Of course this important story is passed on to us, for it is not only a charge for the disciples but it is a charge for us. And it is a difficult one at that, because like the disciples we are flawed and ill-equipped and left standing mouth-agape, questioning this call. “Me?” “You’re asking me?” I’m to go out there and tell my story and in doing so bring people to know your story? Add to the fact that we are in New England - and this charge is even more daunting. It requires sharing your story, talking about your faith. And we are quite uncomfortable with that here. We are not in the three syllable “Jah-hee-zus country” in which I was raised. So we start by practicing amongst ourselves. We stick our big toe into these waters, before we ease into the big sea.
Eight years ago (my how time flies) I was privileged to be part of a group who were visioning for the church. It was a very unique experience in it was one that evolved quite organically. But what made it unique was the undeniable presence of God. There was as much time spent in prayer, scripture and sharing of personal stories, as there was “the nuts and bolts” of business. That messy Jesus work, if you will, came first, the other stuff followed - and I promise you, it still got done. Because you see when I share my wounds and triumphs with you - I’ve changed my relationship with you. We are no longer just board members with a task. We are standing in the muck together and you are holding your hand out to me and in that exchange - we are experiencing God’s love. And something truly exquisite comes out of that - discipleship.
Two of our young guys from the church are on Nantucket this morning playing in a play-off game, my son, Jan Lapinski, and our friend, Spencer Rushnak. Now Nantucket is quite infamous for being a power house in sports. It’s one of those things our players go into those games with some trepidation, knowing they are facing fierce competitors. Cape kids like to say, “well of course they’re good what else are they going to do out there”. But there is something else - the players consistently communicate with one another throughout the game. I don’t know if this is an inherent part of the culture of sports on the island of Nantucket or because these kids know each other so well, having grown up playing together. But whatever the reason, it is powerful to watch them from the sidelines and clearly gives them a distinct edge over the competition. So we here at church are a bit of a team and Jesus our coach has given us this big charge but we have to work together and we have to communicate - not just passing the peace - we have to truly share ourselves - to fulfill this call.
It takes risk and it takes stepping out of our comfort zone, out of our building, out of our complacency and into relationship. Diana Butler Bass says “If we think of belonging only as membership in a club, organization or church, we miss the point. Belonging is the risk to move beyond the world we know, to venture out on pilgrimage, to accept exile. And it is the risk of being with companions on that journey, God, a spouse, friends, children, mentors, teachers, people who come from the same place we did, people who came from entirely different places, saints and sinners of all sorts, those known to us and those unknown, our secret longings, questions and fears."
Go! Jesus says. Go and make disciples. Go! He is asking us to take action. He does not say Go, if you’re not too busy; Go, if you feel like it; Go, if you have all the answers; Go, if you are well prepared. He says “Go!” And he says it to these guys who have not really proven themselves. Go and make! It is an action statement. Fred Craddock, of whom Joe often speaks, says “Some people misread that word “make” as though Jesus is commanding his followers to coerce people into becoming disciples. That’s not what it means it means simply disciple everybody. It’s a verb. Disciple people.” Nothing is better at killing ideas than a congregational church. We love to think and plan and meet and all of that is good and important, it truly is. But lest us not forget the charge to Go and Do! I think Jesus would use Nike’s famous tagline - “Just do it”.
The UCC Statement of Faith speaks of the “cost and joy of discipleship”. If you think discipleship is coming to church on Sunday mornings and being spiritually fed - than you are only halfway there - you are experiencing the “joy of discipleship” - now us parents who have to cajole their children here may disagree. However - this is the easy part - this is the passive part - and don’t misunderstand me – It’s a very, very important part and I applaud you for being present this morning.
But in order to disciple, we must take action and step into that call “Go and make” - and that comes at a cost. It requires some work on our part, it requires some trust on our part, it requires being vulnerable and it also means you may get a little messy. But it does come full circle, and in doing so it also means giving and receiving joy. So I encourage you - Go to coffee hour, Go say hello to someone you don’t know, Go and pray for someone, Go and give of your time, Go feed the hungry, Go sit with someone who is lonely, Go out there today and make a difference in someone’s life. Go and make someone aware of the awesome power of God’s love.