Every once in awhile my Facebook page will remind me of a picture I shared some years before. Usually the pictures make me pause and say, “Wow…I looked like I had so much more energy back then.” But the other day Facebook reminded me of a picture we took when Elsa was a wee little infant. I was reminded of that stage about 2 years ago when she was just ready to take her first step. She was kind of adventurous about it.
She would regularly toddle from the couch to the coffee table to the chair and back again. I remember how one time she toddled from the couch to the coffee table and went to reach out to the table for support and her little baby legs stumbled and her head went ‘bonk’ on the surface of the coffee table. She had a big blue bruise on her forehead for a week.
Once we calmed her down, she looked at me with eyes that said, “THAT’S IT! I’m swearing off walking, forever!” It took a few months for her courage and adventurous sides to take over and try to walk again. And she did…her first baby steps.
And she fell. A lot. But she kept on going with her baby steps until she grew into her cool kiddo self. In fact today she’s regularly bouncing off the coffee table yelling “Parkour!”
This memory strikes me today as we continue our conversation on discipleship. February is the month where we read about Discipleship. Jesus climbs up the mountain and gives his sermon on the mount and a few weeks ago we heard the very beginning. The Beatitudes.
And like any good teacher or mentor or parent, Jesus begins by telling his disciples the good that he sees in them. LIke any good mentor you have had, I hope that they begin by saying, “You are good. What is in you is good. You are talented. And I can help you grow in that.”
That’s how Jesus begins. You are good. Or as we read from the Gospel of Matthew,
“Blessed are you…”
But here’s where we need to stop for a moment in talking about discipleship, and go back to my child.
I love my child because she’s my child. I love her with my whole being. I loved her when she was a 6pound 6 ounce ball of flesh and goo and sputtery. She was good in my sight not by what she did when she was born, but I see good in her because she’s made in my image and I know there’s good in me.
Can’t it be said that God does the same with us?
Can’t it be said that God calls us good not because of what we do, but because whose we are? God loves us so dearly because when God sees us God sees an image of holy.
We don’t earn our way to heaven by what we do.
We don’t become heirs of salvation by good works. W
e are part of God’s kingdom and eternal life because God says so,
and we are saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
So that’s who we are. Nothing can change that…no matter if we fall on our face a lot.
So. now let’s continue onto discipleship. Discipleship is learning how to walk like Jesus. It’s learning how to talk and think and live into being like Jesus.
I think we’re here today because we want to be like Jesus.
We want to follow Jesus.
We just don’t always know how to follow Jesus when the steps seem so big or the obstacles of life get in the way. And that’s why it’s good to revisit what discipleship and following Jesus look like.
So last week we heard some Jesus pointers and praises–saying “way to go…with what’s in you you are filled with light, you’re salty, you are filled with good things…” kind of like being a really good candy bar. And you and I know that to be true because we have the gift of the Holy Spirit filling us with Godly, goodly things.
But now Jesus, like a good mentor, is teaching us what it means to follow. What it means to take those steps one by one.
And so today we hear Jesus teaching us about discipleship and we hear about murder, adultery, divorce and swearing. What happened to being light and salt and filled with the crunchy, gooey goodness?! This step in discipleship seems hard or at least Jesus’ turn of attention sounds a little odd.
Well, it’s baby steps.
The first step is Jesus telling us who we are as disciples and the next step is to teach us how to be… not just how to be with ‘me and Jesus walking together hand in hand’, but the hard stuff…how to be with people who we interact with every day.
If you’re like me, then perhaps every so often you feel a kick by the Holy Spirit to be a better follower of Jesus and you commit yourself to do exactly that. To love God with all you are and to love others as God loves you. And with that intention and motivation I set off to change the world in Jesus’ name. And that’s good.
But here, Jesus is reminding us of the baby steps. Transforming the world can be next week, how about today we begin by transforming a relationship that you’re in.
Our continuous walk with Jesus as his disciples first must always begin with our relationship with Jesus, but then he instructs us to grow with those who are in our circles.
The family circles,
the friend groups,
the work buddies,
the hobby partners.
The ones that we encounter most of our lives.
Jesus is telling us that discipleship is never a ‘me’ statement. It’s an ‘us’.
And the command to live as an ‘us’ comes from the one who is known as “God with us.” God is a relational God and desires to draw the cosmos to God’s self…that includes you, your best friend, your closest relative, and the guy down the street or across the globe.
What a better good way to follow in Jesus’ footsteps than to work toward being in healthy and holy ‘us’ relationships?
And so to guide us in the way of being ‘us’ Jesus uses some hyperbole to strike the message into our hearts. At the heart of Jesus teaching to us is the stuff that we experience everyday–anger,
coveting what’s not ours,
being tempted to break up relationships that are not ours,
and not being truthful in the relationships that God has gifted us with.
Jesus tells us that to follow him, to bear his name with what we do means:
we treat each other with respect and that means not speaking hateful words.
It means that the people we see every day are gifts and we shouldn’t objectify them
It means that the people in our lives aren’t disposable, and that we can’t throw away our history or our relationships.
And it means that with the people we deal with everyday from our family, to our work buddies, to the mechanic who’s working on your car for the 100th time that our words should be honest and true. Said with the intent of care and respect and love, not with the intent to harm or overpower or be smart.
Before we can save the world in Jesus’ name, Jesus is inviting us to save the relationships that we deal with all the time.
And it’s hard. Sometimes it seems easier to save the world with a single bound than it is to have an honest and vulnerable conversation with someone who’s close to you. It’s hard and it’s scary because we’re broken people and we can be hurt and we can certainly hurt someone else.
And that’s why these are baby steps.
We’re going to fall and hit our heads on the coffee tables of life.
There are going to be days where you say, “Jesus, I can walk on water, I move mountains and be your disciple. I’ve got it!” And before we know it we’ve given a sharp remark, torn someone apart, threw out so many half-truths that we lost count and find ourselves sinking deep in our own yuck and the mountains of sin are moving in on us and threatening to bury us.
And when that happens…and it will happen… God is ready to pick us up, dust us off, and lead us once again with words of assurance, reminding you that you are a child of God. Loved. Valued. Precious. And given a new day to begin again.
So…what’s a step in discipleship you can take this week?
Well, let’s do an exercise together.
First, I want you to think about one relationship in your life that is healthy and whole and good. It fills you with warmth. Think about that one relationship now. What makes it so good? I want us to offer up a prayer. It can be simple.
Dear God, I thank you for this person in my life and the relationship we share. Bless them, Bless me, bless us. Amen
Not too hard, I hope.
Now, think about another relationship in your life that has suffered some damage. No need to dwell on who caused the hurt, but you know the hurt and damage is there. If there is someone that God has placed in your heart and mind today. Let’s pray for them. Let’s pray for you and for what God can do.
Dear God, things hurt, things are broken. Help them, help me, help us. Amen
Perhaps with little steps like giving thanks for the holy relationships and asking God’s healing for hurt relationships that we share, we can grow into what it means to live out as Jesus’ disciples in our lives, in our communities, in the world.