Armodoxy for Today: Discipleship
This weekend the Armenian Church celebrates the “72 disciples of Jesus.” Before you accuse me of having my thumb on the scale, adding an extra 60 to the group we’re all familiar with, read the details in the Gospel of Luke (chapter 10), “The Lord appointed seventy-two others also, and sent them two by two before Him into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.‘”
Discipleship in the Gospel was a calling given to a group of students, in this case of Jesus, with a mission. Jesus sent these 72 disciples with these words, “Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
With these words, Jesus sets the tone for Christian missionary activity. It is focused. It is selfless service. It is to spread the Gospel which, as we hear in the passage, it centered in peace. With this same invitation many people have followed the call of Jesus, some into the clergy, others, have embraced it as a way of life as their personal lay ministry.
It is from this passage that Christianity was delivered and spread. In the case of the Armenian Church, when we reflect on its apostolic roots, today we are reminded that the holy apostles, be they Thaddeus, Bartholomew or one of the others, were part of this mission. Everything we know of Jesus, His Love and His teachings was delivered to us because of the work of these faithful disciples of Jesus, working through this Holy Body, the Church.
The word “disciple” may conjure images of men in the apostolic age. DaVinci’s “Last Supper” is perhaps one of the most famous depictions of Jesus with his twelve disciples. Today’s focus on the 72 help us go beyond the stereotypical images. In the passage we read, note that the 72 are referred without reference to gender. In the early Church discipleship was accessible by all.
At every moment of our lives, we are invited to be disciples of Christ. Never look further than yourself to find the necessary openness to the divine teaching of Jesus Christ.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the most prominent Protestant theologians of the 20th century, was killed by the Nazis during World War II, for his defense of the Jewish populations. He was outspoken about the despicable and horrid treatment of that population. His weapon of criticism was the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he went to his death in defense of that Gospel. He wrote much about discipleship.
On this weekend where we focus on discipleship, I leave you with these words of Bonhoeffer on discipleship and Grace. Here are words for contemplation, for meditation:
True discipleship is characterized by obedience to Christ. There is “cheap” and “costly” grace. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. It is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. In contrast to cheap grace, costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus. It comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Cover photo: Disciple at Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, 2014 Fr. Vazken