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Learning to Be a Disciple

Learning to Be a Disciple

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Published by Joseph Winston

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Published by: Joseph Winston on Sep 28, 2009
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12/07/2009

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Learning to be a Disciple
Jody WinstonJuly 31, 2005
Sermon
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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In high school, I was one of those students who never studied and for the mostpart, I never did any homework. I literally did not know what it meant to be astudent since I did not know how to study. In spite of my bad habits, I graduatedin the top ten of my high school class and all but one university accepted myapplication. My two final choices for college were between the US Air ForceAcademy and the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University. I finallydecided on going to A&M since they had the engineering courses that I foundmost interesting.When I arrived at A&M in the fall of 1978 and enrolled the biomedical en-gineering program, I quickly learned that A&M was not the same place as myhigh school. One obvious difference was numbers of students. Back in Mercedes,I was one of 352 students while at A&M I was one of over thirty-two thousandstudents. Another difference was the classes. They were much harder than I hadexpected.One class in general was giving me fits: freshman chemistry. I did not find thelab portion of this class to be difficult; in fact, I was doing very well. It was thestandardized tests for the lecture that gave me the problems. As I got my scoresback from these tests, I noticed that I was just passing the class. But what shouldI do? I really did not have any good ideas. So, I talked with those around me andthey clearly told me that I did not have good study habits. They showed me that
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Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3.
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during high school I had not learned how to learn. My problem was that I did notknow how to study.In today’s Gospel reading, the twelve disciples have a similar problem. Theydid not know the discipline that it takes to be a disciple just like I did not knowhow students are to study.You might think that the disciples would clearly know everything that it takesto be a follower of Jesus Christ since we are literally in the middle of Matthew’saccount on the life of Jesus. We have heard how Jesus was born, how His life keptthe Law and fulfilled the words of the prophets, how Jesus taught in sermons andin parables, and how He took care of others. We are also smack dab in the middleof learning how to be a follower of Jesus. Jesus has told us how His disciples areto live, how we are to pray, and how we are to teach others about Jesus. But youwill be disappointed to find out that when the disciples are tested the twelve stilldo not know what is required of them.Today’s quiz on what it takes to be a disciple comes after Jesus has learnedof the execution of His cousin, John the Baptizer. This devastating news takesJesus away from the crowds for a short while, but then because Jesus loves them,He returns to the people and cures their illnesses. The disciples finally notice theisolated location that they find themselves in along with the fact that it is pastdinnertime. The test given to them by Jesus is the feeding of the five thousand.The answer that they give is for Jesus to simply send the people into the villagesso they can purchase an evening meal. Jesus gives all twelve a failing mark whenHe tells the disciples, “No. You go feed them.”EveryoneofthetwelvediscipleshavemissedthetwoquestionsonthemidtermtestthatcovereddiscipleshipsincetheyhaveforgottenwhatJesushastaughtthem.The first question on the pop quiz was, “Who do you trust?” Since Jesus had toldthose who seek after God’s kingdom not to be concerned about eating or drinkingbecause God will provide, you would hope that they would answer, “We trust inGod.” They do not give this answer. They instead tell the Creator of the marketsthat they trust in the market to be open at this late hour. They tell the One whotaught us that our heavenly Father takes care of the birds of the air that neithersow nor gather that the market will provide the needed food.The second question on the test was, “How much work do you, as an disciple,need to do?” Because the disciples have not only seen the sick healed, the deadraised, the unclean cleaned, and evil overcome but also have done all of thesemiracles themselves due to God’s power working in them, you would hope thatthey would quickly answer this question with the words, “We work together.” Butthey do not. The twelve disciples have forgotten that Jesus sent them to work with2
 
the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Instead, they tell Jesus to do all of the work.Just send them off Jesus. It is as if they expect Him to just say the magic words“Colonel Sanders” and everyone will have their own bucket of chicken.
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In many ways, we are just like the disciples. We too often fail the test on whatit means to be a follower of Jesus. We have not learned what discipleship means.When Jesus asks us to take care of our neighbor, our answer too often is, “Jesusgo find someone else to do the work.”Whetheritis childrenwith HIV/AIDS,orthehungry, ortheoppressed, orevenif it is those who are dying throughout the US due to the current heat wave, wetoo often do the same things that the disciples did. We want God to work throughsomeone else. We pray God send workers to those people when in fact Jesus istelling us, His disciples, to get up and work on the needs of the people.What comes next in the feeding of the five thousand is the real miracle of thestory. Jesus does not blast the twelve disciples out of existence for their mistakeswhen they continue to tell God what to do by saying, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish.” It’s like they are saying, “Jesus, get a life, we have checkedout everything and there is no food. You really need to do exactly what we havealready told you to do!” Instead of destroying them for their insolent attitudetowards God, Jesus once again shows them what disciples do. After telling thecrowd to get ready to eat, Jesus blesses the work that God has done and then givesthe disciples something to do: feed the hungry and clean up the leftovers.Grace is just like Christ’s actions with the twelve disciples. Grace accepts usas we are and works with us even though we continue to make mistakes. We falldown and God picks us up.This idea of grace is what separates Christianity from the rest of the universebecause the rest of the universe is built on the concept of karma. Karma, physics,and for the most part all of our life tells us that for every action there is an oppositeand equal reaction.
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You hurt someone; you get hurt in return: “An eye for an eyeand a tooth for a tooth.” Grace is radically different for in grace you do not reapwhat you sow. We are given something that we do not deserve. Even when we arenot doing what God wants, God loves us in spite of our actions. This whole ideais counter to everything that we know but this is how God works in the world.My experience of grace at Texas A&M was found in the other students whoaccepted me even though I was having problems with my chemistry tests. They
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Thanks to Brian P. Stoffregen for this example.
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These ideas on karma and grace are based on Bono’s song “Grace” and the chapter “AddEternity to That” from the book 
Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas.
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