Send them into the world in witness to your love.
-A prayer from the service of Holy Baptism, a request for those being baptized.
An example of a modern-day apostle:
The vocation to discipleship and apostleship is given to us in baptism. In baptism, we are joined to our creator God in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and sent out into the world in the power of the Holy Spirit to participate in God’s mission. Dying to our old self in the waters of baptism and rising to new life in Jesus, we own anew our calling as followers of Jesus – disciples of Jesus in a new age. Sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever, we’re sent into the world as missionaries, – apostles of the mission of God.
In conversations with folks around the church, I often ask people what it means to them to be a disciple. The response I sometimes get: Who me? People are not always sure that they see themselves as a disciple. They are not always sure they want to. After all, in the gospels, it doesn’t always turn out well for disciples. As Flannery O’Connor noted, “You shall know the truth and the truth will make you odd.” Being a disciple is for someone else, thank you very much. Sometimes, I ask folks to help me find synonyms. Instead of talking about being a disciple, they talk about being a Jesus follower, a learner, a student. That’s a bit more accessible. What does the word mean to you?
And once folks get done with that question, I have a follow up. I ask what it means to be an apostle. Then I really get the deer in the headlights look. Again, who me? And folks want to know about the difference between a disciple and an apostle. Aren’t they the same?
We’re shifting seasons now, moving from Lent to Easter. During Lent, we invited readers to read the Gospel of Luke, part of a denomination-wide effort called the Good Book Club. If any of you participated in that (not asking for a show of hands) I’m wondering about your reaction.
But we’re not done with the Good Book Club, just as Easter Day is not the end but the beginning. During the 50-day season of Easter, we invite you to read the New Testament book entitled the Acts of the Apostles. It’s also written by Luke and it tells the story, you guessed it, of the apostles.
So what’s an apostle? It’s often suggested that an apostle is some spiritual superstar, the spiritual 1%, greatly admired, rarely imitated. But the word really suggests someone (anyone) who has been sent, someone (anyone) who is on a mission. The mission is not their own, but in the vision of the Christian faith, it is God’s mission.
So as we begin to read the Acts of the Apostles this week, I’m wondering if you can explore this possibility. What would it mean to consider yourself both disciple and apostle? If these two churchy words get in the way, would it be possible to come at that question from aother angle.
When it comes to being a disciple, ask:
- Who are my teachers, specifically about spiritual stuff? Is Jesus one of those?
- What does it look like in my life, day to day, to be a follower of Jesus? What is the evidence of that commitment? Where does it show up?
- If Jesus has something to teach me, how do I pick up those lessons? On line? In church? On my own?
When it comes to being an apostle, ask:
- In my life, do I have a sense that there is anything I’ve been sent to do or be?
- How would I describe that “mission” to a trusted friend?
- How do I know where I’m being sent? What should I do when I get there?
Disciple and apostle. Not exactly the same thing, though meant to be found in the same person. You and I are candidates. As the season of Easter begins, consider a way that you can both follow Jesus and be sent by him into a world that needs God’s mission.
Good Book Club readings this week:
- MONDAY, April 2: Acts 1:12-26.
- TUESDAY, April 3: Acts 2:1-13.
- WEDNESDAY, April 4: Acts 2:14-36.
- THURSDAY, April 5: Acts 2:37-47.
- FRIDAY, April 6: Acts 3:1-26.
- SATURDAY, April 7: Acts 4:1-22.
- SUNDAY, April 8: Acts 4:23-31.
(The readings listed above represent the assignments according to the Lenten Good Book Club. Never too late to join in! And we’re not done. Starting on Easter, we read the book of Acts.)
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