Monday, April 29, 2019

Therefore, go. This commission is serious business.

I have not played golf in a decade or so but when I was playing every now and then, I’ve never made a putt that came up short.  Some that I hit too hard lucked into going in, but I never made one that didn’t make it to the hole.  I’ve missed them long and I’ve missed them short but only the long misses ever had a chance.

I never made a shot in basketball that I didn’t take.  That’s not quite true.  In basketball, if somehow the other team makes a basket in your goal, the player closest to their own goal gets the credit. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s good to have a friend who is also the team scorekeeper and gets to decide who was closest.
It was hard to play with the level of consistency that I had in high school:  Five points and five fouls per game, and you can’t get your point total up if you get to five fouls before you get to five points.

Some people don’t understand that there is more to basketball than blocking and tackling, but generally, you never make a shot that you don’t take.

Despite the Keto craze right now, I never gained a pound from something that I didn’t eat.  There is some food at fellowship meals that seems to put the pounds on me even when I never put it on my plate, but it really doesn’t work out that way.

Perhaps we will return to these simple concepts later, for now, I want us to consider a commission.  A commission is essentially an order with a grant of authority for the purpose of carrying out that order.  You can find a variety of definitions, but they generally include what you are charged to do and the power or authority to do just that.

For example, I think that it is ridiculous that there is only a two-lane road between Burns Flat and Foss.  That should be four lanes.  It should be on an insurance commercial—everybody knows that.  C’mon, we have a sign on the interstate that says, SPACEPORT OKLAHOMA.  We need a four-lane road.

So, I commission you to make that stretch of road into a four-lane highway.  Chances are you won’t get far with this project.  It’s not that you couldn’t do the work.  You might move ground and run asphalt with the best of them, but I do not have the authority to direct changes to that state highway and I don’t have the authority to tell you to make those changes.

I really can’t commission you to give me a four-lane road.  Looks like we will just have to deal with the traffic congestion associated in living in the state’s spaceport.

A commission must have authority.  I served as a commissioned officer of the United States for 20 years.  I had the authority of our federal government to execute my assigned missions. 

Our presbytery often appoints commissions for specific tasks, ordaining and installing ministers of word and sacrament frequent the list of commissions.  When the work is done, the commission is dissolved.

As a reserve officer, my commission expired on a certain date.  When I became a regular officer, that date was changed to indefinite.  Essentially, I was commissioned until my country said, it’s time for you to do something else.

If you have ever had something notarized, you might note that the notary generally indicates when his or her commission expires on whatever document you have notarized.  There is usually a time element in a commission.

Our commission, sometimes referred to as the Great Commission, begins with these words:  Therefore, go. 

Therefore, is generally considered an adverb or a conjunction.  Don’t stress out, we will not be diagraming sentences later, but I want us to consider a little something about this word.  It usually connects thoughts.  We could substitute the phrases:

·       For that reason
·       Because of that
·       On that ground

We could use other words.  Some synonyms might be:

·       Consequently
·       Accordingly
·       Wherefore
·       Thereupon
·       And a favorite of mine, ergo

But we translate the words of Jesus and find Therefore to be most appropriate.  So what is being connected?  What is the antecedent?  As we get our marching orders, what does Jesus connect with them?

Authority.  Jesus noted, All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me.  Jesus didn’t decide to take a time out and just brag a little.  This statement precipitates what follows.

Therefore, go…

God’s authority is connected to the word go.  It does not mean, when you are out and about anyway.  It doesn’t mean when you think about it.  It means go.

Let’s put it this way.  “Runners to your mark.  Get set.  Whenever.  Not!  The word that belongs there is go.

Jesus grants us authority and says go.  In Acts, Jesus adds some geography.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

If all of those places seem far away, substitute this.  You will be his witnesses in Burns Flat or Dill City, the State of Oklahoma, the United States of America, and the ends of the earth.

If you don’t like political boundaries, just thing concentric circles.  Start in the middle and work outwards.

Coming back to Matthew’s gospel, we see that there are some specific tasks in our mission—part of our commission.  They are simple ones but necessary.

·       Make disciples everywhere
·       Baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit
·       Teach them to obey what Jesus commanded—what he taught

The first two on the list don’t seem too hard.  When someone professes Jesus as Lord, discipleship is the next step.  I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.  There is a lot of learning involved here.  Discipleship involves learning.

Baptizing, well, we can pawn that off on the preacher.  It’s important and the believer will want to do this.  He or she will want to share publicly what’s gone on privately. 

Then we come to the last one.  We are to teach what Jesus taught, right?  That’s sort of like making disciples, isn’t it?

Not exactly.  We are to teach those who profess Jesus to obey that which he taught, which he commanded, which he directs.  Now that can be a might prickly because people in this century don’t like the obey word.  Folks today would prefer generally go along with or not offended by, but the word that has the most fidelity to the original text is obey.

We know and we must be conversant in the fact that Jesus told his followers that to put his words into practice is like the wise man who built his house upon a rock foundation.  Everything else is sinking, wash away, won’t hold up in a storm sand. 

To obey our Master is to put his words into practice, and oh by the way, we already know this part from our study of faith, obedience will not be a burden.

That does not mean that we force or coerce compliance.  We teach disciples to obey what our Lord taught us.  Part of teaching obedience is living obedience, with love one another at the top of the obedience list.
How long do we do this?  Let’s make this multiple choice.

A.    As long as it is called today.
B.    Until death
C.    Until the end of the age.
The answer is D, all of the above.  Essentially, our commission does not expire until we do or this age does.

This commission comes with a bonus.  Do you know what it is?  Did you pick it up?

Jesus is sending us into the world to share the good news, but instead of commissioning us and saying Good Luck, he says, I’m going with you.

Surely, I am with you until the end of the age.

That’s the nuts and bolts of our commission.  We are sent into the world with good news and the authority to deliver it.  So what now?

If you have been here for a few months or a few years, you may have noticed that most of my messages are about discipleship.  I am preaching to the saints—to the saved.  I do have some evangelical messages, but mostly I am talking to those who will do the evangelism.

And I have fallen short in equipping you.  In the past I might give you a challenge.  I might appeal to your nature that is becoming more and more like that of our Master, desiring none to perish.  I might have loaded you up with gospels and wristbands, but I didn’t give you everything that is available.

Part of that is just having blindspots.  We all have them.  When I have them, they might affect you.  They might impact your effectiveness in sharing the gospel. 

Remember that we are a church in the reformed tradition.  What’s that mean.  It means that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow but the church with Jesus as the head, changes means and methods, tactics and techniques, and feels free to go from the didactic to the dramatic.  We will find a way to get the good news to the people who need it.

Unlike the first century world where the good news was shared with a Jewish community that was heavily vested in atoning for its sins on an annual basis and a pagan world that made its own gods and the rules to go with them, we face a different challenge.

We go into a world that serves the twin gods of apathy and ambivalence. We bring a message of love not fear, but we must bring it with urgency.  Tomorrow is not promised.

Now, to those blindspots.  For the rest of this year, I will give you a weekly challenge.  That challenge will be to give out 3 cards a week to people who are in your path in the course of that week.  This is for everyone junior high to senior adult.  For the younger ones, I will give you one card a week.

The front of the card has our service times.  The back has a website full of videos about Christianity.  For the purpose of this evangelical effort, you may invite people to church.  Yes, I know that we are the church, but if it breaks the ice and helps you deliver the cards, then invite someone to church and give them a card.

Next Sunday, I will ask, “Who delivered all three cards?”

Don’t just give yours to your husband so he can give you his.  Give them out in purposeful fulfillment of the Great Commission.

The back of the card is not a substitute for personal and group Bible study.  It is an appetizer.  It lets people get some basic questions answered that might help them walk through the doors on Sunday.

Remember, our biggest challenge is apathy and ambivalence.  People should taste the goodness of God when they encounter us.  God’s light should shine through us.  We must not be afraid to step out of our comfort zone a little bit more.  Some of you have done this a few times.

Understand that there is a difference in being a disciple and fulfilling our commission.  The former helps us fulfill the latter, but just living the Christian life is not a fulfillment of the commission.  Our commission calls us to deliver good news.

Think about this.  I announce something from the pulpit for six months.  I put it in the bulletin for the same period of time.  It could be to be on a fellowship team or on a committee or to sing a special.  Those announcements are so powerful that I often get no response.

How could we not get volunteers?  I announced it from the pulpit!

But when someone comes and invites you personally, the response is so much better.  Do you think that God did not know that personal contact is so much more effective that a Facebook post?  Do you think that we are commissioned to deliver the good news for no particular reason?  God is purposeful in everything he does.  His purpose in this commission was for us to go across the street and into the world and talk with people about being made right with God through the blood of Jesus Christ.

We are starting with a small step and a small card.  Take wristbands and gospels as well if you want, but deliver three invitations and three cards this week.

Please do not do this because Tom said so.  I challenge each of you to reflect upon, pray about, and be fully convinced in your own mind that you are serious about fulfilling your commission from God.

I have preached the Parable of the Talents close to 50 times over the past dozen years, not always in this gathering.  On several of those occasions, I asked the question, What did I do with what God gave me?

I have often broken this into areas of time, talent, and treasure.  Those are the traditional subtitles.  But over the past half dozen years, I frequently went beyond the traditional three and include the gospel, asking, What did I do with the gospel entrusted to me?

This week, I charge you to give out three invitations to come and worship the Lord—you can say come to church—and accompany these invitations with 3 cards.

It’s simple.  It’s doable.  It should not take you too far out of your comfort zone.

I am going to ask next Sunday who did this.  This is not to coerce you or embarrass you but to remind you we are doing a little something extra in fulfilling our commission.  I believe that after your time of prayer and reflection, you too will choose to take the commission that the Lord has given you very seriously.

You might want to latch onto an accountability partner that will send you a text on Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday and Saturday seeing how you did. 

We are not only saved from our sin and from death, but we are also commissioned to rescue others.  The Holy Spirit is going with us. 

Know that I will run out of cards before we run out of people to talk with.  It’s a target rich environment.  People need to hear the gospel and people who have heard it and responded at some point need to come home.

I have never made a putt that came up short.  I have missed some long and missed some short but only the ones that I missed long had a chance to go in.

I’ve never made a basket without taking a shot.

I’ve never shared the gospel with anyone that I did not speak with.

We are called to live a life of love, be God’s light, and even be the God seasoning of the world as his disciples, but we are commissioned beyond just living this godly life.  We are commissioned to share the good news.

Will you take these first steps in fulfilling your commission?  It is a mission that we execute together with our Lord. I pray that we fulfill our part, not with fear but with faithfulness.


No comments:

Post a Comment