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Date: May 14, 2017 (Easter 5) 1. Texts: Acts 7:55-60; Ps. 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14. 2. Subject: discipleship. 3. Topic: Christian identity. 4. Aim: prompt to action. 5. Proposition: “As disciples of Christ we figure out who we are not be dropping out but by doing.”





The Brits have a term for it, “gap year”—you know, that year after high school and before whatever further training or education you need to have a socalled real life and a real job? That’s your gap year. In your gap year you are expected to a) “find yourself” and b) do something that will benefit humanity. A gap year is expected as part of identifying oneself. In North America a gap year isn’t quite as common, but that whole “backpack-across-Europe-or-Thailand” thing is quite popular. At least the romantic idea of it is. Drop out of the rat race! Experience life! Figure out who you truly are by adopting a nomadic and unencumbered life! Drop out to tune in to who you are. The disciples of Jesus don’t get a gap year. We never “drop out to tune in”. Yes, we need to figure out who we are just as much as any young adult has to do. But nowadays that is getting ever harder to do. Keep in mind that the world has largely abandoned the Christian faith and largely rejects the Christian Church as an institution. People have done so on the basis of misinformation, gossip and falsehood. In addition, there is a growing distrust of all institutions and the Church has suffered along with the law courts, governments and police departments. Of course, the Church has frequently been its own worst enemy in this. We haven’t done very well in schooling people in Christian faith and discipleship. Most congregations reduce “believing in God” to attending Sunday worship and giving a token amount of money to the congregational budget. Education is largely reserved for children and only means learning the stories of the four Gospels. A powerful kind of “folk religion” has taken root in Christianity in Page 2 of 4 -Christian identitywhich people desperately believe things that aren’t in keeping with genuine Christianity at all. How many times have we all heard that “grandma has gone to be an angel in heaven”? Or try this one: “Everything happens for a purpose and God must have wanted it that way.” So God planned and executed a tsunami that resulted in the deaths of a quarter of a million people.1 The Church has not effectively taught the faith nor corrected such misinterpretations in any meaningful way. So, figuring out who we are as disciples is getting harder to do and the need to figure ourselves out is getting ever greater. But we don’t get a gap year or a backpacking year to do this. Disciples can’t drop out to tune in. Rather, we dive into the gospel and immerse ourselves in the Christian life. We figure out who we are not by retreating but by doing. Here’s how this works. Faith is a relationship of love, trust, self-sacrifice and submission to the will of God. That relationship is with God as he is revealed in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. You don’t figure out that relationship by taking a break from it. That’s silly. You figure out what love is by doing it. You figure out what it means to be loved by God by immersing yourself in his love. The disciple must experiment with trust, self-sacrifice and surrenderin the midst of everyday living. We figure out who we are as disciples by doing discipleship. The big question is, what will “doing discipleship” look like? The disciple is an apprentice of Jesus who learns the Master’s content and reflects the Master’s life in his or her own life. We disciples learn the content through the Bible and the Great Tradition of the Church. We apply that learning by living as Jesus would do if he were here guiding our daily lives. It’s kind of a “Simon Says” sort of thing: like in that children’s game, Jesus said and did something which we then try to do in our context. That word, “apprentice”, is an important one. The apprentice is always focussed on a practical application of the theory. The apprentice mechanic learns the theory of the fuel-injected engine and then actually works on cleaning fuel 1 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Page 3 of 4 -Christian identityinjectors. The would-be surgeon learns the medical theory and then watches as someone else conducts surgery. The student teacher seeks to apply the classroom content to her practicum. Apprenticeship is an important concept for Christians. So, God is no theory that you keep in reserve for when bad things happen. Jesus is no vague concept intended to make you feel better about yourself, like believing in “truth, justice and the American Way.” 2 God is an eternal being who loves you with a love that never dies and who desires that you love him in turn. We figure out what being loved and being loving mean not by retreating from them but by doing them as apprentices of the Master who lived out God’s love in real time. Here’s a three-step apprenticeship program. Step one: choose to love God with all that you are and decide that his love will be the template for your actions. That is, turn to God in love, trust, selfsacrifice and submission and decide that this relationship of faith will be the foundation for how you live your daily life. Step two: immerse yourself in the life of Jesus and in the life of the Church. Those Bible stories are not just for kids. In fact, kids rarely benefit from them. Kids benefit not from hearing the stories but from seeing the actions. They learn best by doing—kids are natural apprentices. Teach them how to behave in the faith and belong to the Church and they will come to believe. They will best learn this by watching you immerse yourselves in the life of Jesus and in the life of the Church. So, learn the Bible not as children’s stories but as the roadmap and template for your daily life, which you then live out with the full support of the Body of Christ. Step three: based on your learning of the life and content of the Master, experiment with proactive and tangible faith. Love that individual or community with whom you have the greatest difficulty. Learn more about your town and work with those in it who live on the fringe. Host a coffee and conversation time for those who would never attend a Sunday service. Show someone how to pray. 2 Catch phrase or perhaps even motto from the comic character, Superman. Page 4 of 4 -Christian identityNo one can determine for you what faith will look like for you, because all ministry is contextual, based on your individual circumstances. But know this: faith means nothing if it is never visible and tangible. Action proves the validity of our faith and action will demand experimentation. That’s how we will work out what it means to be a disciple and apprentice of Jesus: we commit, we immerse, we act. And please, make no mistake: we do have to work it out. Many disciples are unclear and a little vague about what it means to be an apprentice of Jesus. Our society certainly is unclear Christianity and we certainly will find no help from it in this quest. We disciples can’t drop out to tune in and there is no gap year for us. We figure out who we are by doing—doing the gospel, doing the faith and doing our apprenticeship in Christ. AMEN.