Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
June 11, 2017
Scriptures: Luke 24:50-53 and Matthew 28:16-20
On the church calendar, last week was Pentecost and Carole Baker and her marshmallows led you in celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit that swept through the believers, setting their hearts on fire with devotion and dedication.
Today, we celebrate Trinity Sunday, remembering the three-fold nature of our experience of the holy: God the Father, creator of heaven and earth who is larger than life and beyond our ability to totally comprehend; God the Son, Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, the incarnate worker of redemption; and God the Holy Spirit, the ongoing presence of God who is with us still, today. From the great ‘I Am’ to ‘I will be with you always’ – and everything in between.
We have heard two different accounts of Jesus’ ascension. Luke keeps it simple; the followers met him at the mountaintop, were blessed, they worshiped their ascended Lord and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Luke could do this because he wasn’t finished. He went on to write the book of Acts, the sequel to the gospel of Luke.
Matthew’s ending gives us a different take on the event. It was still a mountain-top experience of the risen Lord, but not everyone was quite so joyous. Some were unconvinced, even doubtful that they should worship him. Jesus spoke to the small crowd gathered and asserted his authority. It was as if his claim to the power of God first needed to be named before he could pass on the directives he was about to give the followers.
His first charge was for them to GO, not stay here and build an altar, a church, a shrine, or a tourist site where you can make money until I come back. No, his instruction was for them to Go and make disciples of all nations. Go out into the world and make more disciples to follow in my footsteps. Go even to those who are different, the Gentiles, non-Jews, to those who look different, sound different, live different and help them understand how much God loves them – to the point that we can all live together in peace.
Through these disciple’s mountaintop experience with Jesus, we know that Jesus’ power and authority comes from God, and lives despite the world’s attempt to silence or destroy and it is eternally at work to bring us all together as One.
Jesus is the master teacher, giving instructions to his class in a classroom with no walls, no boundaries, no limits – not physical, not geographical, not even bound by time. Jesus gives us this commission, once again, today. Go and make disciples in all places, for all time, so that the world may be One. He may as well have said, “Go into all the world and cure cancer, clean up the environment, evangelize the unbelieving, and while you’re at it, establish world peace.” The task is impossible, which “throws the disciples completely onto the mercy and strength of God.”
One of the things I loved about Annual Conference last week was the preaching about God’s abundance and power. It was a great reminder that even though our culture has shifted, the power of God to do great things among those who believe has not changed. You and I may not be able to do all those things on our own, by our own willpower as our ego would imagine, which leads to discouragement and feelings of failure, but God can and God has not left us to fend for ourselves. The Holy Spirit is with us, Jesus is with us, till the end. We are not abandoned and left to our own devices. No. Jesus said, “remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b
Go therefore and make disciples…baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. The master teacher is teaching his followers what they should be doing. He doesn’t say how, but the ‘what’ is solid. Disciples. Make more disciples. So what is a disciple?
A disciple is like an intern or a student teacher. They watch and observe. They practice under supervision, asking questions, making mistakes and learning from them. We are to be students of Jesus; always observing and absorbing his teaching, and trying to pattern our own thinking after his. Our goal is to become more Christ-like. As a Church, we should seek not to make more members so much as to make more disciples; people who know the love of Christ, who practice his way of being in the world, who love others the way he loved, who connect with the holy regularly for strength and courage as we live in this uncertain world.
A disciple worships. Regularly. In many different ways and many different places.
A disciple is part of a community. This community is a source of strength and care. They look out for one another. They share resources and they pray for one another.
A disciple commits to spiritual practices. Wesley called these the “Means of Grace.” Worship, prayer, baptism, communion, fasting, reading the scriptures, doing good works, visiting the sick or imprisoned, feeding and clothing those in need, seeking justice for all. These are the ways the grace of God saturates our very being, leading us to experience the peace that passes understanding. We don’t know where it comes from, we don’t understand how it can be manufactured or reproduced. It is a gift from God. Pure gift.
Why do we want to be disciples? If we can name our why it will create a compelling story to share and each of us has a story. Why we are here today has deeper roots than habit or fellowship. Why we worship, why we pray, why we wish to connect with God when others don’t seem to feel the need, are questions we need to be able to answer.
For me, church has been family. Church has been safety and comfort in times of grief and distress. Church has been where I have found the peace that passes understanding. God has been the only place to get that peace. I learned that it can’t be bought, it can’t be grown, it can’t be humanly created or taken in pill form.
In Christ’s church – wherever that happened to be in the many stages of my life – I have found what the world could not give. It is what the world needs to end all the evil. The love of Christ, God’s love for all, extends to the ends of the earth and through all time. As Jesus’ interns, our task is to show the world what that love looks like and invite them to the path that leads to Christ’s eternal peace and joy. Amen.
 Thomas G. Long, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 3, (Knox Press, ____) 49.