The oak tree outside my office looks in through church windows. His eyes are tiny dark knots, his nose a long, Pinocchio shaped thing with leaves. His mouth is a pursed “O” shape about to blow a bubble. A goatee of light-reddish bark streams down like that of a Harley rider. I see this tree’s face and you might, too, if I showed you.
There are many gifts like this to see if we have the time and patience to see them. Yet more than an oaken face, I want us to see more vividly the pathway of discipleship. I am thankful for many of you who have stood beside me (and I’ve seen you stand beside others the same way) to point out the steps, to help me imagine a new possibility. What a gift you have been to this community! May more among us do what you do—live intently as a disciple of Jesus and point that way out to others.
Many among us will confess that we wish we had more time to notice the important things. Like taking the time to see an oak tree’s face, discipleship takes time, or as Pastor Mark says: it takes margin. Margin. I like that word. Margin for noticing. Margin for imagining. Margin for examining my life (and you, your life) to wonder, “Where do I see myself walking in step with God and where do I see myself walking in a counter-pattern way?” It has been helpful for me to consider practices that help me notice the pathway I should take as I follow Jesus. Your steps might be the same as mine. I bet the practices will be similar but nuanced a bit for your life and personality.
The heart and center in discipleship is being part of a community who confesses Jesus. Jesus is the center. The community shares the stories about Jesus and encourages one another to know Jesus more fully. I can’t imagine a Christian life without you, without us, without this conversation between us as a people. Feeling like I’m part of this community is easier for me than many of you, I bet. I’m up front talking all the time. My name gets printed in the bulletin. I wear a special collared shirt or a long white robe with colorful bands of fabric draped over the shoulders. You know me. I know many of you. But how well do you feel known by one another? That’s harder. And while you’ve probably heard it said, “Just go ask people their names,” I know how hard that is, too. It can be awkward and maybe a little risky (if that’s the right word). We want to help you out here.
We all want to know one another better and feel known in this larger Trinity community. I think we have to break this down somewhat and make it more attainable. That’s why we’re rebooting our Life Together Groups initiative. You’ll see more about these in the eNews, Messenger and website. I invite you to consider these if your heart is stretching out for what they intend to do. With community as the heart, the community (when we’re together in a large setting or small, like a Life Together Group or Bible Study), we share and examine the story of Jesus. We get into Scripture. As we read, we’ll see what God is doing and how the kingdom of God is unfolding on earth as it is in heaven. We’ll also feel nudged to engage the conversation not just with one another, but with God himself! Scripture leads to prayer. And when Scripture and prayer swirl together in our hearts, it’s not long until we’re wondering, “What does this mean? What does God want me to do in my life? What does it mean to walk in the pathway of faith?” It’s here we find ourselves discerning within the community, alongside people we respect and trust.
We search the heart of God together. We know what to expect from God because we trust his voice in the Scriptures. And now we’re finding ourselves in a sort of face-to-face dialog as we discern the small steps, the life application. What a gift to have people beside us in such a season. Community studies Scripture. Scripture leads to prayer. Scripture and prayer lead to discernment and we take our questions to the community we trust. It won’t be long until we feel the nudge to create more margin. To simplify and make space—time, energy, etc. The words of Jesus, as we made margin to stretch a bit, will call us to express hospitality to the people we know. We’ll love those close by. But the Spirit doesn’t leave us for long until we’re called in various ways to express compassion in places we might have resisted in the past, but we feel called to go there (wherever those places might be for you) to express compassion. But we won’t be alone in this. We’ll be with the community, the believers, the holy ones of God who are our companions at Trinity (and beyond).
Engaging in something like the above will open our eyes a little more and we see the kingdom of God a bit more fully in this world. We also learn how to walk within the reign of God. This takes time and patience. It takes sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. And it takes the gift of one another. Therefore, may God’s Spirit who formed us, the Church, on that first Pentecost, continue to swirl around us and set us on the pathway of walking by faith, trusting Jesus.
May the Spirit comfort us as we discern what to do and hear from the Bible what to believe. May we sometimes be open to change and shifts within us as the Spirit reforms us again and again. May the peace of God which dwells within us by the Spirit fill your hearts and lives with Jesus Christ who calls you to walk beside him now and forevermore. Amen.