This is my “From the Pastor” article for BBUMC’s November newsletter, The Link.
I have deeply enjoyed reading, studying, and preaching through the Gospel of Mark the past few months, which we’ll end in November with Mark 13-16.
In the summer, I sensed the Spirit calling me to preach through the Gospel of Mark for two reasons: to create an opportunity for each of us to develop/grow a scripture reading practice, and to spend some sustained time with Jesus so he could renew our hearts, minds, and lives. Personally, this prolonged engagement with Jesus through Mark has been a means of God’s grace. It’s revealed something more of Jesus’ heart to me, and it’s reminded me of some things that are central to who we are as Christians and the church.
For example, when we use the term “disciple,” sometimes our minds can go immediately to the Twelve named ones. That can be intimidating. But, in Mark, the term is bigger than that. Take Mark 3, for example. “Jesus left with his disciples and went to the lake” (v. 7). Then, “Jesus went up on a mountain and called those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve and called them apostles” (vv. 13-14). Mark does this repeatedly. There is a large, unnamed, group of people who are “disciples,” and there is a smaller group whom he often calls “the Twelve.” All of them are disciples of Jesus. Some of them are specifically called by Jesus to a particular kind of ministry as disciples: “apostles” – or “those sent.”
UM Pastor Steve Manskar talks about this in his book Disciples Making Disciples:
The English word for disciple is derived from the Latin discipulus, meaning “a learner or pupil; one who accepts and follows a given doctrine or teacher.” A disciple of Jesus Christ, therefore, is a person who accepts and follows his teachings. All who are baptized in the name of the triune God and confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are Christians and, by definition, disciples.Steve Manskar, Disciples Making Disciples, 21-22.
In this, we see what Mark implies: Jesus calls us each to be his disciples – to grow in our knowledge and acceptance of, and faithfulness to Jesus and his way. Disciple is a term that is synonymous with Christian.
Mark’s gospel, like all the gospels, is intended to reveal Jesus, so that we can grow as his followers – as his disciples – and experience salvation in this life and the life to come. As United Methodists, and people of BBUMC, we live into this calling as a response to God’s saving work in Jesus, which we receive as a gift by grace through faith. Here are five ways we can grow in our response to Jesus.
- We talk with God through weekly worship and daily prayer.
- We listen to God through daily scripture reading and group study.
- We express God’s care through acts of kindness, group mission, service, and justice.
- We grow in God’s grace through giving of that which is valuable with generosity through the church and directly to others.
- We share the good news of Jesus – why we follow Jesus – with others.
I’m grateful for the people of BBUMC, and Mark the evangelist, who are together inspiring and informing me about how to live as a disciple of Jesus. Thanks be to God.