“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”.
We need to be regularly reminded of the individual call we all receive to discipleship which is all about service to God and to one another. We are all shepherds to one degree or another as parents, grandparents, teachers, employers, mentors, friends, activists in the call to social justice, and participants in ministry generally. We do what we do as Disciples of Christ because we have been called to do so, although often we might rather do something else and that is the rub! The well intentioned disciple, frail and weak as he or she might be, recognizes the cross in the invitation and responds often in spite of self interest to the invitation to help build up the Kingdom. Many of us as parents will recognize the cross in our vocation but of course we can all expect to experience the cross whenever we pick up the invitation of Jesus to serve one another. It follows from this that we would approach our ministry of service with great humility aware of our frailty and of course of the activities of the enemy who is always intent in distracting us from our individual missions. The fruits of succumbing to such a distraction can be anger, lack of peace, discord with fellow Christians with whom we journey, putting ourselves before others and leading those with whom we are entrusted away from their God.
St Paul reminds us in Ephesians [Ephesians 2: 19-22] that Jesus our Reconciler, has by his sacrifice of love for all of us played out on the cross, brought us unity and peace. God has also gifted us with the Holy Spirit by whom and through whom we are able, despite our frailty, to live in harmony and discard notions of hostility often prompted by pride and a misplaced sense of indignation. We are after all by our baptism a new creation and sons and daughters of the Father.
The Gospel of Mark [Mark 6: 30-33] records the return of the Apostles from the specific missions Jesus had sent them on recorded earlier in Mark’s gospel where they were dispatched in teams of two to heal and to drive out unclean spirits and to proclaim repentance. They return anxious to share their experiences with Jesus and Jesus aware of their weariness invites them to a lonely place away from the crowds so that they can re-charge their batteries. The crowds however have other ideas and manage to arrive at the lonely place before Jesus and the Apostles. When Jesus arrives to discover the crowds he is filled with compassion and ministers to their needs for he recognizes that they need someone to shepherd them.
How often in our own ministry are we weary and yet see the need to put one foot in front of another in order to meet the needs of someone entrusted to us by the Lord? It is indeed this level of service that we are called to and it is a challenge to show up sometimes.
Suitably armed with the Spirit however and confident that the Spirit will make up for our own deficiencies we can confidently move forward and embrace the mission entrusted to us by God. We are aware that our loving Father delights in our humble loving efforts and our willingness to trust in Him as we submerge self to the interests of our God and to one another. It is in this context that we help to advance the Kingdom. Others recognize the hand of God in our activities as they encounter the love and compassion exhibited by each of us as we go about our duties as Disciples.
Let each of us this week focus in our prayer time with God on our respective calls to discipleship. Let us also examine how we respond and let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us to live out our mission as Disciple that we may be humble and worthy shepherds.