Would Jesus Recognize Us as His Disciples?

     All four gospels in the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell of Jesus calling people to discipleship with the invitation, "follow me." Following Jesus, however, means more than merely trailing along behind him. As the gospel narratives progress, it becomes clear that Jesus' invitation, "follow me," involves learning to do with Jesus everything that Jesus does. On the eve of his Passion, Jesus tells his disciples that those who believe "in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these."

     One of the principal works of Jesus is to lead others in relationship with God. Because that is Jesus' work, it is therefore also the work of Jesus' disciples. Each one of us is called to do the important work of leading others to a relationship with God.  Further, the way we live out our faith no matter where we are - work, home, the community - ought to point to Christ. That's the life of a disciple. How are we doing in this walk - especially when we feel the pressures and challenges of the church changes around us?  Where do our emotions or fears get the best of us - and where does our trust and faith shine?

     I was really taken by a question that was posed on one of my favorite blog sites, "In The Meantime", written by David Lose, President of the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia.  A couple of weeks ago he wrote:

"I hear a lot of talk about concern for the Lutheran Church. Will it have a future? Can it survive? What do we do with all the declining churches? Can we afford eight seminaries? And so forth. I understand where these questions are coming from. We love these institutions. They have served us well. We fear for their future.

But are these questions of institutional survival the right questions? Should we instead be asking whether we are still doing what Luther tried to do? Whether we are offering the same message, seeking the same good? Luther, after all, started a reformation, not a church.

More broadly, I hear a lot of concern about the Christian Church, and particularly its decline in North America. But maybe we should instead be asking whether we are following Jesus? Whether Jesus would recognize us as his disciples?

What, after all, are we trying to protect? Our institutional existence? Or the message of grace, love, and liberty that Jesus - and, for that matter, Luther - first announced?"

     I just couldn't stop thinking about his question, "Are we following Jesus?" But more than that - I was really caught by the question of whether Jesus would recognize us as his disciples. Do our lives and our actions reflect the love of Christ to the world around us?  Is the way we act, react, and speak showing that we are learning to do with Jesus everything that Jesus does?

     People of First, we are courageously facing the future before we are smacked head-on with change that is culturally inevitable.  Voting on a consolidation is a bold and spirited move. And as we do so, many emotions race as we imagine a different way of being the church in this time and place. We might get frustrated or saddened when others point out the grief, anger, blame and lament that this vote elicits, hoping that somehow, things might remain the same or our challenges might just go away. Still others hide their enthusiasm and joy at the opportunity for new life that might be available to us, afraid of hurting other's feelings or preserving a sense of dignity as we venture through this with differing hopes and visions of possible outcomes.

     And yet, we are disciples - disciples who love and follow Jesus first and foremost - that's why we're here. By living a life that surrenders personal emotions and fear to the trust we have in the message of grace, love, and liberty that Jesus is about, we demonstrate to the world what a disciple's faith is based on. As far as I'm concerned, nothing quite as raw or fragile or vulnerable could be a stronger message to lead others in a relationship with God.  - AO