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What’s Next? A Sermon for Trinity Sunday Matthew 28:16-20
June 12, 2017, 12:43 pm
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Matthew 28:16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

Grace and peace to you, siblings in Christ.

In this season of graduations, “congratulations” is often on our lips, quickly followed by, “what’s next?” For those who have jobs lined up or another level of education to go on to, there’s an easy answer. They can be confident in their plans.

Confidence doesn’t always continue a week, or a day, or an hour into that new plan. College might be more difficult than expected, the new job more to learn than bargained for. That confidence in future plans can easily turn into an overwhelmed “what did I get myself into?”

You don’t have to be a recent grad to have situations in which you’re not sure you’re up to the task. A move, new opportunity, birth of a child, illness of a loved one— there are many points in life that we might pause and wonder if we have the skills, strength, and stamina to live through the new thing.

That sinking feeling came to me on a Friday morning in August, the day I began my year-long internship at Zion Lutheran Church in Rockford. I was excited- I was finally going to be working in a congregation. Six years of higher education had led me to this first real taste of the life I was called into. So I drove down from our country parsonage, next to the church my husband had been assigned, over the border into Illinois, which as a Wisconsinite, is a difficult line to cross, through the city intersections until I arrived at this central city church. It was my supervisor’s day off, so while he came in to meet me and show me my office, he quickly left for his golf game. This church had so much I hoped I could learn from. They had launched community development corporations. They had their own food pantry. That morning there was a group of Laotian members making egg rolls for the Sunday fundraiser and a group of neighborhood church leaders working on hunger issues. There was so much amazing work being done in God’s name- that I found myself in the bathroom, shaking and crying, totally overwhelmed and confident in one thing- that I had no clue what I was doing there.

How could I possibly live up to the challenge?

We open the Gospel of Matthew to meet the disciples in Galilee. It’s not been long since Jesus was arrested before their eyes, and then tried, crucified, and buried. It’s been even less time since some of the women went to the tomb to prepare his body and were met by an angel accompanied by an earthquake. The angel told them that Jesus had been raised and would meet the disciples in Galilee. Then as the women ran to tell the other disciples, Jesus met them- Jesus- alive.  The women share all this with the men, who travel on as instructed.

When the men gather in Galilee, they see Jesus. I love what the text says- “When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.” (Other translations….) After all that’s happened, I can’t fault their lack of confidence! Are they doubting the living Jesus in front of them? Or doubting their own readiness to be a part of whatever Jesus is doing? Surely they must also be wondering- what’s next for me?

Confidence comes from being able to tell ourselves, “I can do it!” When we realize what the “it” it is we’re going to be doing – that’s when we might freak out! It helps if we can see the new task’s connection to something we’ve become familiar with.

Jesus tells his disciples they’re going to be doing everything he’s been doing. Remember what Jesus has been busy doing: teaching about God, reviving the dead, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, restoring outsiders to community, and all the while growing a crowd of onlookers and disciples.

Now it’s the disciples who are going to be discipling.

They are called to be discipling disciples who follow Jesus’ pattern of ministry- gathering groups of people, doing life-giving acts, living and preaching God’s grace.

It might be scary for them to think of doing this themselves, but they are not unprepared. Jesus is calling the disciples to do familiar work. They’ve spent an intensive period of formation with Jesus. They’ve been there as he’s taught and healed. They didn’t always know everything or do things right, but they learned and grew.

Their future ministry will be familiar enough because they are continuing to imitate the God they have come to know through Jesus.

When we’re faced with a change in life, how do we get ourselves to a place of confidence so that we can bravely move forward?

As we were packing and saying goodbye to move up here, I intentionally paused to experience the familiarity of all I was leaving. I looked out at my congregation, remembering time spent with them, stories, tears, and prayers shared, and reminded myself that there was a time I did not know them so deeply, that I had been struggling simply to know their names. I drove all the winding roads and remembered when I was so confused as to how to get to the places I needed to go.

I told myself what was now familiar was once overwhelmingly new. As I went out to begin something new, it, too would one day become familiar.

The disciples were called into scary new and yet familiar work. Even though Jesus was ascending, he was not abandoning them. Jesus promises he will be there with them. The Holy Spirit will continue to disciple them as they disciple others.

Because the disciples were faithful in their call, Jesus’ work has expanded through the generations. We’ve been discipled and we’re called to disciple others. Think back and remember- who was it who brought alongside them so that you would learn to pray, love and serve? When were those times of experiencing God’s love for you? Even as you are continuing to be discipled, God is calling you to disciple others.

When faced with this call, we may feel overwhelmed or unqualified. Who among us is totally good? Or has it all together? Or knows all the answers to the big questions of life, death, and faith? When we’re asked to serve on a board, teach Sunday School, or read for worship, some of us might freeze and think – I can’t do that. When we’re given the opportunity to show forgiveness, mercy, justice or love- we might wonder if we have what it takes.

You can. You do. God has called you to continue God’s work, and in calling you, God has given you what you need to serve. As was true for the disciples, God created us in God’s image, shares the Son’s authority with us, and empowers us with the Spirit in order to bring us in to the work of the Triune God. We all serve in different ways. We never serve alone. The Spirit fills you, too. We join the work God is accomplishing in the world.

Next time someone asks what your future plans are, tell them. You’re healing the broken world, welcoming the stranger, living forgiveness, and caring for those in need. You’re offering what you have to God, and through you, God is bringing life and love. Be confident in your call, and even more confident in the God who calls you. In the midst of your worshipping and your doubting, God is there, blessing you with the call and the means to serve in God’s great work of salvation.

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