On Sunday, September 8, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “Where Are We Going?” from the sermon series “Come! Journey With Jesus.” The Scripture for the week is from Mark 8:34-9:1, Mark 12:28-34.
At the Great Commission, recorded in Matthew 28:19, Jesus calls on his followers to make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.
We continuously refer to discipleship when talking about curriculum, tithes, work, mission, or even Christ’s disciples, but do we know about what we are discussing? Likewise, do we know what we mean when we talk about a destination? Let us hear from one another. Where does our following of Christ take us ultimately? What is our goal in our journey of discipleship? Where are we headed? Heaven, Salvation, Kingdom of God, Heart of God, Unity of God, Holiness, Cross and Resurrection, Total Sanctification, Christian Perfection? Jesus talked a lot with his followers about what his way was. He often asked, “Who am I?” He was the Messiah – the only one, and constant hope. Messiah was the right title but with the wrong understanding.
Peter doesn’t want to hear about suffering and death. Jesus gathered huge crowds and presented them with a set of paradoxes. “Deny yourself and take up the cross; to save your life, you must lose it; lose your life to find it,” he said. Surprisingly, there were followers left after listening to him. The map of Christ is full of mystery, tension, things beyond our grasp. It is not a Da Vinci Code style, nor is it a trick or a game. It is an unfolding of truth and life, always pointing us more deeply into the unfathomable mystery of God’s love and grace. There were disciples left resonating with the deep need and longing for something Christ embodied. But they and we also try to cheapen it by avoiding cross and suffering or by thinking we have to do the work by ourselves. But more disciples mean more burden and responsibility. We despair of a destination we can never actually reach.
In response to a Scribe who asked which commandment matters most, Jesus said, “Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself.” This type of love is fierce, all-embracing, healing, transforming, and world-changing. A passion that starts with God, not demanded or coerced but evoked by God. Love that costs something when we love God and neighbor fully. It embraces suffering and death – our own and that of others. The story of love is not complete until we see the cross of Christ and the power of God in the resurrection. And Christ invites us into this story, to journey with him. It is not unattainable. Christ came precisely to embody agape love for the world and to show us the possibility and priority of such a love (Paul Ramsay).
Christ presents us with this love because he first loved us. So he invites us to embrace this love and let it change us. It will free us to joyfully respond with our love of Christ and neighbor, love of self, and love for the world. Along the way, we too will pick up our cross, lose our lives only to find that life and love await us.
Discipleship is, therefore, a journey through which God’s grace transforms us, opening us to see ourselves as God sees us, teaching us how to love so we can love God, others, self, and creation as Christ loves.
Invitation to Follow
~by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Abandon the illusion you’re a self-contained individual.
Be a part of this wounded world,
and find yourself with Christ.
Set aside your own desires,
give yourself fully for others;
be the hands and heart of Jesus.
accept your brokenness,
and reach out for love.
Let go of your own plans.
Join in the healing of the world.
You will not be alone.
Follow your soul, not your ego.
Follow it right into people’s suffering.
Follow it right into the heart of God.
Pour yourself out;
let the world pour in;
then you are one with the Beloved.
The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category “worship.” Here is the link
Here is the link for the complete video of the September 8 service at the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page.