LIFE TOGETHER - The Mission of God
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.’
There is so much packed into these 4 short verses. These are the very last lines of the Gospel of Matthew, this is where one part of the story ends. God reveals, God commissions, and God blesses. The resurrected Christ comes into view, comes to where the disciples are, shows up in real time. Jesus had told the disciples to go to this place and he would met them there, but nothing can really prepare you for the actual experience of witnessing the resurrection. Jesus waits about two seconds for them to register the shock, fall down in worship, but then moves right on to action. You have seen me, you have heard my promises, God’s promises, you have experienced those promises fulfilled….what are you gonna do now? “Go!” he says. I love this line from a Dave Matthews Band song, it says “to change the world starts with one step. However small, the first step is hardest of all.” Often we just don’t know where to start. We want to follow, but we don’t know how. Or we have an idea of how…in theory…we just struggle to put it into real lived practice.
Jesus boils it down to the essentials, “go makes disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Church, this is what we are called to be and this is what I want to explore together today.
But before we do….we need to stop and recognize the complexity of that call. The call is simple, but the implications, how we respond in reality…are more nuanced. How did the disciples respond to seeing Jesus living where they expected to find only death? They worshiped…and some doubted. They both worshiped AND doubted…. There’s not an easy, clean, clear separation of those two elements. There is both adoration and inspiration mixed with uncertainty and skepticism. Resurrection living has room for both, but leans into faith. This past week I joined Lutherans from around the country, even around the world, as they gathered in New Orleans for our Churchwide Assembly to move the church forward in this call. We heard from one Lutheran, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee, a powerful Liberian woman who has tirelessly worked for peace, for women’s rights and safety, but most fervently for the Gospel. She’s met with presidents but she’s also been threatened with violence. She can count the number of her friends on her hands, but…. She leans passionately into faith and hope. This past week she told us “it’s not that we weren’t afraid, but we could not allow the fear to stop us.”
This revelation, commission, and blessing can be overwhelmingly beautiful, frustrating, liberating, confusing, and transformational. I want to acknowledge that as we dive in. There’s room for all of it, but ultimately the last word will belong to blessing.
So let’s break this commission down. “go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
I want us to look at each piece and study it together, to explore what this resurrection living looks like, how we understand it in this place and time. When you hear these words, what comes to wind, how do you hear them? This is what the community gathered last night for Dinner Church heard:
Go! One thing's for sure, it isn't a commission to stay hidden in our homes. There's a sense of being granted permission, of being released to go. This is part of the larger rhythm of being gathered and sent, of inviting and sending. It invokes actions and movement.
make disciples. There is a shared story. The story was shared with the disciples, now they share it with others. It's about spreading the good Word. It involves encouragement and trust.
of all nations. This is a global commission, where everyone's included with no exclusions. It is directed toward "others" especially those who are different, even strangers.
baptize. We envision water, but not just water...water that is combined with the Word. It's about identity, being grounded as Children of God. We are baptized in the name of God, into the larger church, not just this one church named KINDRED. Baptism is enduring, we are constantly being reminded of the promises, the community promises and God's promises. In baptism we are a new creation.
TEACH. We think of sharing, listening, and empowering, persuading. It's not just about intellectual knowledge, but a way of life, living as an example and a willingness to be transformed. This implies an enduring practice, continual learning.
This is the commission of the church, of disciples, of those who follow in the footsteps of Christ, our commission, our resurrection life! But it is God’s mission. Notice how close those words are: mission and co-mission. God is the author, but we are invited to join in that life – co-missioners, co-misseraters, this is our co-mission, together with God as the ultimate director and perfecter of our faith. Our missions will inevitably break down, they point ultimately to ourselves, but this mission points toward God from whom it comes. This is God’s mission and so it WILL. NOT. FAIL! We rest and lean into that hope, that promise. It revives us, resurrects us into a fullness of being, a fullness of life as individuals, as a community, as an entire creation. God’s mission of reconciling the entire world will not fall short. This is no up to us alone, we are not alone. We move forward with God’s blessing, which is this: God is with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.