Spring is almost upon us and as the earth comes to life once again, so we look to our spiritual renewal as we approach Lent. A ‘buzz word’ in Church circles these days is ‘discipleship’ but what does this word mean for us? Two thousand years ago it was associated with the ten closest followers of Jesus (Peter, James, John etc). The word ‘disciple’ comes from the Greek ‘mathetes’ meaning ‘a learner’, someone who accepts the views and practices of a teacher, thus, the New Testament refers to the disciples of John the Baptist, the Pharisees and Moses besides referring to those who gathered around Jesus and shared most intimately in His ministry.
Revd William Sykes, former chaplain of University College Oxford, recalls some advice given to him as a curate at Bradford cathedral, which was to observe closely the provost. He later described this time of as one of valuable discipleship because it showed him how to put into practice all he had learned at theological college.
We are not all expected to go to such a college, but if we profess to be followers of Jesus then we are expected to closely observe, and then imitate, His teaching and example of living. Jesus was a man who put God at the centre of His life, who prayed regularly and frequently, who read the Holy Scriptures and thought about their meaning. Jesus showed compassion for the outcast and disadvantaged in society and forgave those who persecuted (and executed) him.
Society today is quick to lay blame on someone or some organisation when things go wrong, fast to offer a response to ‘breaking news’, rapidly jumping to conclusions about situations without hearing all the facts and has an under-current of negativity. Jesus rarely directly blamed anyone for anything; he offered great insights and wisdom into the lives of those he met getting to the heart of what really ailed them. Jesus inspired hope and expectation, lifting people from their predicaments to brighter futures. All of these teachings are based upon the love of God for us, the human family, and for all creation.
As disciples of Jesus we are called to do something similar. To share this Good News of God’s love, to be slow to blame and quick to console, to be thoughtful and prayerful, angry at injustice and prepared to do something about it as best we can.
Over the next few weeks try this exercise: when you hear a piece of news, either on TV, radio, internet or word of mouth, think about your response.
Were you quick to judge and condemn? Did you try to get all the facts? Did you rush to an opinion? Was your reaction hopeful and positive?
Being a disciple of Jesus is putting our Bible knowledge and prayers into action, it is about taking the example and teaching of Jesus and making them visible in the world through our words and behaviour. It is easy to fall into step with the rest of society but as Christians we should be focused upon Godly values.
Lent is an excellent time to shake off the negativity of this age and replace it with the hopeful expectation of the kingdom of God, the Good News that Jesus proclaimed.
Happy Lent everyone,