This summer, we at Pasadena Mennonite Church will be going on a journey through some values that we have identified as “Anabaptist Values.” The goal of this series of sermons is to be spend some time reflecting on our tradition so that we might know ourselves better. Where have we come from? What tradition do we find ourselves in? How much do we (and don’t we) identify with this tradition? All of this is really an attempt for us to know our story and help us have a vision for who we are now and where we are going, our mission. The series will be in three parts, Jesus, Community, and Mission, with the largest chunk being “Community.”
This week we had the opportunity to start it off with what many see as pretty foundational for Anabaptists, Jesus and discipleship. What does it mean to really follow Jesus? To deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow after him as he marches to Jerusalem. Our passage was from Mark 8:27-38, from which we discussed the spatial metaphor of journey, “the way,” and Peter’s rough relationship with that way. Then, we went through some starting points for our discussion of discipleship:
1. Discipleship is about Jesus
2. Discipleship is about doing what Jesus told us.
3. Discipleship is about imitating what Jesus did.
4. Discipleship is a sacramental act.
5. Discipleship is a journey we take together.
The first four points are arranged in deeper levels of intimacy and commitment. Discipleship is about Jesus, but it is about more than acknowledging or “believing in” Jesus, it involves doing what he said. Doing what Jesus said also involves imitating Jesus, and sometimes Jesus’s life can be the best guide to his teachings. Even more than that, Jesus himself, not just his words, reveals to us who God is. And, fourth, imitating Jesus itself is a sacramental act in which we participate and become one with God’s grace, being formed into the image of Christ. All of life is sacramental, so that even the traditional “sacraments” baptism, the Lord’s supper (and perhaps others!) are concentrated embodiments, concentrated sacramental acts of a whole sacramental existence.
The fifth point is another emphasis for Anabaptists. Our relationship with God is a journey, and it is not something we do alone. As we work out our faith, it is not me and God, but us and God. We are all at different points in our journey. We are all at different stages with Jesus, and we are all here to support each other together wherever we are on that journey.
Much more could be said about discipleship, but this seems like a good place to start as we try to delve into who we are.