Gerard Tucker - a model of radical discipleship
September 2 2018In 1965, in his eightieth year, Gerard Tucker, the founder of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, expressed his hopes with urgency and passion, hoping that “…before I died, Australia would face up to the world situation as it is, and that all would examine the Gospel as preached by Jesus Christ as if it were something new”.
He wrote that he had put aside all that he had learned over the years and gone back to read the Bible with fresh eyes, poring over the text with the aid of commentaries for six months. The result? “The wonder, and yet the simplicity, has been something in the nature of a revelation,” he said. “Perhaps I should have realised all this years ago, but I venture to think that many are in the same position as I was before I began this exciting and fruitful examination of that very commonsense, down-to-earth, pronouncement which we call the ‘Sermon on the Mount’”.
Tucker was speaking of those three chapters in Matthew’s Gospel (Chapters 5-7) that contain the Lord’s teaching on the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer and on discipleship. Tucker’s engagement with this text had brought him to a similar conclusion to that reached by St Augustine many centuries before. “If anyone will piously and soberly consider the sermon which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke on the mount, as we read it in the Gospel according to Matthew, I think that he will find in it, so far as regards the highest morals, a perfect standard of the Christian life.”
For Gerard Tucker the implications were clear and reached into the way parishes functioned and prioritised their resources: “No more stained glass windows for the present; no more new carpets and other non-essentials – God would understand. Instead, an interesting and exciting project would be undertaken, just the kind of thing that Christ and His Apostles did.”
This old man who had achieved much in his life still felt a restless yearning for a deeper and more authentic discipleship. He was in no doubt that such a priority of radical discipleship would lead inevitably to the revitalisation of parish life and membership. “I believe that a new life would come to this parish; that a new understanding of the Church and all it stands for would be born. But of still greater importance, many of those outside the Church would learn for the first time that the Church is a living thing, and that it could accomplish miracles today were it to truly, and practically follow the Plan brought by Him who taught that revolutionary Sermon of the Mount.”
A radical and an idealist he might have been but I think that we can all take encouragement from these insights of Gerard Tucker. We use the language of being a ‘life-long learner’ in many fields of life but how much more should we see our Christian discipleship as truly one that will occupy all of our life with Christ’s challenges, revelation and kingdom work?
Read more from Dr Philip Freier, Anglican Primate of Australia and Archbishop of Melbourne, at http://www.anglicanprimate.com.au
See an interview with the new head of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Conny Lenneberg, here.