04 June 2023
Sermon By: Rev. Dr. Robin A. Reed+
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Episcopal / Anglican Province of Alexandria
Church of the Blessed Redeemer, Palm Bay
Grace Church, Port Orange
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Jesus commissions us to invite and grow as evangelists..
Today is Trinity Sunday...the Sunday once a year we examine a church doctrine what we believe about whom God was, is, and will be and whom God is calling us to be. His disciples, his evangelists.
Now Trinity Sunday is challenging for any preacher because we can easily get too heady and theological and risk not only preaching heresy, but also boring you!! The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity affirms God is One in three and three in one  three different but equal persons made of the same substance each whom we can approach across the different seasons of our lives God ..... Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. King of Glory, Prince of peace, Spirit of love....Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity was affirmed at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD by the church fathers after centuries of their arguing, labelling each other heretics, and kicking some people out of the church!
Today we hear in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus’s last teaching to the disciples, the Trinitarian formula, who God is and Jesus’s last will and testament who calls his disciples you and me to be disciples, evangelists.
Now as you know a Last Will and Testament can be quite serious and when read out loud shocking, saddening, and/or at times even funny. Perhaps in your senior High School year, you wrote your last will and testament for those High school students you left behind. I couldn’t find mine but I remember writing mine. I found some excerpts from Coffee County High School’s class of 1961 Richard Bass very merrily leaves in 10 years Dick will be spreading Guide Post booklets. Judy Austin leaves talking 172 ½ words per minutes, in 10 years Judy will be hoarse.
Tom McDade being of sound mind and body, leaves at last, hoping never to return. Will we even see him in 10 years?
In his last will and testament, Jesus does not rebuke or abandon the disciples but empowers them with His purpose and Power. Jesus calls them into a new way of being: Going, baptizing, making, and teaching new disciples. Being evangelists and from the Book of Acts we know they go forward doing the best they can, sowing the word, facing the opposition, trusting in their Lord.
Last week Jesus’s commissioned his disciples in John’s Gospel today we hear Matthew’s version the GREAT COMMISSION. On the first day of the week the 11 disciples aren’t behind closed doors like they were in John’s Gospel, these disciples have taken a big leap of faith believing the women who came from the tomb trusting Jesus had risen from the dead, travelling the 80 miles from Jerusalem to Galilee, 11 disciples, minus Judas- 11, an imperfect number, one short of 12 limping along just like we do from time to time returning to their old stomping grounds on the Galilean mountain. Following Jesus ordinary everyday people just like us imperfect as we all are who are willing and available to venture out, being available, which sometimes Jesus needs more than our ableness. Up the mountain the disciples see the Risen Christ, some bow down in worship while it says others “doubted”, distazo in Greek, as a noun means two ways and as a verb to hesitate.
But before you and I point fingers at the disciples for their hesitation remember the times you have been at a crossroad in your life, standing, wrestling at a hinge moment, calling to go forward in fear or faith knowing the road you choose is crucial.
Remember nothing in Matthew’s Gospel has prepared the disciples to see the Risen Christ
for it was in Johns’ account that Jesus raised Lazarus. But Jesus understands their doubts, sees their frailties, just like he knows ours and doesn’t rebuke them but empowers them. Jesus reminds the disciples and us, our power in Him comes from Jesus and his relationship with God. God’s power transfers through Jesus to each one of them, each one of us.
As Athanasius penned years ago - [there is] a....
a unity within God.... a unity of love
a unity in which each person of the Trinity
is not swallowed up and annihilated, but established....
God invites Jesus and Jesus invites the disciples within whom to serve, interacting with mutuality infused with the Holy Spirit and the power of divine life IN God. And then Jesus declares his last will and testament...
Go... to all nations...make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey all I have commanded you. Jesus enlarges the disciples’ calling wider, commanding them to go across in Israel and to all nations and broader adding to Jesus’s previous gifts of empowerment to heal the sick, cast out unclean spirits, proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of heaven the call and gifts to teach, to do all Jesus himself had been doing and to share the knowledge they had of Jesus’s commandments, anchored in the mutuality and love of the Triune God.
Jesus’s call to the disciples and to us, to a new way of being , leaping in God’s circular dance of love, sharing that love with others seems so simple. And yet just the first step – Going out into the world, sharing God’s word can be a challenge for us Episcopalians.
What makes you and I reluctant to share the Good News of God at work in our lives. Jesus walking besides us... the Holy Spirit infusing us with comfort and advice? Perhaps some of us have been reluctant to go into the world because of what “sharing” has meant for other evangelists you can recall when your doorbell rang and two persistent religious folks insisting theirs is the one right view of God, television showed an arrogant televangelist lacking in humility, wanting your money, study of history revealed the horrors of missionaries who tried to cram their religion down other’s throats and stole other’s land, women, and gold. These experiences may want us to run in the other direction rather than share the Good News.
Secondly many of us remember a saying attributed to St. Francis, “Preach at all times. Use words when necessary.” We try to let and think our good deeds speak for themselves and good deeds do reveal intentions but as both St. Francis and Jesus demonstrated as they daily shared the good news, our walk needs to match our talk, we are called to be people of integrity.
Thirdly we just don’t practice or talk much about what, how, and when to reach out to others with the Good News, reaching out can be anxiety producing, at times we feel we need to share something miraculous or which has occurred with special effects rather than the joy of Jesus calling us forward every day and so we hesitate.
Fourthly social norms, especially in family gatherings suggest three topics are to be avoided in polite company and I don’t mean sex, drugs, and rock and roll but sex, politics and religion, avoiding these topics may keep us from conflict but also from sharing life-giving, redeeming, and sustaining news.
Lastly perhaps we don’t know THE STORY God’s Grand Narrative as confidently as we would like for in order to teach others as Jesus commands we have to be willing to be available and learn ourselves to study the Bible with others, value what the Bible says about issues we face,
reflect and wonder if God is new every morning, what is God teaching me today?
Interestingly enough while being an evangelist is a challenge for us Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, early in his term, declared himself the CEO ----CHIEF EVANGELISM OFFICER of THE Episcopal church and created The Evangelism Initiative to empower our evangelism to be more like Jesus intended for his disciples as we hear today.
The Evangelism Initiative re-defined evangelism as the spiritual practice of seeking, naming, and celebrating Jesus loving presence in the stories of all people, and then inviting them to more.”
In this new model of evangelism we seek to hear others’ stories, believing that God... Jesus... and the Holy Spirit are already at work in others’ lives and communities. Unlike what was done for centuries by well-intended but aggressive missionaries today an evangelist’s task is not to try to force feed OUR views on others but rather to LISTEN in a prayerful manner - AFFIRM the other’s spiritual journey - CELEBRATE where the Triune God is at work, God creating, Jesus redeeming, the Holy Spirit growing their faith and challenging our faith to deepen our relationship with God and join with them in mutual ministry dancing together in the circle of and within God’s love.
The Evangelism model has been transformed from aggressive persuasion to open reception forced conversion to cooperative discovery, sharing which seeks, listens, and empower mutual ministry, challenging all to grow in our spiritual lives.
Go ... the first word from Jesus’s last will and testament is not a Great Suggestion but a Great Commission, an imperative to be proactive, to reach out both within our parish, our community and our world. This is not a command to be ignored for to do so would be a sin of omission, you don’t have to go across the world, start by going across the pew or the aisle or the street, reach out to those who are new or those you haven’t seen in a while or who are absent from church, reach out to new neighbors, co-workers, or co-participants in your lodge, park, civic clubs, and places you play tennis, pickleball or golf.
Be an evangelist as Jesus commanded, one who invites, welcomes, listens; one who seeks, names, and celebrates Jesus’ loving presence in the stories of all people and invite them to join with you in more of God’s work here on earth.
And remember even when being an evangelist worries or scares you reach out anyway because Jesus is with you every step of the way until the end of the age and the Holy Spirit will give you the words of welcome.
Cover Image: http://sunsetsandsnowflakes.com/2019/06/the-great-commission/