I am always “walking into” things, not being sure what I’m going to encounter. You are too. (Imagine an automatic sliding door that opens before you as you walk toward it…but there are no windows through which you may have an advance warning of what to expect.) As a pastor, I make hospital visits, and as I go I often don’t know how bad the health report is, what the person’s state of mind will be, who else will be there. I meet someone for coffee, even someone I know, and there’s so much I don’t know in advance about the landscape of the person’s life, either externally or internally. I do a funeral service and three quarters of the room is people I don’t know, whose lives I know nothing about. And in three and a half weeks I’m supposed to get on an enormous Airbus and fly to the other side of the world, to a nation very different from mine, to interact with dozens of people I don’t know at all.
I grew up Mennonite, as did my wife Lise. (Our two churches were separated by a half a mile.) This meant we often heard from the Sermon on the Mount, which many have said is the central text of the Mennonite faith. You might immediately think of the “turn the other cheek” teaching found there (Matt. 5:39), and the importance of pacifism in Mennonite circles. But actually it’s more than that. From the beginning of the Anabaptist movement in the 16th century, from which the Mennonite church emerged, these believers displayed a signature emphasis in their intent to be obedient to all of Christ’s commands, including the hardest ones. And as you probably know, the Sermon on the Mount has many difficult commands.
Gee, what to do with a pastor’s blog? Many things, I suppose. One idea is the “cutting room floor”, that is, writing about an additional item or two that didn’t make it into the sermon. Another idea is addressing some relevant issue, or talking about a current church endeavor. And sure enough, this blog has been used for those types of things in the past, and more.
This week in my sermon on discipleship (specifically Jesus’ call to Levi to follow him) I made reference to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his remarkable book, The Cost of Discipleship. In this post I want to say more about Bonhoeffer and this book.
I continue with what I have written about discipleship in my book, Beginnings, soon to be released by P&R Publishing: In my opinion, the core problem with discipleship, as it is now understood in the Evangelical church, is not with methodology but with content.