Matthew 28:16-20 June 11, 2017
I received this flyer in the mail last week. IMPORTANT MESSAGE, QUÉBEC, YOU ARE WARNED, and on the back page SAVE YOUR SOUL! In between, there was a lot of warnings of God’s judgement. If you take Papineau, going south but don’t take the fork to the South shore, you will see the church on your right hand side, with a big sign that is again a warning type.
Is this what the gospel writer was talking about with these last words from the Gospel of Matthew, what is referred to usually as the Great commission?
Let’s look at it more closely.
Now I am going to take this version on its own, and not use other gospel resurrection stories.
The disciples, the 11, they have not yet replaced Judas Iscariot, have gone back to Galilee, where Jesus had started his ministry, to meet the resurrected Jesus. In Matthew’s gospel, at this point, only the women have met him and passed on the message to the other disciples.
We can imagine their confusion, maybe they still felt a bit lost. They had heaad the women’s testimony, but being men, maybe they did not give it their witness too much weight. Maybe they went back to Galilee also because that was their home. Trying to pick up the pieces of their lives when their world had fallen apart! For possibly both reasons, they went to the mountain in Galilee that the women had mentioned.
So the 11 finally get to meet the resurrected Jesus. The scriptures tell us when they saw him, some worshipped him and some doubted. Now my research this week mentioned that the Greek could as well be translated, they worshipped and doubted.
Now I thought that is interesting, with either translation, the Church was made up from the beginning with people that worshipped the resurrected Christ but also doubted.
There is hope for all of us! All of us who worship Christ, but also wonder…maybe even doubt. Sometimes I find myself like them. I have this incredibly important, for me, personal relationship with Christ, but then, I think, how can God have potentially that same intimate relationship with billions of people.
Today’s Gospel, tells us in its closing words that it is ok to believe and doubt.
Let’s return to the Gospel passage. Now theses 11 are told then what they are to do. The resurrected Christ gives them a mission.
They are to make disciples and they are to teach them to obey everything that Jesus had commanded them. That is pretty much one and the same thing. If you are making disciples, then obviously you are teaching them to follow Jesus’ teachings. I read years ago that the Sermon on the Mount we find in this Gospel from chapters 5 & 6, was an early catechism in the Church. It was used to teach the new believers what is meant to be a Christian, what it means to follow Jesus.
So what does the Great commission have to say to us? I think before we go to Timbuktu to convert people, we need to be clear. We, who already profess to be Christian, need to be following what Jesus asked us to be. We need to look up the Sermon on the Mount and ask ourselves, are we living it? Are we living as a disciple of Jesus, a follower of Jesus?
So these closing words of The Gospel of Matthew remind us, that we, the Church, are made up of doubt as well as worship. It is our human nature and God works with that.
Secondly, we are reminded that we are called to be disciples who follow what Jesus has taught us.
Finally, as we model the Christian life by the way we live, how do we go the next step and actually make disciples for Jesus.
Is it like this flyer, scaring the hell out of them? I really do not think so at all.
So what is the message we bring, especially for us here in Quebec, to a post Christian Quebec society? What is the message to a large majority of the people who may well have been baptized as children & possibly even call themselves Christian, but have no contact with the Church?
I suspect it may rest on our being visible Christians by how we live and act. The apostle Paul in his closing words and blessing to the Corinthians, fleshes that out even more.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” And also with you.
We say those words regularly, but what do they mean?
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is talking about forgiveness, recognizing ourselves as being a forgiven people, and a people who forgive.
The love of God, describes the nature of God which is love, but also our calling to be a people of God’s love. In our day and age where some who seek to bring in God’s rule through violence, either on Papineau street with its message of damnation, or in Manchester England, where terrorists believe God wants them to bomb and kill people, we need to say no, God is love.
Finally the communion of the Holy Spirit is talking about relationships, with God and with each other.
As we live out this life of forgiveness, love and relationship with God and each other, we are called to go out and invite people to also live out this blessing.
Sisters and brothers in the faith, if at times you find yourself with doubts about the faith, that is ok, from the beginning of the Church, that paradox of believing yet doubting has always been there. That does not stop God from working with us.
As we seek to make disciples of all people, we recognize that starts with us following what Jesus has taught us. Read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5,6 &7 and seek to live it.
Finally, as we live as people of forgiveness, love and community, we can invite people to live this blessing, and we can rest assured that Christ will always be with us.