On being a disciple

On being a disciple

Listen now

Just so that you know that I am legally allowed to preach today, I have in my hand a copy of my licence to officiate. In 26 years of ministry no one has ever asked to see it. So, I have been taken on trust.

It states that “my duties are to administer the elements at Holy Communion and perform all other ecclesiastical duties belonging to the office of Reader”. That is a very general job description but if you look up the duties of a Reader then it is a little more specific. I can preach, teach, undertake pastoral work, conduct funerals and prepare people for baptism and confirmation.  I cannot conduct weddings or baptisms nor consecrate the elements at Holy Communion.

You do your best

Some time ago an elderly member of the Christ Church congregation said to me: “You’re not a proper Vicar are you, Margery?”  I confirmed that indeed I was not a Vicar. To which her reply was: “Well never mind love. You do your best.” So here I am, doing my best.

I am a very small link in the chain of people, you could say a relay team, stretching over 2000 years trying to spread the message of Jesus’ love. A message that has been passed from generation to generation, beginning with those first disciples, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to continue Jesus’ work after his ascension into heaven.

He sends them out

Our readings from Saint Matthew’s gospel in recent weeks have been about Jesus’ instructions, and advice to his disciples before he sends them out in ministry. He sends them out to teach and preach, to heal the sick, to spread the good news of God’s kingdom. Much like Readers. Although I don’t think I have achieved much healing of the sick but have perhaps on occasions provided some comfort.

Certainly, Jesus doesn’t pull his punches – he doesn’t tell his disciples that they are in for an easy life. He doesn’t paint a picture of a comfortable existence with no stress. In fact rather the opposite.

He tells them that they will receive ridicule, scorn, antagonism and persecution.  And in last week’s reading, in one of the most difficult aspects of his rhetoric, he says:  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth . I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against a mother, a daughter in law against her mother in law. A man’s enemies will be members of his own household.  The disciples may well encounter difficulties within their family relationships. Wow! I am sure that that would make them stop and think. Is this what we signed up for?

Important to God

Jesus was certainly very  honest. He never said it would be easy, he never promised an easy life to his followers. He did not offer a comfortable existence but a rocky journey which would lead to eternal life.

But as Ian told us last week at Christ Church, Jesus also tells them not to be afraid; because each and everyone is important to God.

This week’s gospel reading is the final instruction.  He assures them that in welcoming the disciples people are welcoming Him and in welcoming Jesus they are welcoming his Father. He paints a straight line chain of command.


Jews always treated someone’s representative as if they were the person sending them, so the disciples would understand Jesus words. If a King sent an emissary to another country that emissary would be treated as if he or she were the King. It was a long standing tradition. The Rabbis said “If a man is a true man of God, to receive him is to receive the God who sent him.”  This passage sets out the four links in the chain of salvation:

  • Firstly there is God out of whose love the whole process of salvation began.
  • Secondly, there is Jesus who brought that message to people.
  • Thirdly there is the human messenger, the disciple, the good person who in turn passes on the good news to others.
  • Fourthly there are the believers who welcome the messenger and the message brought to achieve salvation.

So, the disciples knew that they were not going out into the world in their own cognisance but as representatives of Christ and God,  Quite some responsibility.

A cup of water

And then there is that lovely sentence from Jesus that whoever gives a cup of cold water to  one of these little ones (which probably means those young in faith) will not lose their reward. It is spelling it out that it isn’t just the teachers, the preachers, the important people, who will find favour but those who do work behind the scenes.  Giving a cup of cold water does not seem much in our day and age but in those days it could be more of an undertaking,

It echoes the more famous words found later in Saint Matthew’s gospel. When someone asks the Lord “When did we see you hungry and thirsty and give you food and drink?” And the reply “you did it unto the least of these, you did it unto me.”

We must not dismiss the efforts of those who offer hospitality or do the seemingly endless tasks behind the scenes as others use their talents in teaching and preaching. As Elizabeth Browning said “All service is equal with God.”

Saint Paul also reminds us that we are members of one body and without each part functioning properly the whole will fail.

This time and place

So what does Jesus’ message to his disciples so long ago have to say to us who are his disciples in this time and place?

Like them we are tasked to spread the good news of Gods love and salvation through Christ. Like them we should go out into the world not sit huddled in our nice comfortable churches. I have often used the analogy of fishing in regard to mission, particularly as Jesus called his first disciples to be fishers of men.  We will not catch any fish by sitting reading books about fishing or even talking at length with other fishermen sharing stories of previous catches. No, we have to put on our waders and get out into the river in all weathers if we are to bring home a catch.

Get out

Equally it is no good sitting reading books about mission or evangelism or sharing stories about previous missions. We have to get out where the people are if we want to bring them the good news.

Jesus sent out his disciples and he sends each and everyone of us to tell the good news. We are his mouthpiece in 2023 but that doesn’t mean we all have to stand at the front of a church espousing the scriptures. We can speak through our actions. our attitudes and through our lives.


I was pondering the other day what would it be like if we had to apply to be a disciple. Often when you apply for jobs they give you a person spec and a skills spec.

What kind of people could be disciples?  The answer is anyone – look at the variety of those first twelve – some educated, some not, some forceful some less so. From different walks of life, fishermen, tax gatherers.

In today’s world, people from all walks of life can be and are disciples.There are no age or gender restrictions.

What kind of skills should a twenty-first century disciple have ?


Obviously some knowledge and understanding of the Bible, particularly the message of Jesus is helpful but some of the best advocates for Christianity have had little formal learning. I think it is far more important to be a good listener,  to be willing to share faith, to meet people where they are both in a physical  and a faith sense. And of course the disciple should be enthusiastic and willing to undertake any tasks that will allow others with differing skills to use them.

There is a saying that behind every great man there is a woman rolling her eyes – probably not true  – but behind every great leader, including Christian ones, there is an army of people making their work possible.

Let loose

So, do today’s disciples need a job description, a piece of paper like mine? No I don’t think so. Yes, I need this to be a Reader in the Church of England and it is absolutely right that I had to undergo training and assessment before being let loose in a formal way on congregations.

But I think I was a disciple long before I began Reader training and could wear these robes – I was not as knowledgeable certainly, but enthusiastic and willing to share my faith and wanting to live out those two great commandments to love God and my neighbour.

As I said at the beginning, I am a small link in a long chain of people – like being a member of a relay team, passing the baton on to the next generation.


We are all members of that team and just as with any team, we need training, discipline, unity, a common goal. We need the training that comes through prayer, through reading the Bible, knowing more of God’s purpose, of sharing in fellowship and worship with the rest of the team.

Like those first disciples, we may not find it easy to keep hold of the baton when other forces would cause us to drop it. We may become disheartened with rejection – but we will be given the strength and the gifts to do the things God has chosen us to do if we but ask God for them.  We have God’s protection and he fits us for the task if we place ourselves in his hands.

Play our part

I am glad that I am a member of this relay team.  Oh, I know I have made and will continue to make mistakes, fumble with the baton, fail to attend training sometimes, wander out of my lane occasionally, be a little out of timing with my fellow runners on occasion and sometimes be just too tired to keep running.  But if I keep the aim of the race clear in my mind and trust in God, the ultimate trainer, then I have my part to play, not necessarily as a runner, in continuing the spread of the good news of Christ.

Perhaps our prayer for the coming week is that we should all play our part in fulfilling the task of being Christ’s disciples, passing on the message of his love in whatever position Christ selects us.

‘On being a disciple’ was delivered by Margery Spencer at St John with St Mark’s on Sunday 2nd July. It was based on Matthew 10:40-42.

Matthew 10:40-42

40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous, 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”


Related Posts

October 2023 magazine

October 2023 magazine

October 2023 Bible readings

October 2023 Bible readings

Forgiveness 3: because Jonah turned up

Forgiveness 3: because Jonah turned up

Forgiveness 2: Seventy seven

Forgiveness 2: Seventy seven

No Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Welcome to St John & St Mark

Images of church life

If you’d like to support us, please…


Please enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email


CofE Walmersley YouTube

Top Posts & Pages


Please support us

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this website and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Top Posts & Pages

Follow me on Twitter