Hello everyone, this is the last of my sermon series from January at Augsburg. I hope you have enjoyed them, or at least were not bored by them. Starting next week there will be regular, and hopefully original thinking.
January 24, 2021
Good morning my Augsburg family. May the grace and peace of the Lord be with you today. I’d like to focus this morning on a passage from the weeks Gospel reading Mark 1:16-18:
“As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea-for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ They immediately left their nets and followed him.”
Last week, I spoke about the marks of a good teacher during the Second Temple period. The type of education Jesus would have gone through, and how we all still look for a messiah figure to come and fix everything. This week, I’d like to talk about what my understanding of being a disciple means. After all, this and last week’s gospel readings were about Jesus calling students to follow him.
Modern discipleship looks different depending on the church you attend, the region of the world you live in, or the denomination you are a part of. In my experience, when I was a pastor it typically looked like the following: there was a class that met on Wednesday nights between two and four weeks and it would go over basic information about the church. Stances it had on different theological views, and at the end of the classes people were given either membership or discipleship certificates.
From there, if people wanted to go the “extra mile” they’d get partnered up with a mentor. They’d either meet once a week or whenever convenient to both parties, and go over some type of leadership book. After some time, the mentee would be encouraged to then take on a mentor relationship, and it would continue on. I want to be clear, I am not knocking or denigrating this. I participated in this style, and I learned some pretty good things, however, when we think of discipleship in the context of Jesus and his disciples, this is not the same thing.
I don’t like using the term “biblical” to describe things because that can mean so many different things, and can be interpreted in many different ways. But, in the context of looking at the model Jesus was working in, discipleship was different. Lois Tverberg has done a lot of work in this, and in an article she wrote for her website in 2012. She points out that there is a phrase that gets to the heart of this which comes from the Mishnah, a book of Rabbinical thoughts from about 200BC-200AD (1). To paraphrase Yos ben Yoezer it says:
Let your house be a meeting place for the wise,
And cover yourself in the dust of their feet,
And drink their words with thirstiness. (2)
The idea of this is, you would follow so closely to your teacher, and be around them so much to soak in what they are doing, how they’re living, and what they’re saying, that you would be covered in their dust. Why dust? Well, the topography is different in the Middle East than it is in Northwest Ohio.
If we remember from last week, one of the highest honors would be to make it through all the schooling, follow a teacher, and then go out to find your own students to teach. So, when Jesus would have finished his time as a student, and sitting under a teacher, we can assume, it would have been expected of him to find students who had been studying at the synagogue. From what we know from the text, that isn’t what he does. Instead he finds people working at their trades and calls them to be disciples. To be covered in his dust.
This was something most people strived for in this time, so it is no surprise that they left what they were doing immediately to follow Jesus. What I love about the passages when Jesus calls his disciples to come follow him, is how inclusive it is. The background, socioeconomic status, gender, none of it matters. What matters is our willingness to go and follow, then pass on what we have learned.
As we continue in choosing the way of Jesus, may we be covered in his dust, and be open to teaching those around us.
Grace and peace be with you all.