Pastor John E. Kerr
Sunday, June 7, 2020 Theme: “What God Wants This Church to Do” Text: Matthew 28:16-20
For the past two months, we’ve dealt with COVID-19, the coronavirus that has infected and killed people around the globe. Add to that, this past week in Minneapolis we were shocked by the video of George Floyd, a black man detained by police, handcuffed, lying face down on pavement with a white police officer kneeling with his knee pressing on Floyd’s neck, chocking the very life out of him. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Minneapolis and across the globe in response to this cruel and heartless death. Marches, begun in peace, escalated into rioting, burning and looting of cities in protest to Floyd’s death, racism and police brutality.
Into this mix of fear, virus, death and marches, we come to today, Sunday, June 7, that on the church’s calendar is known at Trinity Sunday, a major festival in the church, but it suffers in comparison to Christmas and Easter.
The word “trinity” tries to define our experience of God who is revealed in the Bible as Father, Son and Holy Spirit or as creator, savior and sustainer. But our words and explanations of God never seem to capture who God really is. In each generation, we attempt to explain our experiences of God, which is what the writers of the Bible did in their day.
It seems no matter where you go in the world somebody is reading the Bible about God. Go into grand cathedrals, stone, brick or wood buildings, grass huts or igloos and everywhere you go people are reading about God, worshipping God and learning about Jesus.
How did all of that begin? Matthew says that the risen Christ met with the eleven disciples. They met on an unnamed, unlocated mountain in northern Israel in Galilee. As they met, we are told, they worshipped Jesus, but some doubted. What? They worshipped and they doubted? Does that go together? I think they do. I’ve never met anybody with 100% pure faith with no doubts. I know there are people who say, “If God said it, I believe it! Period! No questions asked!” But my guess is that even they raise questions from time to time. Why her? Why him Why this? Why now? Matthew says they worshipped and they doubted. Don’t feel badly toward yourself if you have a mixture of faith and doubt, because hell will freeze over before we have total faith without any questions at all.
And Jesus said to his disciples, “I’ve been given authority from God to give you these instructions. I want you to go into the whole world and make disciples.” But how do you make disciples? The same way Jesus did. He loved them, blessed them and helped them, and some of them didn’t care or give a hoot! And Jesus didn’t gethuffy, pushy or mad. He gave them space.
Remember the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked, “Jesus, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said, “Your life is cluttered with stuff. Just give it away to the poor and come and follow me.” The man said, “I can’t do that. I just have to have it.” Jesus gave him room to say no, because if you don’t have room to say no, saying yes doesn’t mean a thing. There was no coercion or intimidation with Jesus.
There have been times in the history of the church when people have been emotionally and socially coerced into following Jesus. There was a poor Jewish family who lived in Trier, Germany, living among a bunch of Protestant Christians, and they couldn’t find work. They were qualified, had the education and credentials, and they asked, “Why?” They were told, “Because you’re not in a church.” So the couple, to avoid starving themselves and their children to death, submitted to baptism in the local church. They had a son who was so incensed that the church would do that to
his parents that their son Karl—Karl Marx—became an enemy of all that we love, because somebody misunderstood making disciples. Jesus gave people room. With him there was no pushing or pressuring of people.
Jesus said, “I want my followers to be this way with everybody in the world.” That probably shocked his disciples, because everybody includes a lot of folks I don’t like. If you say everybody is welcome here, then we’ll have problems, because who are you going to get? Welcome everybody. Go and make disciples, and those who are ready and willing—baptize them.
People start out their relationship with Christ like a courtship. A couple gets acquainted; they date, get to know each other, become engaged and get married. They reach a point and say, “I commit myself before God, my family and friends to this person for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. Baptism, confirmation, and joining the church are public announcements that I want to be counted and numbered among the followers of Jesus. I commit my life to him.
In the baptism of a child, the parents and sponsors say, “We commit ourselves to seeing this child is reared in the Christian faith, so that he or she is counted as a follower of Jesus.” Then, when our child reaches a point of growth in their faith, he or she will say publicly to the world before God, family and friends, “This is who I am and who I will be—a follower and disciple of Jesus.” We call that confirmation.
Jesus said, “I want you to teach them. Teach them all that I commanded you.” But some aren’t into teaching and learning. They’re into having an emotional, spiritual, religious experience with God and that’s all. But what comes after that? How do we live? What do we do? We need some kind of instruction. What does Jesus say? That is important to me.
I’m amazed that there a people who are so gung-ho about joining the church or being on the church membership list and are careless about trying to find out what Jesus said about this or that. But I think people really do want to know. They may act like they don’t. They may joke about the church or say silly things about it, but they really want to know. Several confirmation boys after we studied the sixth commandment about adultery came up to me after class and asked, “We don’t know how to say this, but did Jesus say anything about sex?” They want to know what Jesus said. She said, “A friend of mine committed suicide and her pastor said that suicide is an unforgiveable sin. Did Jesus say anything about suicide? “ She wants to know.
I know that there are churches whose primary concern seems to be consumer driven—just entertain, give the people what they want, make it fun, interesting and talent-filled and your crowds will be so large they’ll push your walls out. I’m not sure that’s what people find interesting and challenging in the long haul. What’s interesting is what touches my life at its deepest level whether I’m 6, 16 or 96 years old. If you really want to know what interests people, it’s when all the lights and cameras are turned off, the musicians, singers, speech makers and marchers have packed up and gone home and he asks, “Do you think Derek Chauvin who killed George Floyd with his knee pressed against his throat can be forgiven?” He asked that. She said, “I know the Bible says that you’re supposed to honor your father and mother, but when I was a child my sisters and I were sexually abused by our dad and now he’s in the hospital dying of cancer. How can I go and visit him and forgive him? Or should I?” She wants to know. That’s why Jesus said, “I want you to teach them. You can’t force them, but they want to know.”
Do you know why I think Jesus said that we are to make disciples of all nations? Was it because he didn’t want to be prejudiced or exclude some? Perhaps. I think the reason Jesus said to make disciples of all nations and teach them was because everybody, everybody in the world, wants to know something about the one you and I call God. Do you believe that? I do.