When we have a romantic view of discipleship, we imagine ourselves giving up everything for Jesus as the world admires our faith and people express their heartfelt gratitude for our sacrificial service. But the cost of discipleship will likely be the scorn of a world that sees you throwing away your future to help people who can give you nothing in return. Discipleship may mean sacrificing for others who will have no appreciation for what you have done – much like Jesus, who was ridiculed as he died on the cross.
Jon Walker in Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, page 41.
I have to admit that from time to time it’s nice to receive a pat on the back for a job well done. Perhaps it was a particularly poignant sermon or an appropriately astute newsletter article that tripped someone’s trigger, and brought them to share words such as “Wow! Now THAT was a sermon!” or “I cannot remember the last time I read something so deep and meaningful.” Surely, to hear verbal platitudes pleases me, but then the Holy Spirit hits me right between the eyes with, “Come on, Steve. What happened to your daily prayer of ‘All for you, Lord. Today is all for you.’?” It’s so tempting to want to receive credit that we – I – often forget for whom we perform our daily tasks, be they preaching a sermon or writing an article or operating a drill press; every action we make is intended to be to the glory of God.
So, discipleship – our sharing and giving of the gifts and talents received at our Holy Baptism – in part begins with the understanding that there will be times in our lives when no one – not one person – will say, “Thank you” or “Bless you” or “I appreciate so much what you have done.” For those of us who fall on the Touchy-Feely range of every possible personality test, this is not good news. We thirst for the attention. We hunger for the adulation. We would rather die than go unnoticed.
Thirst. Hunger. Die. Oh, yeah. Someone else did that for us, right? Someone whom we attention seekers often ignore, that same one whose very person we fail to praise for our reconciliation, resurrection, and relationship with God. At what point in the four gospels did anyone – ANYONE – come up to Jesus as he was hanging from the cross and simply say, “Thanks”? Even those who wept cried out of their own sense of loss and, while that was certainly to be expected, even his own mother failed to realize that her son – the Son – was continuing to fulfill the covenant made by Jesus’ Father long ago: We are a humanity who needs saved.
For those of us who crave attention even just a little bit, join me today in pledging to God our selflessness and our humility. Shall we be honored to be chosen by God for the tasks that lay ahead for our congregation, synod, and ELCA in such a way that we commit to a purer discipleship? What do you say? I know I need to do so.
To God be the Glory for all God has done,