Cruising on the Disciple Ship #2
Maybe you heard about the woman who was on her very first cruise. Everything was fine until they hit a little bit of rough sea and she became terribly seasick. A member of the crew found her hanging over the rail, tossing her offerings to the waves. Trying to lift her spirits, he said, “Don’t worry. Nobody has ever died of seasickness.” She moaned in reply. “Oh, please don’t tell me that. The only thing that’s keeping me going is the hope of death.”
If you’ve ever been seasick then you know what she meant. So, here we are, week two of our Cruise on the Disciple Ship and as far as I know, no one has gotten seasick, yet.
Last week we began unpacking our steamer trunk by using the letters of Discipleship as an acrostic for each of the points of this series. We talked about DIS-ing the world, how we are called to Deny Ourselves, remember It’s NOT about us, and to Serve the Savior. Well this week we’re going to take a CIP of Discipleship. Actually, I hope we’ll do more than just take a sip because true discipleship involves much more than that. That’s what we’re going to talk about.
When we talk about denying ourselves and following Jesus, there are some major expectations. One of the most poignant incidents of this is the story of the widow’s mite. Watch this version:
May god bless the hearing and seeing of God’s Word. And all God’s people said:
Have you ever been to a party or in the kitchen while a family member is cooking and they say, “Here, try this.” Or, “Take a sip and see if you like it.” Sometimes it turns out well and sometimes it doesn’t. For me, when I asked Mary to try my Rub, it turned out really well. My youngest son, Joshua, even suggested her comment be a part of the label. That’s how “Brother Billy’s Really Good Rub” got its name, she thought it was “really good.” By the way, the rub will be for sale at Lord’s Acre this Saturday and is also the seasoning we’ll be using for the Brisket.
This commercial has been brought to you by the Lord’s Acre Committee of First United Methodist Church of Glen Rose. And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
The reason I told that is the world tells us to just take a sip of everything but especially of faith. Take a sip, just enough to make us feel good. Just enough to vaccinate us against the real thing, as one of the characters in C.S. Lewis book the Screwtape Letters said.
But Jesus calls for more than just a sip. The reason the widow stood out amongst the entire crowd at the Temple that day is because Jesus noticed that she gave her all, she gave everything she had. For Jesus, being a Disciple meant not just taking a sip but giving everything you have. So, playing with the Acrostic, for Christians a CIP includes: Commitment, Involvement and Practice.
A. So, Let’s look at COMMITMENT first. We all know what commitment is, don’t we? It’s leaving work early so you don’t miss your child’s game or recital or performance. It’s sacrificing something you want so others can have what they need. Commitment is showing up even when you don’t feel like it because you know how hard others have worked and you want to support and encourage them. Commitment is about giving what it takes even if it means giving it all like the widow.
Commitment is one of the things that makes our marriages work. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and heads us off to work. Commitment is what brings us here to worship and participate in Sunday School every Sunday. Commitment is what keeps the doors of the church open and keeps us reaching out to others with the Good News of the love, grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Commitment is about giving it all to God like the widow.
B. How many of you have seen the movie “Extraordinary Measures?” It’s based on a true story. John and Aileen Crowley have two children stricken with the rare and fatal genetic disorder Pompe Disease. Most afflicted children died by the age of nine. The disease was so rare that, at the time, no one was developing a drug to treat it. You get the feeling from the movie that it was mainly because there wasn’t any money in it for the drug companies.
After raising money to fund a grant through a newly formed foundation, the Crowleys invite the brilliant, but difficult and cantankerous, genetic scientist, Dr. Robert Stonehill, to their home to discuss partnering with them to discover a treatment. But Stonehill had a surprise of his own. WATCH
The grant was given to accelerate Dr. Stonehill’s research. But Stonehill recognized that the university was not the way to go. To really find an appropriate treatment would require all of his time, the time of many junior scientists, and a whole lot of venture capital. So turning the tables on the Crowleys, Stonehill wants to know how much they’ll risk to save their children’s lives. Money alone won’t cut it. The Crowleys had to determine if they were truly committed.
And they were. They gave up everything and pursued a dream which paid off. Megan is currently attending Princeton High School in Princeton, New Jersey. Like the Widow Jesus pointed out, the commitment of the Crowleys challenges us. What’s our Commitment like? And does our COMMITMENT effect our INVOLVEMENT.
A. That’ what “I” stands for: INVOLVEMENT. I don’t think you can be committed without being involved. And I don’t think you can be involved unless you’re Committed to Christ and the work of the Kingdom Christ has commissioned us to do.
I know I’ve told this story before but it’s worth retelling. A preacher had just finished a sermon on finding your place to serve in the church through the use of your gifts. He was standing at the door like we all do shaking hands and greeting everyone. As one of the men of the church approached the preacher shook his hand and asked, “So, John, what are you doing in Service of our Lord.” To which John replied, “Well preacher, I really consider myself part of the Secret Service.”
As Larry the Cable Guy says, “Now that’s funny, I don’t care who you are.” It might be funny but if we all had that same notion nothing would get done.
Do any of you remember the comedian Flip Wilson? He made the phrase “the debil made me do it, honey” a national saying by dressing as wisecracking Geraldine Jones. My favorite character was Reverend Leroy of the “Church of What’s Happenin’ Now.” One time Flip Wilson was asked about his religion. He said, “Oh, I’m a Jehovah’s Bystander. They wanted me to be a Jehovah’s Witness but I didn’t want to get involved.”
While that’s funny, a church whose members aren’t involved won’t last very long.
B. King Duncan, an acquaintance of mine, a preacher and the publisher of Dynamic Preaching magazine, tell his favorite story of the brilliant Preacher and Preaching Professor Dr. Fred Craddock.
Dr. Craddock tells about a church in east Tennessee that he pastored in his student days. It was a beautiful little church in Anderson County. The church was a white frame building, pretty as a picture. There were good people in that church, too. It was a warm, loving family.
But when Dr. Craddock arrived, he noticed something. He noticed that none of the new people in community, people who had come to work on the big government project over at Oak Ridge and all those people living in trailers and hastily built shanties with all those children, none of those people were in that church.
Dr. Craddock called the church board together and told them, “We need to reach out to those folks who are out here. They are close. Here’s our mission.”
And the chair of the board said, “Oh, I don’t think so. They wouldn’t fit in here.”
Craddock protested, “But they need the gospel. They need the church.”
“No, I don’t think so,” said the chairperson. And the next Sunday night the board passed a resolution, “Members will be admitted to this church only from families who own property in [Anderson] county.”
Years later, Craddock took a trip back to that community. He searched out the church and found it. It was still a pretty place. But out in front of that pretty, picturesque little church was a sign that read: “Barbecued Chicken, Ribs & Pork.”
It wasn’t a church anymore. The church had died. It was a restaurant now and it was full, full of all kinds of people, sitting in those pews, eating barbecue. The building was packed and Craddock said to his wife, “It’s a good thing this isn’t a church anymore. These folks would not be welcome.” That Church’s focus became themselves. Their aim was inward.
The reason King Duncan loves that story so much, is that when he was born slightly more than 60 years ago, his parents were living in a small trailer in Anderson County while his father worked in construction on the Atomic energy plant in Oak Ridge. Fred Craddock could have been his pastor! But he wasn’t, because they were outsiders. And they lived in a rented trailer. (1)
Luckily for him and his family, they found another church whose aim was outward. Who were Involved and Commited to the work of the Kingdom. Their focus was to reach out to the world (and especially the community in which they lived) with the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Good News of second chances through God’s Grace.
The Barbecue Church members were committed and involved but only with what pleased them not what pleases Christ. And that’s our ultimate purpose isn’t it? To live a life pleasing to Christ through our COMMITMENT and INVOLVEMENT in growing His church.
Maybe you don’t know where to get involved. Lord’s Acre good place to plug in. We need everyone to be involved for it to be the success it has always been. We need volunteers in every area. If you don’t know who’s doing what, ask Grant Kirby, he’ll tell you. The Lord’s Acre is one of the greatest examples of what the church and the Kingdom of God can and should be as we, the body of Christ, gather to work for one purpose. Come, plug in someplace.
Other areas that you can get involved in are the Mission Committee, Ushers, Greeters, audio and video teams, Sunday School. There are a ton of places to get involved.
A. The last thing I want to talk about is PRACTICE. COMMITMENT, INVOLVEMENT and PRACTICE go hand in hand. Practice has to do with the Means of Grace, those things that help us keep our hand in God’s hand as we live out this life of Discipleship as faithfully as possible. It’s simple things like Regular Worship, Daily Prayer, Bible Study, Giving, Sharing about your church and about Christ. It is PRACTICING the Christian Disciplines. It’s staying focused. It’s letting god know you’re not trying to serve in the Secret Service.
You can’t lose weight if you only diet once a week and don’t change your eating and exercise habits. You can’t step up and hit as many home runs as Cruz has in the post season games without spending hours and hours practicing your swing. You can’t play piano or organ like Dorothy, Elaine and Bonnah without hours of preparation and practice. True prodigies who can walk up and start playing without a lesson or practice are few and far between. It’s the same in our spiritual lives and our lives of faith.
B. We have to have the same kind of COMMITMENT and INVOLVEMENT in our spiritual life as we do the rest of our Discipleship. Otherwise we’re sunk and spend all of our time trying to paddle the speedboat because we don’t know how to start the engine.
One of the things I love about leading a Bible Study and small group studies is what I learn as I’m preparing the lesson. And sometimes it’s not so much what I learn as what I relearn in a different way. But Bible Study and small group studies take Commitment and Involvement.
And we need to spend time in prayer. We need to check in with God and make time to talk to God. We need to seek God’s will for our lives and for our church.
I remember a cartoon I saw, it was a little boy kneeling beside his bed in prayer. He had a paper bag over his head and he prayed, “Dear Lord, I’ll tell you what I did but I won’t tell you who I am.”
We need to spend time in confession because we blow it sometimes and we need to get rid of the guilt that is weighing us down. Jesus already took care of that on the cross, so let it go through confession and pardon.
Find a good devotional guide or a good Christian book to read to help you think about spiritual things and help you PRACTICE so you can strengthen your COMMITMENT and INVOLVEMENT.
Without COMMITMENT, INVOLVEMENT and PRACTICE we could wind up the battered old drunk who got up one night during a revival and said: “Brothers and sisters, you know and I know that I ain’t been what I ought to have been. I’ve stolen hogs, and told lies, and got drunk. I was always getting in fights; cussing and swearing. I liked to shoot craps, play poker and run with fast women. But I thank the Lord there’s one thing I ain’t never done: I ain’t never lost my religion.”
God knows that there a bunch of things that can get in the way of our faithful discipleship. But mostly it’s just us getting in the way. We’re only partly Committed even though we show and get Involved when something is going on, we don’t always Practice what we believe. Instead we give a little out of our abundance and feel good about it when what God really wants is for us to be like the widow Jesus pointed out and give our all.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. King Duncan, Dynamic Preaching
Other References Consulted