May 31, 2015


Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. – Mt. 28: 19-20

   Our Lord Himself has given us a missionary imperative to make known the name of the Trinity wherever we may be, in whatever station of life we find ourselves in. Yet often one hears it said, in so many words, “Why bother? What difference does it make?” For a clue to the answer, we need only look around us at the human lives that have left wreckage in their wake: those people who wreak havoc on themselves as well as others. We do have a precedent for our uncertainty.

   Just before Pentecost, the disciples who have been with Jesus are having a hard time getting it together. They are disappointed & confused about their future plans. Jesus is gone & they do not know what to do. Their confusion & disappointment can be traced back to their unwillingness to subordinate their expectations to God’s plans & purposes. When they heard Jesus speak about the Kingdom of God, they had their own ideas of when & how it would be realized.

   It is little wonder that the disciples appear to be procrastinating. Peter, of all people, literally says, “I am going fishing” (John 21: 3). Then something awesome happens when they come together to celebrate Pentecost (the feast of the first fruits of the grain harvest).  This time, the disciples positioned themselves before God in a spirit of openness, & God literally poured out His power upon them.

   The importance of this to us is not that something happened “back there” that brought the church into being, but that it continues to happen; & it can happen to us now. Yes, even we can be transformed from a confused & disappointed band of procrastinators into a disciplined community of faith that turns the world upside down. There is an old ditty that goes like this: “He slept beneath the moon/ he basked beneath the sun/ he lived a life of “going-to-do”/ & died with nothing done.”

   Katherine Hepburn once said that “without discipline, there is no life at all.” I have often said “Without discipline, there is no love, merely lust.” If we have lost our voice, if our worship décor & our steeples pointing skyward have become symbols of a “going-to-do” church, it is because we convey the image of an undisciplined people. An undisciplined community of faith is a contradiction in terms. Such failure can be traced back to our own unwillingness to subordinate our expectations to God’s plans & purposes. Without obedience to Christ, we indeed worship Him in vain. Apart from obedience to the Word, we will live a life of “going-to-do,” & we will die having done nothing.

   Scientists have found sixteen remote mountain sites in central Mexico within a hundred mile radius where millions of Monarch butterflies from North America spend the winter. No one knows how they find their way to these tiny plots of land. Each new generation that migrates has never been there before. Something programmed into their tiny bodies directs them to a place they have never seen, but which they know they must somehow find. It reminds one of those heroes of the faith who walk roads they have not consciously mapped out, following an inner voice to a land they have never seen – the Kingdom of Heaven.

   Like those butterflies who are somehow disciplined to gather in a certain place as part of their growth process, we gather together in this church for the same reason. But there the similarity ends. The butterflies’ conduct is programmed by nature; ours is subject to the law of God, but not programmed. We are free to reject the discipline & not join hands with the heroes of the faith who have gone before us.

   Unlike those first disciples, we know what to do next. “Go … make disciples … teach.” Our Lord’s directive is a challenge for us to go into a land we may have glimpsed only through a glass darkly, a land prepared for us by God – a land of beautiful surprises.  AMEN!