Disciple. Mathew 28:16-20
On WednesdayÂ night last week my son Matt and I went to an Ice Hockey linesmanâ€™s course.Â The instructor asked if anyone could explainÂ the off-side rule.Â No one wanted to riskÂ it; it was too complicated to explain in a short sentence, so we all sat thereÂ with confused expressions on our faces, hoping someone else would have toÂ answer for us.Â Most of us have beenÂ playing the game for a number of years and see off-sides called all the time inÂ games, some even abuse the referee or linesmen for getting it wrong, yet whenÂ it came to the crunch we werenâ€™t confident enough to state the rule.
There are lots ofÂ technical words that we use in the church perhaps without ever really unpackingÂ what they mean, or maybe we just think we know what they mean.Â I reckon if I asked someone to explain theÂ term disciple to me it could be a struggle too.Â Â Is anyone game to give it a go?
The OxfordÂ Dictionary lists two possibilities 1) a personal follower ofÂ Jesus during his life, esp. one of the twelve Apostles or 2)Â a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosophy.Â The Free Dictionary online adds anotherÂ variation, One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings ofÂ another.
Given thoseÂ definitions, do you think that you are a disciple?Â We can all rule out the first definitionÂ given by the Oxford,Â none of us were around during Jesusâ€™ life.Â Â We can probably manage to fit ourselves under the second version though,Â we follow or are students at least of Jesus, through Godâ€™s Word, but what aboutÂ the last definition, can you say that you embrace and assist in spreading theÂ teachings of Jesus.Â My guess is that onÂ the last one there are a few of us who might struggle a little.
Some might sayÂ thatâ€™s the role of the ordained clergy and paid church workers to go out andÂ spread the teachings of Jesus.Â Thatâ€™d beÂ a bit of a cop out though wouldnâ€™t it?Â Â You see Jesus said go and make disciples of ALL nations.Â Not just the Israelites, or the Romans or theÂ Greeks, ALL nations.Â The way I read thatÂ is that thereâ€™s a bit of a domino principle going on.Â The disciples that were there with Jesus wereÂ to go out, with the authority given to them by Jesus, to make disciples of allÂ nations, that is, to replicate themselves.Â Â Thatâ€™s what they were after all wasnâ€™t it, disciples?Â Go out and make some more of yourselves!Â Then what will happen, those new ones willÂ also be commanded to obey everything that Jesus has commanded, can you see aÂ pattern developing here?
But how do you goÂ about â€˜making a discipleâ€™?Â You canâ€™t goÂ to the supermarket or hardware store and get a ready to make kit; itâ€™s a bitÂ harder and a little more obscure than that isnâ€™t it?
Perhaps by takingÂ a look at the six marks of discipleship suggested by Dr Michael Foss we mightÂ find some answers to the how question as we look at what being a discipleÂ entails.Â You might remember my sermon aÂ couple of weeks back about prayer, which is the first mark of being a disciple,Â maintaining a conversation with our Lord.Â Â The second is to spend time each week in worship, celebrating theÂ presence of God through Word and Sacrament in communion with fellowÂ believers.Â Number three is reading theÂ Bible.Â What better way is there to knowÂ more about God and learn from him unless you read his Word that was written forÂ you than to read it for yourself?
The nextÂ suggested mark of discipleship is serving in and beyond your congregation, thatÂ is, living a life that reflects the joy and hope that you have through yourÂ Lord and Saviour, and responding by serving others in love.Â Then comes nurturing relationships withÂ others, having people that are important to you that care for you and that youÂ care for in response.Â The final mark isÂ giving in response to Godâ€™s love of what he has first given you to support theÂ work of the church and other charitable organisations.
Now Iâ€™m notÂ saying that God is going to measure you on these things and judge you on howÂ well you do.Â These are merely suggestedÂ ways of living a life in response to Godâ€™s love for you, reflecting the wayÂ that Jesus lived and allowing God into your life beyond the hour or so on aÂ Sunday that you might spend in a worship service.
You might also askÂ why would you want to be a disciple, whatâ€™s in it for me?Â Itâ€™s fairly common to want to know the answerÂ to the â€˜whatâ€™s in it for me questionâ€™ these days isnâ€™t it?
Letâ€™s think aboutÂ it for a minute, our world is a difficult place to live in.Â There is fear, oppression, inflation, naturalÂ disasters, illness, interest rates are increasing, more people are defaultingÂ on their mortgages, and rental prices are at a record high.Â Lifeâ€™s tough isnâ€™t it?Â People need hope and joy in their lives,Â where do you think that might come from?
Some people willÂ try to find it in alcohol or drugs, through sport, relationships with others orÂ maybe material possessions.Â But you andÂ I know that there is something or someone better donâ€™t we?Â In our Lord and saviour Jesus we have hope,Â for an eternal life, but more than that, he has promised to be with us to theÂ end of the age.Â Unlike many people weÂ might have come across during our lives, he wonâ€™t reject us or double-cross us,Â he has promised to love us and be with us, no matter whatâ€™s going on in ourÂ lives.
By living as hisÂ disciples we help him be a part of our lives, we read and hear his Word, weÂ receive his gifts to us through the sacraments, Baptism and Holy Communion, weÂ hear his forgiveness spoken to us through our pastor or fellow Christians, weÂ talk to God on a regular basis and live a life in response to all of that, withÂ him present with us.
So what is aÂ disciple?Â You are, when you go homeÂ tonight and look in a mirror, that is a disciple, youâ€™ve bothered to come hereÂ today and hear Godâ€™s word, pray to him and receive the Sacrament.Â How do we make other disciples, by showingÂ Godâ€™s love to others and praying for his help to share his Word through ourÂ lives and relationships with others, wherever that may be.Â We teach and baptise and walk their journeyÂ with them, just like others have walked the journey with us and all the whileÂ Jesus has promised to be with us too.