“Discipleship Reflection” Colchester Federated Church, May 19, 2019, (Luke 10:25-37) Confirmation Sunday

This year’s Discipleship Class is the seventh that I’ve had the privilege to lead in my ministry.  Every class is different and has their own unique personality.  Catherine and Maryanne kindly shared some reflections about our class which should give you a peak into our nine-month journey together.  The fact that our cabin at Camp Wightman last weekend must have had ten bedrooms and these girls insisted on sleeping not only in the same room but piled together on two twin beds they rearranged certainly says something about how close they became as a group.

Now without fail, every class asks me by the end if they are my favorite class.  And every class hears that I don’t have a favorite class because how could I possibly choose?  What amazes me (though it shouldn’t by now) is that every class begins in much the same way.  Teenagers who are unsure and shy, possibly even sullen because sometimes (in truth) they don’t want to be there.  They’re in Discipleship because their parents have asked them to give it a try, and sometimes the silence in those first few classes is deafening.

I inevitably discuss the situation with Nicole and phone a friend (in the form of my parents) to talk tactics (my parents who combined have 68 years of teaching and school administration in their backgrounds.)  And I say something like, “Alright, mom and dad—here’s the challenge of this particular group.  Help me figure out how to meet them where they are.”  Because that’s what good teachers do, meet students wherever they happen to be at that moment on their journey.  We learn a lot in Seminary, though we’re not really taught how to teach.  And let’s face it—teaching teenagers can be a challenge.

Now we cover various topics in class.  We learn about and discuss: worship and the sacraments, the Bible, the history of Christianity and the history of the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Churches, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Church, sexuality and our faith, world religions, the UCC Statement of Faith and the ABC Identity Statement, witness and service, justice and peace, forgiveness and grace, and eternal life.  What excellent information from all these classes which cover all these topics is actually retained is another story.

Though indoctrination is certainly not what Discipleship is about.  Memorizing facts and figures is not what Discipleship is about.  Asking questions.  Being open to new ideas.  Hearing what each other believes or struggles to believe.  Finding a belief or two that you can hold onto.  Knowing that faith is a journey and we’re on this journey together.  Feeling the power of community that one can experience by being part of a church.  Those are some of the overarching lessons that I hope you girls will carry with you, remembering that you are loved by God for exactly who you are.

One of the assignments in our class was to read the Gospel of Luke, the whole entire book.  And within the pages of Luke’s Gospel, we can discover the parable that the girls chose for today’s worship service—the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  It’s a story I hope will stay with you.  Because when we hear the story, we must recall that Samaritans were despised.  Jews hated Samaritans and Samaritans hated Jews.  It was mutual hatred.  The times back then were just as divisive as the times we live in right here and right now.

And the Good Samaritan is the hero of Jesus’ story.  Not the priest who represented the highest leadership among the Jewish people.  Not the Levite who belonged to minor clergy (below the priest) but still way above the Samaritan.  The Samaritan was a foreigner who wasn’t expected to show sympathy to Jews at all.  And he was the one moved to pity who got outside his comfort zone to help the person in need.  The Samaritan was the hero of Jesus’ story about treating one another as we would want to be treated.  The Samaritan treated the injured man with oil that would have served as a salve and wine that would have served as an antiseptic.  He gave the innkeeper two denarii to continue caring for the wounded man, the equivalent of probably two months of lodging in an inn two thousand years ago.  Jesus taught that the Samaritan was good, and showed love for someone that it was socially acceptable to hate.

This story is challenging.  Because it makes us confront stereotypes.  And it makes us ask what good is it to have a developed faith and not put our faith into action?  Faith without works is dead (that’s from the Letter of James, which I don’t expect you to remember.)  But it’s true!  Jesus ends the Parable of the Good Samaritan by saying, “Go and do likewise.”[1]  In other words, go and be compassionate as God is compassionate.  Go and be who God created you to be.  Go and love God, love your neighbor, and love yourself.  Kelly, Maryanne, Jordan, Heather, and Catherine—remember this moment on your faith journey for today is a special day and you are a special Discipleship Class.  And may we all go forth and do likewise.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

[1] Luke 10:37, NRSV.