Disciple of Jesus

The word “discipleship” may seem foreign to Episcopalians; it’s not really a part of our cultural lexicon. But it seems we are in a moment where we are beginning to reclaim words that have seasoned the speech of Christians for millennia—and discipleship is one of those words.

Deriving from the Latin discipulus or “learner,” the word “disciple” implies that we seek the instruction of a teacher. And this, of course, is what Jesus’s first disciples most often called him: “rabbi,” or teacher. It is to Jesus that we look for our instruction… instruction about what truly matters in life, how we are to live, what we are to do. It is to Jesus that we look for the answers. It is to Jesus we look as our answer.

In his stirring homily at the opening Eucharist, Bishop Daniel Gutierrez stressed the irreplaceable centrality of Jesus: “Everything we do, everything we are… begins and ends in Jesus Christ.”

We can come sometimes become so preoccupied by the business of the church—as Bp Gutierrez put it, “budgets, buildings, and possessions”—that we can forget what the “stuff” of church is for; that the institution of the church is not an end in itself but merely a means by which we proclaim Christ. It is the life and love of Jesus that, in all things, we are called to share.

Being followers of Jesus and bearers of his message, being his disciples, is the only thing that makes the church the church. As the bishop provocatively challenged us: “If we do not offer the message of Jesus Christ to the world, there is no reason for the church to exist. You have no other message that matters.”

Yet being a follower of Jesus and bearer of his message is not just a matter of words. Bp Gutierrez asked us: “What are we going to do?” Believing requires, entails, doing. Our witness to the reality of Jesus’s resurrected reign is best exemplified, not merely explained. Being a disciple, one who learns from Jesus, entails we also live like him—living lives of radical love, service to others, inclusion of the marginalized, solidarity with the poor.

May we take these gentle reminders to heart this week as we seek to live our day-in, day-out lives a disciples of Jesus Christ. As people who, in small but significant ways, do as our bishop commended us: “Show the world Jesus Christ.”