LET THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH, AND THE MEDITATION OF MY HEART, BE ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE IN THY SIGHT,
O LORD, MY STRENGTH AND MY REDEEMER
THE GREAT COMMISSION
“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:”
The theme of this Sunday recalls to the newly baptized their receiving of the Spirit and forgiveness of sins during their initiation on Easter Evening.
All three synoptic Gospels describe appearances of our Lord to His Apostles after His resurrection in which He empowers and commissions them to carry on His work. It is entirely likely that the apostles were hold up in the upper room where the Last Supper had been held. And it is just as likely that they were terrified because they knew the intense bitterness the Jews who had brought about the death of Jesus had for Him and his followers. Their turn might well come next. Imagine sitting in that room listening fearfully for every step on the stairs and every knock at the door thinking it would be the representatives of the Sanhedrin coming to arrest them and do to them what they had done to Jesus.
The suddenly without any warning Jesus appears before them and gives them the normal everyday middle-eastern greeting; “Peace be to you”. This greeting means more than “May you be saved from trouble”. It means: “May God give you every good thing”. Jesus then gives the disciples what the Church today calls ‘The Commission of Christ’: “as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you”. God had sent Jesus forth, so he is now sending the disciples forth to share His message to all the people. In order to share Jesus Christ’s message the Church must take the message and became the mouth to speak for Jesus, the feet to run his errands and the hands to do his work. The people who are sent out need a message to take, power and authority to back up the message and someone to turn to when they are in doubt and in difficulty. The sending out of the Church by Jesus is parallel to the sending out of Jesus by God. Jesus could be God’s messenger only because he rendered to God his perfect obedience and love. And so it follows that the Church is only fit to be the messenger and instrument of Christ when it perfectly loves him and perfectly obeys him. The Church must propagate the message of Christ and never be out to follow policies of human devising. The Church fails whenever it tries to solve problems with its own wisdom leaving out the will and guidance of Jesus Christ.
Lastly, Jesus breathed on his disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit. We have seen this same thing in the story of creation; “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; (Gen. 2:7). Thus the Church was born and the Apostles were empowered to go forth and share the good news, the word of the Lord.
Now you might be sitting there thinking well apostolic succession means that the clergy of today’s Church are responsible for going forth and sharing what Jesus taught us. But you would only be partially right because all of you as part of your Christian duty are expected to know and live by the teachings of Jesus Christ. In the second office of instruction on page 291 of your Book of Common Prayer the question is asked: “What is your bounden duty as a member of the Church?” to which the answer is “My bounden duty is to follow Christ, to worship God every Sunday in his Church; and to work and pray and give for the spread of his kingdom.” And just how do you “work and pray and give for the spread of his kingdom”? There are many ways, praying and giving of the gifts God has bestowed upon you for the spread of his kingdom are good things to do for sure. But another way which many people seem to shy away from is talking to others about Jesus Christ, your faith and your Church. This does not mean you have to knock on doors and hand out pamphlets. But when was the last time you sat down with friends and instead of talking about the last sporting event or television drama you talked about Jesus message to all the people of the world? When was the last time you took a stance against something because it conflicted with your Christian beliefs? I saw a recent interview on television with a lady in Georgia who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. The reporter was accusing her of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Her Christian beliefs do not support gay marriage so should she be forced to violate her beliefs? Might that be discrimination against her based on her religion? The Church has held for centuries the definition of marriage as plainly stated in the marriage vows; “we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God”. To stand up for what you believe in is no easier today that it was in the time of the Apostles, they feared for their life expecting the Sanhedrin’s men to come and get them at any moment. And this lady found out first hand that by standing up for her beliefs she opened herself up to the ridicule of special interest groups, government agencies and national news reporters.
The theme of this Sunday should not recall just to the newly baptized their receiving of the Holy Spirit, it should recall for you the receiving of the Holy Spirit and you having been sent out by God when you were baptized. The Holy Spirit is not just in the clergy of the Church it is in all of us, and God expects us all to build his kingdom using the gifts he has given us, rendering to God perfect obedience and love. To do otherwise is to deny God by saying one thing on Sunday and doing something different the rest of the week.
Let us pray. O Merciful God, grant that we may have the power and strength to have victory, and to triumph, against the devil, the world, and the flesh. AMEN
And now, unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power, and dominion as is most justly due this day both now and forever; world without end. AMEN