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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Advent Pastoral Letter: A Call to Discipleship


Dear Alberton Methodist and worldwide JohnWesleyProject.com Family,

Happy New Year!

Happy Christian New Year, that is.

The first Sunday of Advent in 2014 is November 30, and we move into Year B of the lectionary. During this year of the three-year lectionary cycle, we will read through Mark's gospel, engage the stories of David's family, and spend considerable time in the epistles of Ephesians, Hebrews and James. In all this, my underlying focus is going to be DISCIPLESHIP. I have two reasons for this: firstly, discipleship is central to the Vision that
we have spent so much time on over the last year here at AMC; but secondly, and more importantly, discipling is the task that was given to the first disciples, and through them, to all of us who have followed. Jesus said/says: “Go and make disciples” (Mt 28:19).

I am aware that in my own life, I have often fallen into the temptation of believing that going and leading a church or going and leading Bible studies or going and preaching the Gospel are all the same as going and making disciples, but they are not. Jesus preached to thousands, but few went on to become disciples. Likewise Jesus did Bible study with thousands, e.g. You have heard it was said or What do the Scriptures say, but few of those who attended his Bible studies became disciples.

As I have reflected on my ministry coming to an end here at AMC, I have sensed our LORD saying to me: How many disciples have you made here. Now I know I hardly preach without making mention of discipleship; you may remember that recently we looked at the fact that Jesus had hundreds of disciples (Luke 6:17, Acts 1 and 2), 12 of whom He designated apostles. Some of the sadder verses in the Gospels are in John 6:60-66. Jesus teaches the crowd who have been fed in the miraculous feeding of the multitude and 'on hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”...From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.' And then Jesus turns to the Twelve and one can only imagine the hurt in His voice and in His eyes: '“You do not want to leave me too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.' As my last year here at AMC begins, I sense a strong call now to focus on making disciples.

I think one of the reasons that many preachers steer clear of the call to make disciples is firstly that, in the words of Jesus, discipleship is difficult, He says the call to discipleship is a call to take up the cross; secondly, discipleship is modeled. Jesus modeled discipleship, He set the example. The one who seeks to teach discipleship must model discipleship...must be able to say with Paul:

'Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ' or 'Be imitators of me, just as I am of Christ' (1Cor11:1).

Scary words, but I have prayed for God's grace as I have felt called to let them be my invitation to you and to be the foundation of my preaching and teaching as the New Year starts on the First Sunday of Advent in 2014 and ends on 22 November 2015. I make this invitation to follow my example as I follow the example of Christ as a fellow pilgrim: a pilgrim being a fellow-traveler on a spiritual journey, not a professional guide. 

Once again we have a very exciting programme planned for our Advent Season here at AMC, please see my Advent and Christmas booklet for more info.

This year I've chosen as our Advent theme carol the beautiful O Come Emmanuel and, as always, I encourage you to use it in your homes over the Advent season, perhaps in your personal prayer life or as a prayer at meal times. Here is the "O Come Emmanuel" version from Paul Baloche (Official Resource Video) short cut and below are the words: 

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, O Son of God Most High
Deliver us from sinfulness and pride
Restore in us a childlike heart
To consecrate and set us apart

O come, O Savior of this world
The long awaited promise You foretold
And right the wrongs that man has done
We pray Your glorious Kingdom come

May this Advent help us celebrate the Good News! Let Scripture and Spirit set the agenda, and trust Scripture and Spirit to speak and show us the way.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Much love,

Cedric 

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