Reasons for resistance to thinking of ourselves as being amongst the disciples:
tantamount to claiming a special status
sets us apart from, or above, our congregation or our neighbours
do not want to claim this
do not want them to think that we are claiming it
do want this responsibility
do not like how that responsibility makes us feel
Do not feel that we have a deeper intimacy with Jesus, privileged access to his counsels, a greater knowledge of his plans
Believe that if we had such things we would not feel so powerless before the hunger of the crowd. We would know what to do. At the very least, we might know what he could do.
the call of the first disciples occurs at the very outset of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.
called to a journey. “Follow me” – literally and figuratively.
Placing of this story shows us Mark’s purpose in writing his gospel. A manual for disciples.
following -appropriate because discipleship is a process of emulation, personal development and formation:
one leads, others follow; one teaches, others learn; one demonstrates mastery and others study and work to acquire the same aptitudes and skills, practising them until they become proficient and then in turn, passing on what they have learned.
This is the “way” of discipleship.
M Shows us Jesus at work - preaches, teaches and demonstrates the effectiveness of the good news - and the disciples’ efforts to emulate him.
Simon and the others are our representatives in the narrative: watching what is happening, trying it out for themselves, learning from their mistakes, succeeding, failing, being forgiven, finding the courage to try again.
Jesus initiates and establishes the process at every stage. He goes before them – inspiring, stimulating, trusting them to apply what they have learned and giving them opportunities to do so.
In effect, he “prepares the way of the Lord” for them, helping them to hear the call of God in what he is teaching them. He “makes the path straight” for them so that they can encounter God through what they are discovering.
Grace, gift, a way that surprise, astonish us, results we do not expect or deserve - that makes much out of little, an expansive dynamic which can have extraordinary effects,
but also a way of creative thinking we can learn - journey of experiment and discovery we can practise - a set of skills, aptitudes, values and attitudes which we can acquire, internalise, develop, refine, hone.
Jesus the teacher does not always explain himself but is always ready to stimulate the thinking of those who are willing to listen.
Assimilating a new body of teaching takes time. It takes hours – days – years of attention, reflection and practice. We have to internalise the basic principles and learn when and how to deploy the strategies and skills that follow from them. Throughout the process we need continued inspiration and encouragement; an appropriate mix of supervision and freedom to experiment; a safe place in which to reflect on our successes and failures; and the repeated assurance that we are loved, not for our successes or our failures but simply because we are who we are.
Seen in this light, having faith can be hard work. What alters our environment as we travel is largely our labour, effort and sweat. It is important to be honest about this. We mislead ourselves and our people if we assume that because faith is related to grace, it is therefore easy. Julian of Norwich - sheer hard work.
Failure to accept the work of it.
Where is the grace?
Fans - admiring his work, collecting the merchandise, happy to associate with other fans, keen to share the gossip, willing to wear the T-shirt, display the logo.
Followers - attending every event, always in the front row, offering time as a volunteer, arranging events with and for the fans, sharing with other followers the special sense of belonging to the inside circle, knowing which internet sites have the latest news, contributing to the on-line communities, tracking down the hard-to-find material, ordering in stuff from abroad, translating it for newcomers who don’t know the language, interpreting events for those who are not as knowledgeable.
Or are you a disciple? Someone who is learning to do what X does. Do you get out on the pitch, or up on the stage. Not only look the part - the hair, the clothes, the shoes, the accessories - but act the part, too. Does your devotion simply take up time and money, or do you let your devotion form your character, your relationships, your priorities?
We attach ourselves to strong personalities, charismatic leaders, exciting characters -whether on stage, screen or pitch - because they enlarge our sense of who we are, what we belong to and what is possible. They help us to “live on a larger map”.
Disciples go further, deeper, for longer and are the most profoundly changed by the encounter with God and with themselves:
Asking the deeper questions.
Being willing to let it matter more.
Allowing ourselves to be challenged and changed
Being willing to let our actions count for something.
Allow ourselves to be challenged down to the core, and including the core. Not just the superficial things. But the very things which have formed us.