Jun
22

DON’T Make Disciples!

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Text: Matthew 28:1-20

[podcast]http://www.zion-umc.org/home/audio/sermon_06192011.mp3[/podcast]

“Jesus reminded His disciples of the consummation of all things, so that they would not look at the present dangers only but also at the good things to come that last forever.  He promised to be not only with these disciples but also with all who would subsequently believe after them.” St. John Chrysostom (AD 347-407)

 

One of the basics that we learn as Christians is that Jesus gave us what tradition has come to call “The Great Commission:” we are to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey God’s commandments.

I believe that today more than I ever have.  It’s not an optional part of church life. We’re not supposed to save our immediate circle of family and friends – we’re supposed to save the world!

With all of this in mind: I was very intrigued to read something written about these verses by the late Rev. Richard Halvorson, the former chaplain of the U.S. Senate.  Brother Halvorson said, of verse 19, that what Jesus really said was that “as we go, we should make learners everywhere.”

 

Have you ever given any thought to why it is that God put you on this earth, and what you are to do, to fill the years that you are here?

Another way to ask that is, “What is your purpose for living?  What gets you out of bed each morning, and moves you forward through the day?”

When you have a purpose, you have power:  your life has meaning, instead of being several thousand days that follow one another until you “check out.”  You can move through your days with intentionality, that is, you proceed with authority because you have a purpose for doing what you do.

If you are a Christian, you have a purpose: to make disciples for Jesus Christ.  In other words, the Great Commission that we’ve read from Matthew’s Gospel today.

As the Church, we also have this purpose.  Jesus has given us this purpose, and when we accept our baptism and join the Church, we also accept this purpose.

As a congregation, the change and uncertainty that we have been living with for some time is going to come to center stage as we consider our future, and how we will live out our faith in that future.

Today, on the liturgical day celebrating the Trinity, I want to offer you some focused teaching on the Great Commission, because this scripture is an important guide for us as we listen to God and respond to His will.

The Great Commission holds power for us because of the purpose it gives us – and the relevance it brings to our lives.  It helps us to be intentional as individuals and as a congregation.

So let’s take this apart and think about being an intentional church:[1]

“Go therefore…” is all about putting faith into action.  When is the last time that your faith has made you uncomfortable as you acted on it?

“Make disciples…” simply means that it is our job to be constantly working at helping people become disciples.  Ask yourself, “how are my family, friends, and the people I meet more like Jesus because of me?”

Of all nations…” means that Jesus doesn’t want us to restrict our activities to any one group of people, or think that any one place is the center of the Christian universe – because that means we will sit back and think that people should come to us.  Does your faith take you places?  It should!

Baptizing them…”  This illustrates the truth about baptism – no matter by what method it is done:  Baptism communicates belonging.  A church is not welcoming because of the programs it offers, or how good the preacher is, or how yummy our potlucks are.  A church is welcoming because it is a community, not because of the events it sponsors.

Teaching them…” If we don’t teach the faith to others, we’re not the church.  You don’t need to know everything to teach another, just something that your student doesn’t know.  Another way to put this is, every one of us should have a Timothy to be a Paul for.

One of my early spiritual mentors was fond of saying that “the will of God will never send you where the grace of God will not provide for you.”  This has been proved true many times in my life.

Christian writer, John Killinger, wrote, “The truth is … that the sacred is only where God is, not that God is where the sacred is.  … Whatever is holy about temples, cathedrals, prayer books, and communion ware is only by virtue of the humanity invested in them, not by virtue of any residual divinity.”[2]

The buildings where we gather and worship are very important places for we Christians, but what is so very important to remember is that this is not a place where we wait for God to find us.

Our purpose sends us forth to find and do mission, to be the people that God has made us to be, and to be a grace-filled vessel that brings the reality of God to someone who doesn’t live in that reality.

The secret to having a living, vibrant congregation is to put this mission first.  Where you’re going is always going to be more important than where you have been![3]

John Chrysostom, an early Father of the Church, wrote, “Jesus reminded His disciples of the consummation of all things, so that they would not look at the present dangers only but also at the good things to come that last forever.”

I say these things in full knowledge of what a worrisome time this is for us.

I say these things in full faith that, even though we deal with uncertainty about the very basics of life itself, God is with us, that Jesus has sent us forth, and we have a purpose to fulfill.

I say these things intentionally, knowing that I am not alone in my faith, or my desire to reach the world around me, my desire to be part of building Christian community, and my belief that we are all here at the right place and the right time.

It’s our time.  Let’s be intentional about how we spend it.

Sources Consulted:

“Crystal Commission,” Homiletics, May 2008

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. NT-1B (IVP, 2002)

Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew (Eerdmans, 1992)


[1] Some exegesis of this text is taken from the writings of Rev. Bob Kaylor, Park City UMC, Park City UT

[2] From Leave It to the Spirit

[3] Tom Bandy, in the Byte-Sized Net Results e-newsletter, September 2007