As I have been working on our current sermon series “Followers,” it has been enlightening to me to pay attention to the relationship between a person’s personal encounter with Christ and the sacrifices made when answering the invitation “Follow Me.” Time after time, Christ engaged interested people. Sometimes he took them unaware, sneaking up on them in the middle of ordinary life. Others he engaged with in conversation surrounding their most personal pondering or deepest needs. Sometimes miracles occurred and lives were immediately and radically changed. Others were simply met with a gentle wave and a lean towards a new direction. But whatever the nature of the encounter, the climax was almost always the same. They were either going to follow or not. And it was going to cost them something – sometimes everything. And the divine invite never promised them the following would be easy, only worth it.
Our faith has been forged and destinies distend by these taggers-along. Fisherman casting with a different catch in mind. An accountant who learns and acts on what matters more. A doctor who follows the great physician, and centuries later we read his accounts of healings he could not have imagined. Blind folks saw and the weak-limbed walked. Generals submitted to a carpenter’s authority. Those whose sins stained deeply were embraced by the one who knew no sin at all but sacrificed everything for everyone who did. It is quite the story. And it continues yet. Miraculously, we get invited too, and are afforded the same gift of a relationship with one who again says “Come and See.” Those he met and measured were never the same. Neither was their perspective on what and who mattered. It is an amazing tale that lives on today in the lives of those who would dare to say “I am a follower.”
The word for ‘disciple’ in the gospels is the same title given an apprentice learning a new trade by the example and teaching of a master tradesman. A master with whom he has an intimate relationship, deeply invested in each other. We are called to be disciples too. It’s not an exclusive calling only for the elite of the faith, but for all who will answer and live to learn. An apprentice learns by doing. Disciples, pretty much the same. We do our best, engage in the work of faith, and grow to be more like the one we follow. In time, the scriptures tell us that we will, by his power and direction, share meaningfully in his work. That hope keeps me going day to day. I pray it does you too.
Sunday we will continue our journey with the followers, traveling with Jesus’ inner circle up a mountain where mystical stuff happens, shortcomings are revealed, confusion rules the day, and new understanding gives way to new directions. Come along for the hike. Let’s meet Jesus at the top of that hill and see if it changes who we are when come down from it. It did for Peter, James, and John. Got a hunch it might for you and me too.