In this time of pandemic, grasping the essence of the nature of God is urgent and important. How might an abstract-sounding church doctrine matter now? We find in scripture and the teaching of the Church that the nature of God is an essential connectedness. This communion within God’s own self gives us a glimpse into the very heart of God – and, knowing that a deep connectedness describes well the universe in which we live, speaks to the longings in our own hearts as we are separated from others.
The Corinthian Christians in our scripture reading from 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, were wondering about their witness. In the midst of everyday life, of the struggles of living the way of Jesus, of the ways that the world around us pushes us to respond differently, how are we doing? This is especially relevant for us as we try to discern what balance there is for a Christian between people/compassion/care and economics. How do we love all, care for each other and not tip over into greed because of the pressure of the world stating that economy is more important?
It is difficult to self-assess, to take stock, to evaluate how we are doing in our discipleship. This requires an awareness of what the Holy Spirit is doing in our hearts and lives and how that work is bubbling up as we live our lives each day. It also requires attention to those people around us who have been Holy Spirit to guide us in our way of discipleship.
Paul reminds the Corinthians to “put things in order” (2 Cor 13: 11). To model God’s work at the beginning of time by entering the chaos of their lives and the lives of others so as to be agents of order, encouragement, harmony, and peace. I would say that living in these ways might just be the most important sign of our work of discipleship, a key way that we as followers of Jesus live into our call to compel others, by our loving behaviour, to become followers of Jesus.
If we are to be effective in our work of discipleship, we must be willing to help one another grow in love. To shine a light on how we can love better, reconcile with one another, and be encouraged. This is especially important in a culture that seems set on tearing others down, on stirring chaos, and on living in harmony only with those who agree with us.
You know we who follow the Christian way are interesting at times, as we have words which can mean different things to different groups within the faith yet are alien to those outside the faith. Discipleship is one of those buzzwords that so many of us struggle to define. What would it look like for us to teach what Jesus commanded? I think we might begin by engaging in a shared journey through the life of Jesus, studying what he commanded, the fruit of his activity on earth, and the key themes of his teaching. I imagine that engaging in this quick survey will begin to give a more concrete picture of the life of discipleship, a more objective measure to how we are doing, and will empower us to be more faithful in our work. Always remembering that doubts will still be present and that the re-creative work is never finished.
For the Christian Jesus is with us always. He is with us as we live our daily lives, with us as we doubt, and with us as we take stock of our lives. Jesus is with us as we engage others and as we engage creation. Jesus is with us calling us back, reminding us that we are indeed created in God’s image and part of the created order. Our journey with Jesus will indeed guide us all the way through the fulfillment of God’s kingdom. Living in this way should be a reminder to stay humble, be encouraged, and to persist in God’s loving work.
We also live in a society with great divisions and we all know of people who are alone in a time of despair and anxiety. The love we are created to show then must find expression in our reaching out to others in the ways available to us. This is not something we do to earn the favour of the Holy Trinity. Instead, staying in contact with others is part of how God blesses us, letting us be a conduit of grace to those we call, write, and meet with online.
Our Gospel text from Matthew 28 for this week gives Christians and any followers of the way Jesus taught an opportunity to be reminded of the church’s commission into the world. It is also a time to rehearse our belief about the essence of God. One of the ways that Christ passes on this power to his disciples is through the commission of baptism. Profoundly and poignantly here, the risen Lord connects the ritual with the essence of God: “… in the name of the Parent, Child and Spirit (traditionally Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”).