The Great Commission
Every year, the first Sunday after Pentecost is a holiday called The Feast of the Holy Trinity. It has always been my custom—no matter what—to use Holy, Holy, Holy as the first hymn on this day… except today. This is going to be a long service and there were other hymns I really wanted to sing for children and youth today. So what did I omit? The hymn Holy, Holy, Holy.
This, of course, is the day I’m supposed to explain God to you—the Christian God, that is: God in Three Persons, blessèd Trinity. I think I tried that once… not one of my better sermons. So today, let’s go in a slightly different direction. I want to compare two concepts that are important to us here: God and church.
You see, the clearest we can actually be about God is to say that God is beyond our ability to understand God—God is a mystery. So we’re tempted to think of God as unknowable—a distant, uncaring Being uninvolved with creation. But the Bible we read tells us a different story. God is a God who cares, and there are different ways that we can relate to God. There’s the God who created the beauty that surrounds us. There’s the God who came to us in the flesh—who lived our life and died our death that we might never again—not in all eternity—be separated from God. And there’s the God that lives within us as we struggle with this life—the same One who connects us to each other and strengthens us to serve our neighbor.
So it’s safe to say that God isn’t God in isolation; the very nature of God is God in relationship, God in community. And so it’s only appropriate that it’s in community that we worship God and learn about God and share our own insights about God.
Imagine, if you will, a person whose ideas about God are so set in stone that they are unable to share their experience and unwilling to listen as others share their experiences. This is a person who will never grow in faith, and whose faith will probably never make a positive difference in the world. Just as our God is found in different ways and different experiences, so we gather with others to share how God has come to us so that we can learn and grow in faith. Because God is Trinity, Christians are community.
We believe in the Trinity, but that word’s never mentioned in the Bible. And the Trinity is only specifically mentioned in one single verse—the one contained in this morning’s scripture reading:
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. —Matt. 28:19
This verse has a name, actually. It’s called the Great Commission. At its most basic, it means that Christians have a responsibility—the responsibility to share our faith. For people like me, that means baptizing those believers and their households. I’m also responsible for living out my faith so that others can see my faith in my life. But ministers of the gospel aren’t the only ones. All of us who claim to be Christians must also live our faith and share what we believe.
So church isn’t just a place where we come to hear about possibilities and then talk among ourselves. It’s not even a place where we hear a sermon and then sit and pray—though that might well be part of what we do. Church is where we have our stories affirmed and find the courage to share those stories out in the world. And that’s how each of us plays our part in carrying out the Great Commission.
Some of us talk, some of us march. Some of us cook, some of us sing. Some of us fold, some of us host. Some of us build, some of us clean. Some of us teach, some of us visit. You name it, if it helps somebody it’s a way of sharing the love of God—it’s part of taking part in the Great Commission.
—©2022 Sam L. Greening, Jr.