I listened this week to good friend and authentic Christ-follower, Jorge Acevedo, speak about discipleship. It started me thinking, “What does discipleship look like?” Gosh, we know it when we see it, don’t we? There’s fruit like love, peace, joy, wisdom, a rich devotional life, high morality, generosity, and a gentle spirit. There’s more to it, of course, but the question ringing in my ears is more personal, “Am I a follower of Jesus – sold out, all in, the real deal?”
What I want to know and need to know is whether or not my being and doing are pleasing to God. Forget self satisfaction. That lasts nanoseconds in the long-term pursuit of joy. Am I pleasing God? That’s the important question of discipleship that should be the thought behind the thought behind the thought behind the thought in my mind! Where does your mind go when you think three-deep?
I want my thoughts to go to Jesus, guiding everything I do and think. As United Methodists we believe that this life in Christ is a work of grace from start to finish. In this process God woos us through prevenient grace, saves us by justifying grace, and redeems our innermost thoughts and outward actions through sanctifying grace. It is not full salvation to single out common or prevenient grace as if it, in and of itself, guarantees universal salvation. Full salvation doesn’t even come, as some would propose, when Jesus justifies us and makes us right with God. That is imputed righteousness. No, full salvation is imparted righteousness as we become more and more like Jesus.
I have been reading about Oscar Romero, a reluctant hero of Liberation Theology and a witness for full salvation. When he was made archbishop of San Salvador in 1977 he was frowned upon by those who had been bucking the government’s co-opting of the church. He was apolitical at best. The government thought he was “safe,” an adjective that can’t describe a real disciple of the Lion of Judah.
Romero wasn’t interested in social holiness and regime change. His passion since his ordination was personal holiness. Romero wrote in his diary as a young priest, “In recent days the Lord has inspired in me a great desire for holiness…. I have been thinking of how far a soul can ascend if it lets itself be possessed entirely by God.”
On the personal holiness scale, Romero was great. However, Jesus’ call for his followers is greater than just on a personal level. Individual piety has to produce tangible fruit! Things changed for Oscar Romero when he saw how right-wing murder squads cannibalized El Salvador’s own people. He spoke out. He took a stand. He quit being safe. He aligned himself with the priests who were ministering to the poor, and he paid a price for his shift from being a follower of the status quo to being a follower of Jesus.
On March 24, 1980 Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated. As he celebrated Jesus’ sacrament using the words, “This is my body given for you… this is my blood shed for you,” a single bullet turned Romero’s own body and blood into communion elements. His body and blood became the body and blood of Jesus. That’s consummate discipleship, the dangerous merger of personal piety and social holiness.
This begs me to ask if I’m willing to do the same thing and take up the cross daily, deny myself, and follow Jesus. I want my life to be like Jesus and Oscar Romero. I want to fulfill the words of Rev. Wesley D. Taylor, United Methodist clergyperson in Tigard, Oregon, “In my discipleship I will be–like David, lifting up mine eyes unto the hills from whence comes my help; like Paul, forgetting those things which are behind and pressing on forward; like Abraham, trusting completely in our God; like Sarah, laughing for joy at God’s great promise; like Enoch, walking in daily fellowship with our Creator; like Moses, choosing life over death; like Jehoshaphat, preparing my heart to seek God; like Mary, loving God so much she birthed our Lord and Savior; like Daniel, able to commune with God all the time; like Job, patient under all circumstances; like Ruth, loyal above all to family; like Caleb and Joshua, refusing to be discouraged even in the face of greater numbers; like Joseph, able to turn away from all evil advances; like Gideon, advancing even though friends be few; like Aaron and Hur, constantly upholding the hands of our spiritual leaders; like Isaiah, consecrated to always do God’s work; like John, leaning upon the example of the Master Teacher; like Andrew, ever striving to lead my family to a closer walk with Christ; like Priscilla, a pioneer for growing churches; like Stephen, manifesting a forgiving spirit toward all people; like the angels, proclaiming the message of peace and good will to all. In my discipleship, I will be such!”
It’s easy to say and hard to do – thinking three-deep and finding Jesus; looking at communion and seeing not just Christ’s body but my own. I want a life that will never ever be the same, in Jesus’ name. Amen.