Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

Learning a new future

May 12, 2019
Martin Baker

12 May 2019                                    Learning a new future                      Martin Baker

Matthew 28:16-20

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

Let us pray

I wonder how often many of us experience living in two different worlds at the same time?

Even though that might sound a strange question, I do not think it is an uncommon experience.

On mother’s day we think about that in particular. A mother is always a mother. But she may also be an astronaut. She may be a wife. A daughter. A teacher.  A leader. A Prime Minister.  Each role requires a different set of priorities. A different way of thinking, of acting. It can be a subtle thing where we draw the line.  In fact I did a bit of survey about this.

As a way of exploring the way our perspectives change with different roles, I asked a group of mothers on Wednesday; under what circumstances could a vacuum cleaner be considered a birthday gift? Or a mother’s day gift. And the responses ranged from instant divorce, through to delight on being given a particular kind of vacuum cleaner.

One of my respondents said that her husband once gave her a fishing rod for her birthday. It had pink binding on it to make it seem more feminine. When his birthday came around she brought him a pair of expensive earrings that she had her eye on. They did a swap and everyone was happy.

We then discussed whether receiving a sack of potatoes as a present could ever be considered a birthday gift. And we all agreed that was unlikely, except in the hypothetical situation where that was the only thing of value that that person had to offer.

So we can think about these different worlds. A vacuum cleaner may or may not be a gift. A fishing rod and earrings were not gifts. And a sack of potatoes could be a gift.

Our reading today comes after the resurrection of Jesus.  How have things changed?    Seeing in different ways. Seeing others, seeing ourselves, seeing the present and future in different ways.

These different worlds we hear about today,  might seem to  sit in opposition to one another. But we discover that despite what we might think, they are worlds in which resurrected,  Jesus bridges that distances.

These few verses concentrate a lot of new understanding.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

Let’s just think about this one verse. At the start of our reading.

Now the eleven disciples.  Remember how many there were just a short time before? There were 12 disciples. People who had lived together so closely for so long.  Following Jesus their teacher. Proclaiming him as Messiah, as Christ. Now there were 11. And you look around and you know who is missing. Judas. Judas who had betrayed Jesus to the authorities for a lot of money.  What would you do for a lot of money? He had been paid off. We are told later that he couldn’t live with the consequences of what he had done and took his own life.

So the reading starts with this reference to a terrible absence. A betrayal by a close friend.  Selling Jesus out.  And two deaths. Jesus and Judas.

We pass over these words, but for the ancient story teller we can imagine a pause here. Now there are just 11 of us.  Followers but betrayers as well. We can be deniers and proclaimers.  These realities that the story holds in tension for those who would listen. What role are we going to take? Choices to be made. And the Good news is that world we lived in in the past, what has happened, does not define what is going to happen.

The eleven disciples. They went to Galilee. It’s like saying I went to Huntly I went to Wellsford. Two points here. One they have gathered in a somewhat out of the way place. And two. This is where all started. This is where Jesus began his ministry.  In Galilee. So they have gone back to their starting point.

Reconnected perhaps with the earth, the ground, the roots of where it all began. Everytime someone mentions to me the O Rourke Student hostel in the city, I remember that I was born there. Not when it was a student hostel. But when it was once the site of a maternity hospital.  My brothers were born in Cornwall Park when there was a maternity hospital there.  So many babies born in the 50’s and 60’s.  

They went to Galilee. It’s telling us more than they headed a few kilometres north of Jerusalem. This is where it began. Jesus began his ministry in Galilee.  Don’t forget where it began. Out there in the country.  From a place of little interest or consequence.

Maybe there are times that it is important for us to go back to our roots. When did you first hear the gospel, encounter what you came to understand as God’s presence, that awareness that something, this almost indescribable thing, called the God’s spirit, touched your life?  

So much complication since then perhaps. But to return to our own Galilee’s? That other place.  Where it began.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. To the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

Ararat.  Moses coming down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments.  Mt Zion.  The Sermon on the Mount.  Golgotha – Skull Hill. The place of transfiguration.  The high places.  This ancient understanding that these are the closest places to heaven. Where different worlds touch and collide. Places of new wisdom and understanding. That’s where Jesus directed them to go.  When did we take time in such a place?  Galilee Mountain. These places maybe so important to us.

These components in one verse alone. 11 disciples. Galilee. Mountain.

17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  So again we have these different worlds being spoken of. Betrayal and glorification. Galilee or Jerusalem. Down low or up in the mountain.  And now there’s Jesus, they worshipped him, but among that little group, some doubted.

In Greek, doubt and worship. The grammar suggests that they were both happening at the same time.

We can proclaim the resurrection of Jesus, we can doubt, we can worship. All at once.

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Does authority or power, influence, same word in Greek,  come from how big a group we are, how much money we have, how well thought out our programmes are.

None of those things. Remember Jesus is speaking to 11 people including their doubts. Just as well they can’t rely on their own authority. Jesus says all authority has been given to me.

All authority in heaven and on earth.

On Thursday we have a budget meeting.  It is a tough job for an accountant doing the church’s budget.  On one hand we have the numbers and what we think they are telling us. And our projections.  And they take us down one path.  But on the other we have our faith and calling.  How easy it is to make decisions from a sense of scarcity. Of not having enough. The power imaginations created by our fear.   We have an expensive guttering problem to fix and we are being overwhelmed by the needs of children and families. We have a demanding budget, and we are blessed by such generous support.  We are called to faithfully fulfil our mission in these different worlds. Pray for Greg and our Resource Committee.  

Jesus says all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

This separation which we have known since Genesis since the start. When humans became alienated from God. When they sinned when they left the garden.

And we follow Jesus every week in this, when we say thy kingdom come. They will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Something has changed. Some terrible distance has been overcome. This cross that joins heaven and earth. God who suffers with us. Loves us. Redeems us from sin and pain.  This forgiveness whose key purpose is restoration. Heaven and earth. This vision of a New Jerusalem we hear in Revelation. Not up there but now among us.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Jesus did not just send those apostles out to perform the ritual of baptism.  The more difficult task is that of making disciples.

Disciples are students. They are like interns. Interns are watching, practicing under supervision, asking questions, doubting, making mistakes, and learning from them. Jesus said very clearly, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" Go make students of Christ. Put people in internships, into a lifelong learning process.

Baptise, teach them. Teach them. This is the first time Jesus has asked his disciples to do this. In the past it was follow me, and now right at the end, it is teach them to obey all that I have commanded you.

And of course as disciples, as students of Christ we don’t have all the answers. We are commanded to pray, we are called into this deep intimate relationship with God as father, but not as an idol who gives us the right answer as long as we do the right thing.

We are promised the fullness of life but were not given some formula that makes sense of it all.

11 disciples, back on a hill far away in Galilee. Told by Jesus to go to all the peoples of the earth and make disciples baptise teach.

In the end, the story is almost absurd.  

The very fact that the task is utterly impossible throws the disciples completely onto the mercy and strength of God.

And here we are this little group here in Clevedon. . With our doubts and our questions. Living. occupying different worlds. Some in conflict. Some that almost seem like opposites.   And our sense of inadequacy. And Jesus says, remember, in fact it’s much more powerful word, its behold, behold Jesus says.  

And this the critical part. For you and for me.  Behold, I am with you, I am with you. Jesus says. Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.", AMEN