Cruising on the Disciple Ship #1
The movie ‘Coach Carter’ is based on the true story of Coach Ken Carter, a controversial high school basketball coach played by Samuel L. Jackson. Coach Carter took the coaching job under his rules. He believed that the players had to maintain good grades and become a united team or they wouldn’t play.
All the team players signed his contract to do just that. The team was undefeated and on its way to the 1999 State Championship, when Coach Carter received the low grades of his players. Coach Carter received national attention when he locked the gym and benched the whole team for poor grades. Coach Carter received some praise but he received a ton of criticism for his decision. And so did the athletes for sticking to their contracts.
Coach Carter is a great movie about self-discipline, self-denial, self-worth and teamwork. I particularly like the quote the one young man makes. That quote is often attributed to Nelson Mandela but it’s actually by author Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. She is the author of books such as The Gift of Change, Illuminating Prayers and The Age of Miracles.
As good as that scene in the movie is, they left a portion of the quote out. I understand why Hollywood would do that but listen to the full quote and see if you can tell what they missed.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (1)
I really think that could be a good definition for what it means to be a Disciple. “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. . . And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Today we begin a series I’ve whimsically titled, “Cruising On the Disciple Ship” in which for the next four or five weeks we will look at various aspects of Discipleship and Stewardship. You see, I think Discipleship and Stewardship are two sides of the same coin. You can’t be a good Disciple if you don’t practice good Stewardship and you can’t be a good Steward if you aren’t living as a Disciple.
So, as we take our cruise on this Disciple Ship together, let’s unpack the steamer trunk by looking at all the letters in the word Discipleship as an Acrostic. This morning we’re going to talk about how to DIS the World. But before we start unpacking, let’s pray.
I. D: DENY YOURSELF:
If you happen to be the industrious kind and looked up the first passage of Scripture then you’ve probably figured out what the D in DIS stands for. Let’s look at Matthew 16:24-26 (NRSV)
 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
One of the first aspects of Discipleship is Denying Ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus. We’ve heard that all of our lives. We’ve wrestled with what it means to take up our cross. We’ve asked “Does he mean literally take up our cross” or is he speaking figuratively about making sacrifices. The answer of course is “Yes.” Many of the disciples did take up their cross and die just like Jesus.
And yes, it does mean we’re called to live a life of sacrifice for the glory of God. Maybe today we need to look at it from setting our standards for ourselves a little differently. We live in a time and age that says “Go for the Gold” in all things. Be number one. Forget about 2nd place, 2nd place is for losers. But that’s not the message of self denial.
Years ago I read a short book by a baseball player, a pitcher I believe, whose name I can’t recall but the title of the book said it all, “Living In Fourth Place.”
The author’s premise was, that to be a true disciple of Jesus, to fulfill everything Jesus taught, meant being and living in fourth place. He went on to say this is the place of the servant. This place doesn’t receive any medals or accolades or any recognition at all. And yet, it may be the most important place to see ourselves in relation to God and what God has called us to do and be through Christ.
The book was really about priorities and prioritizing our lives. He prioritized life this way. First place is for God. Second place is for family. Third place is for career. And fourth place is for us. He said when we prioritize life and relationships like this we develop a servant’s heart.
What he was describing was very similar to the idea of Sanctification. Through the Perfecting Grace of God we become less and less and Christ in us becomes more and more until eventually we are one with Christ and Christ like love is all anyone sees in us. But that process can only begin when we deny or submit or surrender ourselves to God and God’s Will in order to be perfected.
Discipleship begins when we deny ourselves and putting our lives into Jesus hands to be molded into the life he would have us lead.
II. I: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU:
A. That leads us right into the second point. While I found Rick Warren’s popular books “The Purpose Driven Church” and “The Purpose Driven Life” a little too Calvinistic and a little too conservative for my taste, he did make an excellent point that ALL Christians need to hear. He begins the books by saying, “It’s not about you.”
And that’s what the “I” in the DIS of Discipleship stands for. It’s NOT about us. The church is not about us. Worship is not about us. Faith is not about us. It’s all about God. I think I may have shown this before but this is what happens when we think it IS all about us. WATCH (I used a video titled “It’s all about me.”)
That’s pretty ridiculous don’t you think? But then, don’t you know people who have that as their theme song for life. They are so self-centered and so focused on their own needs that they can’t even fathom the needs of anyone else. They have never denied themselves of anything, not even center stage.
These are the folks who get upset every time we talk about Stewardship because all they hear when the word Stewardship is used is the word money. They don’t get that all of life is about Stewardship and Discipleship. The Biblical Witness is that what we have isn’t really ours to begin with. It all belongs to God. We are simply the stewards or caretakers of that portion of creation that God has put in our hands.
It’s how we use the gifts and resources God has within us that shows the type of stewards we are. It’s how we use the gifts and talents God has given us that shows the world who is the center of our universe. And if all we can talk about is me, me, me, then we pretty much think that life, the universe and everything is all about us. Unfortunately, both the Old and New Testaments say the same thing, “In the beginning, God.” That tells me that our focus should be not on us but on God.
That’s what the passage from Romans 12:1-2 is all about.
 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
B. The Apostle Paul considered all of life a training period, a time for us to work up a sweat in our efforts to follow Jesus. He thought we should all be exercising our faith. He thought we should be stretching ourselves to be stronger and more faithful. So what would that look like.
What might a spiritual workout look like in our daily life? It can mean looking at our realm of influence and doing what we think Jesus would want us to do in that realm.
Well, think about the well-known prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Listen to it as if it’s an instruction sheet for exercising your faith, and growing in your relationship with God.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
C. Or think about the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer
I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low by thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
Both of those prayers are ways of exercising our faith and looking beyond ourselves to the ultimate reality of life, God. They remind us that it’s not about us, but about God.
III. S: SERVE THE SAVIOR:
A. That brings us to the “S” in DIS and it stands for Serve the Savior.
I believe that everyone has both a talent and a passion which they can use to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. . . And let their light shine, so they can unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Anyone, any age and anywhere can do it.
B. Just ask 9-year-old Riley Alward, a member of First United Methodist Church in Gilford, N.H., who decided to raise funds to help Haiti when he saw a little boy who had nothing to eat while watching news coverage of the earthquake on TV. He said, “I just wanted to do something because I thought no one should live without food or water or clothes.”
If you ask him how he came up with the idea of hosting a spaghetti supper he answers without hesitation: “Because I love spaghetti!”
When he saw the news he asked his mother, Jessica, “What can we do, Mom? How can we help?” So the two of them put their heads together to come up with a plan. Nine year old Riley has already organized Halloween food drives in his neighborhood, worked on a Christmas dinner, and served lunch at the Friendly Kitchen more times than he can remember. It was only natural to put his love of food to work again for Haiti.
Riley got busy spreading the word, planning, shopping and making and selling tickets. His mother was tasked with the cooking. Riley’s brother Braeden helped and recruited his whole Boy Scout troop as well. Both children and adults at the church were also excited to pitch in and help with the project.
Riley’s dinner raised $1,150, part of which will be used to pay for health kits to send to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the remainder will be donated in cash.
He even asked his mother if they could do it again the following week.
Then there’s six-year-old Natalie Duncan Fountain City United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, who heard about the earthquake at her church, “There was a boy that talked about it,” said Natalie. “I just really wanted to help.”
She says that she wants to have enough money to send to Haiti “so boys and girls won’t be scared.” She wants them to have hospitals and houses and water and food. Six-year-old Natalie Duncan makes homemade butterflies to raise money for Haiti.
Natalie began spending her time after school fashioning butterflies made from coffee filters, an idea she says came from her mother, Rachel, and one she thought she would enjoy doing. She decorates the filters with various colors and spreads some water on them to mingle the colors, then clips them with a clothespin and adds a pipe cleaner antenna. As a finishing touch, Natalie writes, “Pray for Haiti” on each butterfly.
The butterflies are available for a donation of any amount. Rachel Duncan says the response has been much greater than they expected. So far, they have received donations of more than $1,600, which they plan to donate through their church to UMCOR. Requests for butterflies have come from as far away as Florida, and people have donated as much as $200 for one butterfly.
Many people, she said, want to donate in honor of a loved one whom they have lost. “It’s been really sweet talking to people and hearing why they want one,” said Rachel. (2)
What is it that Scripture says, “And a little child shall lead them.” We need to be in ministry with and for our children to encourage them to Serve the Savior in all the ways they can.
We ARE called to DIS the world. To live differently. To live like the abnormal people, people of God’s Kingdom. We’re called to Deny Ourselves. We’re called to Remember It’s NOT about us and we’re called to Serve with the same kind of passion and abandon that these two kids have. We all have a talent or talents and skills which can be used to glorify God. .“We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. . . And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
What is it that you can do to bring glory to God? How can you be a better Steward of the gifts and talents God has given you? I want to challenge you to spend some time in prayer this week praying for the mission and ministry of our church and where you fit in. How can God use you to touch the lives of others? What do you hear God calling you to be a part of? Think on these things during our time of reflection. Commit them to prayer this week.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3 (Pg. 190-191).
2. United Methodist Communications
Other References Consulted