This is our 12th online Sunday worship gathering and our hope is that we ARE just beginning to make some real progress in coping with this pandemic, in BC anyway. But, how shattering the exposure of all this racial division in the US has been for all of us, and especially as we know that racism isn’t confined to south of the 49th parallel, it is right here with us as well. A dear friend confessed with heartbreak to me this week her conviction how what is happening there: ‘is a picture of the darkest recesses of her own heart…’ We HAVE to notice it! We HAVE to go there! We go there so we can deal with it! Former professional basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote recently of how ‘Racism …is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands.’
And so we light the Christ candle acknowledging how we need to be aware of Christ’s purest and clearest light shining every day into every part of our lives: exposing/ challenging/ comforting/ healing…
Our Pacific Mountain Region President Jay Olson also wrote this past week, of how there are no words are adequate to explain the horror of an African-American man dying with a white police officer’s knee at his neck. We weep for George Floyd and his family. But closer to home, she writes also of how ‘we weep…for an Asian elder kicked to the ground and left on the street. We weep for Indigenous peoples still treated as second class citizens. We weep over the truth that racism remains embedded in Canadian life and is still active in the Church.
Christos Kyrie Eleisan – Christ, Lord have mercy.
As we watch cities disintegrate in flames of the pain of injustice, let us be renewed in our courage to stand against racism and learn to relate to all others as a children of God. It must be so if we really are the body of Christ.
Dear God, as we gather now, online,
so we also continue to pray against the awful effects of this Corona pandemic,
even as we continue to pray against
the worst and most insidious effects of our own pernicious racism…
…and yet, though grieving, we continue to pray with hope,
for we are praying in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Today is Trinity Sunday, the day we recognise when we, as Christ followers, according Matthew, received our marching orders: The Great Commission.
In a 2017 interview Eugene Petersen shared how he wrote The Message bible translation as an initial response to the race riots of Baltimore in the 1960s: “… people were worried about what was happening in the city. I was worried about what was happening in people.”
THIS IS SOMETHING WE ALL NEED TO FACE, AND TO ACT AGAINST. Nike gets that. Have you noticed their latest marketing campaign that instead of saying ‘Just do it’ now stresses for us NOT to do it: “Don’t pretend there’s not a problem… Don’t turn your back on racism. Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us. Don’t make any more excuses. Don’t think this doesn’t affect you. Don’t sit back and be silent.”
‘The Great Commission’ is about Jesus telling us NOT to be silent! He is defining what we, as Christ followers, are primarily to be ALL about! This is our main purpose and function, and it’s not to be about making our what’s good for just ourselves – but to be MAKING DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS – if whatever we do is not somehow about that – we’re missing the point!
Notice how we are never told – anywhere in scripture – to make converts!
In fact, passages like John 6:44 tell us just the opposite – how no-one will ever be able to be ‘converted’ unless God decides to do it!
Conversion is God’s business!
‘Proselytizing’ defined as ‘actions attempting to convert someone from one religion, belief or opinion to another’ is always odious and offensive! It’s also disrespectful and an invasion of others’ lives! Often manipulative. WE DON’T DO THAT!
But while conversion is God’s business …the making of DISCIPLES is up to us!
And so what is that? ‘DISCIPLE’ is the translation of a word meaning simply ‘LEARNER’ [i].
What we are to be about is making ‘learners’ of those who are currently not learners! Of course, we are ourselves to be impacted by what Christ would have us know of God, and of what God has made of us and of all creation, but it’s NEVER to stop there! His point is that we are then to go address all of what stops others from learning those things for themselves…
And notice how it’s for ‘ALL NATIONS’! This is not just about those who are like us, or whom we like, but all people! …people of every race, of every religion, every sexuality, every income level, EVERYONE! We are to use all our creativity to serve and to witness, and to challenge whatever has been unhelpfully formative – or deformative – in their worlds, ina pique their curiosity for finding these better, holier, godlier, more life-giving things for themselves…
Every time we see the effects of injustice, hatred, greed, the emergence of this awful tribal racism that we all so easily embrace, our discipleship DEMANDS that we point that out, challenge it…
…go to work against it!
And we are to do so using whatever methods we can to do that!
GO MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS means NEVER …allowing evil – defined as anything that opposes God’s rule of loving justice and compassion and mercy – to exist unexposed and unopposed! We work that others may come to see it in all its obvious ugliness, that they too may be moved to go to work against it. It was John Stuart Mill, who in 1867 said that: “Bad people need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good people should look on and do nothing.” WE DON’T DO NOTHING!
We know that it is never in God’s plan for anyone EVER to have to face the effects of others’ bigotry and prejudice. We know that God’s plan for humanity is for us to live with the deepest respect in creation alongside one another.
And we know that our role in this plan is not just wishful thinking on God’s part!
It is what God has actually, practically achieved and empowered for all of us in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ. This IS the work of Jesus Christ in us and it’s Christ’s work for others through us! …TO MAKE DISCIPLES…
BUT HOW DO WE DO IT? Some believe it was Mother Theresa, others St Francis of Assisi, who first said that we do so by using words ONLY IF WE HAVE TO! Steve Sjorgen [ii] speaks strategically of ‘Conspiracies of Kindness’ campaigns for Christ followers, where we are most effective in our making of disciples by living lives that model what discipleship means. I think of lives marked by kindness, (as both Ellen DeGeneres and our Dr Bonnie Henry would agree…)
Perhaps that’s the most effective way for us to obey Christs Great Commission! It’s not so much by what we say or think as by what we do – what we actually model…
Pedagogic professionals understand that! Stanford University’s Albert Bandura [iii] writes about ‘Observational Learning’ as (quoting) a kind of vicarious learning by which direct instruction does not necessarily occur… For example, an athlete’s violent outbursts on the football field can serve as a (negative) model which a high school player might imitate, although the high school player is not being directly instructed on how to have a violent outburst. Just about any type of behavior can be modeled. Modeling has been shown to be especially effective in the development of social skills (i.e., saying “please” and “thank you,” helping others, etc.)…
Our call is not just to BE a disciple, but to be about MAKING disciples! That is Jesus’ whole point in our reading today. We ‘make disciples by knowing our place on that Christ-journey of sacred discovery and then by committing ourselves to helping others make that discovery for themselves. We do that by living lives that models what we have in fact discovered of ourselves, of others, of all creation in Christ, and by challenging all of what stops others in their process of that discovery! And as we do so – our prayer – is that we may make God smile.
We have our instructions: May God’s smiling on us be the result of our good and faithful response to all of what Christ instructed those 1000s of years ago, and what he still so clearly instructs today – that our lives come to model all of the loving justice, compassion and healing hope that Our Trinity God intends, the Redeeming Christ has secured, and the Empowering Holy Spirit has sealed for us all. Truly, may it be so, we pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2020.
You are welcome to use, copy, edit or reproduce this sermon summary with copyright attached. Publication is prohibited.
[i] Disciple (μαθητής): ‘Learner’
[ii] Community of Kindness (2003) Regal Books, California, USA