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Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Have you ever noticed how many times the Bible lifts up the orphan, the widow, the foreigner, the poor, the prisoner, the grieving, and the sick? Jesus is with them, and he invites his followers to join him in caring for the least, the last, and the lost.

Although we may like to passively observe the biblical narrative unfold, it goes without saying that discipleship is not a spectator sport. How can it be? Jesus repeatedly invites his followers of every time and place, people of varying ages and different abilities, to “Come and follow me.”

Why, then, do we hesitate to live into our baptismal vocations? Are we afraid of what the journey may require of us? We know how Jesus’ earthly ministry ended, and none of us are eager to sign up for that. Are we?

Or does our hesitancy have more do to with a sense of inadequacy? Though we want to follow Jesus, we may feel ill-equipped for the work of ministry and mission. Discipleship does not come naturally for us. Speaking truth to power is not for the faint of heart, is it? We avoid confrontation because it makes us (and others) uncomfortable. Following Jesus also moves us beyond the comfort of familiar spaces (our buildings) and faces to advocate for justice in our communities, to forgive our enemies, to love the unlovable, and to serve rather than being served.

The truth is that we need help. We are not called to sit passively on the sidelines and observe Jesus’ ministry. Discipleship requires a response. And that is where grace enters. Because if you are anything like me, experience proves that we fall short more often than we care to admit. We mess up, we struggle to get out of our own way sometimes, and we do our best to balance competing priorities.

At the heart of the good news of Jesus Christ is the promise that God does in us and for us what we cannot do ourselves, sending the Holy Spirit to empower, equip, and accompany us every step of the way. Even in those moments when we are afraid. Even when we feel inadequate for the task. Even when we discount and downplay the gifts entrusted to our care. Even when we turn away.

The beauty of discipleship is that we are not called to participate in God’s mission alone. God always sends us companions for the journey — family members, friends, and mission partners. And that is where we draw our strength, from the collected gifts, ministries, and strengths of the community.

As we move forward together into the future that God is calling us into, may we never lose sight of the gifts that each one of us brings to our shared ministry and mission. May we also celebrate and give thanks for the relationships that bind us together as the body of Christ. Because it is in community that our relational God shows up. And when God shows up, amazing things happen.

“Alone, we can do so little,” noted Helen Keller, “together we can do so much.”

In Christ,
Pastor Jon

Tags: Weekly Word