Thursday, June 19, 2014

This weekend's sermon...sort of.

Here's the manuscript for the sermon I preached this past weekend.  The sermon was a little different at each serice.  So if some of it is ungamiliar, it may be because there was a different illustration or example in its place.  The Spirit was on the move. 

June 15, 2014

Holy Trinity Sunday
Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

Please pray with me,

May the words of my mouth and the mediations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

Where have you seen God at work in your life? 

That was the question of the night my first night at Bear Creek Camp.  I spent this past week leading some Bible studies, playing games, spending time outside, and getting to know some amazing young people who are spending their summer at Bear Creek Camp.  Within a circle of 30 young people, each person took time to share a moment or experience where they had seen God at work in their lives.  The stories ranged far and wide, from life changing experiences in the Super Dome at the National Youth Gathering in New Orleans, to a missionary trip experience in Tanzania, to sharing experiences of being raised in a single parent home, to struggling with faith and relationships with God through early college years.  We heard stories of struggling with parents being diagnosed with cancer, with sharing homes with foster children, to seeing God at work in loving supportive family, friends. 

It was an amazing experience.  Not just because it was my first night at camp, but because it was the second night this entire group had been together.  People from across the country and around the world sat in a circle and shared some extremely personal and real stories with one another.  Here in this circle was a place where people were sharing the places they saw God at work in their lives. 

It. Was. Amazing. 

It was amazing because they were all theologians.  They put the words together to tell others about God at work in their world and in their lives. 

So often, we think that sharing our faith is too hard. 

It’s not something that we feel comfortable doing. 

It’s something we don’t think we are able to do. 

It’s something that we’d rather leave in the hands of the professionals.  We’d rather let our pastors and vicars pray, lead studies and talk about their faith because that’s their job…that’s what their trained to do.  But if you listen carefully to the great commission, it’s not limited to those who are professionally trained.  It’s for all of us.  

It is something we’re ALL called to do.  That’s what we hear in our gospel lesson this day…it’s the Great Commission. 

As the 11 gather with Jesus there is some belief and also some doubt.  One might expect something clearer. They are in the presence of the living Christ, after all. But this mixture of faith and doubt also characterizes discipleship.  

You have to wonder if this is a good idea…to have this group of disciples who do not at all have their act together going out to make other disciples.

Jesus might have been more selective in whom he called and sent. But apparently Jesus sees things differently. These disciples whom he tells to "go" are in no position to make themselves the object of faith. That is part of the good news. The invitation to follow Jesus.

Go!  Go and make disciples of all nations! 

So what does this text say to us today? 

As soon as we hear this command, we think…time to get going!  Time to move!  There’s no time to sit still.  You see in most translations, the main verb in the Great Commission is GO!  But in the original Greek text, the verb is translated in the participle, which means going…The main active verb in the Greek is “make disciples” or literally translated “discipline.”  Yet that doesn’t make as much sense in the English to us. 

Perhaps the most literal translation of this text comes from a contemporary translation of the New Testament called God’s Word: Today’s Bible Translation that Says What it Means It reads, “So, wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Teach them to do everything I have commanded you.” 

The action here isn’t go or going….it’s baptizing and teaching. 

It’s fair to say that we are in the same boat as the eleven who heard this command directly from Jesus.  We, too, gather.  We, too, come some with belief and some with doubt.  And, whether we think we are prepared, knowledgeable, equipped and prepared….we are still sent. 

That’s the call.  That’s the great commission.  To be one of Jesus’ disciples and to continue to baptize, teach, invite, love and serve. 

Is this the best plan of action for the church?  Makes you wonder, doesn’t it.  Yet after 2,000 years the church is still going, in spite of us. 

So here’s the call….the commission…the challenge….to share this belief…this faith…this seeing God at work in our own lives and seeing God at work in the world.

We understand this from our own experience. We too are called to "go" to where Jesus will meet us. We too are called to worship. We are directed to the place where we will meet the living Christ, yet one wonders why anyone would listen.

Because here’s the thing….if we don't believe what we believe strong enough to invite others into it, then I wonder how strongly we really believe it. While certainly belief in Christ is part of that, but also belief in our congregations and in our congregational ministries and activities.  Pastor Bill talked about this a few weeks back, that the most important aspect to a guest in our worship space (or any worship space) is the genuineness of those who are gathered here.  Do we really believe all that we say and do? 

Sitting in the circle on Monday night, I believed it.

I believed that God was at work in the world and busy in the lives of young people who have been gathered together to spend the summer at camp. 

There was a sense of belief of support and understanding in the many and varied ways that God is at work in the world. 

I’ll say it again…if we don’t believe what we believe strong enough to invite others into it, then I wonder how strongly we really believe it. 

Three weeks ago in the Poconos as youth shared struggles and joys relating to life and faith in a safe place with loving and supporting adults, as our youth explored boulder field, played games outside and worshipped, laughed and ate together, I believed it.  That God is at work in the world. 

Seeing the group gathered in this place week after week, I believe it.  Here we are a group of people who under other circumstances wouldn’t probably be spending time together each week.  Yet, through the power of the Spirit, we are drawn together into one family of God.  

We gather in this to be fed, nourished, encouraged, loved, hugged, supported…..all for the sole purpose of going back into the world to tell others about how amazing this is. 

We leave this place to live lives that show and tell others about God at work in the world.  We leave this place to see the amazing things that God is up to in the world right now.  And we leave this place to tell others that while God is at work in the world, this is a place we can gather to talk about these experiences and support one another. 

We have been gathered in this place solely to be sent.  Back into the world to see God at work, to point out to others that God IS busy at work in the world and to tell others about it. 

As you go about your life this week… look for the answer to this question:

Where have you seen God at work in your life? 

Take time to answer this question…and to share your answer with someone…maybe with family around the dinner table, maybe with friends as you meet to grab a cup of coffee or go for a walk…maybe it’s shared with your neighbor across the street. 

See God at work.  Tell others about it. 

And now may the peace, which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say amen.