And as John the Baptist watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day.
For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Jesus Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change. When Jesus said, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened,” he assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way. These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus. He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship. He knew that following him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love.
To be a disciple
Scott Gunn, fearless and creative leader of Forward Movement, speaks often about the mission of the organization he leads. He knows that many people think of it as a publishing business. Others think of it as a pamphlet business. Others think of it as that marvelous exercise known as Lent Madness, a particular, perhaps peculiar (dare I say screwball) invention of Scott and his buddy, Tim Schenck, to teach us more about saints. I suspect all of the above are true.
But at heart, Scott says that Forward Movement is a discipleship business. As we make our way through the season of Lent, I’m mindful that perhaps that is the business not only of Forward Movement but of the whole church in its varied expressions, always and everywhere addressing these questions: What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? How do we become such? Are we actually interested in having that happen, or is at all just a little too religious?
As I say, this Lenten season has given me ample opportunity to think about all this. Our church in small group is reading a beautiful (and succinct) book by former Archbishop Rowan Williams. I commend it to you. He’s a disciple of significant brain power. This simple book opens with the following description of disciples. Being a disciple means two things:
- That what we do, how we think, speak and act is open to Christ
- As church, that we continue to be a learning community, growing in depth of love of God and neighbor
An interesting summation. I wonder how it strikes you. It means, first of all, in all of life, being open to Christ. I see that openness in the ways Jesus called his disciples. This past weekend, our youth met in retreat around the theme of the three words Jesus said to would-be disciples when they expressed curiosity. He said: “Come and see.” This old ad guy can only think of the ancient commercial with this punch line: “Try it. You’ll like it.”
That is the kind of openness we read about yesterday at church when Nicodemus comes to Jesus (John 3) with his own questions about the spiritual life. Nicodemus wonders how someone like him, who has been around the block a few times, can possibly be born again. He begins a journey that ultimately led him to one of the most precious and holy acts of devotion in the Bible (John 20). He and Joseph of Arimathea take the broken body of Jesus off the cross and place it in the tomb (ready for resurrection), a courageous act of worship, marked by bravery and love, which after all is what courage is all about.
In Mark’s gospel in the daily lectionary, we’ve been reading about the call of Jesus to his disciples. It’s even more succinct than “Come and see.” He simply says “Follow me.” Quite remarkably, fishermen and tax collectors do it, instantly changing course, launching a journey marked by openness in everything they did to Christ. So this Monday morning in Lent, take a spiritual selfie and note the degree to which you are open to Christ in your life. What are the obstacles to that happening?
And then think about that second dimension of discipleship, being part of a learning community, knowing that the word disciple relates to being a student or a learner. Wherever we are in the journey, there is always more for us to come to understand. The mysteries of God’s ways in the world know no limits in depth or breadth. God’s love extends beyond our understanding or imagination, for sure. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn more about it. Use this season, use your church as a place to take the next steps of discovery as you hear Jesus say to you this morning: “Come and see,” as he gets right in your face and lovingly says: “Follow me.”
RenewalWorks For Me is a personal guide for the spiritual journey, providing coaching to help individuals grow. It begins with a brief online survey which assesses where you are in your spiritual life. We call it the Spiritual Life Inventory.
Once your responses have been processed, we’ll email a helpful explanation of our findings, along with some tips for improving your spiritual journey. You’ll also be given a chance to sign up for an eight-week series of emails that will offer some suggestions, coaching for how you can grow spiritually, and ways you can go deeper in love of God and neighbor. Learn more at renewalworks.org