Christmas Calm

Live view of the family room as I type

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10a)

It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon. The tree is finally decorated, there’s a fire roaring away, and apart from tidying up in the rec room a bit, there’s not a ton that has to be done today. I can sit here in the family room, enjoy the season and the warmth of the fireplace, and just…be, in the moment. (Well, and get a little writing done…)

How unlike my January this moment is!

At my still-day-job in Federal budgeting, we now have a w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l gift (insert eye roll) of having to roll out the 2021 President’s Budget AND report to Congress on our spending plan for the just-enacted 2020 budget, both in early February. Two major, time-consuming, intense processes that normally would be different times are now stacked on top of each other. There will be lots of late nights throughout January as we try to get everything done, done well, and done on time. Plus, at church, I am taking over responsibility for worship preparations each week: having people assigned to the right roles, communicating to ushers and communion assistants, etc. I know enough to know I don’t know everything, and I’m already afraid of what ball will be dropped in the juggling. Oh, and starting a new Sunday School class, and preparing for a Lent evening class on prayer.

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10a)

I know I need times like this. I know I need recharging and renewal, before taking on what both my God and my job have in store for me in 2020. I know I need Christmas, and to have the faith of a Mary or a Joseph, to see what’s coming and to surrender entirely to God’s will.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38a)

In many ways, 2019 felt like the year of “Follow me.” And I did. As 2020 gets ready to start, with the whirlwind that January will represent, I wonder if God’s message to me for 2020 might be, “Trust me.” I confess I still have trouble with that one; Lord, may I have the strength to trust as I did to take those first steps to following you. Just as a young couple in Judea did two millennia ago, I must trust that what God has in store for me is exactly what God’s plan needs for me to experience, to become who he intends me to be. And that’s a Christmas gift that doesn’t fit under the tree, but rather, comes in these quiet moments on lazy Sunday afternoons.

What Mark Has To Say About Followership

When we think about what Jesus did on earth, we come up with a pretty good list: healed the sick, fed the hungry, healed the blind…but on that last one, interestingly, in Mark’s Gospel, there are only two occasions in which Jesus is shown healing a blind man. What does each of those episodes teach us about Jesus, and about how we’re supposed to follow him as disciples?

That was the topic of my second sermon as Associate Pastor at Sydenstricker UMC. This weekend coming up, I’ll also be on duty–and addressing the tough questions that get asked in the aftermath of an El Paso or any of a host of other situations: if God is God, then why does this happen?

Anyway, that’s for next week. Here’s this week’s sermon: click here to listen and then leave a comment–what do you think?

Discipleship?

Had an interesting e-mail conversation among folks from church this week around the question: What is discipleship?

It’s one of those church words that gets tossed around, and for those exploring or unfamiliar with the church, it doesn’t mean anything. But even for those who are longtime members, you can get an interesting conversation going around that question. Fundamentally, it refers to being like a disciple: being like one of the original followers of Christ, who gave themselves to him and to spreading the word of God. But what does it mean?

On the one hand, discipleship can be a noun–it’s the process, the stages and steps, by which someone comes from the first inklings of curiosity about Jesus, through learning about him and what he did for us, through committing to be a follower, to growing and knowing what following Christ means, through to a mature disciple. It’s a process of spiritual growth and transformation that follows the threefold nature of grace.

Or is it? Or instead, is discipleship an adjective describing the state of being a disciple? Is it better understood as the end state on earth, the goal of the process if you will, in which grace is operating to bring us to that state?

What do you think? Should we think of discipleship as a process, or as a goal?