A Message from Reverend, Jane L. Leechford, Senior Pastor
"Follow me!" The invitation is so simple a child can understand it. It is the invitation Jesus uses to call his first disciples and it appears in the gospels at least twenty-one times. Each time he invites, Jesus expects a decisive response and affirmative action. For example, Peter, James, and John drop their fishing nets and follow. Matthew leaves his tax-collector business and follows.
As Jesus' path leads closer to the cross, the invitation becomes more costly. He tells the disciples that following him will mean taking up a cross. This cross bearing culminates on Easter morning when the women arrive at the tomb and hear the angel say, "He is not here – he is risen." The risen Christ is already out of the tomb and calling the women to follow him in newness of life. And in John's gospel, Jesus' final words to Jesus include, "Follow me." (From the introduction to A Disciple's Path by James Harnish.)
As the church we are the called. So in worship this Sunday, we will reflect upon this. We will remind ourselves of the commitment to make and to be made into disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We will explore the cost of following Jesus in an unfriendly world and what it takes to do so. We will ask the questions, "Why am I a disciple of Jesus Christ?" "What is it that makes me want to follow Jesus into a world that solidly rejects the notion of discipleship?" "What will it cost me if I make the decision to follow Jesus into this
world?" The invitation and decision today are as costly as they were in Jesus' day. Many people do not want to hear the message of the cross because it goes against the standards of society. As the called, however, we need to be equipped to do this work of following Jesus in the midst of our chaotic time.
Therefore, beginning in October, we will learn to better respond to Jesus' call as committed followers of Jesus Christ. We will begin a weekly evening study, A Disciple's Path, in which we will explore what it means to follow Jesus today in the context of the United Methodist heritage and tradition. The study combines a Wesleyan understanding of our growth in God's love and grace with practices of spiritual disciplines expressed in our membership vows - to uphold the church with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness. Together, we will develop spiritual practices, discover our unique gifts, and become engaged in ministry that brings transformation in our lives, the lives of others, and the world. As we make the next step in our discipleship journey, we will ask:
• What does it mean to follow Jesus? And what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus in the Methodist tradition?
• What are the specific practices that will help us grow into the likeness of Christ and become a part of God's transformation of the world?
• How can we discover our unique gifts and become engaged in transforming ministry in the world, and what role does the church play in this process? (A Disciple's Path)
As the body at West End United Methodist Church, let us take the next step in discipleship and become dynamic and engaged followers of Jesus Christ. May we all, as the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:13, "come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ." I invite you to answer the call to be a part of this study. Listen and watch for the specific dates and time as we draw closer to October.