Let's talk about Discipleship at JOS this morning.
Every Christian community faces the call to follow Jesus and to act in his Name. This was the call he gave to the disciples in this morning's Gospel reading. It is the call we receive every day as we live to witness his Love in our world. This is an ancient challenge, even struggle, within each Christian community.
Lately, with the rediscovery and publication of the Gospel of Judas we see this ancient struggle played out again. This Gospel of Judas is a second century manuscript that received the condemnation of Irenaeus (church father) as heretical. Yet it continued to circulate among the early Christian communities. And in the study of the Gospel of Judas published by the Princeton professor, Elaine Pagels, we get a glimpse of the community struggle. Some of it, according to Pagels, has to do with martyrdom and the wide connection, in a particular way among Christians, between religion and violence. As today's second reading from Galatians proclaims, Christians often boast of nothing other than the cross of Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14).
While this may seem to be only an ancient struggle, it is also instructive for today. Think of the religious people who claim that God desires the death of young people for some kind of show of God's righteousness. This woebegone, treacherous advice occurs today just as it did when the Christian Tertullian (him from that long ago early Christian time two thousand years ago) encouraged young followers of Jesus to seek out martyrdom.
Being a disciple calls for our attention through the struggle of living well according to Jesus' Way. When I was a young monk we had a prayer schedule that had us praying the Holy Office of Matins and Compline at 7:30 in the evening. Following that we went to bed. The only problem was that we were living in Detroit in the middle of the summer when in Daylight Savings Time it was still daylight as we went to bed. As I lay in bed sweltering in the un-airconditioned monastery I could hear outside my window the sounds of the neighborhood around the monastery. The most unsettling sounds were hearing the Ice Cream cart with its tinkling bells and then hearing 8 year olds riding their bicycles behind the Ice Cream Man calling for treats.
I lay there asking myself, "What am I doing here?" There is nothing heroic about this story, except it is one of those events when I recall telling myself that I need to pay attention to my life : to realize that I have made choices about my life for the sake of what I believe. All the rest is living out, in Christian terms, a life as a follower, a disciple.
When we make our decisions about faith and life at Jesus Our Shepherd as a community, we do so in a commitment to faithfulness in Jesus. We have set a course as a community-based congregation that celebrates a rich sacramental tradition. We are independent and committed. This takes courage and not a little bit of paying attention to our lives.
Remember that the disciples returned to Jesus very impressed with their new powers. And Jesus called their attention to the fact that nothing they did, graced as it was in His Name, surpassed the fact that their names were inscribed in heaven. In other words, our relationship with God, God's love for us is the event to pay attention to.
What are we doing here? We follow Jesus, so others may do likewise.