Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
This Sunday we have the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel. The faithful women have gone and shared the Good News and the disciples have listened to them (this is a true Easter miracle!) Now they have gathered at the mountain where Jesus said he would meet them. Now Jesus gives them the great commission . . . “Go into all the world, teaching and baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” This is the great missionary text. Get out there and share the Good News.
I’m not sure what to do with this text. Looking for quotes for this week I ran across hundreds that said preaching the Gospel to those who already know it is wrong. Get out into the world. Courtney is taking this piece of advice literally this week. She will be talking to people about God’s love on the sunny beaches of Cuba! (We will pray for her doing this difficult task . . . )
This story begins in sadness. “Meanwhile the eleven Disciples were on the road.” There are only eleven of them now. One of the very people Jesus selected to be his followers abandoned, rejected and betrayed him. It won’t be any different for the rest of his followers. There is difficulty along the way, and we will meet it.
Then, they see Jesus, and they worship. But they are also holding back a bit, not sure about risking everything. We must admit this is also where we are on the journey. Excited to worship Jesus, but holding back a bit. It happened to the Disciples right in front of Jesus, it might happen to us as well.
But Jesus doesn’t give their doubts any heed. He gives them all (timid and bold alike) their marching orders: Go, train, instruct, baptize. These are difficult tasks. To tell everyone we meet about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is daunting, and would be impossible if it were not for the promise that follows. “And I will be with you day after day . . . “ What if we turn this around and look at it from the other direction. We are not going out to meet others and tell them about Jesus, but going out to, well, meet Jesus himself?
When I hear this message I jump right to the missionaries in far off countries who risk life and limb to spread the Gospel. But that misses the point. African churches are now preparing to send their Christian missionaries here! In the news recently it was announced that Oregon was the most un-churched state in the union. The mission field is here, in our back yard, in our families and among our friends. And it is up to us to speak. Ack!!!!!! No, hold on, it’s up to us to: “Train them in the way.” I like that. It’s up to us to help them on their path to God. God is already present with them and leading them, we just have to be of some assistance.
Jesus lays out a mission statement for the disciples this week. In our church’s mission statement we emphasize that we feel it is important to listen. Religious people haven’t been doing that so well lately. If we do listen to those people around us we might discover shocking things. They too, are Jesus, come to meet us on the way! They are all precious children of God, created in the image of God and deserving respect. That respect begins with actually listening to what they have to say, not by arrogantly assuming we have the right way to lead them, but to assume they have a word from God for us, and to love and appreciate them. Go and tell all people the Good News, and if you absolutely have to, use words.
Quotes for the Week
“Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach
It is the duty of every Christian to be Christ to his neighbor.” Martin Luther
Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us daily. Sally Koch
“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Awakening and owning the dreams that God has placed in our hearts isn’t about getting stuff or attaining something. It’s about embracing who we are and who he has created us to be. Christ is our dream come true, and the one true love of our life. But we can’t love him with our whole hearts when our hearts are asleep. To love Jesus means to risk coming awake, to risk wanting and desiring.” Stasi Eldredge
Lesson Matthew 28:16-20 (The Message)
16-17 Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.
18-20 Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”
Questions for the Week
How are you doing as a disciple of Jesus?
What is your personal mission statement? Does in include your faith? Why, or why not?