Pastoral note for September
As I was preparing a sermon for the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul in June, I came across an article adapted from The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Lives in God, by Dallas Willard. I confess that I was not familiar with this work nor its author, but have since put the book on my reading list, as well as some others by Willard.
In The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teaching on Discipleship, Willard writes: “The greatest issue facing the world today… is whether those who are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom into every corner of human existence.”
When we apprentice with someone, we do so in order to learn a particular skill set. In the case of discipleship, we learn how to live within God’s kingdom or reign of justice, mercy and peace. Willard writes, “I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would… if he were ￼me. I am learning how to do everything in the manner in which he did all that he did.”
How do we learn to live the whole of our lives in the manner in which Jesus lived his life? Given the unique circumstances of your life and mine, how might we enter into and experience God’s transformation more wholly? “Seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well… Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 6:33, 7:7)
“Our sanctification does not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for God’s sake which we commonly do for our own.”
First, ask to see and know the Holy One more deeply. Seek the God who is ever seeking us. Learn about the One from whom all blessings flow; discover, delight in and wrestle with the stories of our faith, both personally and communally. Practise, however imperfectly, the good news of God’s saving love for “the least of these.”
And, perhaps most importantly, Willard stresses the need to declare our intention to God and others about being a disciple. That may feel a bit extremist, but the reign of God has a way of undermining the norms of society and church. The good news is that we do not have to be perfect disciples. Of course, we strive for excellence in our apprenticeship, but ultimately our worth and redemption are not contingent upon the success of our works.
Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century lay brother, remarks, “Our sanctification does not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for God’s sake which we commonly do for our own.” As disciples of Christ, let’s enter this fall with renewed intention to work- ing with and being companioned by the lover and healer of all.
– Jennifer Sisson, Archdeacon of Winnipeg – St. John and a Commissary for the Bishop during his sabbatical