Sermon published by Pastor Joel Pukallus
This week we commence a sermon series entitled the ‘Marks of Discipleship’ that
I will preach on across the next 5 weeks. There are three Personal and three Outward marks of discipleship. These come from the works of Mike Foss, a U.S. Lutheran author, and are a wonderful gift to us in our faith. They are featured in his books “Real Faith for Real life”, “The Disciples Joy” and “Power Surge”.
The three Personal marks of discipleship were:
· Daily prayer
· Weekly worship
· Daily Bible reading
The three Outward marks of discipleship were:
· Serve within and beyond the congregation
· Relate to others for Spiritual growth
· Generous giving
The reason why we are talking about these is this: Have you ever felt that there was something more to your faith than you are getting out of it right now? Have you seen people whose joy in their faith lights up their faces and thought: why can’t I have that? What is wrong with me? Maybe I used to get that sort of joy out of my faith. I remember when I was a kid feeling closer to God. But I don’t know where that has gone over the last years that have got so busy!
These are ways to rediscover the joy of the faith, to go deeper into our relationship with God, and there to find a God who was never far away, a God who always wanted us to have that joy, that peace, if only we would work at it. To be a disciple means that we practice discipline, (these come from the same word), and these are the disciplines we have been given.
A short story: Two years ago I had some long service leave and had what would be some of the best weeks of fishing of my life, I caught Barramundi and Bass and have some amazing memories. At the start of this time I contacted a professional fishing guide on one of our freshwater dams here in South-East Qld, to teach me to use a certain type of lure I have never used before. We went out in his amazing boat and found a school of fish within a minute. The first step, he said, is to see if you can cast. Now I have been fishing for 40 years, of course I know how to cast. I thought. He watched me and after my first cast he said: You don’t know how to cast. “Boy, this guy has some nerve!” I thought, but he told me not to worry, fishing is one of the only sports where we never get a coach, we just are born thinking we should know how to do it. And he opened up some skills for me that have let me get so much more out of my fishing since then, with so little effort. I was a fisherman before, but I get so much more out of it now. And I still have so much to learn. In turn I have recently been able to teach my father these skills, and he has been fishing for 70 years! It takes some humility for us to go back and learn from the beginning.
Could it be that Christianity is another part of our lives that we assume we know how to do, without ever getting coached in the individual skills? That is what these weeks are about, not a list of “Must-do’s or else” (How often do we turn things into law, and demands) but instead an offer to you, to open up some of these skills that will help you to rediscover the joy of your faith, to get more out of it, to go deeper in your walk with Jesus. If it feels rude to you, for me to be trying to tell you how to go about being Christian, when you have been doing it for decades, I pray that you will understand where it is coming from, out of concern for you, and a want for you to come alive in your faith in new ways, and that you will have humility, like my Father, to give these things a try. And also realise that I am not making these things up. They are very biblical practices that we are just rediscovering. And as Lutherans, we are in the practice of rediscovering sometimes lost biblical truths, aren’t we?
And we are only going to be scratching the surface. There are so many more weeks that we could spend on each practice.
The first one is prayer: Daily Prayer. In the busyness of life this so often gets left behind. Yet do you try to carry on a relationship with anyone else in your family by never speaking to them, never listening to them?
Stepping into the presence of God every day takes time, it takes discipline, but what farm chore or hour of television is more important than blessing each day with the presence of God. Again it is a discipline, and if we want to do it, we will find a way to do it.
So this is the challenge for us this week, if you have lost this somewhere, give it a try, rededicate yourself to it for a few weeks and I guarantee that you will notice a difference in your faith-life.
Get comfortable, listen to God, talk to God, give him all your worries one by one or thank him for all your blessings. Prayer is about what you need in your relationship with him at the time.
(A tip: If you don’t know what to say when you pray, open your bible to the book of psalms, and read them until you find one that says what you need to say to God that day, and then read it out loud, praying it out loud as your prayer to him. Read it over and over. The prayer language of the book of psalms is rich and fruitful, and you can always find something in there to express what your heart is feeling.)
Just this week in our Ladies Fellowship here in Dalby we did a study and devotion on anxiety and worry, and I realised how many of my own fears and worries I have been carrying around. The suggestion from this Max Lucado book called “travelling light” is to write down everything that you worry about, your biggest ones, and one by one pray for them and then rip it off the page and throw it away.
And I did just that and what a difference there was in the way that I was feeling! Why have I carried so much when God has been waiting patiently right there all this time to take it all?!
Where had I lost this prayer discipline?
Have you ever had a penpal? I did, and after forgetting to write for months I did not know how to start the next letter, I was so embarrassed. Some people feel the same way about prayer. But as one of my Seminary lecturers said: “If you had not had a shower for a week, would you be so embarrassed that you would not go and have one? No, you would go right away and do it!” Prayer is the same. God our Father knows us. There is no need to be ashamed if it is something we have let go for too long. Jump in, bathe in the life-giving water of our relationship with him.
Prayer brings us closer, it brings us intentionally before the throne of God. It is sometimes an individual thing, and sometimes something we do together. Our next Mark of discipleship is something that is very much done together, it is about the importance of weekly worship for our faith-life.
Until then, have a go at it, reconnect every day with God in prayer. Make the time. He is waiting to talk to you.