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Central to the Christian life is an invitation to each of us. The invitation to “Follow me” is extended by Jesus of Nazareth to several unlikely candidates at the beginning of the gospels. The invitation is also obviously extended to many others who, though we don’t read about their ‘calling’, do get described as ‘disciples’ or ‘followers’ of Jesus. 

“Disciple” is perhaps a word we struggle to wrap our minds round in our culture. It isn’t a word anyone outside of church really uses (unless in a news article describing slightly scary followers of a charismatic cult follower).

Contained within it are notions of apprenticeship, learner, student and follower. 

These words we understand. This relationship we understand. There is a master, an expert or teacher, and there is a novice who seeks to grow and mature in the ways pioneered or perfected by the teacher. 

If you have ever learnt a skill, whether in a classroom, a workshop, alongside a mentor or just by watching a YouTube tutorial, then you have engaged in this process of discipleship. 

Yet also contained within the meaning of the word in the way in which Jesus uses it, is the promise of proximity and relationship. What is being offered is not the contractual relationship of a driving instructor and a learner…no, what is being offered is mentoring, involvement and closeness. There is a symbiotic nature to the relationship, a scandalous partnership of friends. 

It is this which makes the opportunity of being a disciple a thoroughly compelling and attractive one. Without it, all we are offered is a pathway to knowledge. With it, we are welcomed to an experience of connection and involvement. We are suddenly side-by-side with the star-flinger, in communion with the eternally kind one.

From this point on it will be easy to spot when you have been dragged into adherence to a religion. As soon as we loose sight of this gracious invitation to discipleship above all other things, then we pick up a religion which feels heavy, full of burden and judgement and which we follow out of duty which leads to boredom and resentment. If you ever find yourself in this place (as we all do from time to time) then it is time to refocus on the mentor and commit to following closely, picking up only the things which he hands you. 

It is easy and attractive to get stuck in the weeds of activity, church-life, christian culture, moralising or consuming spiritual knowledge and insta-feeds. But all that is extra, and if any of it is placed centrally then all we have done is built another idol to worship. To walk alongside the Master is the most wonderful, surprising, hope-filled and fulfilling of adventures. The privilege of being gifted peace in all things, knowing joy in light and darkness, working to make hope a reality and sitting with the Lord of the universe is a wonder which surpasses knowledge. It is surely worthy of our energy and attention. 

PRACTICE

Spend a few moments sat in silence. 

Maybe close your eyes and imagine Jesus walking up to you, wherever you are, and speaking the words “follow me” to you. 

Listen to how that feels and what thoughts spring to mind. 

Hold these things before God.