Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

On a clear day

Message preached November 25, 2007
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon  Matthew 28:16-20

Order of Worship  

Unless otherwise noted this is an "amble and ramble" sermon, without a manuscript (but see notes below).

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

some thoughts amid study preparation

This is a homecoming of sorts - the disciples first entered the scene in Galilee (4:12-23). Here, back in Galilee, is where this portion of their story ends and the next begins.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee ... why? Because the women, who received the word from Jesus himself in the cemetery (28:9-10) told them to. Do we listen to God speak through others? Even persons to whom we might not normally pay attention? In that time and culture women were not usually considered divine messengers, but that is what they were in this instance. [Apart from wondering why Jesus did not include them in the eleven] To whom do we pay attention today as messengers to us from God? Are we listening, even to persons we'd least expect to bear a word from the Lord? Enough so that we'd act on the message? On the other hand, are we messengers from God to someone else, bearing a word that directs another to a mountaintop? Does this (being a messenger to someone else) make us any less valuable, whether we are male or female?

the Mountain” – where is it? It’s not named, which is good - for if it was located, someone would - no doubt - build a monument there and people would make a pilgrimage to that very spot instead of going in the direction God leads. It was only the 11 who were directed to this particular mountain.

the Mountain” – a place where horizons are visible, and a sense of perspective is gained. “On a clear day, you can see forever…” Beginning point of sermon.

Side note:     In an article in Net Results, Bill Easum writes of the need for the church to return to the "rock bottom" reason for its existence - evangelism. He begins his essay with the shared frustration of a recent workshop attendee who said, "Last year I gave over $25,000 (to my church) and not one person was baptized. If I had given that amount of money to a group in India they would have baptized thousands of people. Leaving the church is a no-brainer. I want my money to make a difference."  ("Back to Basics," Sept/Oct 2007, Vol XXVIII, no. 6, p. 4).

Worship” and “doubt” go hand in hand. Even the doubters among the 11 received the call. Too often we think we have to have it all figured out, that all our ducks need to be in line, and our lives fully in order, before we can be “apostled.” ... Not!

Note: heaven and earth “authority” remains in the hands of the One who sends. Yes, Peter was given the keys of the kingdom and binding/loosing power (16:17-19); and yes, the disciples were likewise given authority to bind/loose in the discipling process - aiming toward reconciliation (18:15-20). However, Jesus is still central to it all as God’s Messiah. This is actually good news, for it all does not depend on us. Lighten up! Live in the “therefore.”

Look to the horizons from this mountain – the nations await (think global, act local?) – and “Go.” Don’t stay here. The mission is not the journey up the mountain, it awaits our descent – how often do we get that order mixed up?

Make disciples. As Sarah Dylan Breuer writes:

         “We're not called to make churchgoers, people who include religion as one among many respectable civic activities. We're called to make disciples, people who really follow Jesus as Lord.”

All nations” – this movement now extends beyond the first commission (“Jesus summoned his 12 disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness” - 10:1) to include those left out (“Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘the kingdom of heaven has come near…’” – 10:5-7). The horizon is the limit, and that’s always up ahead. Global.

Baptizing” – fully immersing folks in what God (Father/Son/Spirit) is about in this world and beyond. Can’t stay dry on the shore. Jonah – who was himself called to go and do some discipling-type work in Ninevah – tried to avoid jumping in that perceived cesspool. God had other ideas, and Jonah ended up drenched in the belly of a big fish and then redirected back to those people. Those who call others to the water need to be fully immersed themselves (doubters welcome, but remember Jonah!)

Okay, liturgically speaking, there is here a Trinitarian formula to baptism. Brethren tradition pragmatically puts that into a trio of dunkings, each “in the name of ” Father, Son, and Spirit. “Baptizo” is not a sprinkle or pour, by the way. It’s “immerse.”

Teaching” / “obey” – recall that obedience involves listening. We lean into God’s voice ear-first, hearkening (to give ear) to God’s commands. Consider the Quakers, who worship in silence that they might be attentive to the still, small voice of the Spirit speaking from within. This is not blind obedience, but rather reflective and discerning. Once truly heard, it’s amazing what this word can do in God’s people (consider also the record of the Quakers in abolishing slavery, promoting civil rights, advocating for justice, and peacemaking). Teaching leads in this direction – kingdom work.

It ends and begins with a Promise - the risen Christ will be constantly present through it all until the day when faith becomes sight. We are never alone.

(para traducir a español, presione la bandera de España)


©2007 Peter L. Haynes
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

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