The call to discipleship is less about certifying our eternal destiny through faith in Jesus as the Christ, and more about becoming followers who continue his work during our earthly pilgrimage. Jesus was pretty clear about what that means. To follow him is to love others as he loves us, which is not something we can do if we’re not well informed about how he loves us. Paul’s oft repeated advice to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5) is not particularly helpful. Jesus demonstrated what love means by what he said and did, and for that we need to turn to the gospel records.
As the year of Luke draws to a close, it’s time to revisit the question with which it began. How does what Jesus said and did in Luke’s gospel help us understand what it means to love one another as he does? It would be naive to believe keeping the question at the forefront of our long study in Luke has helped each of us answer it in new, more profound ways. In truth, we’re easily distracted by many things, and, if pressed, would have to admit we’ve given it only momentary, haphazard thought when reminded to do so in a sermon.
The collective we includes me, and I’m the sermonizer who raised the question in the first place, as I do each year on the Sunday after Pentecost, occasionally reminding the congregation of it during our intensive six month study. If I’m among those easily distracted by many things, consider parishioners whose daily obligations are far away from church and worship. It’s hard to stay focussed on Jesus’ commandment, even as we promise to do so, which is why we repeat it each year.
I have no idea how the year of Luke has gone for others, but I decided to go back over his narrative, examining again those areas of discipleship I meant to work on, need to work on, will try to work on. It’s a never ending process with progress incremental at best. Saintly canonization with never be mine, so with that in mind here are a few of the things Luke’s Jesus has encouraged me to work on:
Struggling with what it means to follow Jesus is a good thing, so don’t stop.
Be more willing to welcome the unwelcome and recognize the good neighbor in the one whom I’ve prejudged to be untrustworthy. Really see the other, especially the other whom I do not wish to see.
Do good, not evil, even to enemies. Parenthetically, I’m unaware of having enemies, but there are people I really don’t like, and learning to good for them and with them isn’t easy.
Beyond the pulpit and altar, give those hungry for the Word something to hear, and to those hungry for food something to eat.
More boldly proclaim the good news of God in Christ without flaunting or being a jerk about it.
It may not look like much, but considering it’s an agenda that gets reexamined each year in the light of a different gospel, it’s challenge enough: a rewarding challenge to be sure, but challenge enough.
In a few weeks we’ll begin the year of Mark. We’ll fiddle around with Mark during Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter, while adding large portions of John and Acts into the mix. After Pentecost, we’ll enter ordinary time and take our annual six month deep dive into the gospel, asking the same question we ask each year. If we’re to love one another as Jesus loves us, how does Mark help us understand what that means?