The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength

Sunday January 23,2022 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

The tie in between today’s readings: Discipleship

Psalm 19:8-15, Nehemiah 8:1-10, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

I can’t imagine anyone kicking Jesus out of their synagogue, but that’s just what happened in the fourth chapter of Luke when Jesus put the “ME” in Messiah.  It’s rare that a church turns anyone out now-a-days. The modern church is struggling from declining attendance. Blame and finger pointing run from pew to pulpit and back again. Regardless of the reasons I see an answer emerging in today’s readings: discipleship. Before going to heaven Jesus gave the Apostles the Great Commission to go out and make disciples. Here are some principles that I’ve uncovered. File them under “for what it’s worth”, but I think at least it could help cut down on the Body of Christ saying, “I wonder whatever happened to what’s his name”?

    In Nehemiah 8:1-10 Disciples have the joy of the Lord.

A remnant of Israelites just came back from Babylonian exile. Through sweat, threats and besets (troubles) they built the wall. Now it was time to get real with Jehovah. While listening to Ezra, the priest, read from the Law of God, they weep repentant tears as they discover their sinfulness. Seeing the revival breaking out, Nehemiah, the governor and Ezra called for a holy day of celebration. The people experience the comfort of forgiveness with the exhilaration of restoration. Moving forward in their new status, the joy of the Lord became their strength (Nehemiah 8:10). The true believing disciple also understands the gravity of sin as the exile Israelites did. He doesn’t rationalize it, play with the gray areas, or excuse it with a trite cliche like, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. He keeps short accounts with his God. He pursues holiness with a purpose. He knows where he came from and doesn’t want to go back. This is a mark of true spiritual maturity.

     Psalm 19:8-14: Discipleship requires Bible study and perspective.

This compliments Nehemiah. The disciple appreciates the guard rails of God’s laws. It keeps him out of life’s ditches. He knows that the Almighty doesn’t think like him and finds excitement when he can get into God’s mind through study and meditation of scripture. Sounds boring, doesn’t it? Most people would agree. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be spending SOOOOO much time binge watching TV shows or sports. Amusement and fantasy are fine for the occasional escape, but the real payoff in life is in virtuous living. As a man thinks, so is he (Proverb 23:7). There is no mark up in being God stupid. The disciple knows the Bible is more valuable than physical gold or fleeting pleasures. Heaven and earth will pass away but he is investing in eternity.

     1 Corinthians 12:12-30: Disciples use their spiritual gifts.

The Holy Spirit gives gifts and abilities to all believers, some of which are: teaching, helping, hospitality, leadership, and many others listed throughout the Bible. The disciple not only develops it for himself but to help others, especially in the church. He is serious and eager to live his essential and divinely appointed role. He’ll invest time in building up the fellowship in his faith community, provoking them as well as himself to do good works. He looks for reproducibility of Christ in others.  He is aware that gifts of the Spirit give credibility to his witness. The disciple knows that God will require an accounting of what he’s done with his Holy Spirit assets. No one lives for himself. The Manager of the universe expects a return on His investment. Our disciple wants to be a good and faithful servant.

     Luke 1:1-4: Disciples reach out to the world.

He will cultivate legitimate common ground with non-believers. First, for love of neighbor and second to earn a hearing for the Good News. The disciple looks for opportunities to give an account of his faith without being obnoxious. He knows what he’s talking about and speaks the truth. He’ll open himself up to ridicule and not retaliate, but in love, help others see their error. All the while praying, trusting, and thanking the Holy Spirit for the results. He is willing to live in a fishbowl for all to see, because he is the real deal, and since the real deal is so rare, maybe people will want what he’s got: an authentic relationship with Jesus. Walk your talk! The kinetic gospel is very effective.

     Our disciple in today’s Mass Prep may seem a little too perfect, and maybe he is, but he is an ideal to shoot for. Church does not have to be boring. Prayers needn’t be dead pan. Worship shouldn’t be forced. Bible study can be fascinating. Let’s grow in our faith, then our lives with God and each other can be a dynamic experience. It takes exercise, focus, discipline, and determination but the payoff is worth it. Be a disciple. Don’t disengage from your God given calling. Don’t end up a “what’s his name” by making the Church irrelevant. God has better plans for you than that. He has given you all you need. Go for it!

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