Sermon,  Sermons

Catching Fire: Markan Discipleship

Trinity Sunday and Peace & Justice Sunday

It is Enough,
The Rev. R. DeAndre Johnson
2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Mark 16:15-18

sermon video

Overnight in a village in the middle of Turkey, 4 of us (2g,2b) an extended family generously took us in. The next morning, the men invited the guys to take a hike up the nearby foothills. When they indicated the women couldn’t go too, I explained in my broken Turkish, well, where I grew up there are, büyük dağ, there are big mountains, so of course, I should be able to hike with all the men, too. But I wasn’t hearing, You are communicating something very different when you insist on joining the men to climb.

Until a friend gently brought this to my attention. By asserting my ability and right to climb that mountain, I was hurting my witness of Jesus’ love and presence to this family who showed God’s love to us by opening their home to us.

And my friend was acting in a Lukan discipleship way by gently encouraging me to first show love by hearing the invitation in this situation – to give up my perceived right, and be a gracious guest.

“Most churches have forgotten how to do discipleship,” says Michelle Morris, author of Gospel Discipleship. Her research on this subject became more focused when she realized that each of the 4 gospel writers highlight different aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry, and, specifically, the last words Jesus spoke. You might think, Jesus’ last words have got to be fairly important! And you would be right.

But, instead of viewing this detail as confusing – how can one say that the last words recorded in Mark, for example, are more important than those found in John? – Morris recognized that each gives a sense for how the writer engaged his relationship with and to Jesus. And by providing 4 examples/perspectives, I can learn more about how I resonate with what it means to follow Jesus, relate to Jesus – and how that looks as I live in and engage the world.

So, here are “some of the characteristics of Markan Discipleship, seen through the lens of these last words spoken by Jesus before his ascension:

  • Markans are empowered by the Holy Spirit, believe in miraculous events, are creative and unbound, and a bit chaotic in their expression of discipleship.”  
  • Apparently, those who resonate with Markan style discipleship use the word Fire a lot in their imagery. Maybe that’s why my last sermon was entitled, Rings of Fire?! Identifying Spiritual gifts and helping others to use them is a Markan way of leading and discipling. And speaking of leadership, Markan’s are all about flat, shared leadership that is egalitarian and collaborative.
  • Markans are not big fans of mission and vision statements as they are limiting, confining. Hearing the Spirit in each situation is super important. Still, you can already see that, when it comes to strategic planning, Markans are “susceptible to missing the will of the Spirit.” So, they need other visionaries who are listening, as well.

And we all have the same Spirit!

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

… Put things in order, listen … agree with one another, live in peace!

… the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

And hear Jesus’ last words again:

15And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation16The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’

Mark 16:15-18

What does this look like in our seriously hurting world, right now?

Frist, hear the statement the NIC Cabinet of the UMC sent out the other day:

A Statement from the NIC Cabinet

Today we write to you as an extended cabinet: Bishop Sally Dyck, the six District …we call ourselves, our conference and our churches to engage in real prayer, take real action, and live in the real hope that justice, love and reconciliation is possible.  

If I say that I follow Jesus, I have the responsibility to stand with the oppressed.

We begin by educating ourselves.

Here’s a good way to start! (thanks, to our daughter, Samantha, for sharing this)

Education is everything.

Equal opportunity for well-funded schooling. Research your own state’s school funding practices. Talk about it. Be creative with ideas. Share them.

I suspect that were kinship our goal, we would no longer be promoting justice—we would be celebrating it. 

—Gregory Boyle

For those who believe, these are the signs that accompany them:

with Jesus’ name, you will cast out demons of racism, you will speak in new tongues of justice, you will pick up, grasp, the scheming snakes of rhetoric that justifies drawing lines to protect the interests of the already privileged and perpetuates the exploitation of the under-resourced, and if you are given the poisonous, deadly drink of indifference you will not be impaired;

if you call on the name of Jesus, you will go out with Divine power – not the kind of power that seeks to control and managed, the kind that crushes and kills – no, you will go out with the power that heals. With a touch of your hand, you will heal the wounds and lacerations of systemic injustice – and all of us will recover.

A disciple of Jesus follows Jesus. A disciple of Jesus follows Jesus, who shows us what to do (share the good news of God’s supreme love and righteousness), who we are in relationship to God (image-bearers, reconciled), how to draw on the power of that Source (mindful, prayerful presence; openness – eyes to see…)

A disciple of Jesus calls others to join us along for the journey, showing them and teaching them how to follow Jesus, who we are in relationship to God how to be empowered by the Source – the one who unleashed tongues of FIRE! And released the power of God that will heal all our wounds that systemic injustice injures on every side of the system (remember MLKJs insight, “no one is free until we all are free”), and by this power – if we only extend a hand to be a part of that healing – ALL of us will recover.

“For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
   it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
   it will surely come, it will not delay.”

Habakkuk 2:3

You can be a disciple of Jesus in the way of Mark’s gospel-telling by joining in on a Gospel Discipleship Discussion Group over “coffee hour:” Meet together safely with a neighbor your already interacting with, join a Zoom gathering. You may also start your own virtual coffee hour discussion using whatever platform works for you (e.g., FB msg, Google Meet, etc.)

And begin to talk about creative ways we can be disciples in this hurting world. How does your own style/perspective resonate with doing this? What is your inclination – how do you experience Jesus’ heart and invitation in the chaos of facing systemic racism in our country in the midst of a global pandemic?

Talk about it. Listen. Be disciples of Jesus Christ. You have the power – the power to heal!


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