November 19

Six Marks of Discipleship

By Marsh Chapel

(The six summary meditations here were punctuated in worship by the choir singing the corresponding Frostiana pieces).

  1. Vocation

Televised Tavis Smiley asked Maya Angelou this week to name the essence of what Dr. Martin Luther King, whose sculpture adorns our plaza this morning, was all about. “Love”, she said.

One untelevised scribe, records Mark, asked Jesus, whose people we are, to name the essence of what he was all about. “Love”, he said.

Simple but excruciating. Easy but difficult. Too good to be true, and too true to be good.

This autumn, while listening to the Gospel of Love in St Mark, we have awaited this word with choral embraces to help us each week. We lost our theological way, fifty years ago. Our choir has been asked to embed our preaching in the music and poetry of fifty years past, Frost and Thompson, for a purpose. The purpose has been to recall, and perhaps reclaim, a trail lost for a time, one of a common hope for love. Go back to the spot you last remember where you knew where you were.

Find your back to a sense of vocation, of calling. Life is about decisions. We have the choice to live as those who have survived and who have further survived our own survival, who have moved from guilt to gift. We have the power to choose a road grassy and wanting wear…

  1. Invitation

You have what you give away. You only true possess what with joy

you can give somebody else. The most precious gift, in love, is your time, your welcome. Never discount the power of welcome.

Our liturgy, in the church, is our welcome.

Our teacher and Dean, Dr. Ray Hart, challenges and reminds us: What we have been culpably inattentive to is that in the same period of the modern cosmological revolution the arts have been more attuned to that revolution than has the Church. Is Schoenberg our Palestrina? Kandinksky, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollack our Raphael, Michelangelo? Merce Cunningham our choreographer? Et cetera, et cetera? Are we liturgically alive? (BUSTH matriculation sermon, 2004)

Power in the power of invitation is good news for the community of faith, for you. There is no greater joy in Christ than sharing the joy of Christ. You come too, you come too…

  1. Communication

All life is meeting’, taught Martin Buber. If we are ever to be saved, to become real persons in communities of real persons, we shall have to seek the gifts of communication. Go and learn, we are taught. Would you see Christianity reborn? Be careful what you say.

Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice… Incarnation, Integrity, Interdependence, Theology, Tithing. Otherwise, we have a failure to communicate.

  1. Leadership

The chancel choir harmony, SATB, reminds us of the four voices in every Gospel text: the soprano of Jesus’ teaching; the alto—most important—of its formation in the early church; the tenor of the evangelist; and the bass line of historic church interpretation.

Neither do the Gospels avoid engagement with the practical issues of community life. Chief among these is leadership. Every one of us has some power. If you have a pen, a telephone, a computer, email, a tongue, a household, a family, a job, a community, a church—then you have some authority.

Who taught you, by precept and example, how to use it? How much of what you picked up needs keeping and how much needs to be put out on the curb? A simple passion for the common good of the servants of God is at the heart of leadership.

Here is leadership: simple, authentic service. Tell me what it was you said…What was it that you thought you heard…

  1. Freedom

You know, it is possible to miss the forest for the trees. Today we look at the full forest.

Stop for a moment, by the woods. East, West, South, and especially due North, here is a natural survey of majestic freedom, symbolic of the Bible—its main theme
freedom, and its four compass points of faith, fact, fairness, and future. The Bible is a book about freedom.

God is loving us into love and freeing us into freedom. The pulpit is freedom’s voice. The church is freedom’s defense. And the Bible is freedom’s book. The Bible is a survey of freedom.

We can pause for a moment and bask in the silent deeps of freedom, as if by the woods, on a snowy evening…

6. Hope

For we are a people in need of a rebirth of hope. On reliable hope hangs the future. Are we living with abandon? Are we living with hope? Are we living with hopeful abandon?

We are a people in need of a new rebirth of hope.

Hope that is responsible, communal, sacrificial, and orderly. Hope that moves us from political cowardice to religious courage. Look: she has given her whole life. Hope that, with Ruth and Wiesel and OMalley and Wright and Macquarrie and—especially—a certain watchful widow– asks of us a certain height, a hope, so when at times the mob is swayed, a hope, we may take something like a star…


Others have shown us something of thanksgiving, of being truly alive, in vocation and invitation and communication and leadership and freedom and hope. One old north country exemplar comes to mind at this time every year, Max Coots, who wrote:

“Let us give thanks for a bounty of people:

For children who are our second planting, and though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are….

For generous friends with hearts and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them;

For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the other, plain as potatoes and as good for you;

For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels Sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem Artichokes, and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;

And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, and who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;

For all these we give thanks.”

by Reverend Max Coots

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