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Tag Archives: Discipleship

Homily: Second Sunday of Lent [B]

…not just as another preacher, but rather as the next step in the history of the Jewish people—truly, the successor, or even fulfillment of the law, represented by Moses, and of the prophets, represented by Elijah.
Rev. Samuel J. Smith

The readings for the Second Sunday of Lent cycle B (Mark 9:2-10) can be found here.

The Transfiguration story brings to mind different things for different people. For scripture scholars the Transfiguration ends Jesus’ Galilean ministry and begins His journey to Jerusalem. The scripture scholars also note that form criticism identifies that the Transfiguration story was written to be used in the liturgy of the synagogue, specifically for the Jewish Festival of Lights. Jesus is the new Temple and the light is a reminder of the cleansing and return of the light that dispelled the darkness of the Temple in Jerusalem. The disciples of Jesus came to this understanding and Mark built it into the story of the Transfiguration.

I like to think about the “aha” moment when the realization, recognition, and comprehension of Jesus reached a new understanding among His most devoted followers.

This Sunday we are asked to focus on our growth in faith. We are asked to remember the “aha” moments in our faith life.

Think about that time we had our first realization and understanding of Jesus. Think about those feelings and how the disciples of Jesus felt when they reached the moment of the Transfiguration.

To help us reflect on our faith the Rev. Dawn Hutchings has provided a setting. She explains that the “transfiguration of Jesus includes all the elements of a perfect love story. Jesus and his best buddies travel up to the top of a mountain, just like ever other hero of the day, travelled up to the top of a mountain, and when he got there, they had such a great time, it was amazing… Jesus was the one they’d been waiting for all their lives, Jesus was the one who could lead them, and just like the leaders of old, just like Moses and Elijah before him, Jesus had what it takes to move them out of the hell they found themselves in… Let’s pitch a tent and just stay here.”

However, our faith must continue to grow. We can’t be expected to remain in one place forever. The deeper we delve into our faith the richer our experience. The Rev. Dawn Hutchings puts it best when she says that “even though it sounds appealing to stay up there on the mountaintop with Jesus, frozen in time, just the way he was when we first met, there is so much more to the Christ experience…”

This is a time in our Lenten journey to deepen our understanding of Jesus’ message. We need to ask ourselves where is Jesus leading us? As our faith grows we become better at understanding the words of Jesus and better at translating those words to the community around us.

If you take one thing away from this homily it should be that as we remember Jesus and His teachings it is helpful to recall how it all began for the disciples and for us. Those feelings bring back strong emotions and during Lent we can rededicate our faith to living the words of Jesus.

I pray that our shared faith experience will lead to building the kingdom of heaven on Earth.

God bless,

Homily: First Sunday of Lent [B]

The kingdom of God is for the earth. The Lord’s Prayer speaks of God’s kingdom coming on earth, even as it already exists in heaven. It is about the transformation of this world
Marcus Borg

The readings for the First Sunday of Lent cycle B (Mark 1:12-15) can be found here.

The scripture scholar will tell you that Mark was the first Gospel written. As such, many stories are short and to the point. Matthew and Luke had Mark in front of them and were able to build on and elaborate those stories. For example, in the Gospel for this Sunday there is only a brief mention of the temptation in the wilderness, which does not include any details.

The Marcan community would not have needed many details because they would have been familiar with many Hebrew scripture stories of prophets and their 40 days and nights of trials and tribulations. The mere mention would have brought to mind stories of Moses and Elijah.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
Exodus 34:27-28

And the angel of the Lord came again a second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you.” And [Eli′jah] arose, and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.
1 Kings 19:7-8

John Shelby Spong explains that “increasingly the early Christians saw in the Hebrew scriptures the anticipation of the messiah’s life and when they became convinced that Jesus was the expected messiah, they began to interpret these scriptures as anticipatory of their day and of Jesus’ messiahship.”

In this Sunday reading Jesus says the kingdom of God has drawn near. This message is vital for our salvation. Many sermons will likely be centered upon these words of Jesus. The focus will be on the end times, but completely miss what the nearness of kingdom of God means.

Depending on the traditionalist leanings of our parish we are likely to hear sermons about death, judgement, heaven and hell. More time will be spent explaining how to prepare ourselves in this life for the next life. That preparation in this life is meant to help us purify our souls and to break us free from our connection and affection to this world. Does this sound familiar?

The Gospel message of Jesus, this Sunday, is to prepare ourselves in this life to transform our world here and now.

Here are a few phrases I pray we all heard in our Lenten worship this Sunday:

“To fulfill the Father’s will, Christ ushered in the Kingdom of heaven on earth.” CCC 763

“To welcome Jesus’ word is to welcome ‘the Kingdom itself.'” CCC 764

“The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved.” CCC 765

Christopher Morse, of Union Theological Seminary in New York, tells us that “what the church, or what the majority conventional view of heaven is, is very different from what we find in these biblical testimonies. The end times are not the end of the world — they are the beginning of the real world — in biblical understanding.”

And so it’s not a Platonic, timeless eternity, which is what we were all taught. It is very definitely that there will come a time when God will utterly transform this world — that will be the age to come.
N.T. Wright

We are God’s representatives, and if God will transform this world it will be through us. If you take one thing away from this homily it should be that we are asked to create heaven on Earth. Jesus showed us the way and if we welcome His words we welcome the kingdom.

During this time of Lent we should prepare ourselves by reading the words of Jesus. We should dedicate ourselves to living the teachings of Jesus. At Easter will take a step closer to transforming our world.

The kingdom is at hand.

God bless,

Homily: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]

Just when we think we know, there is something to face that we never expected and did not take into account. There is the call to discipleship and to catch people in the net of the Kingdom; the call to deny one’s very self and take up the cross that is laid on us by our sharing the truth and sufferings on behalf of justice; and there is the call to community in the Resurrection.
Megan McKenna (Mark My Words!)

The readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 1:14-20) cycle B can be found here.

The scripture scholar will tell you that Mark foreshadows the passion of Jesus with the arrest of John the Baptist. John preached repentance and Jesus’ message of good news about the kingdom of God echoed that theme.

The main thrust of the Sunday Gospel deals with the call of the first disciples. The message throughout Mark’s Gospel is that God’s kingdom will require us to refashion our lives. There can be no greater model of acknowledgement for us than the call of the disciples.

The historian will tell you that to say fishing was a major industry in Galilee, at the time of Jesus, would be an understatement. The economics of Galilee was built around fishing. Mark tells us that the first disciples to be called were successful businessmen who owned nets and employed other fishermen. The cost of discipleship is clearly on display.

Jesus called these four fishermen into an entirely new way of being. It wasn’t based on study or theory or right interpretation. It was based on life and it was based on practice. People who fished were to become fishers of people. People who worked the land were to become laborers in the field of God’s harvest. Jesus would be their teacher not because he would teach them right doctrine but because he would show them a right life. It was a personal call and it was a specific call. Come follow me. Do what you see me do, speak like you hear me speak; imitate me. He would show them how to live and he would reveal the character of God.
Rev. Dan Holland United Parish of Bowie.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote an entire book on the cost of discipleship. In it he tells us that “discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend – it must transcend all comprehension.” To underscore this Bonhoeffer explains that “the will of God, to which the law gives expression, is that men should defeat their enemies by loving them.”

We are called to cast the nets of the kingdom and draw others to God. We must leave the comfort and security of our lives and follow Jesus. What we perceive as a good life is shaped by a society that is not built on God’s love.

We are not alone in this. The Gospel recounts many struggles the disciples of Jesus faced trying to reconcile their old understandings of life with those taught by Jesus. It is a lifelong struggle.

This Gospel reading reminds us that we are daily called to discipleship with Christ. We can answer that call if we say no to ourselves, and say yes to God.

If you take one thing away from this Homily it should be that God is calling us to change our lives. We need to shed our old understandings and to appreciate others as better than ourselves. We need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

I pray that you can follow the example of the first disciples and leave your old ways behind to follow Christ. Let Jesus take the lead, step where He steps and love how He loves.

God bless,

Homily: 4th Sunday of Advent [B]

Incarnation means that the Divine is inevitably and always within everything in the world and the whole world within God. While the man Jesus offered us a radical example of how to live a “God with us” life, we too are energized by that same Spirit incarnate in us.
Val Webb “Searching for a Theology of Beauty for the 21st Century”

The readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Luke 1:26-38) cycle B can be found here.

In order to put the Gospel reading into proper perspective we need to understand the unfolding of events that happened before the announcement of the birth of Jesus. After Luke recounts a genealogy we are then introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth, who will find out that late in life they will bear a son.

The scripture scholar will tell you that this Sunday Gospel reading, from the Lucan infancy narratives, is a direct comparison to the earlier events (Luke 1:5-25). This Sunday we hear Gabriel’s annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Mary which was written to directly compare to Gabriel’s annunciation of the birth of John to Zechariah.

The high point of the comparison is between John, who will “be great before the Lord,” and Jesus who will will “reign over the house of Jacob forever.” In Luke’s community the competing interests between John the Baptist disciples and Jesus disciples needed to be fully explained. John was great, but Jesus will reign.

Therefore, the focus of this reading is discipleship. Specifically, the discipleship to Jesus.

Now we are called upon to work together, as we are sent out into the world, to continue what has been begun and to let the Spirit work in us for the healing of all nations and the uncovering and extending of the kingdom that arrived in the person and presence of Jesus among us.
Megan McKenna “Praying the Rosary p. 216

The kingdom of heaven on earth was announced by Gabriel. Deciding to become a disciple of Jesus and build that kingdom is what is before us all this Sunday.

In Luke’s account, Mary said yes when the decision of discipleship came up. Arguably, Mary was the first disciple to answer the call. If we are to follow her example then we must say yes to discipleship.

It is not easy to build the kingdom of God on earth (as it is in heaven), but it is what we are called to do. Love God. Love your neighbor, as you love yourself. These are easy to say but harder to do.

Discipleship costs all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. That is less God’s doing than our own. If the world were kinder to its reformers, discipleship might be a piece of cake, but it’s not, and Jesus doesn’t want anyone to be fooled.
Barbara Brown Taylor “Bread of Angels”, p. 49

We are in the season of Advent, and as part of our preparation for Christmas we are asked to examine our commitment to discipleship. On Christmas day we celebrate the beginning of the kingdom of God that Jesus brought with Him. Our role is to see that we do everything we can to build God’s kingdom in our world.

If you take one thing away from this homily it should be that we are called to say yes to the discipleship of Jesus. Through our good work the reign of God will see the kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.

I pray that as you examine your discipleship this Advent season you will say “yes”, following the example of Mary.

God bless,