At the Festival of Homiletics as few years ago, I heard Diana Butler Bass speak about modern Christians and what they are seeking and responding to. She said people are looking for practical ways to connect to faith which is more than simply showing up at a worship service on Sunday mornings. In that same year at a spiritual retreat at Mount Carmel in Niagara Falls, Bishop Susan Johnson talked about some practical approaches to deepening our discipleship.
We are all disciples– yes even us modern day Christians. As disciples we are followers and learners. The Greek word is mathetes, meaning “a learner, indicating thought accompanied by endeavor.” So a disciple is not someone who just knows things, rather, a disciple is some who hears, learns and does. Discipleship is an active role. Discipleship is for each of us to engage in.
This is Bishops Susan’s list of practical approaches:
• regular attendance at worship;
• daily prayer and scripture reading;
• yearly involvement in a program of study;
• regular service in the community (not just the congregation);
• regular and proportional giving,
• commitment to telling the good news with those around us, beginning with our family and friends.
Each of the bolded words can be stated as a verb:
Pray, Read, Worship, Study, Serve, Give, Tell.
In my sermon on Epiphany Sunday “How Many Wise Men?” I said, “This celebration of Epiphany is a good time for each of us to arise and shine and bring our gifts of virtue, spiritual discipline and sacrifice as we respond to the gift of God made flesh – the God who calls you to shine.” In that closing line I was referring to the spiritual disciplines of those seven verbs that Bishop Susan described.
In the past years I have picked two of these verbs to work on for my own discipleship. I have chosen Lent as the start of my yearly resolution to work on deepening my discipleship. I like that idea of STARTING something for Lent, as compared to the GIVING UP SOMETHING for Lent. It is an active approach to deepening discipleship and it lasts longer. Starting something like this is certainly a good way to form a new spiritual habit.
The ELCIC web site has a section to help individuals and congregations find ways to engage in these disciplines. Here are some examples of things you, and we, could do for each of those seven verbs:
|Pray silently when you’re riding on the bus or waiting for an appointment. Pray out loud while walking on the treadmill or going on a nature walk.
|Create small groups for prayer.
|Use the ELCIC’s Eternity for Today resource, or a similar devotional, that includes a short portion of scripture and a written prayer. Read the whole devotional passage in your Bible each day.
|Talk about your favourite Bible verse and encourage others in your congregation to do the same.
|Deepen your participation – sing in the choir or read. Assist with communion, greeting, or the offering. Get involved by participating on your congregation’s worship committee. Write notes to the pastor or choir director about what you heard in worship that inspired you.
|Create a ‘follow up’ system for members who are absent longer than usual and encourage your congregation to practice ministry to inactive parishioners.
|Participate in a regular Bible study.
|Attend a local lecture/learning event with others from your congregation.
|Volunteer with an outside organization such as a local women’s shelter, a local hospital, a literacy program, etc.
|Have congregational members who are involved in service ministry discuss their experience perhaps instead of a sermon on a Sunday periodically.
|Give an offering each time you attend worship. Calculate what percentage that is of your income.
|Plan or attend a stewardship retreat. Spend some time on the meaning of stewardship and giving.
|Help a grieving friend to return to church.
Tell someone you’ve missed them at church.
|Plan an intergenerational event. Share faith stories and practice going beyond the congregation.
See more at www.elcic.ca/CSR – follow the Resources link.
So this year for Lent, I am asking you to you consider starting at least one to two of these seven verbs to deepen your discipleship in following Jesus. Secondly, share with someone which verbs you are starting. You can always tell me too. My two verbs? I have said that I will focus on PRAY and STUDY. I will be committing to an increase in daily PRAY and also to STUDY by daily reading books about faith and spirituality. These will be above and beyond my calling as your pastor to pray for our community and engaging in a Continuing Education program. PLEASE ask me how it is going!
Prayer: May the Holy Spirit of your baptism be ever active within you as you respond to Christ discipleship call. Amen.