McFarland

Holy Trinity June 6/7, 2020

Readings

First Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20

Prayer of the Day:

Almighty Creator and ever-living God: we worship your glory, eternal Three-in-One, and we praise your power, majestic One-in-Three. Keep us steadfast in this faith, defend us in all adversity, and bring us at last into your presence, where you live in endless joy and love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Hymns of the Day

If you don’t have hymnals at home,
look up the hymns on YouTube or other websites.

“We Are Called” (ELW #720)

“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” (ELW #413)

“Come, Join the Dance of Trinity” (ELW #412)

“Come, All You People” (ELW #819)

“Go, Make Disciples” (ELW #540)

“Praise the Father, Praise the Son” (Chris Tomlin)

Reflection on Matthew 28:16-20

by Pastor Tim Dean

Matthew’s Gospel ends with what is called the “Great Commission.” The disciples worship the Risen Christ on a mountain, and then he sends them down the mountain with a mission to “make disciples of all nations.” How is this mission accomplished? Matthew names two actions: baptizing in the name of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and teaching what Jesus has commanded.

You and I are part of this mission, dear friends. We are joined to the community of the Trinity, brought into loving relationship with the God who creates the universe, has been become human in Jesus, and who continues to infuse creation with the life of the Spirit. We have been brought into this community through baptism.

One of the things I miss about not being together in-person during the pandemic is presiding over baptisms at our font. It is a joyful moment when a baby, child or adult is washed in the name of God, and brought into the community and life of our Triune God. We then walk down the center aisle, symbolizing the newly baptized enfolded into the life of the community, and we shout out: We welcome you into the body of Christ and the mission we share!

I really miss these joyful moments, and I look forward to the day when we can safely gather around the font again. Our mission begins with this strong word of God’s grace and love, and every day, we are invited to give thanks and be renewed in this gift of baptism and discipleship!

Maybe you’ve seen the gag pictures of pastors baptizing people with squirt guns—from a safe six feet away. Don’t worry—I’m not doing that!

As we remember the gift of being baptized into God’s name, we also continue our mission to teach one another what Jesus has commanded. In the Gospel of Matthew, the authority to teach belongs to Jesus, and it is a major part of his earthly ministry.

What does he say in his teaching ministry? In his sermon on the mount, Jesus teaches, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:3-12). He calls us to “love our enemies” and all children of God, not just people we like (Matthew 5:43-45).

In response to religious teachers who judge the flaws of others, Jesus says: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:13) Jesus teaches by example, with his actions: eating with outcasts (9:10), feeding the hungry poor (14:13-21), and welcoming children as signs of the kingdom (19:13-15).

Then in his last parable in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus talks about how the community will see him. Disciples will see him as they give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing for the naked, care for the sick, and comfort for those in prison (Matthew 25:31-46).

In summary, over all of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ teaching for us is this: we are to hunger and thirst for justice, act with mercy for the outcast and needy, and love all people for whom he died. Justice, mercy, love—that’s an even shorter summary! This is our mission as the people who are baptized in Jesus’ name.

With the distress and pain of these last two weeks, there is an urgency for this mission of justice, mercy and love. The brutal killing of George Floyd, a child of God, has exposed a wide disparity between white communities and communities of people of color. It has exposed demonic forces of racism and white supremacy. It has spurred voices of hate, fear and divisiveness.

I do not support property destruction. I do not condone looting. I also do not want to stigmatize police officers. I believe that most are faithful, honest, caring men and women—and, I am proud to say, some are wonderful members of our congregation!

But the anger of the protests is understandable. The anger points to the real issue: the many years of violence and injustice against black men, women and children.

We must counter this violence, and the voices of racism and hate, with the good news of Jesus Christ, and his teaching of justice, mercy and love. What actions can we take? There are different steps for each of us.

In my sermon last week, I said that one of the first steps is prayer, self-examination and self-reflection. We all have hidden prejudices and biases; we’re in the same boat; we’re all caught in the same net of sin and brokenness; we all need God’s mercy and new life.

Another step may be education and awareness around issues of systemic racism, black history, and the work of racial equity. Pastor Kelli and I have been discussing several books and resources; you can contact us if you are interested in exploring some of them. We are also looking into ways we can have honest, mutually supportive conversations about racism as the body of Christ at MLC. These can be difficult, but they are much needed.

For some, a next step may be learning about community organizations that seek change, such as Pastor Alex Gee’s Nehemiah Center in Madison, or Pastor Marcus Allen’s African American Council of Churches. For others it may be on-going action to address problems of hunger, homelessness, or affordable housing, such as the ministry we do through Habitat for Humanity.

In whatever ways we speak and act, large or small steps, the foundation must be love. Sharing the love of Jesus Christ. Pastor Martin Luther King Jr. offered these powerful words: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (King, “Strength to Love”)

Dear friends, the love of Christ urges us in the “Great Commission” to make disciples throughout all nations, baptizing them and teaching Jesus’ ways of justice, mercy and love.

And the best part of the “Great Commission”? It’s a co-mission. We are not out there alone. We have a Promised Partner—Partner with a capital P!

In the last words of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks this reassuring promise: “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

The Holy Trinity, enfleshed in the body of Jesus, raised to new life in the resurrection, splashed into our lives in baptism, this God, walks with us, empowers our words and deeds, and will keep us on the foundation of his love forever.

This promise makes the “Great Commission” truly great. Amen.

Let Us Pray

Holy and ever-living God, we thank you for enfolding us into your community of love and for making us disciples of your Son. Thank you for sending us in mission to baptize in your name and work for justice, mercy and love in the world. Send healing and hope for all who grieve the death of George Floyd, for all who protest racism and other forms of hate, and for all who seek public safety and welfare. Strengthen us with the knowledge that you are with us and your love for creation will never run out. In the strong and gracious name of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.