Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sermon Wednesday in 1st Lent - The Way of Discipleship

Mark 1:14-20 

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ 
 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Title: Calling Disciples
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Calling Disciples, Dr. He Qui, 2001

Sermon based on Discipleship, chapter eight

Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it starkly –
‘To his first disciples Jesus was bodily present,
speaking his word directly to them.
But this Jesus died and is risen.
How, then, does his call to discipleship reach us today?
He no longer walks past me in bodily form and calls, ‘Follow me.’
And this leads us to seemingly unending questions.’

I can imagine that some questions might be,
Where should I listen for the call of Jesus?
Should I listen for a voice inside my heart?
Or open the Bible to a random page and do what it says?
How can I tell which call is for me?
Can I say that I should leave everything and go like the first disciples?
What about those who were not called to leave everything and follow?
What should I do?
Where can I hear Christ, where can I encounter him?
Bonhoeffer says,
‘What for the first disciples was so entirely unambiguous
is for me a decision that is highly problematic and fraught with uncertainty.’

But, he says, we need to remember and take seriously
that ‘Jesus Christ is not dead but alive and still speaking to us through the word of Scripture.’
‘If we want to hear his call to discipleship,
we need to hear it where Christ himself is present.
‘The preaching and sacrament of the church is where Jesus Christ is present.
Listen to the Gospel of the crucified and risen Lord!
Here he is, the whole Christ,
the very same who encountered the disciples.
Indeed, here he is already present
as the glorified, the victorious, the living Christ.’
‘Christ can only be recognized in faith.
That was true in the same way for the first disciples as it is for us.
They saw the rabbi and the miracle worker,
and believed in Christ.
We hear the word and believe in Christ.’

But perhaps we think, still the first disciples have an advantage over us,
because they were told exactly what to do.
They heard it from his lips,
they did not have choices laid before them.
And perhaps this is why the church has such trouble with obeying Christ,
with discipleship.
If only Christ himself would clearly speak to us,
and tell us what to do, or how much to give, or what to feel and think,
or maybe even for whom to vote,
we would be glad to do it!
or at least we would know that like the rich man, we cannot follow.
But we are seemingly left on our own;
without a clear command from the Lord.

Again, Bonhoeffer bids us put our faithless questions aside.
Jesus’ clear command to each of us always has the same purpose;
‘it demands faith from an undivided heart,
and love of God and neighbor with all our heart and soul.’

This indeed is unambiguous!
Faith and love!
‘He has told you, O man, what is good,
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God?’

Jesus calls the disciples,
and they recognize him as the one who speaks to their lives,
the one who indeed has authority over them,
who speaks with God’s authority
When we come to hear his word,
we recognize in that word
the one who speaks to our lives
and has authority over us,
who speaks with God’s authority,
calling to faith and love.

So it is not a matter of taking on the same identity
as the disciples or other people in the New Testament:
to wonder whether we really should have been wandering evangelists
or to stay at home like the man cleansed of demons
and tell all one’s neighbors of God’s goodness.
Indeed, should we choose a particular course of action,
to leave behind everything
or to give away all our possessions
or to stay and have them,
without faith in Christ and love of God and neighbor.
it would be nothing.
‘If I speak in the tongues of men and angels,
but have not love…’

But do we really have no clear command from the Lord?
Do we not when we come,
hear Christ’s clear commands,
giving direction for our discipleship?
But it starts with faith that he is the one
who not only calls us but equips us for discipleship,
who not only commands us to follow
but shows us how, in and by his Word.

And so, concludes Brother Dietrich,
‘when we ask the question
of where we can hear Jesus’ call to discipleship today,
there is no other answer than this:
listen to the word that is preached,
and receive the Sacrament.
In both of these listen to Christ himself.
Then you will hear his call!’


He, Qi. Calling Disciples, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved February 22, 2018]. Original source: