Good evening everybody, welcome to the 6th Annual Blessing of the Firetrucks. I hope the day has been fun so far and for our firefighters and EMTs, and especially for our fire police, I hope the day has been restful coming off the Delanco fire. The statements coming from Dietz & Watson are full of gratitude and hope, and we can be thank God today for the lack of injuries from that fire, and for Dietz & Watson assuring their employees of present and future work. There’s work for firefighters as well, breaking down the hazards of the incident: in the articles I’ve read, there’s been some strong words, especially about solar panels.
The Gospel appointed for today is rather strongly worded, too, right? “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple,” Jesus tells us. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
But there’s a key word in there that can help us, that can help us understand why Jesus would be so tough when talking to the crowds and when talking to us. That word is disciple.
“A disciple is a follower and student of a mentor, teacher, or other figure.”1 When we talk about disciples in the Church, we are of course talking about being disciples of Jesus. “The term “disciple” is derived from the Koine Greek word mathetes, which means a pupil (of a teacher) or an apprentice (to a master craftsman), coming to English by way of the Latin discipulus, meaning a learner, while the more common English word is student.”2
To be a disciple, you need discipline. On Sunday mornings, my congregation hopes that I will have the discipline to only be up here for 5 minutes. To have discipline, you must be faithful in the practice of something or in the following of someone. It’s good to have examples, right, inspirations for discipline. I remember when I was growing up there were a couple guys at the firehouse in Monmouth Beach; they were always there, looking after the equipment, practicing their knots, or working out; I couldn’t wait to be a part of something like that. In the movies we have Philadelphia’s favorite fictional son, Rocky Balboa, that paragon of athletic discipline, slugging raw eggs and raw meat, running up steps and providing an entire generation with inspirational workout music.
One of the defining things about the fire service is that discipline is a life or death proposition. If you’re undisciplined in anything from ladders to knots to how your mask fits, you’re in trouble. Worse yet, as you all know, is that lack of discipline on a fire or first aid scene effects everybody down the line; to put it another way, you’re never alone in your lack of discipline.
It’s no different in the life of faith, really. We are all called to be disciples, to follow Christ, to learn from Him, to be disciplined in how we live out our faith. In the Church, there are any number individual disciplines, but there are three different types of disciplines. They are:
Internal Disciplines: Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Bible Study, and Chastity.
External Disciplines: Evangelism, Service, Simplicity, Stewardship, Solitude, and Submission.
Corporate Disciplines: Celebration, Confession, Seeking Guidance, and Worship.
All of these disciplines blend together, of course, none of them stand on their own. More importantly, they are not ends in themselves but rather a means to an end; just as continual learning and practice help keep us safe on the scene, spiritual disciplines help keep us safe from spiritual and emotional frustration, from isolation, from losing touch with God and with each other.
We all have disciplines, whether we realize it or not; we are all disciples of someone or something. Jesus tells us today that it’s not easy to be His disciple: being a disciple of Jesus takes guts; being a disciple of Jesus means following Him wherever He leads you, no matter how uncomfortable that place may be; it means loving the Lord with all we’ve got and loving our neighbors as we love our own selves, putting the lives of others ahead of our own lives. You may have seen these things in your own lives or in the lives of the Saints; I know you’ve seen them in the lives and examples of the men and women we’re here this evening to honor, to support, and to bless. May the Lord make disciples of all of us, and may His mighty hand guard and cherish those who protect us.
2Disciple (Christian), Wikipedia.