A few Mondays back in my Moltmann Monday post I shared part of a sermon in The Power of the Powerless called “The Consequences of Discipleship.” I want to share some more of it now, because I have found myself returning to its message often in these past few weeks. I think you will find it helpful, too. It begins with a subtitle of “The promise given to discipleship: Fear not!” Moltmann begins by reminding us that not even the sparrows are forgotten before God, and even the hairs of our own heads are numbered. He continues:
Fear is overcome by trust…This certainty is the promise given to discipleship. But it is the certainty that only comes through discipleship. And it emerges with overwhelming force in the pains of that discipleship. I am safe in God. I am unassailable…
Here Jesus does not promise that we shall be spared the consequences of discipleship. No protection is promised for the body they can kill, the family they can blackmail, the profession they can forbid. Yet we are protected in all these consequences…And God is with his friends. What happens to them happens to him. He goes to prison with them. The person who in his confession of Christ exposes himself so vulnerably in trust like this–the true witness–is a person who is profoundly secure. Whatever besets him, threatens him, blackmails and persecutes him, fails to touch him in his inmost being. At some point in his heart or soul he is unassailable, untouchable, unconquerable and serene. He is the master of the situation…
The wandering philosophers of the ancient world, the famous Stoics, taught ataraxia, fearlessness. One achieves this fearlessness if one is totally indifferent; and one is only totally indifferent if everything is a matter of indifference….But what kind of fearlessness does the gospel mean? Safe-keeping in God is not security in the chill of one’s own heart. It is safe-keeping in one another. ‘If God is for us, then who can be against us?’ and ‘Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus,’ says Paul. This, and only this, is Christian assurance…
…The confidence in God which gives us this tremendous sense of being in safe-keeping does not save us from outward shame and inward defeat; but it does give us the strength to get up again after every defeat, and to continue our resistance. The safe-keeping in Christ from which faith lives is safe-keeping in the power of resurrection….We are certainly not the stuff heroes are made of, but we do not give up. Why not? It would be so much easier. Because we have not been given up ourselves. God never gives us up- never, in any circumstances.
Trust. Trust is at the heart of faithful discipleship. It is the ability to do what is right regardless of outcome because you trust the God who called you to this particular path of life. You trust the path itself. You trust the work you have been called to do. You trust that this way is the best way, even if it is also the harder way.
And friends, the way we ground deeply in trust is to anchor ourselves to original blessing. We make that our home, our constant home, and we begin the day there and end the day there and breathe our way back to there every chance we get in between. It is how we find our way forward in trust when the ground seems to be shifting and disappearing under our feet.
I love the way Moltmann describes this. A person grounded in trust is a true witness. But that true witness comes only through vulnerability, and then, wonder of all wonders, finds herself in a place that is profoundly secure. No matter what happens, she is unconquerable and serene. She is the master of the situation. Does that mean we master the outcomes? Nope. It means we have mastered the one thing we can, which is our own center. We have anchored ourselves in trust and we can find our way there any time we need. I mention in my book that Psalm 23 describes this so wonderfully, too. We are sitting at a table in front of our enemies, and yet our cups runneth over anyway. What a wonder. What a powerful, unconquerable force. That’s original blessing.
Our confidence is not indifference. We don’t meditate to get out of our anxiety, or to forget the problems of the world around us. We meditate and pray to return home, to remember that our fearlessness will come not from indifference but from our connection to God and our connection to each other. We know the path. We can be courageous enough even to walk the path. We trust it. We trust God, because God is with us no matter what. We find safe-keeping in God, who is our assurance, and always will be.
I want to end with Moltmann’s own ending to his sermon:
So let us for God’s sake do something courageous! Choose the hope of discipleship whatever the consequences may be! Avoid the consequence of non-discipleship, for they bring nothing but despair!
May God keep us on the path of discipleship. May Christ keep our faith alive. May the Spirit reveal to us what we should say and do.
Amen, and amen.