Todays sermon comes on Trinity Sunday, but rather than exploring the nature and essence of the triune God too deeply I have concentrated my talk around the nature of discipleship to which we are all called. Our gospel reading is the great commission given to us by Jesus, so please ponder on those words and consider what part you may like to play in fulfilling that mandate?
Sermon No 60
The Mission: A Sending Out
A sermon preached by Roger Laing (Parish Evangelist) on Sunday 11th June 2017 at the 8am Eucharist Service at St. Paulinus Church, Crayford, Kent. (Based on Matthew 28:16-20)
‘May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you O LORD’ (Psalm 19:14)
A good morning to you all on this day that we call Trinity Sunday. In the Anglican Church, we always celebrate this day on the Sunday that follows Pentecost as it is a time that after being filled by the Holy Spirit we are encouraged to think a little more closely about the very essence of the God that we worship and the nature of the triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
However, as part of my research for today’s talk I came across this quote that said, ‘Common wisdom is that if you discuss the Trinity for more than a few minutes you will slip into heresy, because you are probing the depths of God too deeply’ (www.church.net>trinitysunday)
So, with those words of wisdom, other than telling you that Trinity Sunday was instituted in 828 AD by Pope Gregory 1X and that the word trinity is not used anywhere in the bible, I want to look this morning more about what the ‘Trinitarian God’ means for us in terms of our mission in the world to be.
I am after all someone who is commissioned to be an evangelist, and central to what I believe my own personal calling to be, is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and so the gospel reading that we heard this morning, sometimes known as the ‘great commission’ is absolutely the key verse in the whole bible that exemplifies what mission is about, and so I couldn’t not take advantage of the opportunity to speak for just a few moments on this topic close to my heart.
Now contrary to what some may believe, the Church does not exist to be not a social club, it is neither a meeting place for the elderly to pass the time, nor is it a place of entertainment, a creche, a choral group or anything else you care to mention.
You may have heard that passage from Luke chapter fifteen that says, ‘In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents’ (Luke 15:10 NIV) And its true, if just one man, woman or child can be transformed from death to life through Christ and away from sin then the angels in heaven will indeed rejoice .
So, the central mission of the church as whole, indeed the very existence of the church is to draw men and women back to Jesus and will be open to that task until the very moment when He will return again in the final moments of judgement. Of course, before I get shouted at again, the church encompasses all those previously mentioned groups, but only in the sense of its ultimate goal of drawing men and women back to Jesus.
Now that is all very well, and it is a great idea, but it is much easier saying it rather than actually putting it into practice.
Doing mission and evangelism is difficult for several reasons and in many ways, it is harder than it has ever been. There was a period, probably in the life time of some of our members here at St Paulinus that a Christian belief and faith was a given. Or at least there was very strong likelihood that most people in the UK would have knowledge at least of some of the fundamental basic principles of the Christian faith.
In the main though, those days have now gone unless you attend a church school. And there are many in this land that have literally never heard of the good news of Jesus. And further to that, there is a growing culture that has become popular in ridiculing anyone who might have a faith, whatever the religion, and in particular the Christian faith.
So, as evangelists or missionaries we can expect rejection from those we might tell this good news. And worse still, we might even face resentment, not just from those we seek to transform, but from our own families too. So, telling others about Jesus is not always easy.
I remember when I started my evangelism training course led by the inspirational evangelist Canon Jean Kerr, she told us that we were entering into perhaps the most dangerous aspect of ministry and to expect hardship, suffering, and rejection. And she said this because we are dealing with matters not just physical in the here and now but matters spiritual in the eternal sense and Satan the destroyer does not like evangelism and mission, as it means that for everyone person transformed by grace, he grows weaker and he knows his end is getting nearer.
Yet, as difficult as it may be, that is what being a Christian is all about, it’s about being a disciple for Christ and doing whatever is necessary in the name of Jesus. And the call for every believer, is to be instrumental in that mission of God. Ok. you might not necessarily be called to be an active evangelist yourself, but we are all called to discipleship.
Taking that one step further then. How do we do mission? Well, one of the marks of being a mission shaped church is to be a sending church. And we are called to send people out there beyond the walls of this church to save people and make new disciples.
Indeed, our own Fr James, as much as we would like to keep him here, God has other plans, and has called James for mission work elsewhere by sending him from this place to make disciples in another parish.
But what can we do as individuals who are not priests, deacons or in some other recognised ministry role? How can we be disciples for Christ?
In preparation for today’s talk I was reading through one of my bible commentaries and the author (John MacArthur, New Testament Commentary 1989) summarised his view on how we might do this discipleship thing, and he describes it under five main titles and I would like to share his view on discipleship with you.
The first is ‘Availability’ We need to be available for God, first. We cannot do anything unless we make ourselves available. If we cannot do this we will not even get off the starting blocks.
Secondly, we need to be true worshippers of God. For God cannot be truly served unless He is truly worshipped. So, if you are coming here just to tick a box on a piece of paper, of course you are most welcome, but you are not truly worshipping if your sole purpose is something other than to worship.
We need to be ‘submissive’, that is we need to submit fully to the sovereign authority of Jesus, whose authority is absolute. And there are many places we can read about this absolute sovereignty in the bible, but just to leave us in no doubt His authority extends not only on this world but in heaven also. Think back to our gospel reading, ‘Then Jesus came to them and said, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (Matthew 28: 18) And this is one of the reasons why this reading is used on Trinity Sunday, because it concentrates its focus on that authority of God in His three parts. All equal yet distinct.
Another reason by the way that Trinity Sunday follows Pentecost is that on Pentecost as we are filled with the Holy Spirit that understanding of His authority is begun to be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. If you recall from last week’s sermon I mentioned that one of the names given to the Holy Spirit was the ‘Revealer’. Well. It is the Holy Spirit that reveals and illuminates that authority to us.
So, we need to submit ourselves to Jesus as Sovereign.
Fourthly, we need to be ‘obedient’. Which is made possible by doing the first three. If we are available to God, if we worship God and if we are submissive to Him, then we can become obedient to Him. And to be a disciple for Christ we need to be obedient. So, if we are not acting in a ‘Christ like’ way, if we are not being obedient to God then we cannot be His disciple. We need to be and do what Jesus demands us to do. We might not like it always, but we need to do it. For when Jesus asks us to leave our precious lives behind our high flying well paid job to go and work in a homeless charity, then He is asking us to be obedient to His call. You may remember that parable about the rich man who asks Jesus what it would take to gain eternal life, and when Jesus says, that he must give all his wealth away to the poor, the man decides that he cannot offer that level of obedience and simply walks away. (Matthew 19:16-22) To be a disciple requires obedience, which may mean some suffering on our part?
And finally, the fifth element of true discipleship is about ‘power’. For, unless we have the power of Jesus Christ working through us none of the aforementioned would have any strength to succeed. And so, until the time that Jesus returns in His full glory and power at the second coming, then He will continue to empower us to fulfil His work on earth.
So, to be a disciple we need to make ourselves available, we need to truly worship Him, we need to submit ourselves to Him and be obedient to Him and finally we need His power within us to do His will.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today is Trinity Sunday, and we celebrate our God in three parts, all separate yet equal and distinct. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So, let us go from this place and be disciples of Christ and make disciples of Christ and fulfil that great commission that Jesus gave us all, to make disciples in all nations and remember He said, ‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:16-20)