Sunday, 15 June 2014
Trinity Sunday 15 June 2014 Matthew 28:26-20 Bruce
What is the most important word in our Gospel reading today? If you had to underline what you thought was the most significant word or phrase, which would you choose? When I was first a Christian, I think I would have chosen “I am with you always”. What a comfort! We say as part of the liturgy “The Lord is here, his Spirit is with us.” We have not been left as orphans. More recently I have been thinking about the word “Go”. Jesus never commanded us to sit in church waiting to see who turns up. Instead we talk about the “Great Commission”, where Jesus tells us to go. Except … What Jesus actually says is “As you are going, disciple the nations, the peoples of the world”. He assumes that we will be going, and he focusses on the main task, which is to “Disciple” others. What he does not say: make converts, recruit members, try to drag people into the kingdom. Even to use the phrase to “make disciples” implies that we are doing something to change people from what they are at the moment into something else. When we disciple people, we look for those who are open for all that God has for them, and are seeking after God. I am convinced that there are many like this. The problem is that they may not be in the church! Therefore we have to go, to have a chance of meeting them! We have to spend time alongside folk, sharing their lives and their concerns, and sharing with them our personal journey with God. They are not necessarily looking for experts, but friends to accompany them. If to “disciple” is the active, doing word, and “going” is the participle, the “ing” word, then there are two other “ing” words that Jesus gives us in this passage to show how we do this. By “baptising” folk, we immerse them in the life of God and his family here on earth, the church. Baptism is a service, a collection of words and action that we call liturgy. As we share with those we are called to disciple the life of the church that we have received over 2000 years, the traditions that have been handed down to us, so we enable them to take their part in a community that has been worshipping continuously since before the beginning of time. We join in the song of angels and those around the throne: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord!” We learn to sing praise in good times and bad: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, worship his holy name.” There is a sharing, a fellowship, a koinoia, which spills over in everyday acts of love and kindness that speak of God’s presence in us and among us. By “teaching”, we help each other to know and obey the commands of Jesus. If you think that you can keep coming to church and yet remain the way you are now, you will be disappointed. We each have a duty and a calling to “provoke one another to good works”. As we seek to live well, so our characters are being changed by God to become more and more like that of Jesus. it is our constant and persistent failures that have an effect; we learn to place our trust not in ourselves and our own moral vigour, but in God and his Holy Spirit who is at work within us. Why do we do all this? Because Jesus has been given “all authority” over the whole of creation. To follow and obey Jesus is not an optional extra, for those keen and gifted Christians who are in some way set apart, while the rest of us get on with it, content to live at a lower and perhaps less demanding level. Notice that the disciples obeyed the command of Jesus through the women and went to the mountain where he had told them to go. Some doubted, but they all went, and they all received this command to disciple the nations. They were all to take their part in going, baptising and teaching, and perhaps in the getting more involved their doubts were addressed. The best cure for a fear of water can be to jump in and to start swimming. And what about the Trinity? Take heart. This is not a plot to make things more difficult for you, as in: “there is the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the virgin birth, and also this extra complexity we have dreamed up for you – the Trinity!” Rather, God is so great, so wonderful, that we cannot fully understand him or describe him. Christians early on worked out that they were called to worship and proclaim Jesus as God, while also believing in the God of the Old Testament, whom Jesus taught them call Father. They therefore evolved a belief in a Binity! But as they wrestled with scripture and the words of Jesus, so they came to believe that God’s Spirit was a distinct personality within the totality of God. This is merely a way to try think about God – it does not try to make God into something different that he was not before. For us at St Michael’s who have heard the call to “encounter God and grow in him”, the call is make Jesus Christ central in our lives. Every one of us is called to be a disciple, a learner, patiently seeking to be remodelled to be more like Jesus. Every one of us is called to disciple others by actively being their servants, being involved in ministry. Every one of us is called to actively build the community of faith by baptising, teaching, sharing, loving, joining and supporting small groups. Every one of us is called in our “going”, to disciple those outside our community, telling the good news and listening to those who would share their lives with us. Discussion Starters 1. “All authority is given to me” “Go therefore ..” Why, in your opinion, does the authority of Jesus lead to this imperative for us to go? 2. What difference does it make if we see the word “disciple” as a verb and not just a noun? 3. To whom could you be going?