Our God Is a God of Mission: Called…Gathered…Sent
On the Festival of The Holy Trinity, we come face-to-face with the mystery and the awe of God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit. This mystery of Almighty God is almost beyond our comprehension. We might have a lot of questions: Who is God? Where is God? What is God doing? Does God care? We’ve all heard people say, “It’s not so much a matter of what you know, as who you know.” There’s actually quite a bit of theology in that comment. The one we know is Jesus Christ. We know God, the Father through God’s Son, and we know the Holy Spirit because in the giving of the Holy Spirit in our baptism, we are then able to come to faith. The Holy Trinity is more than a doctrine; it is the heart of our faith. We can know God because we can see what God has been about in creation. We especially are aware of creation in the seasons of the year; spring shows us so many signs of God’s creating – new life in newborn animals, new buds on the trees and flowers, green grass replaces what was brown and dormant in the winter, seed being planted that will yield a harvest. We also see the cycles of life turning constantly in birth and death, in watching our children grow from infant to toddler to children in school, curious, playful, stretching and growing in all ways – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Adolescence, young adulthood, the middle years of life, the process of aging is markers we can see and experience. Constant changes – nothing seems to stay constant except the fact that everything changes.
I wonder if that’s not part of what these disciples are thinking about as they make their way to the mountain that Jesus directs them to. Hadn’t they been on a mountain before? Hadn’t their lives been turned upside down in constant change ever since they met up with this Jesus? What next? What would Jesus expect of them when they meet up with him on the mountain? It didn’t take him very long to get down to business. He doesn’t offer excuses or say that he’s sorry things hadn’t turned out the way they might have hoped. There are no excuses – it has been what he said it would be. He came into the world to be the Word of God in the flesh, to be light in the darkness, to be food for those who are spiritually hungry. He came into the world to redeem the world – a world that had long forgotten their purpose for being. He gives his life so that the price for sin, the debt would be paid, once for all. And his resurrection is his promise that he would overcome sin, death and the devil, so that nothing can ever separate those who believe from the love of God in Christ Jesus. In his coming, God gives Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth. And now there are instructions for how to go on from here. Jesus commands them to GO! Jesus commands them to make disciples, to baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. He commands them to teach these new followers that they encounter to obey everything that he has already commanded them, these 11 gathered with him. Jesus doesn’t say, do this if you feel like it, if you wish to, if there isn’t anything better to do on any given day. Jesus says to these followers, and to us, that through our baptisms we have a relationship with him and with God, and we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit which will stir in us. There now is a difference between knowing God and knowing what is expected of us as opposed to the idea that we can do this when we get around to it, if we ever do, or we can do it if we desire to do it, if we feel like it.
Aren’t we a lot like children even as adults when it comes to tending to our spiritual responsibilities? I remember so well my son and daughter saying, “I don’t feel like it.” “I don’t want to go” “I’ll do it later.” “It’s not my turn.” “Who left you in charge of handing out the orders?” Can you picture the disciples standing there hearing what’s now expected of them? He says “GO”, they’d rather stay. Jesus says, “Make disciples of all nations”, and they thought that was what they were, who said anything about sharing this role with outsiders? Jesus says “Baptize them”, and they wondering how – like John down at the Jordan River? He says, “Baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and they’re likely saying like “what?” “in whose name?”, “do they deserve it?” He says, “Teach them to obey everything that I commanded you”, and they’re not sure they can remember everything. Jesus says, “remember … remember I am with you always.” Perhaps it was then that things clicked for them. “I am with you always.” A promise! Not that he would be in the future, but that “I AM” with you now and always! He had promised from the beginning to be with them for the long haul, whatever that was going to be, and now they were beginning to understand something of what the long haul would be. And then they went. They didn’t build booths on the mountain; they didn’t take a sabbatical and ponder it. They went, and became the first missionaries. God is a God of mission, not maintenance. God is always active, always doing, always creating, always forgiving, always present. What those disciples found out in their brief three years with Jesus was that following him was never predictable and it was never dull. And following certainly came with a wide variety of challenges, disappointments, joys, and everything in between. They likely were stretched in ways they never thought possible, pushed beyond what they had thought possible, and they were certainly pushed and prodded to go beyond their comfort zone. In this gospel lesson, it says that some doubted. Perhaps they doubted what it was they were experiencing; perhaps they doubted their abilities to do what Jesus was commanding them to go and be about. But it didn’t stop Jesus from being directive with them, and it didn’t stop the mission that God had sent Jesus for, and now Jesus was sending them.
It becomes our story; it becomes what we are to be about. We want to stay, and yet we are commanded to Go. We want someone else to do the baptizing and the teaching, but Jesus says that we are called to do this. Perhaps most of you are thinking that you aren’t called to these things, but as these followers become mission-minded and go, they take this commission to the next group of followers, and to the next, and to the next, and then it becomes us who are the next. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the disciples moved on to preach in Jerusalem, and then beyond there. They realized that this message, this Good News, was meant to be shared; in fact, they were commanded to share it. Lives are changed. People like Saul have their lives changed; they are transformed and become the “Paul” who can’t do anything other than hold this message up, confronting and challenging others to change their lives and live lives that have been redeemed, bought with the price of the life of the Son of God. It was the core of who they were; it is the core of who we are. It is the heart of our faith. We are witnesses to this Good News. We are called, commissioned, and we are sent. We are participants in the mission that God has intended for us to be a part of from the moment of creation, from the moment of our own birth. God is calling us to be courageous in our daily lives to be witnesses. God is calling us to set our priorities in order, to put God first and then all other things will be in their proper perspective. God’s calling us to be people on a mission. God has marked you, chosen you, and called you to be a witness. You’ve got your own faith story to tell, your own witness to give. If you don’t tell, who will? And perhaps there is one or two or more among you who is being called by God to serve God’s Church. If we don’t ever ask the question, we may never know. Aren’t we something, God? Are we all you hoped we would be? Help us, God, to be all that you created us to be. Give us the courage to go for you. And thank you, Gracious Father, for your son, Jesus Christ, and for your promise of your presence and your love! Amen
Genesis 1 : 1 – 2 : 4a
2 Corinthians 13 : 11 – 13
Matthew 28 : 16 – 20