There was an error in this gadget

Sunday, May 9, 2010

How to Become Great - Step 3 (Matthew 28:16-20)


Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

God is on a mission – and you’re invited to be part of it.

Today we are concluding a three-part series of messages on how to be great in the kingdom of God. We have wrestled with the idea of striving to be great in the kingdom of God in the first place. Jesus got after his disciples when they argued about who would be great in his kingdom, about who would sit at his right hand and at his left. We have learned that the true path to greatness in the kingdom of God is the path of service. Being truly great is not about being exalted, it’s not about receiving the places of honor, it’s not about having people bow in deference to you when you walk in the room. The greatest in the kingdom of God will be the biggest servant. Those who exalt themselves will be brought low, and those who humble themselves will be elevated in God’s kingdom. The way to true greatness in the kingdom of God is the way of service, and so as we spend these weeks talking about being great in the kingdom of God, my hope is that you will want to cultivate the heart of a servant, and brothers and sisters, that is the true mark of greatness in the kingdom of God.

We looked at three steps to being great – to being a servant, in other words – in the kingdom of God. The first step was the teaching known as the Great Requirement found in the prophet Micah. We asked, “What does the Lord require of us?” and Micah articulated the answer: “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.” The second step was the teaching known as the Great Commandment, to love God, and to love neighbor. Today, we look at the Third Step: The Great Commission.

God is on a mission – and you’re invited to be part of it.

Today, we’re kicking off missions awareness month, but friends, I don’t want any of us to think that missions is something the church has to worry about only one month out of the year. The very existence of the church is missional. This church exists as a mission outpost of the kingdom of God. Missions is not something the church does – missions is who the church is. Mission is to church as combustion is to fire or wet is to water – take away mission, and we can no longer call ourselves church. It all comes back to what we are called to do in this teaching from St. Matthew’s Gospel – we are called to live out the Great Commission.

Everything we do comes down to this. Everything we do as a church is about being participants in the mission of God in the world. Our task is to be the presence of God in the world, to share the love of God in the world, to be the ongoing humanity of Jesus in the world, to be the very hands of feet of Jesus in the world. Our call is to continue to message and ministry of Jesus – to tell the world about the God who created us, the God who created us in God’s image, the God who is love, the God who loves the world so much that he gave – freely, abundantly, selflessly, sacrificially – his only Son for the salvation of the world, the God who invites all nations to enter into relationship with God that we may fulfill the chief end of humankind – to glorify God and enjoy God forever.

God is on a mission – and you’re invited to be part of it.

It’s not because any of us is perfect, that’s for sure. The disciples in this passage are evidence enough of that – “the eleven disciples went to Galilee.” Why eleven? Because Judas is no longer among the followers. The number eleven is a constant reminder of the betrayal that has taken place, the number eleven is a constant reminder that this small community of followers is far from perfect, the number eleven is a reminder that those first disciples of Jesus didn’t have all their stuff together, and friends, neither do we. But here’s the kicker – God knows we’re not perfect. God knows we have our failings and shortcomings and flaws, and God still invites us to be part of God’s mission. This is proof to me that God loves imperfect people, and not only does God love imperfect people, God is even willing to give imperfect people like us God’s perfect work to do in the world. The third step in being great in the kingdom of God is following the Great Commission – serving the world by recognizing that God has asked imperfect people like you and me, imperfect communities of faith like St. Paul United Methodist Church, to be part of God’s mission in the world.

God is on a mission – and you’re part of it.

There are a couple of things that stand out in this Great Commission. First, Jesus tells the disciples to “Go.”

Learning to drive in New York, as I did, involves the proper use of one’s horn as a service to other motorists and pedestrians with whom one shares the road. For instance, if you’re second in line at a traffic light, the light turns green and the car in front of you fails to claim the intersection, a long sustained blast of the horn can be a friendly gesture of encouragement to proceed into the intersection. This can even be done with words of encouragement: “For the love of God, GO!”

But think about that. For the love of God, with the love of God, sustained by the love of God, sharing the love of God, “Go.” There is a world out there desperately waiting for someone to share the love of God with them, and that is what Jesus has commissioned us to do. If Jesus told us to do it, I think it’s important enough that we should. And here’s the thing – not every person is equipped by the Holy Spirit with the gifts required for that “going” – to be an evangelist, to be involved hands-on in mission, to be the pioneer. In the body of Christ, we all have a role to play – perhaps you’ll support the church’s mission through prayer, or financial support, or encouragement, or hospitality or teaching or any other things. Our task is to be the presence of God in the world – for some of us, that will involve going places. For others of us, that will mean blooming where we are planted, and living as Christlike people in the world. Not everyone has to “go.” But, we all support those who do, and especially, we make sure that we are not the blocks that keep others from being able to go. If there is a line of traffic behind us chomping at the bit to go, I’d hate for any of us to be driving the car that refuses to move and allow others to go.

Jesus commissioned us to baptize. Baptism is the beginning of a spiritual journey with God. It is a channel through which we open ourselves up to the working of God’s grace in our lives. We baptize infants and children and adults, we baptize people of all levels of education and understanding, because all people are the worthy recipients of God’s grace. We place primary emphasis on the grace of God at work in our lives, even when we may not fully understand God’s grace and love for us, and honestly, who among us can fathom the great depth and complexity of God’s grace and love? Baptism is not a summation of the entire journey, but an important first step in which the grace of God is poured into our lives.

And if baptism is the first step, a life as a disciple of Jesus is the journey itself. Jesus commissioned us to make disciples. Now, a disciple is simply one who follows. And before we can make disciples, we have to be disciples. Discipleship is a radical lifestyle commitment to living as Jesus would have us live and being the presence of God in the world. Being a disciple is about being sold-out and dedicating our lives as students of the life of Jesus. It is a major turning point in our lives if we ask ourselves, seriously, if we really intend to follow Jesus that closely. We are not Christians because of what we believe, because of our political party, because of our national citizenship, or because of how we behave. We are Christians because Jesus has commissioned us to be his disciples. Being a disciple of Jesus is something we have to commit to over a lifetime.

We are not commissioned just to baptize, just to make church-goers, just to add new members, just to make polite people who will add church to a resume of socially-respectable activities. We are called to be and to make disciples – people who will wholeheartedly and completely follow Jesus as Lord.

Jesus is Lord. It’s a wonderful little word, Lord, that is a term of respect and submission. Jesus is Lord – Jesus is the boss, Jesus is in charge of things. If we follow Jesus as Lord and really believe he’s the boss, our lives will be shaped and formed by the things that matter to Jesus.

Since we are disciples of Jesus, we will want to obey everything Jesus has commanded us to do, and that’s what this series of messages has been aimed to do. Being great in the kingdom of God is really about being a servant. It’s really about submitting our wills to the things God desires for us to do, and we have found those things summed up in three simple steps. Brothers and sisters, we are called and commissioned to follow these things in order that our lives may be the very presence of God in the world. Step One is the Great Requirement – to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. Step Two is the Great Commandment – to love God, and to love neighbor. Step Three is the Great Commission – to make disciples of Jesus of all nations. Doing these very things shapes our hearts to care about the things God cares about and we will be led to serve the world in God’s name, to share God’s love, and to be the presence of God at work in the world. Brothers and sisters, that is our task, and that is the mark of true greatness in the kingdom of God.

God is on a mission – and you’re part of it. God invites you to be God’s presence in the world.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will make you part of God’s plan to change the world. God invites you to care about the things God cares about, and to be God’s presence in the world. Your mission is to allow the Holy Spirit to shape your heart and mold your actions so that you will never turn down an opportunity to do justice, so that you will never turn down an opportunity to love kindness, so that you will always walk humbly with God. Your mission is to always be filled with love of God and neighbor. Your mission is to be the kind of disciple who follows Jesus so closely that your life really is a reflection of the kingdom of God.

The path to greatness in the kingdom of God is the path of service. May it be so for each of us.

No comments:

Post a Comment