June: The True Cost of Discipleship

June: The True Cost of Discipleship

Sunday 5 June – Day of Pentecost

John 14: 8-17 (25-27); Acts 2: 1-21

How many times have you heard the story of Pentecost? Often titled as the “birthday” of the church, the disciples are waiting eagerly, but still nervously, for what comes next. This is about more than hearing different languages – as amazing as that would have been to witness.

This is a day where God’s spirit is poured out on God’s people. As the prophet Joel declared (as quoted by Peter) – the spirit is poured out upon people of all sorts. No longer a special elite: young and old, male and female, slave and free alike – all would be caught up by the rushing wind of the prophetic spirit.

It is amongst this experience that the disciples are caught up and break out of their fearful shells. The death and resurrection of Jesus dawned a new age of outpoured spirit where a new spiritual reality is declared. Grasped by this vision, the first disciples take Jesus’ ministry to the next level.

On this day of Pentecost – what are the voices you need to listen to? What is needed to break your faith community out of its ‘shell’ and embrace the spirit to do amazing and prophetic things?

Sunday 12 June – Trinity Sunday

Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31; Romans 5: 1-5; John 16: 12-15

Trinity Sunday is the only day in the church calendar specifically set aside for a doctrine of the church. It makes sense then when some congregations ‘skip’ it all together or take advantage of the challenge and invite a guest preacher into the pulpit.

It is no secret that the bible does not – in specific terms – refer to the doctrine of the Trinity. There are, however, plenty of references to the three persons of the trinity and our New Testament readings for today are examples of when all three of these persons are referenced together.

So what do we make of this day and these readings? First and foremost, our Romans reading speaks of the unconditional love and grace we have “access to” through Jesus Christ. Some may use these passages to proclaim God in trinity and guide those listening into the season of Ordinary Time, speaking of God repeatedly saving and re-creating through the Spirit.

Then there is our passage from Proverbs where Lady Wisdom features prominently. I’ve always loved the strong and explicit imagery the writer uses to give us the image of this ‘person’ through whom, the creator has fashioned everything, especially humanity. Tom Wright enhances this image when he says “To embrace Wisdom is thus to discover the secret of being truly human, of reflecting God’s image”.

The Celtic saints had a way invoking God in Three not to try and solve centuries old questions of “how” but to enter into God’s mystery.

That – my friends – is the true purpose of Trinity Sunday for us as a church in the 21st Century. Not to reinforce doctrines and creeds or to take confusing adventures into trinitarian apologetics, but that after the high festival of Easter – starting with the resurrection and climaxing with the spirit-filled Pentecost – to enter into some of the mystery of God and allowing that to guide us through ordinary time – which, like the grace of God is far from ordinary and takes us to unexpected places.

Sunday 19 June – Second Sunday after Pentecost

Galatians 3: 23-29; Luke 8: 26-39

Are there people you sometimes wish you didn’t have to deal with? Jesus’ first foray into Gentile country introduces us to a man marked as displaced and alienated from his home and his city.

Through his interaction with Jesus, he is returned to his home and given an assignment within his City. This man’s healing is not only physical and mental, but religious and vocational. He is restored to his community and given a commission to tell others. The former demoniac – in his healing and experience with Jesus – now is to have a share in the ministry of Jesus and telling the story of God’s mighty acts. How hard would that have been? To return to the people who shunned him and tell them gladly of the strange Judean who came and healed him? All this for a Gentile? A Gentile that was unclean and rejected by his own people?

This gospel encounter sets the perfect backdrop to our Galatians reading – which features in verse 28 words that may be very familiar to you. Leading to this climax is Paul, who is trying to make an argument to the Gentile believers who have been convinced of the need to be circumcised as necessary to be included as part of God’s covenant people. Paul builds an argument that the law is transitory and now that Christ has come, the rite of entry into God’s people is no longer circumcision – but baptism available to all.

Pauls message to the Galatians cautions us today about allowing “the law” to annul the promise and destroy the freedom, unity, and mission to which God has called us in Christ. It is in this radical inclusion in the body of Christ that we find ourselves and mustn’t lose sight on, ever fixed on our journey as a people on the way to the promised goal.

May we keep this in mind as we journey into ordinary time, and as we celebrate our Uniting Church anniversary this week.

Sunday 26 June – Third Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 9: 51-62

In a Gospel reading that could comfortably sit within Lent, we have some difficult words of Jesus as he determined to head towards Jerusalem. Along the way, there are some very interesting – and surprising – encounters.

Upon heading to Samaria, no one wanted to receive Jesus as he was so determined to head to Jerusalem. James and John – often times reckless disciples that they were – offer to “call fire down from heaven” to consume them for refusing their Master. Jesus uses this opportunity to speak “sternly” to them and move on to another village. It seems that the temptation to use religiously motivated violence was present even in Jesus’ most inner circle.

Throughout this journey, we are presented with encounters that direct us to the true cost of discipleship. Jesus doesn’t exclude anyone, but he does ask serious questions of those who want to follow him. Jesus asks for commitment – real commitment – in his radical way of love. The time for it is now. On our own road today we must proclaim the Kingdom of God. If we keep waiting for the right moment, the sands of time will run quickly through our fingers.

James Ellis

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