The Epic Life of a Disciple

In my last post I talked about Lasting Direction, Higher Purpose, Real Risk, Unexpected Reward. These four marks help to identify an epic life. (“The 4 Marks of an Epic Life”) As the “Dungeon Master Pastor” it should come as no surprise that I channel this into my life of faith.

For me, epic living is what following Jesus is all about. The life of a disciple has all four marks. Each one can be seen in the Bible in places where Jesus talks about what following him will be like.

Direction: The disciple’s lasting direction is the direction of the eternal Jesus. 

Matthew 4:18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Purpose: The disciple’s higher purpose is fulfill the great commission of Jesus.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Risk: The disciple, like Jesus, risks the real threat of the cross in following Jesus.

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 

Reward: The disciple, like Jesus, is rewarded a gift so unexpected it’s terrifying – resurrection from death. 

Mark 16:6 But the young man said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

I feel like these are the most basic of things in the Christian faith, and yet more often than not we Christians lead lives that could hardly be called “epic”. The promise of comfort and safety often seem to trump any the higher purpose of the Gospel. People live in predictable patterns taking predictable risks for predictable rewards.

Epic living comes from doing more than the predictable. It comes from truly following Jesus, striving to live the purposeful life of a disciple, risking safety and comfort, only to be surprised when the Kingdom of God suddenly shows up, as if out of nowhere.

Following Jesus makes for one epic life.

 

Panic & the Truth.

dragon doorLately my news feed has been lighting up with a number of stories about the 1980s Dungeons & Dragons satanic panic. Geek & SundryThe New York Timescopycat articles, they all point out the irony of the fear a great number of religious leaders and concerned parents had about the game.

It turns out Dungeons & Dragons isn’t an entry point into a satanic cult after all, but rather just a  collaborative game you can play with your friends. It turns out Dungeons & Dragons is pretty great after all, inspiring creative minds, teaching math & social skills, and all sorts of other wonderful boons.

And here’s the thing, I’m eating this up. Well… most of it. I mean, who doesn’t love calling out religious moralists? Even Jesus did it. (I’m looking at you Pharisees.) People’s cheap scapegoating of Dungeons & Dragons, and continued scapegoating of new forms of entertainment and technology, is shown for what it is in these articles: avoidance of the real issues at the heart of human life.

But there’s a part of the story that I’m not on board with. The narrative in these stories is about how the religious tried to fight the secular, but in the end was bested and made to look the fool. Faith is made out to be something foolish, Christian faith in particular. In the 80s the moralists’ argument was that Dungeons & Dragons was more serious than a game. Today, this Christian moralism has been shown to be foolish – so how can Christianity be taken seriously? D&D was once (and if you believe the commenters on some of these articles, is still) made out to be a playful front for sinister activity. The counter argument is that Christianity is a serious front for simple minds. “You’re a facade!” “No, you’re a facade!”

As both a Pastor and a Dungeon Master, I find myself in the gap between these arguments – unrepresented. I take both things for what they are. D&D is a fun, creativity inducing game. Following Jesus is a calling of ultimate significance and meaning. Is it possible for me to live in the truth of each thing? Put another way, can an authentic follower of Jesus engage and enjoy secular culture? Can pastors play D&D?

For me and the other pastors in my D&D campaigns, the answer is a resounding “YES!” This blog is about that answer, and all of the other interesting questions a person runs into on the way to that answer. It should be a curious adventure into the deep truth of human experience that lies behind the shallow facades of the everyday.

The most curious thing about this adventure is that its entrance stands at the crossroads where fighting dragons and following Jesus meet.