I. Lent: The Christian Shape of Discipleship The season of Lent remembers Jesus' calling together of an 'official fan club' of followers (1 Pet 1, 1 Pet 2:9-11, Heb 13:12-14).
Only by following Jesus with humility and critical faithfulness do we know him (Matt 10:24-25, 2 Cor 3:18). [Martin Luther: All of our life is lived coram deo, 'in God's presence.']
By contrast, moderns turn in vain to 'historical criticism' to discover "what really happened," or 'appreciate' Jesus from a distance.
Abstract theology and shallow sentimentality imply false Christologies (Phil 3:8).
In the wilderness, the Spirit leads (Luke 4:1), the Father approves (Deut 8:2 in Luke 4:4), the Son "learns obedience" (Heb 5:8).
So Lent, and discipleship more generally, relates Jesus' baptism, his temptation, his passion, and our spiritual formation.
II. Christian Initiation: A Third (?) Century Picture
Lenten practices exemplify the importance of discipleship to knowing God.
Lent initiates and prepares new believers for the baptism of the Easter vigil.
The so-called Canons of Hippolytus describe a typical early church initiation process that involves Lenten practices:
Stage I (up to three years!):
Sponsorship, enrollment, exorcism, sign of the cross, probation, catechesis, Church attendance, prayer, intercession.
Lent also structures penitence and renewal for the already baptized. Spiritual disciplines like these equip believers for Christ's mission.
III. Discipleship in Paradigmatic Perspective The apostolic paradigm of the canonical biblical narrative contextualizes Christian discipleship.
Life from the Father: We serve the Father and forsake 'the world' for the sake of the Son (Col 1, John 1, Heb 1, etc.).
Praying the Lord's Prayer exercises our human agency in God's contexts of creation, redemption, and consummation. Keeping the Ten Commandments, Beatitudes, etc. glorifies the Father, honors God's reign, and receives its wisdom (Ps 119).
Death in the Son: We follow the Son for the sake of the Father (Matt 5-7, 1 Cor 15).
Discipleship incorporates persons ecclesially into the Son's omega and alpha, making new.
As Christ's bride, we "love, honor, and obey" (cf. Eph 5:21-33).
Lives of worship/sacramental participation, devotion/contemplation, mission/service, etc. "Christ-shape" our imaginations, minds, and relationships.
Resurrection by the Spirit: We abide for Spirit-driven and -filled fruitfulness in God's Kingdom (Matt 24-25, John 14-17).
Practicing spiritual disciplines from various church traditions habituate us to and through God's grace.
Cultivating cardinal as well as theological virtues anticipates our human responsibilities in the new creation (2 Cor 3-5).