Summary: The risen Jesus commands us to be a disciple making, grace offering and teaching, learning, obedient people who by faith know that he is always with us
It is good on this sort of occasion to go back to basics and to remind ourselves what sort of community we are called to be. And for that I have turned to the last few words of Matthew’s gospel and what is known as the great commission.
The disciples have gathered together and Jesus has said to them: ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me’.
I guess that is easier to take from a man who has risen from the dead.
Clearly Jesus has authority over the processes of nature and over death.
And he has authority over the lives of men and women.
God, by raising Jesus from the dead, has shown them that he is the Messiah, the One who He promised to send as his ruler, who has authority over all people and over all rulers.
There is a booklet that has been produced about our Queen, called ‘The servant Queen and the King she follows’. If you are introduced to the Queen, you will bow or curtsey. It is a mark of respect, and a recognition that she is the head of our state. But our Queen freely recognises the authority of Jesus Christ as her Lord. She, as far as I know, curtseys to no person, but she curtseys to him.
And when we pray for the rulers of the world we are actually doing something quite radical: we are stating that we believe that there is a power, an authority, that is greater than them. That is why totalitarian rulers struggle with an active and lively church – or, for that matter, any faith, where people recognise a higher authority than them.
And as one who has all authority, Jesus gives his followers a task to do.
He calls us to go and make disciples.
It would have been so easy for the first disciples to keep together, secure in the knowledge that they had been chosen by Jesus, that they had intimacy with God, and that they had a glorious hope. But they are told to ‘go’.
For some that is an actual call to relocate.
Many people have heard Jesus’ call to go and serve him and make him known in other cultures. I pray that as a parish we will get behind Tom and Jemma as they go to Ethiopia. I hope that we will pray for them, support them and give to their work. It would be great if we could ‘go’ with them as a parish together.
And often we need to hear God’s call to ‘go’ to a different place, not only because the desire of Jesus is for the people of all nations and cultures to become his disciples, followers, but also because so often it is when we relocate that we find we become much more dependent on him – and therefore open to him. And some of us here may need to hear that.
But ‘going’ is not necessarily about moving on. It is also about an attitude of mind. It is very easy for us to do the same old thing because it is easy and safe. New people, new things, new ways require effort. There are challenges and opposition that will need to be overcome. And it is very easy to become lazy or ‘weary with doing good’.
We need that ‘go’ attitude. In fact, I would argue that the church of today particularly needs to hear the command to go.
That is why I am delighted that St Peter’s is setting up this new service, Sunday at 4. Even though we are inviting people into the building, it is about an attitude of ‘going’. It is why I am encouraged when people set up initiatives: Inspiring women, mini church, little fishes (a new creche based at St Mary’s), Sometimes on Sunday, work with 18-30 year olds.
And we need to recommit ourselves to ‘go’ – even if it simply means getting out of the armchair, turning off the telly, moving out from the familiar group, breaking a routine that is in danger of stifling us - and getting down on our knees, listening to God, and then picking up the phone and ringing someone, or visiting a neighbour, or inviting a friend to an event, getting involved in something different or even – if this is what God is calling us to do -putting up the ‘for sale’ sign and moving.
But this is not going for ‘goings’ sake. It is not just a question of moving out of our comfort zones. We are called to go with a very specific purpose.
We are to be a disciple making community.
Only God can make disciples. Only he can give men or women a desire for him; only he can give life to someone who is spiritually dead.