Waimea United Church of Christ

 

Luke 6:12-26            “True Discipleship”

 

            The other night I was walking Nikos da Dog back home towards the parsonage and the police station at the end of Ola Road. Although it was night, I saw a police officer washing his cruiser. He had the hose turned on full and water was washing down the street. I looked again. Sure enough he was not hosing down the outside of the vehicle but rather he had the back door open and was spraying down the inside.

            I approached him with an “Aloha” and asked him why he was using the  hose inside the car. He responded: “Man, sometimes being a police officer just ain’t fun!” Obviously somebody had thrown up, or worse, in the backseat of the police cruiser. I could not imagine what it would be like to have to drive around serving the community with that kind of smell in the back of the car. I said that I was sorry, and I thanked him for his service. He got back to scrubbing out the mess.

            “Sometimes being a police officer just ain’t fun.” I wonder if it is ever fun. When would it be fun? I think Sheriff Andy Taylor was the last policeman in America who had fun at his job.  There are no more Mayberry’s. The world has changed.

 

            I think about being a simple Christian in today’s world, too. “Man, sometimes being a Christian just ain’t fun.” I do not know if it were ever supposed to be fun actually. Jesus said after all: “Take up your Cross and follow.” (Mt 16:24)

            Not too long ago I was in a conversation with a young person who asked me: “I see a whole bunch of non-Christians having really happy lives, so why should I want to be a Christian?” News Flash: there is more to life than accumulated instances of happiness. Being a Christian is about finding God, loving more than you have ever loved before, and leading a sacrificial life. Just being “happy” will not give your life meaning.

 

            Going back to our scripture for today, Jesus goes off to a mountain to pray all by himself the whole nightlong. He did not sleep. He did not have company other than God. Does that sound like a whole bunch of fun?

            When I was a boy growing up in Los Angeles, my father’s company Parsons Engineering, bought out Disneyland for their employees’ families for one whole night. The adventure started at 10pm and ended at 6am the next day. There were no lines on the rides. It was great fun!  We were at the “happiest place on earth,” or so the slogan goes. We were happy! We had incredible fun!

            The mount where Jesus prayed was not the Matterhorn or Space Mountain in Disneyland. IT WAS simply the place where he could be with God alone. We have had several all night prayer vigils here at the church. I also recall many nights when I stayed up all night with friends talking about God when I was younger. A night with Mickey Mouse or a night with the Almighty? There is no comparison! I choose the night staying up late with God. Though, I am happy for all things Disney as well! Happiness is important. It is just not the MOST important.

 

            Jesus calls his disciples. He is standing among all those would-be followers of his Way, and he chooses just twelve to be not just disciples, but also apostles. We always talk about the 12 Disciples. Yet, we see that there were a whole bunch more than just twelve. The twelve were the ones who were not just called to be disciples but also Apostles.

            A disciple is simply a “student.” Jesus is the teacher, and anyone who is listening and taking in his teachings is a disciple. There is a whole denomination of Christians who in fact call themselves “Disciples of Christ.” There is no Disciples of Christ church on this island, but we are all in fact true disciples of Christ when we choose to follow His teachings.

            Jesus also calls his 12 disciples “apostles.” Apostles are those who are sent out in the name of Jesus to expand the teachings. These twelve will not just be students who graduate at the end. They will be his apprentices who will take over the job of teaching when Jesus is gone.

            To be sure, it does not end well for any of these twelve disciples. We know already that Judas committed suicide by hanging himself. Ten of the other disciples are summarily martyred for their faith in the end. Only John the beloved disciple escapes martyrdom, yet he is banished to the small island of Patmos where he will pen his Revelation.

            So, when I sign up to be a disciple of Jesus, what exactly am I signing up for? In verse 20 on, we get Jesus’ answer to that question.

 

            Look now at verse 20: “Jesus looked up at his disciples and said. . . .” If your individual Bible does not say that Jesus “looked up” to his disciples, then please note that that is exactly what it says in the Greek. “Jesus looked up.” Where was Jesus that he would look up to the disciples? Was he seated on the ground? That could well be. You see, in the old days students were not always told to “sit down.” The students had no chairs or desks anyway. Very often students would stand. The teacher, being the elder, would take a seat.

            We just a few weeks ago celebrated reformation Sunday. Before the Reformation there were no chairs or pews in the church. The only one who would be allowed to sit was the priest or the bishop. Everyone else in church had to stand up for the three hour sermon! 

            When I lived in Greece, the church on the island still had no seats. Everyone stood up. The Russian orthodox churches I attended in Russia a few summers ago also had no seats—except for the patriarchs!

            So, it would seem, that Jesus is indeed seated while his disciples are standing up around him so that Jesus must look up to his disciples. Every teacher must look up (idiomatically) to his or her students. Why?

            Not to long ago at the Regency Pua Kea, one of the residents who comes to Bible Study there apologized to me that she could not remember everything she wants to say to me all the time. She has trouble remembering MY name at times. She was and is still a very bright person, but the truth is that she is losing her mind. That happens. If for no other reason must a teacher look up to his or her students it is because what they gain, we will lose! A teacher must impart knowledge to students before the knowledge is lost forever. You must look up to the ones who will carry your knowledge and depth of experience forward to future generations.

 

            Jesus is looking up to His disciples—looking up to us still today—and he tells us what the discipleship will mean in terms of our lives. We know these lines as “beatitudes.”  “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.” Some of his disciples gave up their fishing boats. Others gave up their homes and livelihoods—such as being a tax collector as we just read about Matthew two weeks ago. Already they are experiencing poverty.

            This weekend, the Central Union Church in Honolulu is having a homeless sleepover on the front lawn of the church on Beretania Street. The regular members are camping out as if they were homeless. I honestly think that is great, but Jesus did not asks his disciples to sleep under the stars for one night to experience poverty. Those disciples really did become poor in order to follow Jesus.

            Jesus continues on about food: “blessed are the hungry. . . .” Remember that Jesus was up on the mountain praying all night. His disciples were waiting for him in that level area where they are now. Were they hungry? Had they eaten? Chances are that they were waiting for their teacher before eating whatever it is that they might have had on hand. Yet, they do not partake of a meal together. The disciples are still hungry.

            I believe that discipleship might be best described as “hunger,” hunger for righteousness, hunger for grace, hunger for God, and hunger for meaning in life.

            “Blessed are those who weep.” Discipleship is about weeping. Crying out against the world’s injustices, weeping for struggles of the faith, and weeping for those whom we love so dearly who are not yet of the faith.

            “Blessed are those when people hate you. . . .” I still wonder why the shooter in Texas last Sunday had to go to the church if he were angry at his mother-in-law. No one can explain that except that he must have hated Christians as much as his mother-in-law. Those who hate, hate those who love! Likewise, we who love must also love those who hate. That is next week’s lesson from the text as you know.

 

            All these blessings are followed with inverted “Woes.” It is like that rock song that goes “woe, woe, woe. . . “ This is also very much the sound made while speaking the Greek word here. “Ouai” in the Greek. The sound of spitting something out of the mouth! 

             Whatever we experience as Christians in this world, the sacrifices we make for our faith, will be nothing like woes we would otherwise experience if we had no faith at all.

            Welcome to the true discipleship of Jesus. It is not always easy and not always fun. Your life will have meaning, however. And, you will be blessed. Amen.