An Invitation: Of a Lifetime
October 18, 2009
Michael Maloney, Lay Speaker
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! God is glad that you are here today and so am I. The title and topic for this morning is “An Invitation: Of A Lifetime.” I am very excited about this topic and I sincerely hope you will be just as excited about it.
This morning, I would like to extend an invitation – I would like to invite you to become a Disciple. Friends, won’t you take a look at the Litany in the bulletin? Can we re-read the second paragraph together in its entirety?
All Christian ministry is Christ’s work of outreaching love.
It demonstrates a common life of gratitude and devotion, witness and service, celebration and discipleship.
All Christians are called to Christ’s servanthood in the world, to the glory of God and for human fulfillment.
While the entire Litany this morning begins to explain the work of a disciple, it is this paragraph which I think says it best – “All Christians are called.”
What is a Disciple? A disciple is one who is called, called to accept Christ and his teachings. It is about being a learner, a student, a follower, of Jesus Christ himself. It is about embracing Jesus Christ.
Disciples were the followers of Jesus Christ during his ministry, and the word Disciple commonly refers to “the twelve” – the very first disciples. It is used today as a way of self-identification for those who seek to learn from the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Being a Disciple is about loving God. It is more than an acknowledgement of God’s existence. It is more than just a statement of belief regarding God. It is total devotion, head-over-heals-in-love-with adoration. It is the deep desire to know God, to be one with God, and to worship God.
When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, his response was:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38)
I would like to share some of my background with you this morning.
I grew up on a small farm in Mummasburg, Pennsylvania. Mummasburg is a few miles from Gettysburg and in fact, the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg took place on the Mummasburg Road. At the far corner of our land stands a small post-Civil War era church. The building is unique looking, appearing much like an old, one-room school house. As a child, I have vivid memories of the sound of music and singing that took place there every Sunday morning. The desk in my bedroom overlooked the field and I remember just looking at it from afar.
Friends, I point this out because “way back then,” I knew about the church, I knew about God, I knew about Jesus Christ. But I did not know the church, I did not know God, I did not know Jesus Christ as deeply as I could have. I didn’t discover what being a disciple was really about for thirty-eight years. I lived my life as a believer, but not as an actor.
I began to feel the draw to Jesus Christ as a young man. I began to feel the calling to becoming a disciple in this very church, under this very roof about six years ago. And at the helm – the brightest of lights, the one and only, Pastor Anthony Godlefski. The turning point in so many ways began with his words one December morning; two words, “unto you.”
"For unto you is born this night in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord." That's what the shepherds heard – not unto them, not unto somebody else, not unto this group of people or that group of people – unto you. It is something to be taken very personally. Unto you.
You see, I saw that becoming a Disciple is something I could do in response to God’s gracious love and acceptance of me as worthy. Being a Disciple requires action. It is the truest of callings and I am happy to share with you today that I am a Disciple. I truly believe that I have been called as a Disciple and I rise to that challenge each and every day.
Jesus has a goal and that goal is to bring every person, in every part of the world, in every generation, to God. He spent three years preparing twelve Disciples for the outcome of His purpose. He taught them to go into every part of the world and win other disciples.
The Great Commission is found in Matthew and best explains the meaning of Discipleship. It is one of the most important verses in the Bible:
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20)
In today’s Gospel Lesson, we learn about getting the word out and about following the leader. In Mark 1:14-15,
The Bible says that Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God. He said, "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news." Jesus wanted everyone to know the good news of God's love for them. The best way to spread that good news of God's love is the same today as it was in Jesus' day. The best way is to tell others about it!
In Mark 1:16-20, Jesus was walking along the sea shore and He saw two fishermen, Peter and Andrew, who were throwing their fishing nets out into the sea. Jesus called out to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." They laid down their nets and followed Jesus. Jesus continued walking and he came across two more men, James and John sitting in their boat mending their nets. Jesus called out to them and they left their boat and followed Jesus.
Jesus is still calling people to follow him today. He has called you and me to follow him. It is now up to us to decide if we will follow the leader.
Friends, the journey to becoming a disciple begins right here, with your very presence this morning. When persons unite as professing members with a local United Methodist church, they profess their faith in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; in Jesus Christ his only Son, and in the Holy Spirit. Thus they make known their desire to live their daily lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. They covenant together with God and with the members of the local church to keep the vows which are a part of the order of confirmation and reception into the church.
Each of us is called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. When we accept all that Christ offers, we accept the call to discipleship. Each of us is fully equipped for the unique and individual ministry to which God calls us. I invite you this morning to embrace becoming the Disciple that you are meant to be. Won’t you become a learner, a student, a follower – a disciple – of Jesus Christ too? If you listen closely, he is calling you. I hope you hear that call.
As we greet you in the hallway after the service, we’ll be introducing you to a very powerful disciple. It’s someone pretty special - I am truly excited about this….
In closing, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement, a Disciple, had this to say when encouraging others in their discipleship: “O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way.”
I too extend these words of encouragement to you – as a Disciple to a Disciple.
*[As everyone exited the service, they were introduced to a very special Disciple - standing between Pastor Tony and myself – A Mirror…]
1 432 The United Methodist Book of Worship
2 ¶ 217 The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2008
© 2009 Michael Maloney