Lent 2 : Authentic Disciples

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I f I was to ask you what your definition of a disciple would be, I wonder what you’d say?

One of the 12 men who followed Jesus? One of the group of men *and* women who followed Jesus?

Someone who learns? Someone who follows?

Any of us who want to be more like Jesus?

This week in both sermons and the Lent course we are looking at the first strategic priority that we have adopted as Diocese –“We Grow authentic disciples”

Right from the start it’s rather apparent that disciples aren’t confined to the 1st C.

But we know that anyway –we hear people in all sorts of fields being described as “a disciple of…”

To indicate that they have taken on the teaching values and example of a certain person, whether they are a philosopher, an architect, an author, a religious leader…

Specifically when we talk about disciples in the church we’re talking about t hose who choose to follow Jesus, learning and growing in him, working out his teaching in their lives.

Today’s gospel is about Nicodemus, a rabbi who comes searching to Jesus, initially at night, in secret.

He’s got a desire to find out, to know, but he knows it will cost him.

Jesus begins to explain to him what the Kingdom of God means, what it is, who is part of it.

It must have been an incredible conversation, imagine Jesus answering all your questions, your searches…

And then Jesus says “unless you are born again…”

And Nicodemus just doesn’t get it,

What do you mean?  Born again,

The only birth he can ( pardon the pun) conceive of is the messy human birth, birth he’s been probably kept far from, as a man, birth he knows only to mean pain and often death,

You must be born again…

It’s a phrase which has had a bad reputation; it’s come to signify perhaps a certain type of Christian, a faith journey with a Damascus road moment, a particular sort of theology.

But new birth in Christ is just what happens when we commit to following, commit to changing our direction, to being guided by God and not our selves, committing to our journey continuing on his paths.

New birth is painful sometimes too, it hurts to leave things behind, to make decisions and sacrifices, it can be a battle

But new birth, like physical birth is only the start,

No human baby that is to thrive and live stays the same.

No human baby that will live is not fed, or nurtured, protected and taught.

And it is exactly the same for us as Christians

Our spiritual selves just like our human selves need to be fed, to learn, to grow, to realise our full potential in God

Children change, and grow, but at root they are the same people, you can compare a photo at 2 and 20, and still see the same basic identity, the features, the smile or the eyes.

God created us in his image, we are already made up with his DNA, and he doesn’t want to change that or fundamentally change who we are,

What he is encouraging us to do is to grow more & more like him

More & more like his son, Jesus.

And this involves work and commitment on our part, on the part of the church, in a role not dissimilar to that of a parent,

The first Diocesan priority is growing authentic disciples.

Sitting week in week out in church on a Sunday is not in itself what grows discip0les.

Discipleship involves challenge and change and growth, increased understanding and commitment, grasping hold of what the Kingdom of God means, and how we can be part of it.

of that, to being those who work and strive for the Kingdom of God, to being those who want to be more like Jesus, more compassionate, more transformative , more merciful, closer to God and each other, more living for others than ourselves, all this and so much more!

Authentic disciples, who are following on the road, but what is that, that word authentic?

If you watch the Antiques roadshow or similar programme, you will be familiar with the scenario, a beautiful vase or bowl or piece of silver is placed on the table in front of the experts

They look at it, yes its very much like  what it says it is, it looks that way, it gives every impression  of being what you say it is,

And then

They turn it upside down.

Because it is upside down that the hall mark or the pottery mark is visible,

The mark that shows that this piece is in fact authentic, real,

The real core identity matches with the appearance

This is what it means to be authentic,

When we are viewed from every angle, everything about us says we are disciples of Jesus, even when we’re feeling uncomfortable and under stress, being upside down and shaken round, everything about us says “authentic” real…

We don’t know what happened to Nicodemus, whether the new birth he found so hard to understand became a reality for him, or not

But we can listen to Jesus speaking to us through this encounter, we can embrace the new birth we have, and ensure that we grow and enable others to grow in this challenging journey of  discipleship, hallmarked by the Spirit’s life in us, visible as Christ’s, from every angle.

 

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