First Lutheran Church
April 12, 2015
EVERY MORNING IS EASTER MORNING
Easter morning is always wonderful. Last week when I first stood up facing the congregation I said O my because it was wonderful seeing this church full. We come to hear and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, then we go about our business as usual. We all do it, for we are all human. But what I have discovered over the years is that it is easy to hear the good news of the gospel. It is much harder to practice it. Jesus commissioned his disciples to do one thing, to go out into the world and make disciples. And to do that we must learn to speak about our relationship with God in authentic ways. Telling someone else about our own faith deepens our relationship with God. And deepening our relationship with God fosters our ability to speak about God. Evangelism and discipleship go hand in hand.
A disciple is a student of a particular teacher. A disciple is formed by learning and practicing the ways of that teacher. Jesus sent his friends with his authority to teach what he had taught them. They were commissioned to both evangelism and discipleship. Church growth is not just about numbers. There is a vast difference between increasing church membership and making disciples. The church of Jesus Christ is all about making disciples.
On the day of resurrection, the women had seen Jesus alive in the garden. They told the men that he would meet them in Galilee, so they went and met the living Christ there. When the eleven saw Jesus, some prostrated themselves at his feet and worshiped, but some doubted. What an intriguing detail Matthew includes. Jesus ate and drank with them. They were there when he healed and worked miracles and taught them what it means to be disciples. What did they doubt? That Jesus was there in flesh and blood? Or that he really didn’t have all authority in heaven and on earth? Or did they doubt his charge to them, that their confused band of fearful disciples could actually go out to all nations and change the world? It turned out that it didn’t matter that some fell on their faces and worshiped and some remained standing. They were all commissioned to o. Perhaps that is what made them doubt. They were, as Jesus repeatedly called them, those of little faith. But they were passionate, and God only knows what a powerful impact on the world a small group of passionate disciples can have. And so they were sent and they went and preached the gospel, baptizing in the name of the Father, and the Son and the holy Spirit. And they made disciples. Discipleship is the intentional spiritual formation of a follower of Jesus. It is the ministry to which the church is called. We baptize those who enter into our community, marking them as children of God in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I have occasionally been asked the time and date that I was saved. Some people do have conversion moments they can recount. But for most Christians, I don’t think conversion is that dramatic. I think most of us cannot remember a time when we were not Christians. I hope the Christian faith is in our bones, our DNA. As such, we are called to foster a greater commitment to follow the ways of Jesus. But we cannot stop there. Jesus commands us to share why we believe. That Is how discipleship works. We learn and keep on learning. We turn toward God, and keep on turning. We accept forgiveness, and keep on accepting and forgiving. We follow, and keep on following. We profess our faith, we live our faith, we pass on our faith. That is what being a disciple means.
When we do something often it becomes imprinted in us. Human beings learn by doing. A good community of faith should reflect a disciplined body of people enacting their faith through worship, study and acts of mercy, because we also teach by doing. Children should be in church regularly to soak in its practices, and hear the faith professed, proclaimed and enacted. And the environment should be kind. Jesus demonstrated gentleness, grace and forgiveness when his disciples doubted, messed up and even betrayed him. Yet they are the ones whom Jesus sent into the world to make disciples of all nations. Making mistakes is where true learning happens. We are taught. We practice. We make mistakes. We do it again. Eventually, we start to become the teachings we have observed.
Stanley Hauerwas, a theologian and ethics professor at Duke Divinity School calls himself a Jesus-radical. He challenges the Christian community to start taking ourselves and Jesus more seriously. He says we need to genuinely believe that becoming and living as a disciplined community of Jesus’ disciples is powerful enough to change the world. Using the example of a bricklayer he illustrates how one learns to become what one practices. One doesn’t become a bricklayer by being told what bricklayers believe or by reading the manual. One becomes a bricklayer by learning to mix the mortar to the right consistency, to get the feel for the trowel in one’s hand, to know how deep the grooves must be in the mortar to cause the right tension between the bricks, to make mistakes that will mean taking down the whole wall you have built. And it means starting over after a mistake is if one is going to be a true bricklayer.
This is true for Jesus’ disciples. Sharing the faith and making mistakes, and starting over until we become what we profess is the essence of discipleship. We speak about our relationship with God in authentic ways. We teach and practice love as Jesus taught. Sometimes we get it right and other times we fail miserably. But we keep at it, trusting that we are not called to perfection but to relationship. And we are given a promise, the presence of Jesus is with us, forever, even to the close of the age.
Every morning is Easter morning.
Alleluia and Amen.