[Jesus said,] “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take
up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 NIV)
The comedian Yakov Smirnoff used to talk about his first impressions of America.
The Russian immigrant went into a store and marveled at all the instant products. “Powdered milk! Just add water, and you’ve got milk! … Powdered orange juice! Just add water, and you’ve got orange juice!”
Then Smirnoff found the baby powder…“What a country! Instant baby!”
Some folks seem to believe that Christians are made the same way. Take
a common sinner, ashes to ashes and dust to dust, pour on the baptismal water,
and presto! Instant Christian!
It isn’t that simple of course. Whether you are baptized as a baby or confess
your sins and receive the water in a believer’s baptism, the water is just a sign
marking the beginning of your journey.
Methodists understand discipleship as a lifelong process of “going on toward
perfection.” We are always cooperating with the Holy Spirit, trying to be more
perfect in love of God and neighbor. Sometimes we do better. Sometimes we slide back. But we keep trying!
True discipleship is a whole-hearted endeavor, not a half-baked promise. It’s
like the chicken who suggested to the pig that they provide ham and eggs for the
Easter breakfast. “Easy for you to say,”grunted the pig. “For you it’s a
contribution. For me it’s a commitment!
Discipleship is a commitment – a lifelong promise to take up the cross and
follow Jesus Christ. Discipleship means committing serious time, attention, and
resources to being more like Jesus. Disciples study scripture, debate it with
fellow disciples, and follow their teacher into the mission field… or the cross-fire.
Lent is the season when the Christian church prepared new members to join the company of disciples. From Ash Wednesday on we will follow Jesus to the
cross, remembering our own profession to renounce wickedness, reject evil powers, repent of sin, accept God’s grace, resist in justice, confess Christ as our savior, trust God’s grace, serve Christ as Lord, unite with Christ’s church, remain faithful, represent Christ in the world, surround fellow believers with loving community, and pray for each other.
If it sounds challenging… well, that’s why we are the church, together! We help each other along the way, and together we will have a lot of fun. Blessings for the journey!
Grace and peace,