“Remember from dust you came and to dust you will return.”
– Traditional phrase used on Ash Wednesday
In our faith, we often use earthy elements as a means of God’s grace upon our lives. In Baptism, the water reminds us that a free flowing grace has marked us as loved by God, called to be a part of the church, and a force of salvation in the world. Ash Wednesday places a different mark – a reminder of our mortality and a call to change our ways as disciples. What is a disciple? Here are four possible answers this Lent.
A disciple is faithful. This means our “yes” means “yes,” and our “no” means “no.” We show up. We promised God we would serve, and as followers of Jesus, we intend to live out this promise in the power of the Spirit. We don’t let petty arguments, worldly priorities, or even theological disagreements cause us to abandon God and one another. In our consumer society, we are told the lie that life should be filled with effortless happiness and products and services of pleasure. People stop coming to this church or that church because they know they can find a church that scratches their itchy ears. The Bible teaches us that to truly be disciples; we have to faithful to one another and to God in showing up. “The one who claims to be in the light while hating a brother or sister is in the darkness even now.” 1 John 2:9.
A disciple is loving. At both worship services recently we’ve sung, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” This is a quote from Jesus from the Gospel of John. The love of a disciple is a love that is selfless and self-giving. We don’t mind giving up something that we enjoy so that we can provide for the needs of others. When we see poverty, we look for opportunity and ways to change the system. When we see hunger, we share our food. When we hear that someone is sick or dying, we give hugs and prayers of hope. What is most amazing about this love? It is given freely – without price or membership.
A disciple is holy. 1 Peter 1:15 says, “you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy.” Holy is one of those words that has been smeared and overused to the point that it has no meaning. Holy is Other. We are called to be other, just as God is other than this world. We are not citizens of this world. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God that is here and is coming. Are there things that we need to avoid in our pursuit of being other? Yes. We probably should avoid hate, apathy, and abuse of anyone or anything. Are there things we need attend that will help us on our journey? Yes. We should often pray, read the Bible, study, take communion, sing the songs of our faith, and give of ourselves in charity.
A disciple is disciplined. In the Gospels, Jesus would say “be stricter than the Pharisees in your faith” at the same time he put his arm around a prostitute welcoming her to forgiveness. Following Jesus isn’t easy. We have to fail, fall down, and get back up each and every time. We are called to be comforted. God loves us. We are called to be challenged. God wants us to change our behavior and the world. Discipline means training like a weight-lifter, going to the gym and aching the next day. Pray for ten minutes each day. Try to give more time and money to the God through the church. Give up that bad habit and take on a good one. Discipline means no more milk and cereal because it’s time for meat and potatoes. Read the Bible and let it change your opinion about politics, economics, and how you behave. Bring Christ into the relationships you have with people so that they know you are a follower of the Savior. Discipline means no more giving up.
This Lent, God doesn’t want you to give up. God wants you to take up this cross, the cross of being a Disciple of Jesus. More than anything the life of a disciple is the life of discipline. During this season of Lent and for the rest of your lives: be a disciple.
“Repent and Believe in the Gospel.”
– Mark 1:15