almost always. We are constantly taking things apart and putting them back together again.
This is the kind of work we’re doing in the confirmation class!
We’re forcing some adulting—finding our place on the spiritual growth spectrum.
I like to say that God sees us “perfect in our imperfection.”
God = Love
Love = God
Always in all ways.
It’s a gift that we can’t do anything to earn. It’s on us to accept it. It’s there before we even know it. Saying it another way, God’s prevenient grace just “is.”
So, a couple parting shots courtesy of Richard Rohr—boom! And boom!
When you looked at me Your eyes imprinted your grace in me; For this you loved me ardently; And thus my eyes deserved To adore what they behold in you. . . . And let us go forth to behold ourselves in your beauty. --John of the Cross (1542–1591)
Religion, from the root “religio,” means to reconnect, to bind back together…In a very real sense, the word “God” is just a synonym for everything. So if you do not want to get involved with everything, stay away from God. - RR
By now you know that I’m a life-long lover of rock music—even worked in the radio or music business for 20 years. It’s never very far away. There’s almost always a song playing in my head. It’s a gift and a curse. I live to my own little soundtrack.
Maybe you do too, sometimes. Songs can take us right back to our times and places, to the people we love—to the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly too.
Songs and real rock stars used to speak truth to power. They used to speak into our culture, into our lives, and into our issues holding a mirror up to us. They helped us see ourselves. And music flows out of us in all ways if we’re just listening.
Listen to the voices. Listen to the stories. Listen for the tension between fear and courage. Listen to the music of the stories, even as you may hear them in a justice or political key.
While I was away on vacation, Dave Loth preached on the story of Esther. Go read the book—it won’t take long. It’s in the Old Testament. Open any Bible right at the middle and chances are pretty good you’ll land in the Psalms (a songbook of music). Flip backwards a few pages beyond Job and you will find the story of Ester.
Listen to her music. It’s the story of a young, orphaned woman who finds her voice. Ester speaks truth to power in a place and time where women had virtually nothing. No standing. No cred. Nothing. She saves an entire nation! And the holiday of Purim is to keep her memory alive. To keep her music alive.
I’ve been watching this docu-drama on the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I’ve been reading about her, listening to podcasts with her, and watching other documentaries on shaming. Her life was nearly destroyed by it.
I’m listening to her music. Her story is amazing and fascinating and heartbreaking. She has overcome. She has found her footing. She has found her voice. And she’s making music.
She’s another voice in the chorus of today’s women in #MeToo, #TimesUp, #EnoughisEnough. They’re hearing a drumbeat—a rhythm of freedom and empowerment to share their song, to share their pain, to keep time together. There’s safety in numbers. There’s power in numbers. There’s power in the music.
It’s a heartbreaking song. Listen to the music.
I read a poem some time ago in Richard Rohr’s devotional (Google is your friend here) in a piece that wasn’t really to do with this. But I hear it in my head. I keep hearing its music.
In Exodus, Moses asks God “Who shall I tell the people who sent me? What’s your name?” God’s answer: “I AM WHO I AM…you shall say, I AM has sent me.” The great I AM.
So, this poem is inspired by this power of God in us—the I AM in each one of us. The I AM that gives us our music.
I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through-- listen to this music.*
This poem sings to me in a major key in the midst of so many—too many—heartbreaking songs that make me angry. But it’s empowering, it’s emboldening, it’s encouraging.
Listen for the beat in the tension between fear and courage. Listen to the music. Be the music.
Grace and Peace, Scott
*Daniel Ladinsky, inspired by Hafiz, “The Christ’s Breath,” Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West (Penguin Compass: 2002)
Allergies are weird stuff and I have been in denial for years.
I never had much trouble with allergies growing up and in my young adult life. Never a problem for me. I didn’t know how lucky I was.
My friends? Not so much. Runny noses, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, lost voices. The whole nine.
I just didn’t know how lucky I was.
I read something somewhere some years ago that as our body chemistry changes with aging, so do our immunities and defense mechanisms. I was in denial about that, too.
Just the past couple days—maybe it’s the cooler nights? The yellows and the reds are coming out. I’m noticing leaves starting to drop. Cue the Led Zeppelin: “Leaves are falling all around, time I was on my way…” And here it comes—I’m sure it’s coming.
I get a week in the spring and a week in the fall that’s never really been the same. Like, I can’t point at some severe thing. It varies. But I know it’s coming.
No, it’s not any worse in New Jersey than Oklahoma. Feeling a little stopped up, scratchy throat, a little runny nose. Probably something Benadryl can handle. Just enough to be annoying, never miserable.
Anyway, I still love fall. I love the change of seasons and I usually try to stop several times daily to look for God and what God’s doing. Sometimes I’m listening. Sometimes watching. Sometimes praying (not enough). Sometimes I get through a day or several days without any of it. But mostly I really do try and do that.
Even in the allergies! They’re coming. And maybe that is God’s way of slowing me down, reminding me who’s “got this”. Which, to be perfectly honest, is pretty annoying—surely there’s another way to get my attention!
Having said that, if this is all it takes and if this is as bad as it gets, I need to quit whining and get over it. Today’s worry is enough for today. Sound familiar?
Fall is here and God’s definitely got this—the rest is up to you and me.