The Biggest Hurdle to Being a Disciple

One of my favorite Disney characters is Edna Mode, the designer of superhero suits from “The Incredibles,” who also answers simply to “E.”  The not so average Bob and Helen Parr—better known as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl—have been underground in their forced retirement from super hero work, and both have reason to visit her.  Bob to repair his old suit which has gotten a tear—and that E will only fix if she can design him a new suit.

Photo Credit: Transguyjay Flickr via Compfight cc

While cleaning one day when Bob is out of town, Helen notices the stitched up sleeve on that old suit and wonders what Bob is up to.  While at E’s mansion, it dawns on Helen that she doesn’t know where Bob currently is in addition to the midlife crisis he’s been having.  Ultimately, Helen breaks down, sobbing.  We see Edna holding a roll of toilet paper for Helen to use as Kleenex, as she recounts the recent past.  Edna puts down the roll, and grabs a newspaper to push the used tissues into the trash.

Helen cries, “And now I’m losing him! What’ll I do? What’ll I do? Edna responds, “What are you talking about?” Helen stops crying and is bewildered, “Huh?” Edna jumps up on the counter and shouts, “You are Elastigirl!”  And then, swatting Helen with a newspaper, she adds, “Pull-yourself-together! ‘What will you do?’ Is this a question? You will show him you remember that he is Mr. Incredible, and you will remind him who you are….Go, confront the problem. Fight! Win!.”  She then lowers her voice, smiles and says, “And call me when you get back, darling. I enjoy our visits.”

A sermon based on 1 Peter 2:2-10.

Peter writes his first epistle to “the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”  To you ones scattered about who have gone against the conventions of the time and have chosen to follow Jesus on the Way.  The communities  they comprise are likely small and spread out, pockets of disciples in the massive Roman landscape.  In the epistle we read today, Peter encourages these Jesus followers to be like newborn babies who instinctively desire milk to be nourished.  “Long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation,” Peter writes.  And then, switching metaphors from infants to building materials, Peter declares, “Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.” 

Peter’s telling these Christian exiles dispersed in the Roman Empire to go deep, to learn about the faith, and to be built into a spiritual home for God, to live as members of a holy priesthood.  He wants them to grow and understand and to experience the life that Jesus offers to them.

Since September I’ve been preaching a series on the marks of being a 21st Century Disciple, those characteristics and choices that can help us be more faithful as Christ-followers.  I wanted to get as specific as I could about the things that characterize us as disciples.  In those sermons I told you that the marks include:

1) Recognizing that we’re lost.

2) Seeking the wisdom found in vulnerability.

3) Living with gratitude.

4) Praying even when you think all hope is lost.

5) Exhibiting humility.

6) Sharing the stories of God’s work in our lives

7) Inviting and welcoming our wider community to experience hope and friendship and love.

8) Following God with patience

9) Repenting.

10)  Letting go to trust that God is at work even in the less-than-perfect lives we live.

11) Finding salvation by losing ourselves.

12) Following Jesus in order to fish for people.

13) Doing justice.  Loving kindness.  Walking humbly with our God.

14) Reaching out with compassion.

15) Offering forgiveness and love rather than seeking retaliation.

16) Listening to Jesus’ command to get up and not be afraid.

17) Regularly returning to the Lord

18) Faith, belief, and trust.

19) Seeing with the eyes of faith.

20) Crying out to God with whom their is redemption

21) Standing in solidarity with the ones in our world who suffer

22) Knowing without question that God loves you.

23) Rejoicing at the resurrection.

24) Living with profound joy

25) Walking on the way, hearing the word opened for us, and sharing broken bread together.

These characteristics have been made known to us through the Word of God, Holy Scripture, and we see them in the life of the Word made flesh, Jesus.  They make up the milk Peter describes that can nourish us in our lives of faith.  They help us to become living stones, a place for God to dwell.

In my weekly email, I said I would describe the biggest hurdle to living as a 21st century disciple.  The obstacle is quite simply this: ourselves.  We do not believe we know enough or have the right capacity or cannot compare with someone else, so we don’t imagine that we are indeed disciples.  Like Helen Parr, we forget who we are.  We allow the circumstances of our life, or the forces that pull us from God’s love, or our own insecurities to define us, rather than our identity as the beloved of God, as those who have followed Jesus.

In his book on baptism titled Remember Who You Are, theologian Will Willimon argues that the sacrament shapes us.  Using words harkening back to those we heard today from First Peter he writes, “When you ask in desperation, ‘Who, in God’s name, am I?’ baptism will have you feel the water dripping from you head, and the oil oozing down your neck and say, ‘You are, in God’s name, royalty, God’s own, claimed and ordained for God’s serious and joyful business.  So, therefore, you had better get with it.’”

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  So get with it. 

The marvelous light of Jesus continues on.  It keeps breaking into the darkness around us; it keeps raising the dead, and changing lives and bringing redemption.  We tend to think that we’re too insignificant, too small of a group, too unsure of our faith, too timid or so many countless other things that we just throw in the towel, forgetting that we, you and I are members of a holy nation and a royal priesthood.  We, as disciples of the risen Christ, can bring light into a dark world.  In fact, we must.

Pastor Joy Douglass Strome writes, “The genius of God’s actions on Easter Sunday is that there is death to counter every day, not just at Easter.  There are oppressive structures to overturn every day, not just at Easter.  There is life to be celebrated every day, not just at Easter.  First Peter insists that the Christian life particularly equips believers with all they will need to proclaim the mighty acts of the one who calls us out of darkness into the light.”

And so, as this series comes to an end, I want to encourage you to remember who you are, that at your baptism you were marked as Christ’s own forever.  You are a disciple of Jesus Christ.  You and I are people of the resurrection. Let us believe that God has more than equipped us to be the people who bring light to this world.  We do not do this on our own, but by Christ’s love, light and power working through us. Our world desperately needs that light, and they cannot experience it unless we bring it.  They cannot know the way of Jesus if we do not live it.

So live, my friends, as disciples.  Follow in the way of Jesus.  Love emphatically and without hesitation.  Share joy.  Seek repentance. Give of yourself freely.  Forgive when you are wronged, and make amends.  Live with integrity knowing that you are likely the only Christ that others may see in this world.  Be Jesus’ hands and feet bringing healing, care and hope.

And do not lose heart.  Do not underestimate your calling.  Remember who you are.  Boldly share the life of Christ in word and action.  Our world needs you, so get on with it.   Embark on doing God’s serious and joyful business.  Live as disciples, as people of the resurrection now and always.  Alleluia! Christ is risen!