Posted on Thu, Jun 22, 2017
June 11, 2017
Gospel Text: Matthew 28:16-20
The Commissioning of the Disciples
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
I remember my commissioning service at Advent Lutheran Church in Anoka, MN. Advent Lutheran used to be located in Coon Rapids, the town I grew up in, but when the Community College needed land, the church sold their land and moved to Anoka, essentially the model for Lake Wobegon. This is true from what I have been told…
I chose Advent Lutheran for my commissioning even though most of my faith development happened at Faith Lutheran back in Coon Rapids. The little mission congregation in Coon Rapids with the cinder block walls was the congregation that truly laid the foundation of my faith from when I was able to walk.
I had no idea why we went to church every Sunday, we just did, and I had no choice. Every Sunday, even when I whined and complained, my mother dressed me up, and took me to Sunday school before the rest of my family would come to church for worship. My whining and complaining was meaningless to my parents and it didn't matter what I thought or how much I protested, because “this is just something that we do!” My protesting stopped however as soon as I saw my friends and our entire Sunday school would begin singing before we separated into our respective classes. We began our singing in front of that one of those classic pictures of a caucasian Jesus “knocking at the door.” I keep a sticker of the same picture in my Bible to remind me of those days. Then off to class we would go. Year in, year out, no matter the weather, I was forced to attend Sunday school. We sat in our chairs and with color pictures and flannel graphs, we learned all about the tower of Babel, many battles with the bad guys always called the ‘philistines,’ a guy named Moses, Noah and his big boat, and a little about Jesus at Christmas and Easter.
In the summer we would have Vacation Bible School. This was a huge event which is essentially one week of Sunday school on steroids! Our little mission church came up with a school bus that week to come to our house to pick us up and make sure we were at VBS. VBS was a huge event and everyone was there to help. Our cinder block sanctuary was transformed into an efficient learning center! We had games, crafts, Bible Study, music and more crafts! There was lunch and more crafts. We always had something cool to bring home made up of Popsicle sticks, paper and glue.
Then one day a missionary from Papua New Guinea showed up, and somehow she spoke right to my heart and I was enthralled with her message of working with the children of PNG. She showed us pictures of these amazing children and she stressed how those kids also were learning about Jesus just like we were… I still hadn't made any connection to what we were doing and this Jesus person, but Katy Clark had my entire attention and for some reason I cannot explain to this day, from that day forward I knew I wanted to be a missionary like her when I grew up. I would never have had met Katy Clark unless the our little church brought her in to teach us about being a missionary in Papua New Guinea.
I learned how to follow worship from the old red service hymnal. It wasn't difficult to follow along, and soon the stories in the hymnals and the stories in Sunday School started to sound similar and even connect.
I dropped out of church life after confirmation, and if it wasn't for a high school buddy in choir inviting me to go camping in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming with his youth group, I probably wouldn't be here today. But soon I was part of a church with a good youth program, and soon, I was more excited about our weekly Wednesday night youth group than anything else. Nothing at our meetings were appeared very structured to us, just some Bible Study, sing-alongs and learning how to play guitar and lots of time to check-in with my friends. Sing-alongs have gotten way to dramatic and complicated. In the old days, if you could simply play three to four chords, you could accompany almost any song. We met every week, and in the summer and winter we had camping retreats. Around Christmas we attended the annual Lutheran Youth Encounter Congress for three days in a nice hotel with tons of speakers, music, and opportunities to learn and serve. This was an event kind of like our Western States Youth Gathering. Little by little, my faith was beginning to make sense to me and connect to my life. After each of these major events our youth group would lead worship and share with the congregation what we learned and how we had learned and grown. I spoke at a few events, and after one Youth Sunday Pastor Mark Becker asked me, if I had ever thought about seminary. Frankly, I had no idea what the word, “Seminary” meant… plus, I had Annapolis and West Point papers that would have been signed by Hubert Humphrey, or so my dad told me, and I wanted to fly, or become a doctor.
I can recall Pastor Becker asking me that question like it was yesterday, because as soon as I looked up the meaning of seminary (No Google in those days!), I was absolutely floored. Did he think I could become a pastor? Pastor Becker introduced me to “Peer Counseling,” which is a little like a youth oriented Stephen Ministry program, and helped me begin to think seriously about life and how to make life connections with my faith and all the stories about the Bible I had been ‘forced’ to learn since I could walk… And soon, that deeply buried, but all too strong memory of Katy Clark, and my earliest childhood memories of telling myself that I wanted to become a missionary when I grew up, came back to my mind clear as a bell.
This was at least a 12 year journey before I began to make these faith connections. Parents who were determined not to let my whining stop them from getting me to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and Confirmation. Then it was a dedicated church that provided support to a youth program that challenged us, taught us, and gave us a safe place to talk about our life issues in light of faith. Kids have it tough today, but it’s all a matter of perspective and proportion.
This true story is the big “Therefore” in Jesus’ Great Commission when he says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
You can’t say, “Therefore,” unless there has been some kind of accomplishment or foundational event of prior fulfillment. BECAUSE Jesus was faithful, and gave his life on the cross and ROSE FROM THE DEAD, can Jesus say, “Go THEREFORE” AND make disciples of all nations.
Because there was this huge group of faithful church members who supported me and so many others in our faith development, THEREFORE, the joy of responding to the Call of Christ’s Great Commission has become fulfilled in my life!
Jesus is about to send his beloved disciples out into the world to preach, teach and baptize, not because of their amazing knowledge about theology and salvation, or even because of the great miracles they witnessed; Jesus is sending them out because God the Father (God the Creator), God in Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit has fulfilled the Good News of salvation through the Cross of Christ and our relationship with God has been restored for all time!
When Jesus was baptized, God proclaimed to the crowd, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” THEREFORE we know clearly that Jesus is God’s blessed son.
As the Son of Man, Jesus already displays His divine authority to forgive sins. He heals a paralyzed man not only for the man’s sake but “so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 9:6). Because Jesus can heal the sick, ‘therefore,’ Matthew presents Jesus as the one who rightly claims this authority because he is the Son of Man.
When we hear the Great Commission and Jesus commanding His disciples, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” It appears that all the pressure is on those poor eleven individuals; I hope they took good notes on all the things Jesus taught! But that is not what proclamation about at all, we the church CONFESS what God has already done through the death and resurrection of Christ and how, through the Cross of Christ, the entire promise of salvation is fulfilled and now our job is to get that word out to a troubled world filled with people who are afraid, alone, and looking for hope.
We have been loved beyond understanding, THEREFORE, we are to go out and share this Good News with all people. Through the Cross of Christ you have been recreated and called, “Good, very good” and we can’t keep that Good News to ourselves. Through the faithfulness of our Triune God, we have been loved and accepted just the way you are, THEREFORE, be at peace and remember Jesus’ promise to us all, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Amen.
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