[As we turn our attention to today’s scripture message, I invite you toprayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be life-giving and life-affirming, O Holy One, for in you is wholeness and peace. Amen.]
I think most, if not all of us, have heard the story. Jesus is with his disciples for the final time. His resurrection has occurred and the disciples have gone to the mountain in Galilee, as Jesus told them to do, to meet him there.
And the writer of the Gospel of Matthew makes a point of telling us that even among these committed followers of Jesus, among those who made this journey through disappointment and despair, shock and wonder – among them there were some who doubted. Some who just weren’t quite sure what to think of all that had happened.
And we hear: 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. … And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Go, Jesus said. Teach people to follow me the way I have taught you. And remember, I will be with you. Always.
Over the years this scripture passage has become known as the Great Commission. We find Jesus, gathered with his disciples – he has taught them all he can; he has reminded them of all they already know; and in his parting he calls them to share with others all that they have learned; to share with others all that Jesus taught them of God, of mercy and forgiveness, of justice and shalom.
It is fitting, is it not – to share with others what has made such a difference in our living; to share the passion Christ lived for you and for me and for all people? The passion that has shaped who we are, shapes what we are called to do.
Now, this scripture text isn’t just about each person individually. It’s also about Jesus’ followers as a community as well. And many churches recognize in these words of Jesus, in this commission, their identity. More than simply Jesus entrusting us with authority to do these things; it becomes their definition of their way of being.
Our call as the body of Christ is to make disciples; to help people follow Jesus in the very moments of their days. … And I love that, for it is fitting to the meaning and purpose of who we are. Yet I must confess that for many years now I’ve felt a dissonance in the idea of holding Jesus’ commission, and that alone, as our identity.
And then I heard this quote from Carl Jung:
“Are we to understand the imitation of Christ in the sense that we should copy his life … or in a deeper sense that we are to live our ownlives as truly as Jesus lived his? It is no easy matter to live a life that is modeled on Christ’s, but it is unspeakably harder to live one’s own life as truly as Christ lived his.”
“…it is unspeakably harder to live one’s own life as truly (as authentically) as Christ lived his.” Yet isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do? … We are not to be mini-Jesus’s. We are not to be imitators of Jesus – as if we had video footage that captured for us his voice inflection and mannerisms so we’d know exactly what to say and how to say it.
[You are called to know yourself – to know the person of worth and value, and courage and wisdom that you are in God (for that is who you are: a person of worth and value, and courage and wisdom) – and then you are called to livethat as best as you are able.] … To ask “what would Jesus do” is a fine place to start – but we aren’t called to live from there. We are called to live our giftedness and worth in the same way Jesus lived his. … It takes time to do this. Time to understand this for ourselves. … And it takes a lifetime to fully comprehend.
Carl Jung’s statement is a powerful statement for First Christian Church, as well. He reminds us that Jesus does not call us to be the best Jesus we can be as a community. The great commission, you see, doesn’t tell us ‘how’we are supposed to make disciples, how we are to help people follow Jesus in their living. No. As Jung points out: Jesus calls us to be the best First Christian Church we can be. To live authentically and fully who we are in God – to live as authentically and fully as Jesus lived.
Identifying that, naming who we believe we are in Christ is what we’ve spent this summer doing. The members of your Vision Team have been privileged to spend the summer listening – listening to your experiences, listening to your hopes and dreams, listening to your heart. It has truly been a privilege.
We heard about:
- deep relationships that support us in being more fully who we each are;
- the many, many ways we’ve helped in the Drake and DSM community over the years, and what an integral part of our faith-understanding this social justice truly is;
- how important our children are to us, not as hope for the future but as leaders among us today teaching us how to better follow Christ;
- how vital worship is to our life together;
- that freedom to follow the questions of faith and life, and encouragement and support to understand our own answers helps us thrive in our faith
These are the things that shape our identity together. And it is our sense of identity that shapes and guides our choices, our living. It is this which calls us into being andonward into action – in God’s love, alongside others.
Over the next couple weeks we will look more closely at these values we’ve named – because the more deeply we know them, the more deeply we live them, authentically …
- radical hospitality;
- questioning faith;
- equity and justice;
- what it means to walk alongside others
These values are transformative – transforming my life and yours; transforming our congregation and even, through God’s grace, transforming the community around us.
One thing we know for sure; one common thread across the conversations this summer – we know there is still much work for us to do, there is still much love for us to share. We hear God’s voice calling us onward to work for equity and justice. That is not just our past. It is our present and our future as well.
“Go, and do this” Jesus said.… In Matthew’s gospel, this is Jesus’ final word. In these words is a sense of expansion. And perhaps for the disciples it felt like impossible, at least at first. But Jesus gives them a promise – “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” … And we have the same promise: “Go and share God’s justice and love, in the way you have been shaped to do. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
As we go: God is present. God is active. God is creating and recreating, in our midst.
Through God’s Spirit, may we find ourselves transformed even as we seek to bring transformation here. Amen.