Matthew 28:16-20 and 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
June 19, 2011 (Trinity Sunday)
First Christian Church
It was fifteen years ago, around this time that I preached my very first sermon. In fact, it wasn’t to far from here at Grace-Trinity Community Church in Uptown Minneapolis. I remember being so nervous. I didn’t really enjoy public speaking and to some extent, it’s still hard for me. I remember counting down the days until I preached. I practiced the sermon with the pastor of that congregation who continually told me to speak louder and to try again, and again, which only made me more nervous. My parents drove in from Michigan to see me preach. I don’t think I sleep that much the night before. I can remember that Sunday going up to the pulpit and reading my sermon to the gathered congregation. And I think I didn’t do that bad of a job. At least that’s what everyone told me. I’ve preached many times since that sermon in June of 1996, but I’ve never forgotten the emotions surrounding that first time.
What made me so completely nervous was the fact that I was getting up in front of people feeling oh so very naked and vulnerable. I was sharing my life with other people and that just made me nervous. Somehow, I was able to get though that sermon.
When you heard the gospel reading today, how did it make you feel? These are the final words of Jesus according to the book of Matthew. Jesus’ earthly ministry is ending, he has been raised from the dead and getting ready to ascend into heaven. He then gives this last speech to his friends which has commonly been called “The Great Commission.” He tells the eleven that all athourity has been given to him and because of that they are to go into all the world preaching and teaching and making disciples. And he then tells them one more thing: I will be with you until the end of the ages.
In many ways, this passage should fill us with nothing but joy and comfort. But I’m going to guess that the passage in Matthew might make you feel every bit as nervous as I did before preaching that first Sunday. The thing is, this passage is speaking to us, followers of Jesus centuries after he walked on the Earth. It is speaking as much as it did to those disciples of yesteryear.
But the thing is, this passage doesn’t fill us with as much it does fear. We might feel uncomfortable sharing such an intimate part of our lives. Or, we have been embarrassed by those who might try to shame or force people to become Christians. Being on the autistic spectrum has always made social interaction difficult for me, so try to do something like this evangelizing was just impossible.
I think that if one were to sum up this last passage in one word, that word would be: “go.” Don’t worry about feeling nervous. Don’t worry about the doubts you sometimes have. Just go. Go out of the doors of this church and live your lives as followers of Jesus. Go. Go and remember that wherever you go and whatever you do, I am with you cheering you on and supporting you until time is no more.
When we look at this passage more deeply, Christ’s message of action, is not so scary. In fact, I think there is a lot of hope for us and for any community that is scared to death of publicly preaching and teaching in Jesus name. The first thing to know is that God is waiting for us to be perfect to start sharing our own lives. The passage says that some of the disciples still doubted about Jesus and yet the call was still the same. We are not a perfect community. We are not a perfect people. We are a forgiven and grace-filled people who can in grace and love tell others about Jesus in word and deed.
This passage also reminds us that the God of the Trinity, God the Creator, God the Christ, and God the Spirit are there with us, with us when we are scared, with us when we don’t have the words, with us when we fall short of the mark. Even when the membership dwindles and the bank accounts run dry, God is with us and supporting us.
Jesus is telling us to go and in a few months time we will do just that. In a few months, we will go out of the doors of this church building for the last time. We will gather here on a Sunday for the last service at this location and we will then walk out of these doors to start a new journey. We will walk (or drive) a mile or so, to a new place- the Ministry Center, where we will be in active partnership with Salem Lutheran and Lyndale United Church of Christ.
I would ask that this community do a few things thing as it goes out of the doors of this building for the last time. I would ask that once we enter the doors of the new Ministry Center, that we not stay indoors. I would ask that we remember this passage and go outside. I would ask that we remember we are called to go and not just stay. I would ask that we learn to tell each other how God is working in our lives as a way to practice how to share to share the good news with others. I would ask that we not see church as a destination, but rather as a launching pad for ministry to the world. I would as that we would go.
If you are still scared to death about going out and making disciples, I want you to look at the front of the sanctuary. Look at all the prayer shawls that are on the pulpit, the lectern and the table. As we said earlier today, these shawls are made for anyone that is need both inside and outside of the community. Yarn by yarn, loop by loop, these are examples of sharing Christ’s love with others. It is these modern disciples that are preaching and teaching to others. It’s someone like Dorothy Stegner, who was led this effort and made sure that everyone that wants a prayer shawl will get one. It’s someone like Ardie Armstrong , who faithfully delivers the shawls. And it’s someone like Barb Rusinak who every time I see her always seems to be knitting. To all those women who make these prayer shawls, you might think you are just gathering every Thursday to chat and knit, but you are doing so much more. You are making disciples for Christ.
So, just go folks. Don’t wait until you have the right words, don’t wait until you don’t have any doubts. Just go and let Christ guide you. Just go and know that you are empowered by God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just go.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Photo: Dorothy Stegner, Prayer Shawl Ministry Coordinator at First Christian Church in Minneapolis.