As You Go...

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“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Jesus had taught His disciples by word and deed over the course of 3+ years. Shortly before His ascension our Lord promised that He would continue His ministry on earth through His disciples. In our text for today, Jesus instructs them on the way in which He will continue to make more disciples through them.
This passage is used for Holy Trinity Sunday because the baptismal words—in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit—are explicitly trinitarian. The teaching to convey everything Jesus instructed is trinitarian, too, because Jesus spoke the words given Him by the Father, and the Holy Spirit works through those words to give faith, forgiveness, and eternal life.
Christ makes disciples through His disciples—through the baptizing done in the triune name and the teaching of Christ’s Word by those who minister in His name. That ongoing ministry brings the promise of Christ’s continuing presence with His followers through the means of grace until the end of the age. That is the mission given by Christ to His disciples, and passed onto us, His current disciples.
What first comes to your mind when you think of mission? For some it may be the old television series or motion picture franchise, Mission Impossible. For others, the word may suggest a military action. Still others may think of overseas missionary work. But how many of you thought of your own neighborhood or community, right here in Trosky/Jasper/Pipestone?
It has been said that every Christian knows at least seven or eight people who have never been baptized or taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I suspect that number is probably much higher. So, wouldn’t it make sense that we start with those people we already know?
In His Great Commission, the Lord said to His followers: “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
If we translated the Greek verb tenses more literally, the passage might begin as follows: Going, therefore, disciple the nations… The verb most English Bibles translate “go,” is not written in the imperative mood. It’s not a direct command. The sense of our Lord’s words might better be rendered, “As you go…” or “While you are on your way…”
Jesus’ final words of instruction are often taken as a command, but in reality, they are something much more—a commission. A commission is an authorization to perform certain duties or tasks. The Great Commission is not so much a command or order as it is an honor and privilege and calling of being a follower of Jesus that carries with it Christ’s authority. That authority gives us the right, the duty, and the power to make disciples for Christ. What an awesome promise!
As I think about the words of Jesus’ Great Commission, I am reminded of the M.A.S.H. units that began during the time of the Korean War, made famous by the movie and television series of the same name. M.A.S.H. stood for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. M.A.S.H. units originated because too many wounded were being lost between the front lines and the hospital. So, the army took the hospital as close to the front lines as possible. Victims were treated, stabilized, and sent to hospitals down the line for follow-up.
The key word in M.A.S.H. was mobile, “able to move or be moved easily.” Jesus commissioned His Church to “go therefore and make disciples.” Wherever there are people who have not been baptized and people who need to be taught about Christ, that is the place where we are to go. In Acts 1:8, Jesus instructed His apostles to be His witnesses beginning where they were—in Jerusalem, Judea, and continuing to the ends of the earth. Our commission is the same.
A good place to start making disciples is in our own home, our own congregation, baptizing and teaching our own children. But there are many other people almost as close. Demographic studies show that over 50% of the residents of Pipestone and Rock counties are classified as unchurched. Sad to say, we even have a few of them on our own membership rolls that fit that definition. Likely, you have members of your own family that fall into that category. The mission field is not over there, but it is right here in our own backyard. And we have been given the honor and privilege of reaching out to them with Christ’s love.
You may be asking yourself where you fit in this Great Commission. After all, you’re not an apostle. You’re not a pastor, so you shouldn’t baptize except in emergencies. You’re not called to preach or administer the Lord’s Supper. But you are part of the Church, the body of Christ, to which this Great Commission has been given. As one of Christ’s disciples, you have been given the authority to make more disciples.
Perhaps you don’t believe you have “the gift of evangelism.” Perhaps you feel inadequately prepared for such a great work. You don’t know where to begin. God provides an answer to your concern. He does that through His Church.
In the M.A.S.H. unit, the hospital was taken to the wounded. When the wounded could not make it to the hospital, the hospital came to them. In that way, many more lives were saved. Many wounded were able to receive treatment that prevented greater permanent injury.
The Church has often been called “a hospital for sinners.” We, who enter here, rejoice when our sins are forgiven in the name of our compassionate Lord. We rejoice when other fellow sinners are baptized into Christ in the triune name for the forgiveness of their sins. We rejoice when we are taught the good news that Jesus Christ died and rose for us all. We rejoice when we partake of our Lord’s body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
This hospital for sinners is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Everyone is welcome to come in for healing and comfort. But how can they come in if they have not heard the invitation? How can they come in if they are too wounded to make it on their own power? While pastors are called to baptize and teach, they can’t make it to everybody’s home, or school, or place of work themselves. Just like hospitals need medics to bring in the physically sick and injured, the Church needs medics to bring in the spiritually sick and injured.
That’s where you come in! All Christians can and should reach out in love to the lost. In this way, we follow the Great Command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” As you go about your daily lives, you have the opportunities that I or any other pastor may never have. You can bring them into the hospital for sinners. You can help make disciples. You can love your neighbor. Who is your neighbor? Our neighbor is anyone who is in need of the help that we can offer.
I once asked someone why he had come to our church for help. His response struck at the heart of what it means for the Church to show Christ to the world. He said, “The Church is supposed to help when no one else will. The Church is supposed to love.” Does that describe this congregation?
Learning to love one’s neighbor begins at the cross, where we see Christ our Lord, who gave Himself completely for us. His love is purposeful and intentional. Likewise, our love for someone else is intentional and purposeful. Empowered by Christ, we will add action to our words.
We ask the Lord to show us needy neighbors around us. There are plenty of people in need of spiritual support, care, and healing. Then, strengthened by our Lord’s promise that He is with us, we love and proclaim God’s Good News.
 What is this Good News? God the Father so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son into the world. Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary—fully God and fully man. Having lived a perfect sinless life, Jesus died on the cross as payment for the sins of the world. Three days later, He rose from the dead. Ascended to the right hand of the Father, Jesus lives and reigns over all creation, yet still comes to us in His means of grace, where His Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
So we rejoice this day in the Holy Trinity, and we gratefully acknowledge that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are still at work to make disciples through Baptism and Word of God. We confess those times when we are tempted to elbow the Trinity aside and trust in our own efforts instead. We give thanks that the Lord has made us His through our Baptism, and that He continues to strengthen us by His Word and Supper. If we are criticized for being a bit old-fashioned, we respond with a cheerful, “Thank you! By the grace of God, we do indeed try to stay true to our Lord’s command to make disciples His Way.”
This, dear friends, is your cause for rejoicing: The all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have made you Their disciple. They have washed away your sins and declare your salvation. The works of man cannot save you, but the work of the Holy Trinity can; and this is why I rejoice to announce to you this work of the Holy Trinity: You are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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