Discipleship 101

On May 1, 2019, this blog became a teenager.  If you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, there are more than 2,400 posts for you to go back and read.  You’ll note as you do so that I’ve changed a lot in the last 13 years.  My theology has evolved, ever being re-drafted through study, prayer, and interaction with other disciples.  Several posts from back in the mid-aughts were spent complaining about seminary classmates who in our homiletics classes preached all about love, but didn’t seem to having a working definition of what love really looks like.

Now, to be fair, it was a time of great strife within my denomination.  Sides were taken, lines drawn, and many on the left and the right spent their time deciding who was in and who was out.  At our worst, we became a church of two factions that were caricatures of themselves. One could easily define love as “I’m ok, you’re ok,” the other who would define love as “spare the rod, spoil the child.”  Neither side actually believed those things entirely, but in the religio-political climate of the mid-2000s, no one was really interested in nuance.

Fast forward more than a decade, and we have a Presiding Bishop who became famous a year ago for preaching about love at a Royal Wedding.  Now, I can be critical of how The Episcopal Church and her congregations have tried to capitalize on that fame, but what I’ve most appreciated is seeing how the working definition of love that we are using has grown in depth since those challenging days of yore.  Rather than a concept of divine love which would source love within ourselves, we are now more able and open to seeing that the kind of love that changes the world comes only through the saving power of Jesus Christ.  That kind of love is our Discipleship 101.

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At dinner with his disciples, Jesus invited them, and by extension all of us, to take that love of neighbor out in word and deed. This love isn’t getting everyone around a campfire to agree on some kind of lowest common denominator feelings while singing Kumbaya, but the self-giving love that Jesus modeled in his life, death, and resurrection.  It is a kind of love that is only possible through the grace of God.  In and of ourselves, love can never be fully unselfish, but with God’s help, the kind of love that Jesus commands of us, the kind of love that will show our status as disciples, is a love that is always seeking the good of the other, caring for the poor, the outcast, and the afraid, sharing the love that we’ve come to know in Christ Jesus in word and action.  Episcopalians haven’t always been good at the word bit, and maybe that’s where some of my frustration was found those many years ago, but I know for sure that we’re getting a whole lot better at it.  So much so, that I might even be willing to say by now that we are known as disciples of Jesus because of the love that we share in our communities.

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