Message by Pastor Pokora – June 7, Holy Trinity Sunday

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s my mother’s family, which included several sisters, a brother and adult cousins, purchased a small farmhouse near Loami, a rural area just outside Springfield, Illinois.

They bought the house for family gatherings. Our family was large. No one had a home that easily accommodated such events. The house cost practically nothing. My uncles and cousins included plumbers, electricians, and carpenters. Fixing the place up was no problem.

From time to time we went to this family club for cookouts. But the main attraction occurred on Saturday night, when adults gathered for a social. My Aunt Caroline loved to play the piano. her husband, my uncle Jack, accompanied her on an electronic organ, along with my uncle doc on the drums and my uncle Jeisy on the banjo. It was quite a musical menagerie. My relatives loved to dance, sing, feast and catch upon each other’s lives.

Often my mother and father attended these events and left me to watch my younger brothers, Ronald and Randall. Right before my mother left for the evening, she inevitably lined us up and told us we were not to fight, mess up the house and to be in bed on time. After all, we had to get up early the next morning to go to church.

Needless-to-say, as soon as mother and father left all sorts of mayhem broke out. I was determined to exert my authority, as the one in charge, and my brothers were intent on defying it. The evening went downhill from there. My youngest brother ended up in tears. My middle brother and I squabbled. We never went to bed on time. And the evening drew to a close, we all said the same thing. “Don’t tell mom and dad or we will really get in trouble. Famous last words.

Undoubtably, it’s a long way from Loami, Illinois to a mountain in Galilee in terms of time and distance. Let’s use my childhood recollection to explore our Gospel for this Sunday.

In the Gospel eleven disciples travel to a mountain in Galilee where Jesus directed them to go. When they arrive, Jesus appears and says to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” With this admonition, known as the Great Commission, the Gospel of Matthew reaches its’ conclusion.

When I recall my mother and father instructing my brothers and myself to maintain good order and peace in their absence, I think of Jesus on that mountain speaking with his disciples. My brothers and I fell into disputes, as soon as my mother and father left. Mom told us what to do, but we did our own thing. Similarly, Jesus spoke clearly to his disciples, but a lot of good it did. The early church fractured anyway; everyone went their own way.

Sometimes you wonder about human society. Take for instance events in the Middle East. Iraq cannot maintain civil order. Syria has fallen into civil war. Or, in our own country kids show up at school killing fellow students and teachers and then committing suicide. Doesn’t it seem like the world is falling apart at the seems? What Jesus said has fallen on deaf ears. Human society has trouble finding unity and peace. We fight; like kids.

As Christians, God requires three things of us: love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, love our neighbor as ourselves, and make disciples of Jesus Christ. Making disciples suggests we witness to Christ to bring others into a relationship with Christ and achieve his greater purpose in this world.

Before Jesus ascended to the Father, his last words were not, “Go and find a comfortable church and have a potluck.” Nor did he say, “Go and sing the songs you like for worship. Nor did he say, “Do some good once in a while.” Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations!”

We call this “Great Commission,” not the “Great Suggestion.” The church is the only institution in the world that exists for those outside of it. Unfortunately, many churches don’t even see it as mission. Instead, it has become the “Great Omission.”

Over the last 30 or 40 years, the church has often lost sight of its mission to make disciples. This is one of the reasons why the mainline churches fail to grow. The stats don’t look good. The mainline church overall doesn’t replenish itself with a new generation of disciples. We are not reaching the younger generation. Fewer and fewer churches bring even one new person to Christ in a year. 

What has happened? Why can’t the church today be like the early church? The answer comes through something that A.W. Tozer once said: “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the Church today, 95% of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament Church, 95% of what they did would have stopped, and everybody would know the difference.” Think about that.

We must reclaim the fire of the Holy Spirit the early church received on Pentecost, if we hope to share our witness effectively and make disciples. When the Holy Spirit enters our lives and the life of the church, we feel compelled to bring that spirit to others. That Spirit creates unity of purpose and draws us together as a community.

Today, we celebrate the unity of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We call this Holy Trinity Sunday. The name for this day originates in the words of Jesus which call upon us to make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teach them what Christ has commanded of us.

Discipleship doesn’t result from the words we say, but the life we lead. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Discipleship means adherence to the person of Jesus, and therefore submission to the law of Christ which is the law of the cross.” As disciples we are called to unity in God’s purpose and living lives that reflect the great Commission Christ gave us on that Galilean mountain at the conclusion of his earthly ministry. Amen

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.