Monday Matters (January 13th, 2014)


Reflections to start the week
Monday, January 13, 2014

Jesus calls us. But what does he call us?

Sheep? Servant? Friend? Disciple? In Matthew 23, Jesus refers to his disciples as students. That is one way to translate the word disciple. This morning I want to stress the less biblical sounding word student. I’m thinking about how the spiritual journey calls us to be learners.

In his new book 8 Habits of Love, the Rev. Ed Bacon (a great guy who serves as a great rector of a great church, All Saints in Pasadena) talks about what it means to become a learner. He describes a conference where participants were asked to outline their autobiography in three ways: victim, hero and learner. This approach generated three different stories with different energies and outcomes. He writes on p. 42: “A victim feels the need to be defended, vindicated, avenged. A hero needs justification, ego promotion, validation. And a learner? A learner seeks illumination, correction and direction.”

Long ago, I figured out how to write my story of victim, with extraordinary proficiency in holding on to resentment. Most clergy (come on, admit it) have got some of the hero in them. I can write that story. In this chapter of my life, I want to be a better learner. I am learning that to be the path of discipleship is a matter of recognizing that wherever we are in the spiritual journey, there is more. It’s a matter of knowing that we don’t know what we don’t know. And it’s about remembering that we worship a God whose ways are higher than our ways, whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Deo gracias!)

I recently heard a fine sermon at the beginning of the season of Epiphany, memorably posing a simple question: What are you looking for? That seems to be what the season of Epiphany is about, a series of stories about people on a search, whether it is those three wise guys following a star, or those disciples who answer Jesus’ invitation, “Come and see.” The season is about spiritual explorers, adventurers, all the more daring because they don’t really know what they’re looking for or where they’ll end up. These learners are saints. I want to be one too.

In recent days, I’ve been struck with how the theme gets played out in scripture. On Saturday, the reading for Morning Prayer was from the book of Isaiah: Seek the Lord while he may be found. The next reading was from the letter to the Colossians: Seek things that are above, where Christ is. The next reading, from John 14, has one of the disciples saying to Jesus: Show us the Father and we shall be satisfied.

The good news is that in the midst of our seeking, sometimes clueless fumbling in the dark, God seeks us. That’s captured in the verses from Psalm 139 printed below. That’s where our faith becomes so important. While we don’t know what the future holds, we know who holds the future.

Often on Sundays, we pray for those who seek God or a deeper knowledge of God. Let that prayer be a prayer for yourself today, a prayer to the God who seeks us out, so much so that he came to live among us. Resolve in this new year (it’s not too late for resolutions) to be a spiritual learner, whatever that looks like. Jesus calls us to that adventure. It may take courage to answer that call, because we don’t know what we don’t know. Answer anyway. Get ready to grow, to learn.

– Jay Sidebotham 

You have one teacher, and you are all students.

– Matthew 23:8

Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You trace my journeys and my resting places and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but you, O Lord, know it altogether.
You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high I cannot attain to it.

-Psalm 139:1-5


Jay SidebothamContact:

Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.