Written by Joel on June 28th, 2011

June 19, 2011
Trinity Sunday
Matthew 28:16-20 (The Great Commission)

What does this Great Commission mean for the church nearly 2000 years later?

Christ gives the Great Commission within the context of his resurrection. The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain Jesus had told them to go. The disciples followed the instruction which was given to them second hand – a command from Jesus, given through the women who witnessed the empty tomb, and who were the first to see the risen Lord. It is in this hope and excitement that the disciples wait for the Lord on the mountain top. The disciples had not yet experienced the risen Christ. This mountain top encounter would be their first and last with Christ according to Matthew’s Gospel. With that unbelievable good news of the resurrection, it is understandable that the disciples worshiped AND they doubted. They worshiped and they doubted.

I can understand their doubts: They saw the Lord crucified and buried, they had heard the chief priests’ story about a stolen body (and some may have been inclined to believe it); and I bet that persecution from the church deepened the doubt. The fact that there are only eleven disciples present (remembering the pain of Judas’ betrayal) added to the doubt. Plus there was doubt about what happens next. They saw the Lord – they worshipped and they doubted. It would seem for the disciples that there was plenty of room for doubt even within a faith secure in the truth of Christ’s resurrection.

It is in the midst of the joyful realization of Christ’s resurrection; and in the midst of the disciples’ lingering questions that Christ offers his final words on the mountain top: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

All authority. Jesus begins his call to the church with his own authority. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, he says. In the next verse, Jesus invokes the Trinity: the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – thus reminding us of Christ’s divinity. It is Christ who has the power, it is Christ who has the authority. The Great Commission is first and foremost rooted in Jesus’ power, not our own power. Look ahead to the task given us: make disciples of all nations, teach them to obey every command. An impossible task! …If it is rooted in our own power and our own authority. But, we cannot fail because it is not by our own power that we “Go!” – it is by the power of God. Christ is saying to his disciples – I know you doubt, but you doubt your own power; do not doubt my power!

So, Go! Make disciples. Baptize… We followed this commission when we baptized Lauren and Jesse last Sunday. Many of you were able to join us for the celebration. Their baptism was the culmination of a 10 week formal instruction period with the elders, myself, and their parents. During the class it was obvious that their discipleship began even long before that. It is a process that has been years in the making – as they heard Bible stories from their parents, and from you; As they learned the creeds, and the Lord’s Prayer; and as they looked around and saw many examples of what faithful Christians look like. And it is by no means the end of their discipling; it takes a life time to make a disciple. And that is the commission that Christ gives us – Make disciples. That is quite a different thing than standing on a street corner and handing out Gospel tracts; asking people to pray a sinners prayer; “winning” souls. Sure, discipleship may start that way (though I personally don’t know any disciples who began their faith in this way). Discipleship, by its very nature is a slow-going, relational, intentional process. At the end of every baptism class everyone was asked to share one thing they learned that day, and let me ask – Elders: did you learn something? [yes] And I learned something each time too. I won’t reveal anyone’s age, but the elders of the church are a few years older than our newly baptized members; these elders are still being made disciples.

Christ, in his call to the disciples, was telling them – Go and do for others what I have done for you – Remember the disciples were with Jesus over a period of a three year ministry. Take time, spend time together. Read scripture together, learn together – be made and make disciples together.

Therefore Go! The disciples worshiped (and doubted) on that mountain, and they saw Christ before them – but Jesus said “go.” They could not be content with just staying together on that mountain top praising God until the end of the age; they were given a mission: Go and make disciples of all nations. I believe that the church’s mission continues until the end of the age. Christ is with us always, and so is his commission. We don’t ask “Does the church have a mission today?” The right question is “What is the church’s mission?” In the last 18 months I have seen how we strive to fulfill the Great Commission: we are doing our best to make disciples, we teach, we worship faithfully, we have baptized; but in my brief time here I haven’t seen a whole lot of “Go.” We send money, we collect Christmas boxes, and canned goods; we invite people to church, and to return for home coming; All great things! – but where do we go?

I wonder that we hesitate to “Go” because we, just like those first disciples – we worship but we also doubt. Can such a small church do such a big thing? Yes, because God can! But we’ve never done this before! Yes, we have – consider our forebears, the founders of this church who looked around this community and discerned that God was calling them to Go and build a church on the County Line. We are called to do what our forebears did – discern the calling of God and go!

But WHERE do we Go? I believe God established local congregations for a reason – because He has a mission for us to carry out right here! Such a big question needs to begin with intentional discernment. Such a big question begins with prayer.

You will find in your bulletins two inserts – a Prayer Pledge Card and a Prayer for Discernment. The pledge card is asking for a commitment of prayer, saying yes to the Great Commission, the command of Christ in our day to Go! It is a commitment to listen for the voice of God and to ask his will for us; and it is a commitment to one another that we will pray together. Check the box to commit to pray the discernment prayer at least once this week. Sign your name, and pray!

The Discernment Prayer is a guide to help you pray. Imagine all our fellow members praying this prayer together this week. Pray the prayer with your families, individually, or even better – join other members in sharing this prayer in their homes.

When you pray ask God “Where are you calling St. Luke’s “County Line” Church to Go?” Consider where God is ALREADY using you in this community. Where is the Gospel not being preached? Who can we help on their spiritual journey to discipleship? Where does God’s love most need to be shared in Timberville-Broadway, and the surrounding rural areas.

There is space on the prayer print-out for you to journal your response to the prayer – and how you heard God’s leading. I plan on staying after the service next week to hear the fruits of our prayer together, and how God uses you this week. I would also love for you to share times you have “gone,” fulling the Great Commission yourself.

We are embarking on quite big things, even as a small church – because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ our Lord; He promised to be with us – and he told us to Go!


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