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Date: July 9, 2017 (Pentecost 5) 1. Texts: Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Ps. 45:11-18; Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. 2. Subject: discipleship. 3. Topic: being, not more doing. 4. Aim: encourage, guide. 5. Proposition: “Jesus is not asking us to do more: he is inviting us to be more.”

 

 

BEING, NOT DOING

None of us wants more to do—either as disciples of Jesus or as members of our families. If you ask someone, “How are you?” their response will be things like, “Very busy.” Or “Tired.” Or “I’ve go so much to do.” None of us needs or wants more to do. If anything, we have to figure out how to get rid of some of our jobs. So when Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…”, we say, “No, thank you. I’ve got enough on my plate.” We all know what that feels like and would gladly give away some of what we are doing. We don’t want more things to do or more responsibilities. We want a little rest, thank you very much. Sure, Jesus promised us rest, but we all suspect he doesn’t really mean it. We’d rather he just left us alone for now. But, it is a big mistake to say that Jesus is focussed on giving us more to do. When we read the Gospels, Jesus is much more focussed not on what we do but on who we are. It is not doing that occupies him—it is being. It is not so much our tasks that interest him, but our attitude and character. Yes, we are Christ’s apprentices—we learn his content and reflect his life. We mold our lives according to his life. But that is all about God being mirrored in who we are and only then do we illustrate that in what we do. That’s what he meant. ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’1 1 Matthew 11:28-30. Page 2 of 4 -Discipleship: identity, not tasksThat which we are to learn is not how to do more: we are to rest and learn how to be both gentle and humble. Ultimately, it is a description of love, isn’t it? Gentleness and humility? We turn to others in care and see their needs before we see our own. Surely, it will call for sacrifices, but Jesus says that this is easy and light to bear. He calls for us to love others as he loved them, gently and with humility. And it is out of that love that we choose to act. Our deeds are an expression of our gentle and humble love. We actually decide what to do based on that love. Our priorities are set not by a sense of our own urgency, but by Christ’s love. So, here’s the thing: Jesus is not asking us to do more—he is inviting us to be more. Remember this? “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”2 Living abundantly is our goal in Christ, not getting more done. Yes, we will have to demonstrate our love for God in what we do,3 but that comes not as a list of tasks set by a taskmaster, but rather as an outcome of being loved by God. We are called first to a new way of being in the world: Jesus answered, ‘The first [commandment] is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’4 Christ’s greatest commandment is not to add a task, but to describe a new and better way of being, that same more excellent way that St. Paul described: But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way…Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an 2 John 10:10. 3 James 2:14-26; 3:13. 4 Mark 12:29-31. Page 3 of 4 -Discipleship: identity, not tasksadult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.5 Faith, hope and love: qualities of being, not of doing and the greatest of these is love. Yes, we know that love must be made tangible in actions, but the state of being precedes the action. We must be loving, before we can do loving things. So, the abundant life which Christ came to bring us is the life of sacrificial love which puts the faith and hope of the other ahead of our own. It is not so much, “What is God asking me to do?” but rather, “Who is God asking me to be?” The answer to that is always, “More like Christ, a better reflection of Christ, a more genuine embodiment of his love.” I think this is a fundamental reorientation of life, including our ministries in the Church. Being a so-called “better disciple” of Jesus is not a matter of getting more done with fewer material resources. Being a better disciple is about living more abundantly in the love of God and being truer to the identity of Christ. It is about using Christ as the model upon which you make decisions about what to do. It is about authenticity in Christ and genuineness to his love. The question is never, “How much more do we have to do?” It is always, “How is what we do serving the love of Christ and enhancing our experience of his abundant life?” Here’s the tricky part: I think we have to apply this template to our decisions about living in the everyday world, particularly with respect to our decisions about our material wealth. Not, “How much more can I achieve with what resources I have?” but “How will we experience the love of God through our resources?” Likewise we ask, “How will God’s love be made tangible through this particular task?” Clearly, we do not have the luxury of confining our life with Christ to just Sunday morning worship. We are his disciples the other 166.5 hours in the week. Our being disciples is made visible to others throughout life and not just through our worship. So, the template of Christ’s 5 1 Corinthians 12:31, 13:8-13. Page 4 of 4 -Discipleship: identity, not taskslove and abundant life is to be laid on top of all of life even outside our ministries in the Church. This inevitably means that the love of God is made real in our lives in the midst of life as we live it. God’s love is part of the context of our daily lives. We live it and experience it not in spite of what happens, but exactly in the midst of all that happens. We live out Christ’s love as we love the life we live. I think we should hold on to these truths, especially in the time of stress, tension and turmoil in the Church. God is not asking us to do more to deal with all that is happening in and around the Church: he is asking us to be more—to be more gentle, humble, caring and loving. He is inviting us into his abundant life so that we might love more and live more. His focus is on who we are in response to Christ, not on what we do because of our circumstances. And given all of our timetables, schedules and calendars, isn’t that really God’s good news to us? AMEN.