3 June 2018: Discipleship, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

3 June 2018: Discipleship, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

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Discipleship so far…

Last week…

Last week Pete introduced our series on Discipleship, looking at what it even means. If you remember, Pete spoke about discipleship as those who followed Jesus so closely that they would be covered in the dust from his feet. That they saw what he did, overheard him sharing with others about God and joined with him as he ministered.

This week…

But what about us… It is one thing to talk about the disciples, those who were with Jesus during his ministry, but what about us today… How do we even do that?

Acts 2:42 (GNB)

42They spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers.

 

Eugene Peterson describes discipleship as:

A long obedience in the same direction…

Life happens, we get busy… Friends… Study… Family… Church… Work… We keep our head down and we start to drift… Sometimes we don’t even realise…

Illustration:

It’s a bit like if you have ever been at the shops when it is busy, perhaps around Christmas time and seen little kids following their parents… Just last year I was walking along through the shops, feel something tugging on my jacket and notice that I have picked up a kid… I stop and you can see the moment of realisation, followed by panic as this little kids realises “You’re not my dad…” … No I’m not… Somewhere in the business, the distraction, they had started following the wrong person… Fortunately they hadn’t been doing this for long their parents were nearby…

The thing is… I think sometimes we all get lost like that…

As we continue to talk about discipleship, today I wanted to look at a few spiritual disciplines. That is, habits that we can foster that help us to stay on track, help us to stay close to Jesus.

  • Taking time to be shaped by the stories of Jesus that we find today in the Bible
  • Sharing the full range of human experience through prayer
  • Growing together as the body of Christ through regular worship

The Bible… Words that come alive…

What is the Bible… Why do we read it..?

Illustration:

The thing is that reading the Bible isn’t just like reading Lord of the Rings… Whether it is your favourite movie, tv show or book, there many stories that we like to experience over and over again. The thing is, when we re-read something, or re-watch something, we are generally expecting that the experience will be much the same. There may be small details that we pick up on subsequent viewings but the essential experience is the same… There generally won’t be any surprises…

I would like to suggest that reading the Bible isn’t like that. The idea isn’t to just read it once and then be happy that you know how it ends… When Jesus shared stories and phrases from the Old Testament to Jewish hearers, it isn’t because he thinks they haven’t heard these stories before, but that they have failed to be properly formed by them. As we read the Bible, God spirit moves and we encounter God in a unique way, a way that may be different each time we read it. The Bible isn’t just a book, but the means through which we encounter Jesus.

More than this, The Bible is not just a story we hear but a story that shapes us… In the Bible we have the story that has shaped Jesus’ followers since the beginning… The story that will continue to shape us, challenge us, offend us, lead us and guide us.

In the same way that the early disciples spent time hearing God’s story in the temple hearing the story of Jesus from the apostles, our habit of regularly finding time to be shaped by the scriptures is a key way to stay on track for those who follow Jesus today.

Where to start…

If you don’t know where to start, there are plenty of great resources, audio Bibles and apps, but even just the discipline of reading through the New Testament 5 minutes per day…

Prayer… Reminding ourselves whose we are…

Why is prayer… Why do we do it..?

Prayer is something for all those who follow Jesus… If reading the scriptures is where we hear from God, prayer is where we share back. When we read about the early disciples doing this, we need to understand that this was more than just asking God for things, trying to get what they wanted out of the cosmic vending machine…

Fortunately, the book of Psalms in the Old Testament gives us a really good idea of what this looked like, a place to start and words to share if we can’t come up with words of our own…

Eugene Peterson, in his preface to the Psalms writes:

“For Centuries, Most Christians have learned to pray by praying the Psalms. The Hebrews, with several centuries of a head start on us in matters of prayer and worship, provided us with this prayer book that gives us a language adequate for responding to the God who speaks to us.

In prayer we give voice to the entire experience of being human both honestly and thoroughly.”

In the Psalms we see that these aren’t the prayers of nice people? The language isn’t polished and polite… We can tend to think that prayer is what good people do when they are doing their best. The Psalms reminds us that it is not…

In prayer, we remind ourselves that God is not far off and disinterested, we remind ourselves of whose we are as his children and that through Jesus, we can call God father.

In prayer we remind ourselves that God still works and moves today, opening our eyes to what God is doing and helping us to place our hope in the power that can even bring life from death him when we would otherwise despair. In prayer we don’t bring our answers, our understanding or knowledge, we just bring ourselves.

In prayer, we remind ourselves that we are those who continue the ministry of Jesus and that our life here as Jesus followers might be the answer to prayer for our community or our world who are crying out for justice, healing and hope…

Where to start…

If you don’t know where to start, I would suggest taking the time to read a Psalm each day or perhaps focus on one point of thanksgiving and need each day… Maybe even keeping a journal would help.

Worship… Reorientating ourselves together…

Why is worship… Why do we do it…

Let’s be honest, there are plenty of other interesting things you could be doing on a Sunday morning…

This is the place that we hear stories of God’s faithfulness. Whether from scripture, from our songs and from one another. It is a place where we re-enact parts of God’s story of grace through sacraments. It is a place where we hear the stories of what God has done in the past and ask the question of what it looks like to continue Jesus’ ministry today.

This is the place to reorient ourselves for the week, time set apart to focus on God. This is the place to be nourished, to find healing and hope in the midst of life.

This is the place to be reminded of God’s forgiveness and grace in the times when we have lost our way. A place where we see what it means to show forgiveness to one another, what it means to hold onto Jesus through dark times and see what it means to celebrate together as God’s family.

This is the place to be reminded that we don’t do this alone, but that this journey of discipleship is one we share together. That together, we not only follow Jesus but continue his ministry, follow his example and embody his presence in our community today.

When we gather here in this place, share together in all of these things, this forms us as a body, bringing our own unique gifts and shapes us together to be more and more like Jesus. 

While I that it is possible to follow Jesus without being part of a regular worshiping community, I think that it is extremely difficult to continue following Jesus long term without one… And I think that the church as a whole is diminished when we fail to recognise the way that we together are one body.

Where to start…

You are already here… 😊 I guess the key question in my mind is then about the ways that we make sure that this is a place that is accessible, is welcoming to those who are looking to take the very first steps towards following Jesus… Every… Single.. Week..

A long obedience in the same direction… How to stay on track…

The image of the community in Acts 2 is captivating and we only just briefly touched on it.

The point is that the early Christians didn’t just cruise along on autopilot, they were engaged in habits which helped to form them as a community, form them as disciples and help them stay on track.

Simple examples of that which we can do today is:

  • Taking time to be shaped by the stories of Jesus that we find today in the Bible
  • Sharing the full range of human experience through prayer
  • Growing together as the body of Christ through regular worship

All of the disciplines things that nourish us for the long term, keep us close to Jesus…

Speaker: Rev. Stephen Rothery

I am married to Shannan and we love life in the Redlands.

 

I love tinkering with technology, have spent waaaay too much time in on-line gaming and am an early adopter of virtual reality. (Currently rocking a HTC Vive at home and GearVR for mobile) Before coming into ministry my background was in Electrical Engineering/IT which meant I spent a lot of time working with information systems and automation in factories and industry around Queensland. All of this means that I am basically a huge nerd 🙂

 

In terms of faith, I am passionate about journeying with people as they seek to follow Jesus and understand what this looks like in their family/work/community. None of us are perfect, but through God\’s grace we can make a difference as together we seek to bring hope in places of despair, love to those who feel lost or ashamed and comfort to those who are hurting.