Most of the churches are now in the process of developing their spending plans for 2017. We are no different, we too are in that process. However, we go about it a little differently than a lot of churches. We don’t do fund raising, or what is often called a stewardship campaign. One of our values is extravagant generosity and we believe that that is just one of the 5 marks that make a disciple. We also believe, since that is the mark of a disciple that extravagant generosity is something that is practiced daily not a 5 week period during the year, just as the other 4 marks of a disciple are. What are the other 4 marks? Risk Taking Mission and Service, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith development, Radical Hospitality.
Making disciples is what we are all about here, not membership. Let me say that again, making disciples is what we are about not membership! This is what Jesus told us to do, as we will see. He did not tell us to go out and make members. Belonging to a group does not transform a life or a community. Only being a Christ follower can do that. So in these next 6 weeks (except for next week which is homecoming) we will be taking a look at the commissioning Jesus has given us and how we have decided to carry out this commission. We will be talking about mission today, then vision on Oct 16, then for the next 3 weeks after that we will take a close up look of our vision, or the process of making disciples here at McEver. Okay, now that the ground work is out of the way, let’s get down to business.
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.”
The 11 disciples are gathered on a mountain top in Galilee. It is where Jesus has told them to gather. We don’t know exactly when Jesus told them to do this (Jesus says something like this in Matthew 26:32) nor do we know what mountain top it may have been. Wesley, and many scholars today believe it was Mount Tabor, the traditional site of the transfiguration. Both of these slides show Tabor from the Mount of the Precipice in Nazareth. The Mount of Precipice is the traditional site where the folks from the synagogue in Nazareth were going to push Jesus off the cliff. (Luke 4:28-30)
In Matthew this is the only point where the resurrected Jesus appears to the disciples. Before he has only appeared to the women at the tomb. We must be careful not to homogenize the resurrection stories in the 4 gospels. They are similar, but also differ. The differences are there for a reason and we must understand the differences. Can’t go into all that today, might be a good sermon series for post Easter though. Anyway, the 11 have gathered on the mountain top and it says some worshipped and some doubted. Now, they way that is translated is a bit misleading. The Greek word really means hesitated. Either way, this should be a reassuring statement to us, that the church was formed with some hesitation. Some of the 11 weren’t so sure about this. There’s some of you today that aren’t so sure about some things in the Bible or with Christianity. That’s OK! Jesus commissioned all 11, even those that might be a little hesitant.The 11 disciples are gathered on a mountain top in Galilee. It is where Jesus has told them to gather. We don’t know exactly when Jesus told them to do this (Jesus says something like this in Matthew 26:32) nor do we know what mountain top it may have been. Wesley, and many scholars today believe it was Mount Tabor, the traditional site of the transfiguration. Both of these slides show Tabor from the Mount of the Precipice in Nazareth. The Mount of Precipice is the traditional site where the folks from the synagogue in Nazareth were going to push Jesus off the cliff. (Luke 4:28-30)
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
The he says all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He has the authority, he is fully God, he can commission the church to do what he wants his church to do. Again, this is reassuring. What it means to us as his church and as believers is that the resources of heaven and earth are at our disposal! We can only fail if we fail to depend on Christ for everything! There those of us right now that are hesitant about this move. About the vote on Oct 5. Look at Jesus promise here. If we depend on his resources, not ours, we cannot fail. I have heard people say, well if God is in this move it will work. Absolutely. And how do we know God is in it? By trusting on his promises and moving forward.
Jesus the says Go. Let’s talk about go for a moment. The Greek word here is a “circumstantial participle” what that means is it is not an imperative, a better translation would be “when you go, make disciples.” Jesus assumes we are going! He says to make disciples of everyone. We don’t exclude. Wesley’s comment on this verses is kinda funny. He says: “baptize Jews or heathens” pretty much sums it up! There are no preconditions on this. No moral imperatives! Go he says.
Baptize he says. Wait, Jesus even before they are “taught?” I pointed this out to my first church and it made them really uncomfortable. It says here to initiate them into the body even before they are “discipled.” There are no preconditions to baptism either. The only instruction is to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When can teach them after that. For me this means that there are many ways we can come to Christ. Don’t limit them.
Ben Johnson former Professor of Evangelism at Columbia Seminary tells a story about a seminary student who came to see him. Like many young seminary students she was finding her faith challenged. That is part of the role of the seminary is to further ground what you believe by calling into question some of the values of your faith. I have witnessed many younger students drop out because they were so unsure of what they believed when they come across competing ideas they just could not handle it. This young lady said she had realized that she had no faith. That she wanted to know Christ but did not know where to begin. Johnson asked her to give God as much of herself as she could to as much of God as she understood. This is exactly what is going on, on this mountain top and this is what we are to do. Teaching is allowing someone to give God as much of themselves as they can to as much of God as they understand! No preconditions. No pat answers. That’s teaching! I like the way Steve Eason puts it “Disciples are students. They are like interns. Interns are watching, practicing under supervision, asking questions, making mistakes, and learning from them. Jesus said very clearly, “ ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (v. 19a). Go make students of Christ. Put people in internships, into a lifelong learning process. That is a major paradigm shift from making church members or whatever else we substitute for discipleship.” Like I said we don’t make members, we make disciples because that is what Jesus told us to do.
Now, more reassurance, “I am with you always to the end of the age.” Jesus is not just a memory for us, he is a very real presence. He walks beside us as we carry out this commission. What a blessing. When we take communion today it is not just an ordinance of remembrance. We believe Jesus to be present as we take the sacrament. He is here at the table with us. But wait, he is at work, he is in our kitchens, he is in our cars, he is in the airplane with you, he’s on Marta, he is with us 24 7, minute by minute. What do we have to fear? Jesus is saying I am here with you till I come again. The age he is speaking of is the age between the first and second coming. We are in the advent of his second coming! We are between the advents.
Many of you are aware that I am a consultant and coach for other congregations. I always have to laugh a little when I am asked by a church or sent to one by the conference to “write a mission statement.” I have to tell them you have a mission statement it’s Matthew 28:19-20. We have been commissioned by Jesus to do this. Do you see why so many churches are in need of revitalization? They do not know why they exist. A commission is an authority to act for, in behalf or with according to Merriam Webster. We are to make disciples on Jesus behalf. He commission us to do this, but does not tell us how to do this. Now, that’s where vision comes in an we’ll talk about that more next week. Your vision statement should be how you make disciples. How your church goes about that. Also, it’s pretty important that you have an idea of what a mature disciple looks like!
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.”
As United Methodist our mission is to “make disciples for the transformation of the world.” (Show web page mission, vision and values) how many of you are familiar with this page on our web site. If someone asks you what we are about here at McEver send them there! And to the welcome guests page.
If you don’t take anything else away from this sermon take this: Jesus is with you always, it’s okay to have some hesitancy, or doubt in your faith, and do not forget to rely on his strength, not your own.
I quit a job to start my own business. Well, it was more than a job it was in a family business. I had been with this company for 15 years. There were no hard feelings on my part but there was on the owner's side. I had offered to stay as long as it took to train my replacement and that was agreed upon. But within a day or two my boss became very angry. He could be a violent man when he got angry and when he called me to come turn in my company credit card and my company car I was scared. I knew what he was capable of. I prayed hard on my way to the office. I asked Jesus just to walk beside me and to protect me. When I walked into his office he jumped out of his chair and was going to come after me, but when he looked at me, he stopped and turned pale. I dropped the keys on his desk and the credit card. "I said, "The car is clean and full of gas. Best of luck." He never responded. He was still standing frozen in that position when I walked out. I think he was going to threaten me at the very least, but in some way He sensed the presence of Jesus and Jesus stopped him.
And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.