31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
September 27, 2020
Matthew 4:18-22; 28:16-20
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Not all who wander are lost; however if you don’t have a destination, you will never get where you want to go.
The Church of Jesus Christ has had a destination, a purpose, from even before we were a formal community. Right before Jesus ascends to heaven, Jesus says go out, move, travel and journey and make disciples.
We, as the Church of Jesus Christ, we, as the body of Christ, could not have received a clearer message as to our purpose, and yet, those directions are only clear if you understand what a disciple is, if you understand what it means to make a disciple.
Charles Lane, in his book Ask, Thank, Tell, defines the role of a disciple as “to grow deeper in Jesus and to tell others about Jesus.” Lane goes on to identify the behaviors of a disciple as “daily prayer, daily scripture reading, weekly worship, growth in giving to the tithe or beyond, serving others in Jesus’ name, [and] sharing the faith story with the unchurched.” (Lane, Ask, Thank, Tell, pg 14-15)
Kay Kotan says she has a simpler definition for disciple. She says disciples are “continuously and intentionally growing more Christ-like and introducing others to Christ” (Leading Talks Ideas podcast, Episode 51, March 18, 2020)
Although I like both definitions, I think most people’s “simple” definition would be a follower of Jesus and more specifically, one of the twelve members of Jesus’ inner circle. People like Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John that you heard about this morning.
Jesus wasn’t the only person to have disciples though. Buddha and Confucius had disciples. The Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle had disciples. As did many other rabbis or teachers who were traveling Israel at the same time as Jesus.
Disciples are students. The word disciple comes from a Latin word that means “learn”. Disciples are learners. Jesus’ followers definitely learned from him. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record many of the lessons Jesus taught his followers – lessons about God and God’s kingdom, lessons about the place money and stuff should have in our lives, lessons about trusting God.
The twelve of Jesus’ inner circle and all the others who journeyed with him certainly learned from Jesus. Yet, there is more to being Jesus’ disciple than study. Jesus’ invitation to Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John was to follow him, to journey forward with him “and I will make you fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19). The Message translation puts it this way: “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you.”
Come with me and I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. Journey with me, and I will teach you how to fish differently. I’ll teach you how to live differently.
And for me, that is really the heart of what it means to follow Jesus and be his disciple – an invitation to live differently.
Later in Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
When Jesus invited Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John and so many others, when Jesus invites us to follow him, he is saying come with me. Watch me. Watch how I am grounded in God’s word, grounded in God’s love. See how I take time to be alone with God in quiet meditation and prayer. Look at how I embody love of God by loving my neighbor, healing them, listening to them, inviting them to also lay down their burdens and learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Come follow me and learn to live differently.
If you are new to a relationship with Jesus Christ, if you are just getting to know him and learning to lay down your burdens of stress and anxiety, and perhaps even addiction, perfectionism, or trauma, if you are just beginning your journey of following Jesus and learning to live freely, lightly, you might begin with scripture. If you want to be intentional, purposeful about getting to know Jesus, reading any one of the gospels, which share his life and teaching is a good way to start.
Or you might begin living differently by turning your heart to God in praise, here in this worship service– or with the multitudes of worship services you can now find online. Journey and seek out the place where you can grow in your connection to Jesus Christ and grow more Christ-like, more calm, more loving, more caring, more grounded in God.
The First Congregational Church in Bristol, CT is a community dedicated to extravagant welcome. FCC wants to welcome as many people as possible to know God and Jesus Christ; however we are not in the business of making members. We are in the business of making disciples, inviting people, like Jesus did, to connect with God, to know God, and live differently. I hope this worship service and this Christian community nurtures you on that journey – if not, journey on with Jesus and find the community that does.
For those who have been Christians a long time or their entire lives, we have not always gotten the message that we too are being invited to intentionally and continuously grow in our connection to Jesus Christ and grow more Christ-like. I imagine that for many of us, we got to a place in our journey, and we got comfortable. We set up camp and settled down in Haran, halfway through the journey. Our relationship with God and Jesus became routine. We attend worship every week or almost every week. We pray when we, or a loved one, is in trouble. We volunteer; We give money; We attend Bible study or read a Christian devotional.
Most lifelong Christians can say that they comfortably practice at least one of Lane’s marks of discipleship every week. (Which mark do you easily practice?) Most lifelong Christians can say that they are comfortable in their relationship with Jesus Christ. (Would you say this?) Comfortable in their lives – just as Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John were when Jesus said to them ‘Come with me and I’ll teach you how to fish differently. I’ll teach you how to live differently.’
And isn’t it amazing how they just left? How they just left behind their comfortable lives, their comfortable jobs, their comfortable ways? How they left it all behind when Jesus invited them to come live differently and make disciples, inviting others to also live differently?
New to following Jesus or a lifelong Christian, we all are being invited to come with Jesus and fish differently, live differently. We all are being invited to intentionally and continuously grow in our connection to Jesus Christ and grow more Christ-like, to lay down our burdens, again and again – cause that’s what it takes, and learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
You might be thinking that the last thing you want right now, in this time that is challenging and exhausting enough, is change anything about your comfortable faith life. I understand. I understand. And I offer these words for you to ponder this week….“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Keep company with Jesus. Go to worship every week or more than once a week. Get a scripture calendar. Find a Bible, and flip it open every day to read a verse or two. Sit down and do the math about how much you give to the church and other charities versus how much you earn. Intentionally and continuously grow in your relationship with Jesus because when we do, when we journey with Jesus, when we live differently, we naturally make disciples. Our lives, our actions and our words, naturally share the Way of Jesus Christ, inviting others to live freely, to live differently, to live in peace, unity, and love.