Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"GO" - Sermon, June 11, 2017

Community UMC, Quincy
June 11, 2017 – Trinity Sunday
Pastor Andrew Davis
2 Corinthians 13: 11-13
Matthew 28: 16-18

            As I referred to in my most recent article for the newsletter, June feels like it’s a month that's on the GO.  It’s a time to go on vacation, a time of going from one grade to the next like many of our students have done this week; a time of going on from high school like we saw on Friday at Quincy High School’s graduation and seeing Alyssa graduate.  Or, June is also a time of going to Annual Conference which Gloria and I will be doing next week when we travel to Burlingame to represent our church in the work of our regional body of the UMC in California-Nevada.  But the month of June is also a time of transition for many, as a number of my clergy colleagues will be going to other churches (aka ‘The Methodist Shuffle’) and in the case of a number of my friends who just graduated seminary this last month, a time of going to their new churches for the very first time, although now I can’t stop thinking of that song from Disney’s “Frozen” that goes, “for the first time in forever…”
And as we just presented Bibles to Quentin, Bryant, Cooper, and Allie this morning, there are going to many moments along the way of your journeys into 3rd which will feel like ‘the first time in forever.’ And now that you have your new Bibles, I hope you will use them to help you grow in faith as you keep on learning about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, as they will be with you, along with your family, and all of us here in this church, your church family as you go on this journey, plus I know you're very good readers and will learn a lot with your new Bibles.  And please, do ask us questions about the many stories about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit that you will read about in the Bible, as we are here to help you as you go forward in your faith journey.  I know when I got my first Bible at our church in Rio Linda from Rev. Lori Sawdon in 1990, I would often visit Pastor Lori after church and ask her lots of questions about the stories in the Bible that I read, and she was always happy to take the time to help me make sense of what I was reading out of this very Bible that I received from her.  This last January, it was a GREAT JOY to reconnect and look back with her as a fellow pastor, coming a long way from that curious 9-year-old.  
As we engage with our texts this morning, Paul is going forth from his churches in Corinth as he gives final greetings, while in our Gospel lesson, the resurrected, living Jesus is telling the disciples that it’s now their turn to go into the world and teach others about God, Jesus himself, and the Holy Spirit, as we also know this story from Matthew as “The Great Commission.” (If you turn in your new Bibles to Matthew 28: 16-20, Quentin, Bryant, Cooper, and Allie, there’s a really cool little section on the bottom of the page that talks about “The Great Commission” that I hope you’ll read this week!!). 
            So often when we talk about The Great Commission, we think it’s about going out and trying to bring people in or get people to come to church, and that is part of it, although like some of these infomercials we'd see on tv would say, but there's more.  The invitation aspect comes with the package, but first and foremost, Jesus tells the disciples to GO out to the world to now make disciples, basically inviting ALL people to become disciples, as he’s telling the disciples to GO and meet the people where they are at, as “the invitation to [becoming disciples]” or followers of Jesus is “now open to all people of all nations.”[i]  However, Jesus isn’t saying ‘come’ or ‘stay.’ He is more or less saying it more like the bonus ending of the movie from the 1980’s, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” where Ferris reappears after the credits and says “what are you still doing here?  GET OUT OF HERE!”  Given how stern Jesus could be with the disciples at times in Matthew’s Gospel, I wouldn’t put it past him.  But, today we do see some people out and about trying to bring people to faith in various ways, and John Wesley even did it when he preached in the fields and coal mines, mostly after being banned from preaching in some of the churches around England during the mis-late 1700's.  There are various ways of making disciples, but we have to actually GO out to make it happen. 
One of my favorite parodies of scripture comes from a blog that I used to read regularly called ‘United Methodeviations’ by Rev. Dr. Dan Dick in Wisconsin.  In The Gospel According to Bob, chapter 28, verses 16 to 20 we hear these words:
Then Jesus sayeth unto them, “Go, invite people to come sitteth for an hour in church once every six weeks or so, telling them that very little will be expected of them, that they will heareth good music and that there will be coffee and snacks.”  But, Peter aggrieved and dyspeptic said, “But, what if there is soccer??”  And Jesus replied, “Well, that is a problem.” (KJV)
Jesus said, “Bring people to church.” Peter replied, “They may not come.” Jesus said, “Whatever.”  (The Message)[ii]

            Now Dan calls this particular post “The Mediocre Commission,” as it differs a lot from “The Great Commission,” which says a little something about what it means to be Jesus’s disciples today, as Jesus still calls and commissions us to be his followers, in which we are then called to make new disciples.  In fact, the mission statement of the UMC is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” which is taken from “The Great Commission.” As Jesus prepares to depart this world and as Paul is preparing to leave Corinth to go to his next church, both are telling the people of the church in Corinth and the disciples that ‘it’s your turn now…GO!,’   That's somethings expected of us as disciples. But also don't just GO, but lead by example, in which we neeed to pay attention to living into the great commission, not the mediocre commission.
            And likewise, it’s now our turn too, as Jesus is telling us in “The Great Commission” to make disciples, but also teach others to do what he taught, as we as a community of faith need to keep studying what he taught the original twelve disciples, as we may find some new insights in our study each time.  Also part of living into the Great Commission means loving each other unconditionally, trying to help each other and those we meet the best ways that we can and within reason (even when all the best we can do is be a listening ear). When we GO to make disciples, we need to be generous, but even love the people that we may not like, the people we may not get along with, or those we disagree with, and even go into places we may not want to go.  Little things like these is one way how we can change the world for the better when we go and do what Jesus says and taught the disciples, but also teach others to do what Jesus says to do when we too go and make disciples.  In everything, we know that Jesus’s presence is still with us, always and forever. 
            But it takes us going out, teaching, loving, and showing others how Jesus loves the world through our actions which makes this commission so great.  Now unlike the Gospel According to Bob, Jesus doesn’t say ‘come to my church’ because going out and meeting the people where they are is part of ‘The Great Commission,’ but also our task as disciples.  Now by coming to church, you do get some perks like a loving community, yes -  coffee and some treats, but more importantly, you get fellowship with people who are at different points along the journey of faith, even if that faith isn’t exactly perfect and even if you're not sure about all this God stuff.[iii]  We learn about being disciples together.  We’re still sent by Jesus to GO, whether it’s in our own community, across the country, or in the greater world.  Jesus says GO, I am with you.
So when we GO and serve at our various community organizations, in our various workplaces, our schools, even to the lakes and streams, the park, or summer sports programs, we have many awesome opportunities to make disciples, remembering that Jesus is always with us, but also to let the Jesus within each of us come out.  It doesn’t mean that we have to say ‘hey, you HAVE to come to my church’ (although the invitation doesn’t hurt either), but instead says, ‘hey, I care about you; come join me on this journey...I don't know where all it will end up, but I believe it will be good!' At the same time when we meet people where they are at when Jesus says GO, we also don’t want to be pushy about it either. 
We also show our own discipleship through our actions, by our love for God and neighbor, reading and studying the Bible as often as we can through regular devotion (such as The Upper Room booklets in the vestibule or AliveNow), and through daily prayer, but we also show our own discipleship in how we apply it to how we live day by day.   It’s how we do as Jesus says and try to act just like Jesus did, or even ask ourselves in our actions like those wrist bands and t-shirts would say when I was in high school in the 1990's, ‘what would Jesus do?.’ When Jesus says to ‘Go make disciples,’ we can make disciples through how we relate to others, particularly in love, but also by being encouraging when inviting friends and people you meet to join you on the journey of faith. Doesn't mean they'll come to church, but at least you have the relationship which in my eyes, is more important.
Finally, as we’ve heard before and as I discussed with a couple colleagues over lunch this last week, one of the fastest growing groups is the ‘nones,’ people who do not have an affiliation with church or religion.  Although I said this in a sermon in January, A 2014 study by The Barna Group, a group that researches populations and religion, found that 48% of the people born between 1984 and 2002 and 40% of those born between 1965 and 1983 do not affiliate with any particular church (although these percentages may be a little higher today).[iv] This means that we have a HUGE opportunity to engage and build relationships, simply meeting people where they are at when we GO make disciples.  In order to GO make disciples and even BE disciples, we really want to practice what Jesus says, particularly in Matthew 22 that we are to ‘love the Lord our God and love our neighbor as ourselves’ (Matthew 22: 36-40), especially when we go back out into the community and into the world from this place, as the Great Commission is a capstone to the Gospel of Matthew, but now puts the work Jesus did onto us. And as we GO, remember that as he is also with God, Jesus will be with us each step of the way, as we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and move within us as we GO and make disciples and make this world a better place by living into the Great Commission.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let the church say AMEN. 

[i] The New Interpreters Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 503.   

[ii] Dick, Dan. 2011. "The Mediocre Commission". United Methodeviations. Accessed June 6 2017.

[iii] The New Interpreters Bible Commentary, 502. 
[iv] George Barna and David Kinnaman, Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them (Austin, TX: Tyndale Momentum, 2014), 12.  

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