Sunday, 8 September 2019
Discipleship, 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time, Year C
Today I want to focus on the word, ‘Disciple’, that we heard in today’s Gospel text.
This is an ancient word, but a word that has come into fashion a lot in recent years as a powerful focus for what it means to be a Christian.
I want to say what it MEANS, why it’s IMPORTANT, and how we need to APPLY it to ourselves.
The Lord Jesus used the word, ‘disciple’ a lot, and I want to use 2 images to explain it.
The first image is classical:
If we picture a rabbi sat perched in a teaching position, with a circle of students gathered around him, listening to him -then we have an image of the master-disciple relationship.
A disciple is someone who wants to be taught.
A disciple is someone who has chosen a particular master, a teacher, who he wants to be taught by.
Discipleship is thus about wanting to LEARN, and to learn from a particular person.
A CHRISTIAN disciple is someone who has made the decision to learn from the Lord Jesus.
If you’re not interested in learning, if you’re happy to stick with your own opinions,
then you can’t be a disciple of Jesus; you can’t be a disciple of anyone.
The second image I want to use is athletic:
Every athlete has a coach, a trainer. Almost always such a coach was once a young athlete himself.
A serious athlete, wanting to win a race, submits himself to the disciple and training of the coach.
The coach does not just govern how the athlete behaves on the running TRACK, rather, he governs every aspect of the athlete’s life:
the diet he eats, the time and duration he sleeps -EVERY aspect of his life.
The Catholic, similarly, isn’t just concerned about how to behave in the single hour we are at Mass on a Sunday, rather, EVERY aspect of our life needs formation and training if we are, to use St Paul’s words, to “run so as to win”(1 Cor 9:24).
The word ‘disciple’ is related to ‘discipline’, and both are related to training, formation.
Both are related to LIFESTYLE.
A disciple is not just taught -he is taught how to LIVE.
And to be a Christian is to want to learn how to live, and to learn this from the Lord JESUS.
There are at least two things we need if we are to apply this to ourselves.
First, we need commitment.
We need to commit to the Lord, this PARTICULAR Lord Jesus
-otherwise we’re like an athlete who might run around the track, but we don’t get to the end, because we’ve not been following the training, we’ve not eaten and slept and trained as we should.
-if we think Jesus is very ‘interesting’, but we’re not committed to Him, then we’re not His disciples.
Second, we need to be seeking KNOWLEDGE of what it means to follow Him,
DETAILED knowledge, DAILY knowledge.
You can’t figure this out yourself -you can’t be a Christian by yourself.
Christ established a CHURCH, to train His disciples.
This Autumn we’re starting discipleship groups in the parish.
We’ll be meeting Thursday evenings, in the parish hall -with another opportunity Thursday mornings.
We’ll be gathered in groups around tables, like the Alpha course, to aim to discuss and learn TOGETHER.
We’ll be watching a series of 20-minute films and then discussing then. Materials on discipleship from the ‘Rebuilt’ parish association. Please consider coming.
To sum up: A disciple is a student of a master, a master he has committed himself to.
A disciple is trained in LIVING, like a coach training an athlete.
You can’t be a disciple by yourself -we need to be trained.