Discipleship

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go..." Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Luke 9:62

 

This past Sunday folks from Churches in Partnership (St. John’s, Vancouver 1st, East Woods, Cascades and Columbia) gathered at Heritage Farm for the garden ground blessing. After a very wet start the garden is looking very nice and some of the crops are beginning to sprout. The corn is up (not sure if it will be “knee high by the 4th of July” as they say) but the use of a reworked automated seeder showed improved results over previous years. Farmers today lay out their crop rows with the precision of laser and global positioning satellites. It is remarkable how geometrically perfect a plot of land can be.

 

But it wasn’t always done like that. Most of us have never tried to guide a plow pulled by a mule. It's exacting work, because the farmer must control the plow with one hand and guide the mule with the other hand. He must keep his eye on a fixed point ahead to plow a straight furrow. If he looks back, he will lose sight of the fixed point — causing him to plow a crooked furrow — the mark of an amateur. The crooked furrow will be there for everyone to see for the rest of the year. People will see the crooked furrows and laugh. They will poke fun at the farmer. You can be sure that the farmer will try his best to plow straight furrows next year.

 

So Jesus was saying that discipleship requires our full attention — in the same way that plowing behind a mule takes a farmer's full attention. It takes all of us— not just a little bit. Being Jesus' disciple is a full-time job.

 

Let me tell you a story about a man who understood that — Clarence Jordan of Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia. Koinonia was an interracial religious community in a time and place where interracial communities were not welcome. It stirred great controversy, but it also had great power. Millard Fuller was living at Koinonia Farm when he got the idea for Habitat for Humanity, the movement that builds houses for economically depressed people. By the way, Churches in Partnership first project was build-ing a Habitat House and we are planning another build soon.

 

As you can imagine, Koinonia Farm was experiencing some difficulties and sought legal assistance. Clarence Jordan's brother, Robert, was a lawyer. Robert had big political plans, and eventually became a justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.

 

In the fifties, Clarence asked Robert to represent Koinonia Farm. Robert said, "I can't do that.... Why, if I represented you, I might lose my job, my house, everything I've got!"

 

"We might lose everything too, Bob."

 

"It's different for you."

 

"Why is it different? I remember, it seems to me, that you and I joined the church the same Sunday, as boys. I expect when we came forward the preacher asked me about the same questions as he did you. He asked me, 'Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.' And I said, 'Yes.' What did you say?"

 

"I follow Jesus, Clarence, up to a point."

 

"Could that point by any chance be — the cross?"

 

"That's right. I follow him TO the cross, but not ON the cross. I'm not getting myself crucified."

 

"Then I don't believe you're a disciple. You're an admirer of Jesus, but not a disciple of his. I think you ought to go back to the church you belong to, and tell them you're an admirer and not a disciple."

 

"Well now, if everyone who felt like I do did that, we wouldn't have a church, would we?"

 

Clarence said, "The question is, do you have a church?"

 

Those are difficult words that Clarence spoke to his brother. But they are true. Billy Graham says much the same thing when writes, “We in the church are making a great mistake by trying to make Christianity popular and pleasant. We have taken the cross away and substituted cushions.”

 

Christ calls us, not to a discipleship of prosperity and privilege, but to a discipleship of service and sacrifice. It is a joy to serve alongside the faithful followers at St. John’s.

 

See you in worship,

Pastor Ken

 

p.s. In July I will taking a sabbatical to attend the Whitworth Institute of Ministry in Spokane, WA. I am looking forward to this time of spiritual renewal and study. I am grateful to the session for making this happen and thank Ted Buck, Ty Singleton and Jerry Dillon for assuming pulpit responsibilities in my absence. When I return in September I look forward to once again joining you in worship and ministry. Blessings to you.