What would you do if you heard from on high, ”Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you?” Would you accept the challenge and run with it, or, would you be overwhelmed by the enormity of what God is asking of you and hide?
The truth is, God has called all of us to make disciples of all people. God did this when we accepted the call to be baptized. It is our job as the modern day apostles of Christ to go into the world and to make disciples, followers, of the risen Christ.
This cannot happen if we continue to hold back, if we continue not to trust in the power of our own stories, our own experiences of Holy Spirit in our lives. Or, if we continue to see baptism as an end point, the holy grail of our Christian existence and not what it has always been meant to be, the beginning of a committed relationship with God.
As a people of God we need to celebrate and come to own the power of baptism as the true reality of our being commissioned by God to make disciples of all people. And we do that by sharing our stories with others.
Last week, we took the time to share our experiences of the how the Holy Spirit has touched our lives through this community. Although I did not have the opportunity to listen in on all the group discussions, Mary Parish did. What she observed was deep conversations . . . conversations as to how God has called many of us to this community and opened the door to a new, open and accepting faith community after we had left feeling broken by others. Others talked of finding solace and being uplifted when the world had come crashing down around them. And still others spoke of finding inspiration and hope for this broken world though the spoken word.
These are the stories the world needs to hear, to be shown how the Risen Christ is as relevant today as he was 2000 years ago. And yet, this cannot happen if we don’t fully own our baptism. If we fail to see how through the waters of Baptism we move from being a disciple, one who is a follower, to becoming an apostle, one who is sent.
We who are baptized are apostles, each week at the end of our worship we are sent into the world with the words, “go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.”
Being sent out on our own is never easy, in fact it is downright scary. But then again, why should our experience be any different from that of the first apostles. In today’s Gospel, we heard Matthew’s version of the great commission. The eleven remaining disciples went up the mountain where Jesus had directed, and yet, even after experiencing the resurrection, even after having had the chance to touch his wounds we are told some still doubted. Did they doubt the resurrection? Probably not, but most likely they doubted in their ability to make new disciples, to make known the power of their experience of the risen Christ.
If any had doubts when they came down from the mountain, all doubts they may have had vanished on the day of Pentecost. As we heard last week, thousands stopped to listen as the Apostle’s told the story. And as we heard, suddenly a great wind rose up and flames like tongues of fire settled on each apostle and the crowd, made up of all the languages of the known world, heard the apostles’ message in their own language. Luke tells us over three thousand were baptized that day.
Three thousand people who came to listen that day, heard the story, chose to follow the story and then were commissioned, given the authority to share their story with others.
Not every story of the apostolic age is as dramatic, later on Luke will tell of Phillip converting the Ethiopian Eunuch. On this day only one was quietly converted, but yet it was still one more for the kingdom. In this account, Phillip is traveling between Gaza and Jerusalem, he finds an Ethiopian reading the book of Isaiah, Phillip offers to interpret what the man is reading and then tells him the story of how Jesus fulfilled the prophet’s words. The eunuch is moved by the story and asks to be baptized. No one knows where the Eunuch’s story goes from there other than through Luke’s words that he went on his way rejoicing . . . perhaps even changed and transformed.
Imagine, our stories, our words in the name of Christ have the power to change lives and to send people out rejoicing.
Our world doesn’t need any more followers, or disciples of one ideology over another. What the world needs are leaders, people willing to own their baptism and to tell the story of love itself. We need people willing to share how God came into this world through his only begotten son, who lived as one of us and died so that we would be freed from the bonds of sin and death. The world also needs people willing to discuss how that man, the Christ, is part of our lives through the Holy Spirit today and how all of this has made a difference in our live.
In the song from the 70’s we sang, “ what the world needs now is love sweet love,” the same is true today. What the world needs now is love, the love of Christ not the sappy love of the Kardashians or other reality tv shows, but the real unconditional love of God. It is God’s love that tells us we can be loved unconditionally, that we can be transformed, and that there is still hope, because as the story says, “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son so that those who believe in him would not parish but have everlasting life.” And, that the light has come into the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
This is the love many of us bore witness to last week and this is the love the world still needs to know and experience. And this is the love we need to share with others by sharing our own experiences of the Risen Christ, the Holy Spirit.
Therefore I charge each of you to GO, to own the power of your baptism and and to be apostles by making disciples of every nation. Amen