July 5, 2014
Matthew 10: 24-39 Romans 6: 1-11 June 22, 2014 The Impact of Discipleship In my younger years of life I enjoyed playing racket ball. If you know anything about the game, it is a highly active. You and your opponent, usually a friend, are in this rather small room with a high ceiling. There may […]
Matthew 10: 24-39
Romans 6: 1-11
June 22, 2014
The Impact of Discipleship
In my younger years of life I enjoyed playing racket ball. If you know anything about the game, it is a highly active. You and your opponent, usually a friend, are in this rather small room with a high ceiling. There may be two or four of you running around with rackets trying to hit the ball off the front wall and back wall to force your opponent to miss his next swing. You can get very sweaty in a very short time. It is a great cardio-vascular sport for it gets your heart rate up considerably. Of course while playing you wear eye guards because on many occasions you will either be struck with the ball going at high speed or on occasion with the racket. And your body gets into all kinds of contortions and positions in swinging at the ball. Many times you fall on the floor in desperation. But with friends, it is a fun sport.
Then one day I hurt my back which forced me to take treatments and eventually some back surgery to repair a disc which had become herniated. The surgery went well but the doctor in consultation said that sports like racket ball would be ill advised to play. I would be taking a huge risk for my back were I to go back playing that sport which I loved so much.
At times, people, events, things enter our lives which force or cause us to have to weigh options and eventually change direction or change priorities or change behaviors.
At our retreat last week, one of those clergy present began telling us of his bout with alcohol. He told us how it began throughout the years to the point where it became a problem. It became a problem because he could not begin to drink without really getting drunk and roudy so it began to affect his family, his work, his health. Finally getting in contact with counselors, he was advised to get help, stop drinking all together, attend AA meetings, . If not, his family might well come apart and his health would deteriorate. In fact, last year he could not come due to an A-fib attack linked directly to his drinking habit. After wrestling with his decision, he decided to heed the advice of his counselors. His family now is fine and his health has improved. Again, here is a situation where something intervenes in our lives and we are forced to make choices, changes in our lives.
The gospel of Jesus Christ enters our lives and as his disciples we are called to make choices, changes in our lives. Jesus tells his disciples…….”I have come not to bring peace but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father; daughter against her mother, in law against in-law.
Jesus is not against the family but is using family as a means to say that when a person decides to make the Christian gospel a center piece for his or her life, it can cause disruption in the family because it shakes up values, rearranges priorities, reorients goals.
There is a classic book called From Generation to Generation written by a rabbi and it focuses on religious institutions as a family system so that any change in that family system, will affect the entire system. For example, David has come into the life of this church and it has affected almost every family in the church in one way or another. When he departs it will have another affect. When a new pastor comes into your life, it will affect the entire church system. When a new family or individual comes into the life of the congregation, that change affects the entire system.
In a family with an alcoholic…if that person suddenly becomes sober, that person has changed and it will impact everyone around him. David’s change from being in the military and in the public school system for decades and then entering seminary not only impacts him but his family and friends around him.
When the gospel enters a person’s life in a real and meaningful way, it impacts our lives and changes our lives and will affect the people around us.
In Romans we read the words of Paul…..
Romans 6: 3-4 Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death. Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” And Paul would know this because of his faith changing and life changing experience. Saul, a hater of the early Christian church, when confronted by Christ following his part in the stoning of Stephen, Saul changed and became a leading evangelist in this early church. Can you imagine what impact that change had on Paul’s family and friends. It must have been horrendous for them. Saul set aside that part of his life that was killing Christians and through baptism entered a newness of life.
Just recently I saw where a Presbyterian minister by the name of Jeb Stuart MacGruder died. That name might not mean anything to folks but to those who like history and politics, it means something. Jeb was the appointment secretary in the White House under Richard Nixon. He was found guilty in the Watergate scandal. Following time in jail, and a change of heart he entered seminary and was in the Presbyterian ministry for twenty years or more.
Three young people joined the church a few weeks ago. Two young women will be joining later this summer. Some adults will be joining this summer as well. Will the joining of a church have impact on their lives. And if it has impact, it will impact the lives of others including the family.
This passage of scripture is a real challenge to us as Christians and as part of the church. Every Christian disciple must know that along the way of faith, some disciples will suffer as Christ suffered and that the community of the faithful must seek to persevere even in times of fear. Sometimes we may think that we are at peace with Christ when our lives are peaceful and when the life of the church is peaceful . We think we are doing well when we are not rubbing anyone the wrong way. Yet it may be that at the very time we are in some turmoil or in disagreements with others is the time we are being most faithful. Sometimes these differences are quite clear; sometimes they are very subtle. In our recent meeting of the Uptown Urban ministry group, one minister was telling his story about worship and how difficult it was to bring about change until one evening the session made what it called its “courage call’ to make a decision which would anger some people but in the end would be beneficial for the entire church.
We do know that the gospel of Christ forces decisions …it tests loyalty and commitment. It is difficult to go against a family member or a spouse or close friend if it means alienating yourself from Christ. They may want you to do something or continue to do something that you see is a clear violation for you of the faith. How hard it is to say no and make that break.
Yet our Christ promises that we find ourselves and our lives full of meaning and purpose as we center more of life on Christ and being his disciple rather than of ourselves and simply just our needs.