Trinity Sunday

You have created all of us, O God, and placed deep within each of us your image.
You have made all of us—nations, races, men and women—in your image and
blessed us with responsibility. We thank you for that gift. And we ask you now
to open our minds and our hearts to your life-giving, liberating love, which you
have shown in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord. Amen.

For the past few months parents and these seniors have been sending us their pictures and sharing with us their plans of where they are heading next year and we have been so bold to ask them a terrible question, what are you going to do. 

When I worked in admissions in higher education, we knew that at that time, most young adults didn’t what they are going to do with their careers until the age of 24, which is typically after kid’s graduate with an undergraduate degree. That was over 20 years ago, but I would bet that statistic is about the same.  It’s a bold thing to ask an 18-year-old what they are going to do, what they will study, and expect them to have some clarity to that answer. 

Getting a child ready to launch into the stratosphere of college and young adult hood is no easy task.  In my experience it is a lot like getting a child ready for kindergarten.  The first semester they are sick all the time, they are as our kindergarten teacher said, learning how to be kindergarteners, and that is a job enough. Kindergartners have to figure out how to self-advocate, interact with different kinds of children, sit still, and eat in a cafeteria.   Leaving home, going out on your own, not having a curfew, managing your health care, your diet, your budget, your time, and your boundaries is an uphill learning experience that will undoubtedly result in mistakes and hard lessons. We don’t just wake up one day and discover that  we are adults, no we become adults.  We gradually, over time evolve into our own unique identity, with opinions separate from our parents and lives independent from our families.

Paul talks about this when he writes to the church in Corinth and says, when I was a child, I thought like a child, I reason like a child, when I became and adult I put away childish things.  There’s a song by Jason Gray entitled I’m becoming,  the bridge goes like this:

It’s progress, not perfection
Not arrival, it’s direction
It’s the living and the learning
Not the finish line but the journey
It’s progress, not perfection
Not arrival, it’s direction
It’s the living and the learning
Not the finish line but the journey

I, I’m becoming
I, I’m becoming.

Here’s the big secret that no one tells you when you are 18, you are never finished becoming. We are given our lives to become who God has made us to be. If we are lucky enough we get to become many things, and very few of them have to do with our careers or how much many we make or where we live or what we drive or what we are known for.  Most of the things we become are things inside ourselves.  We become healthier. We become more honest. We become more generous.  We become more faithful.  We become kinder.  We become humbler. We can also be come cynical, angry and bitter. The beauty of being a human being that as long as you have breath, you are becoming someone.The tragedy takes place when we forget that we are someone, worthy to become who God has made us to be.

Jesse Jackson says that the “greatest cause of social decay in America today is not racism, not poverty, not drugs, not war or violence. Those are all symptoms and consequences, but they are not the root cause of the greatest social decay in our America today. The cause is a lack of self worth, a lack of an identity worth respecting, a lack of self-respect and self-dignity, and that comes from knowing who we really are.” (Gomes, Sermons: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living, p. 122–123)

Sometimes our world gets so small and our worries get so big we forget that we are part of a world that was created millions of years ago out of star dust.  Sometimes we are guilty of naval gazing, and we forget to go star gazing.  Sometimes we get so focused on what the world says we are supposed to become, we forget what Jesus said we were to become.

Today Jesus gives his disciples, that’s us, what is known as the great commission. It’s often been called the Mission statement for the church.

Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18-20). It’s like he’s talking right past the apostles and speaking to us. You, (name) , go and make disciples of all nations. You, (name) , go and make disciples of all nations. You, (name) , go and make disciples of all nations. You, (name) , go and make disciples of all nations. Can you imagine Jesus calling your name?

If Jesus asked you to go, would you go? And if you went what would you say?  I have been told that the pastor before me, Dr. Ziegler would often say to the people of Orchard Park, we are great commission church, this is who we are called to be, this is what we are called to do.  Upon reflection someone told me once that he always heard that on Sunday mornings but he didn’t know how to apply it, how to make it real in every day life.  Afterall, we Presbyterians aren’t the most evangelical sorts of people.

When I was in my freshman year of college a student knocked on my door and asked if she could talk to me. She handed me a piece of paper and asked me if I had been saved.  I looked at her and said, “I don’t know I’m Presbyterian.”  To which she then tried to convince me to be baptized by immersion and claim Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I had no idea how to answer a question like that. I had no idea what I believed, but what I did know was that I was very uncomfortable and while I admired her moxy, I would never, ever knock on someone’s door and ask them if they had been saved.  That may work for some faith traditions, but that’s not how I understood discipleship then or now.

So what does it mean to go and make disciples?  How do you take this great commission, and apply it to our daily lives?  How do we live out the Great Commission, so that it becomes part of who we are? I want you to notice something Jesus says in this short passage.  The first thing I want you to notice is how many times Jesus says the word all.  He says all authority, all nations, baptizing them all, and remembering I am with you all. That word all seems to be an important point.  It’s inclusive, isn’t it?  It’s not some, or a few, but all. There is no room for enemies, no room for others, no room of outsiders in Jesus’s commission.

The second point I want to point out are the action words, the verbs.  Jesus says to go, to make, to baptize, and to remember.  There is movement in this passage, its not something you can do standing still.  To make a disciple is not to achieve a litmus test, it’s not like achieving a number sales in a quarter, or as someone once said in their ordination exam, It’s not about getting a number of notches in your belt indicating how many people  you saved. No, to make a disciple is to establish a relationship with someone, to pray for them, to care about their life, to cheer them on, to mentor them, know them.  You may only help form one person into becoming disciple in your lifetime, and that is enough.  Can you think of the people, the mentors in your life who have helped you become the disciple you are today?  Can you think of the people for whom you disciple to, that they may grow in faith and know Jesus in their lives.  We all need people no matter our age, to guide as in our discipleship.  We are never done becoming a disciple.

The next verb is to baptize them in the name of the Trinity, baptizing them, reminding them they are a child of God. 

Third, teach.  Teach them to obey my commandments.   Making a disciple, blessing them with a baptism and holding them accountable to God’s law that’s the great commission.  And lastly remember.  Remember that Jesus is with you until the end of the age.

The great commission is lived out when we move with our feet – when we go.  It could mean going to an impoverished country, it could mean going to a council meeting.  It could mean going out for coffee with a young person.  The great commission is lived out when we baptize. In baptism we remember that we belong to God.  The great commission is lived out when we teach to obey.  Being a disciple isn’t a ticket to heaven.  Being a disciple is being a student of how to live a faithful life.  The great commission is lived out when we remember.  Remember that from the beginning of time, beyond your life time and on into eternity God is present.  Remember that grace is not earned, it is received.  Remember that as large as the cosmos is, and as wide as the universe is, you are beloved.

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