Upon entering Lent, the time when we draw near to Jesus as we prepare to remember his death and resurrection, more is revealed about Jesus’ call to discipleship. Jesus invites all to follow him and promises to be the good shepherd providing and caring for his flock. His disciples are to listen to his voice and serve as he serves. Jesus’ great love is clear as he weeps over Lazarus’ death, and his great power evident as he raises him back to life. In Peter’s denial, we see that we often struggle to live up to this call to follow Jesus.
On Easter morning, Jesus calls Mary by name, and the good news of Jesus’ resurrection begins to spread. As more and more see the risen Messiah, their doubt changes to belief and the story of Easter is shared, that all might believe this good news. Through the faithful service of disciples, those who are least likely, like Saul and the jailer, also come to believe in the hope of Jesus.
The early church continues to proclaim the gospel, inviting others into the life of discipleship. These church leaders learn to live in hope, trusting that God’s grace is sufficient even in trials. They continue to rejoice in God’s goodness and love in all situations as they are equipped to serve in Jesus’ name. As they answer God’s call to be the church, the gifts of God’s grace are ever present
Jesus’ ministry continues as he calls those around him into new life. Each interaction reveals more about Jesus’ identity and the promises of God, as well as God’s desire for all to know abundant life. From invitations to be born anew through the Spirit, to promises of living water, these encounters with Jesus leave the individuals changed and further illustrate Jesus’ purpose and ministry of bringing life to all.
In the beginning of John’s Gospel, Jesus’ ministry is launched with his baptism by John. These stories represent a series of first encounters: Jesus’ first interaction with the disciples, his first miracle, and his first conflict with the religious establishment. While these early stories in the Gospel reveal Jesus’ power and his call to discipleship, they also set up questions regarding his true identity as Jesus hints—even now—that he is headed to the cross.
God’s everlasting promise to be in relationship with the Israelites and all creation allows hope to take root in even the most hopeless circumstances. God continues to provide and be faithful, bringing life where there was once death, like dry bones being gathered back to life. As texts move into the New Testament in this Advent season, hope is ultimately embodied in human form as God will go to any length to show love, even becoming flesh and dwelling with us. God’s presence is found among us in the humble form of a child in Jesus, the one who brings true life to all.
As the Israelites turn away from God and forget their calling to serve as a blessing to all nations, the prophets call them back to relationship with their creator. The prophets offer promises of hope to a people lost and dejected, reminding them that God will never abandon them and promises a future filled with hope. The people may have turned from God, but God will not turn away from them. God’s plan for their future, and ours, is bright and filled with hope.
God continues to invite unlikely people to be great leaders and pillars of the faith. These imperfect leaders answer God’s call, allowing God to work through them in remarkable ways, even as their faults are sometimes evident. God’s presence serves as a constant source of strength and peace which equips them to serve.
Each of us are invited into a life of discipleship by our loving Creator. God’s continued presence and abounding grace allows us to answer God’s call, and through those blessings, to live in hope as we serve Jesus through our neighbor.
In John 17:3, Jesus says that the life we all desire can only be found in “Knowing God.” Jesus claims this is the ultimate solution for every problem, but what does it mean to truly “know God?” This will be the focus of a sermon series that will run through Labor Day weekend. Are you wrestling with deep challenges in your life? I invite you to return to Jesus this Sunday to seek the answer for the pain we all face.
We will begin the summer by celebrating how far God has enabled our congregation to grow as we pursue the mission he has given to us. Pastor Jason will highlight the results from the Transforming Church Insight (TCI) Survey while lifting up the biblical principle by which we measure our life together. He will also share stories from his 25 years in the life of the church, considering how far we have come. Beginning mid-July, we will consider how much farther God is calling us to go as Pastor Clint lifts up the strategic initiatives that leaders of the church have recently identified. These initiatives will guide our life together for the next three to five years.