Are we making disciples or sucking fresh blood?
by Unvirtuous Abbey
Gospel Reading: John 1:43–51
For Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012: Year B – Epiphany 2
There is something missing from Christianity these days as people flock to mega-experiences of church with power-personality-oriented ministries. In contrast, this call story from John is wonderful for one reason, and Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly) says it better than I can: “Recognizing power in another does not diminish your own.”
In this brief exchange, a bond is formed between Jesus and Nathanael; one my grandmother might jokingly call a “mutual appreciation society.” But it is mutual. Nathanael and Jesus saw something in each other. They recognize things in each other right away that allow them to form a bond of trust which enables them to move forward.
The story would have been very different had Nathanael fallen on his knees and simply said, “Rabbi, you are the son of God.” But this is not a story about a sycophant, or worse yet, a victim.
Nathanael’s cynicism and analysis of the situation is shockingly honest: “Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?”
In fact, Nathanael’s honesty is well known to Jesus. Jesus can’t find any deceit in him. Peter was “The Rock” that Jesus could depend on. James and John are the “Sons of Thunder,” known for their short tempers. Philip had a warm heart and a pessimistic head. Thomas, whose heart was broken by the cross, would not believe until he saw. In John’s gospel there is the un-named disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. But Nathanael? He was honest. He had no deceit in him. And for a Rabbi such as Jesus, who was used to all kinds of people, that honesty must have been refreshing.
Jesus was also aware of Nathaniel before their face-to-face. “You were the one standing under the fig tree.” It’s a significant moment. Jesus didn’t have a multi-million dollar ad campaign focused on the generational traits of those under 40, targeting the tribe that sits in Starbucks. But he did sense that Nathanael was looking for something.
Because most church communities are now in survival mode, they are practicing what I think of as a “vampire ministry.” A vampire ministry happens when a church that doesn’t know how to connect with the world around it meets a new-comer to its community. Someone with new blood walks through the door for their first Sunday, we catch our breath, we casually walk over to them, welcoming them, and sensing this new blood in our weary bones, our fangs come down and we ask ever-so-innocently, “Would you like to join the choir?”
The Hardest Question
Discipleship is about remaining with Jesus for a time and then proclaiming him from a deeper perspective from being in relationship with him and those who gather around him. Like Philip and Nathanael, we are all looking for something. And when we follow Jesus, he promises, “You will see far greater things.”
Do we just have to follow him around?
Unvirtuous Abbey appeared on the Twitter scene on August 6th, 2010. They are a slightly sarcastic, yet hopeful, group of monks. They try to elevate the conversation with humorous tweets about the Bible, God, and Jesus. They also pray about geeks, Guns and Roses, and Charlie Sheen. They have been interviewed by The Times -Union, The Practical Catholic and the Virtual Abbey. They consider themselves lucky to be among the guest bloggers of “The Hardest Question” and readily trade chores for the chance to write…anonymously, of course.