by Mike Kinman, Rector of All Saints Church, Pasadena
The gospel isn’t meant to be gulped down on Sunday morning, but gnawed on through the week so it really becomes a part of us. You’ve got to work at it, like a dog with a good bone! Here’s the Gospel for this coming Sunday —Trinity Sunday — with food for thought on what it means to live a resurrection life aligned with a love that will never fade away. Gnaw away!
Trinity Sunday: Matthew 28:16-20
The Eleven made their way to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had summoned them. At the sight of the risen Christ they fell down in homage, though some doubted what they were seeing. Jesus came forward and addressed them in these words:
“All authority has been given me both in heaven and on earth; go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name of Abba God, and of the Only Begotten, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you. And know that I am with you always, even until the end of the world!”
The Backstory – What’s Going On Here?
After a long sojourn in John, we’re back in Matthew’s Gospel … and right at the very end, at what is called “The Great Commission.” Matthew doesn’t take us through several resurrection appearances like Luke and John. Resurrection and response are all in one short chapter. The Marys come to the tomb on Easter morning and find it empty. First an angel and then the resurrected Jesus himself have two things to say to them:
*Don’t be afraid.
*Bring everyone to Galilee — go back to where we started and will begin again.
And so they stand on the mountain top — the traditional place for meeting God — and Jesus is there with him. The return to Galilee is a new beginning, and Jesus’ marching orders for the new church are brief:
*Go! – Be and build a wildly diverse community of challenging people not ofour choosing. Followers of Jesus are always oriented outward.
*Baptize — Be and build a committed community. One that doesn’t just dabble in the resurrection life, but dies to the old life to live to the new.
*Teach — Be and build a community of teachers and learners of the way of Christ. Living as Jesus lived. This is not just about saying the right things but living in a new and transformative way.
But Matthew’s Gospel doesn’t end with this command, but with the promise that makes it all possible: “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
A few things to chew on:
“When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” AMAZING. Not so much that even some of the disciples still doubted even though the resurrected Jesus was standing right there with them … but that Matthew made a point of announcing that. It would have been so much more powerful an argument to get people to believe in the resurrection and to join their community if he had said, “and all believed.” But the truth is every community — even one where Jesus is standing physically right there in their midst — is a mixture of faith and doubt, with different people filling different roles at different times. Matthew is blessedly unafraid to own and proclaim the doubt of this earliest Christian community — and let us know that absolute faith, trust and belief is not a prerequisite for being a part of this beloved community.
Jesus says, ” All authority has been given me both in heaven and on earth; go therefore.” The Great Commission isn’t a crusade to win the world for Jesus. The kin-dom of God is already among us. We’re not sent out with the message “convert or die” but “wake up and live!” God, made human in Jesus, and faithful to us always through the Spirit, is already here — as God has been from the beginning. The church is not here to make the world worthy or good — that happened in creation. We are here to join hands with as many people as possible and dive into the cool, deep waters of the rich, abundant life God dreams for us. Not to fight a battle but to celebrate a victory, a destiny and a love that will never fade away.
We usually think about The Great Commission as a command to bring people to church. That’s certainly part of it — the baptize piece is a dead giveaway to that. But what it’s really most about isn’t bringing people to church but bringing church to people.
Bringing church to people is about living as Jesus in the world. It’s about just going out as Mother Teresa said “doing small things with great love.”
Stop and listen to a friend or stranger who just needs to talk? That’s bringing the church to people.
Spend an hour as a Big Brother or Big Sister? That’s bringing the church to people.
Tell someone they’re out of line when they make a racist or sexist comment — and then invite them into a conversation about why they did it? That’s bringing the church to people.
This week, each day look for one small way you can bring the church to someone.
“Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” That’s what Jesus said. And what did Jesus command? Love. Love one another. Imagine one day. Imagine one day where everything everyone did was out of love for one another. What would happen that day? How much could the world change that day? Imagine that day and write that story.
Last Sunday, as we gathered around the font to baptize Katherine, Bianka, Hailey and Charlotte, we affirmed some incredible things together:
I believe in God.
I believe in Jesus Christ.
I believe in the Holy Spirit.
It was a powerful moment — us claiming our faith together. But, at best, it is only half the story.
We think of being a community of faith as being a community of people who have faith, who trust in God, who say these words together. That’s true, but the Gospel for this coming Sunday tells us it’s much more than that.
The Body of Christ — from the beginning a mixture of belief and doubt — is a community of faith because God is faithful to us. Because Jesus says, “I am with YOU always.”
When faith is something we have to maintain, it can seem like a burden … and a lonely one at that. But it’s not. We’re invited to let go of our lives and trust in a God who believes in us first. Who promises never to leave. Who even if we don’t believe will still be there.
The creed is not so much a narrow doctrinal statement but about professing our common trust in God, but God has a creed, too. As we are saying “We believe in God,” God is saying “I believe in you.” Jesus is saying “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
All Saints Church exists as a diverse community of people in many different stages of our faith journey — we can hold this together because it’s not up to us to hold together. We love God because we are loved first, because in our creation and again in our baptism, God says to us those words God said to Jesus at his baptism, “You are my beloved, in you I am well pleased.”
We are that community of the beloved because our core is not the depth of our own faith but the depth of God’s love for and faithfulness to us. And what is left to us is not to generate faith by ourselves, or generate love or good works by ourselves — we will always fall short doing that.
What is left to us is simply to respond in kind. To meet God in that place of trust. To go out and live the love of God in the world, knowing God loves us first and last.
And as we respond in kind, there is no limit to the extraordinary and blissful life we can lead.
Check out the rest of Sunday’s readings
The Lectionary Page has all of the readings for this Sunday and every Sunday click here for this Sunday’s readings.
Collect for Sunday: Pray this throughout the week as you gnaw on this Gospel.
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Want to read more?
“The Text This Week” is an excellent online resource for anyone who wants to dive more deeply into the scriptures for the week.