As we approach Easter with significant change in the wind, I cannot help but reflect on the nature of missional discipleship as I understand it – learning to die so that others might live.
I’ve chosen some specific readings from John’s gospel to take us into what has traditionally been labelled “Holy Week” which begins with Passion/Palm Sunday, journeys through the desolation of Gethsemane and concludes brilliantly, unexpectedly (originally) with the celebration of resurrection.
We’ll start with the (literally) pastoral image of Jesus the Good Shepherd (and of course from our very own painting in the sanctuary, Jesus the gate for the sheep), who “lays down his life for the sheep”. If we follow (imitate) the example of Jesus then we need to be prepared to lay down our lives for the sake of others – what will this mean for us as individuals and as a church?
Then to the climax of the signs Jesus performed – the raising of his friend Lazarus from the tomb. The one who has power of nature (wind & storm), disease, disability, intellect and spirit now finally demonstrates his power over what the Apostle Paul later calls “the final enemy to be defeated” – death.
This in itself is the source of hope for eternal life for us all. What Jesus was able to do for Lazarus, he promises to do for all those who place their trust in and follow Him. Even if we lay down our lives, we will be raised again. If we as individuals and St Matt’s as a church lay down our lives in one pattern of existence Jesus will none the less raise us to another.
We will have triumphs and celebrations, excitement and vision as we follow Jesus and see lives and communities transformed. But that only happens as we engage and struggle with our own limitations, frailties and fears. The power and thrill of bringing life to others is mediated only through our obedience to a life of self-sacrifice, trusting in the rightness of doing God’s will.
And lest we have any illusions about the road ahead, being crucified with Christ is painful, lonely and fraught with doubt, betrayal and denial by those whom we love, respect and have strong relationships with.
Yet the glorious resurrection shines like light piercing the darkness, bringing healing and wholeness and especially reconciliation with God, not only for ourselves but especially for those who are yet to experience this for themselves.
This is why we do what we do. This is who God has called us to be – disciples who make disciples – who belong to God through Jesus and draw others into the same relationship. This was the journey that led Jesus to the cross and beyond and the journey of a lifetime for all those who call Him Lord!
God bless, Ian.