Never Alone

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Isaiah 55:1-5

Matthew 28:16-20

Our Savior pronounces a directive for the eleven that they teach all nations, to glorify the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to glorify the Divine Godhead of what we have come to identify as our Christian faith. In that day they would be known as early evangelists, as men and women of the way. What was this way? It was a declaration in time and space that Emanuel, God with us, has now completed a work in human flesh that no other man or divine could do, or would do. He had provided himself, a spotless sacrifice that we might redeemed from the separation that sin created between humankind and the divine. This sacrifice was not ritual, ceremonial, it was literal; it demanded blood, it demanded death. And now it was completed…death, completion? Yes, it was completed, but that was not the end of the story. For on the third day morning He presented Himself to the world, claiming all power in heaven and earth belonging to him. So this commissioning is a great point of ministry. We really have something to tell.

There is much Jesus taught his disciples, that confirm this spotless, sacrificial life that lived, that men and women would believe. For in belief do we understand the power of this commission. Our belief helps us to understand that in our most challenging times, we are never alone.

If one accepts Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, concerns about being alone might be best understood at the level where social concerns and needs dominate our existence. Our commission with the Christian Faith requires us to remember that in Christ, all things are now made new. This newness demands that we see, hear, and act differently. How we process the world changes. We cannot approach this task, in the glow of the resurrection morning, in disbelief, for this disbelief renders us powerless.

In our lesson today, we see that not all of the disciples believed. Mark tells us that Jesus upbraided them for this…he gave them a talking’ to! Might I say this like the old preachers I grew up with?—in my “Holy Ghost imagination” I can hear the savior saying to these fellas—Look, I have sent to you first, the news that I had risen as I said I would, but you did not believe—Is it because I gave the women this task? In like manner I gave audience to some believers out in the country, where we sat for spell and talked of eternal things. But you still did not believe. What’s wrong fellas> Are you looking for my word of instruction, my word of liberation to come only from men. Or are you thinking that only in the great edifices in the great cities will my word need to be heard?

Well, before I get too carried away in critiquing the disciples, we are likewise lacking evidence of an eternal appreciation of this good news. Breaking the bonds of death, the resurrection was the good news. No longer could we be subject to the extortions of promised life or the briberies of earthly wealth, and certainly not slaves to the creations that belong to God. God is, is central to this story. We might exhaust flesh and time our consumption of the words of the Bible. Indeed the words are life giving, but they are also pointing towards one end, to Glorify God. Psalm 19:1, “The heavens shall declare thy handiwork.” But Isaiah 48:11 gives us an understanding that God will not relinquish his Glory. So there must be a faithful reconciliation of the events on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and The resurrection, Sunday morning. These eleven, were at a Passover celebration, a supper that Jesus declares he had looked forward to eating with them. He had before spoke of his body and his blood and the necessity of partaking of such. Some of the disciples and followers followed him no more because of this image. Yet, these eleven stayed, as did the traitor Judas. One might wonder how different the passions of Judas were from the other eleven. I suggest that being open to Jesus as the Glory of God is a crucial difference. So, then we can see that this struggle is a consistent one in the narratives of the Bible.

Struggling with the central tenets of this notion of God’s Glory is the rhyme and meter of biblical literature, and we have heard this in our reading of psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….” Throughout the psalm we are given I believe, important attributes of God. We have the transcendence and immanence of God. The Divine is involved in my life, and because of that I shall not want for any good thing: “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly… For He is a Sun and shield” Psalm 84:11. Yet even these words are loaded with expectations and too often we miss the central ethic of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The gospel of John gives us help:

John 20:21-23

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” NIV

Providing another view of this commissioning, one which helps us to see this Trinitarian promise and the power it holds over the very notion of ministry. We understand that we are never alone. The presence of the Lord is crucial to our Christian living, our Christian Faith. It is one aspect of our attempt to understand God, and it can be a help in the increase of our faith. Many would be faithful, except for the fears of what seems like a lonely journey. It is not a metaphor, this loneliness. It can strangle your faith, just as it binds your abilities to love, forgive, and be the embodiment of all that Christ has been to you. God tells us to have faith in him; believe him; trust him; his mercies are new every morning; why are you downcast? (Psalm 42:5) he asks, Hope in God! For He cannot forget us (Isa. 49:14-16).

In these times of despair, when the poorest are least considered in the body politic,

Remember—you are never alone

When a ministry of justice seems to be a distant concern for those who say they represent Christ,

Remember—you are never alone

When few seem to have concern about the deconstruction on God’s Word, to fit popular press,

Remember—you are never alone

When success in worldly matters incite jealous attacks upon you and your character,

Remember—you are never alone

When those who say they are friends are nowhere to be found,

Remember –You are never alone

When your testimony of Christ brings rebuke and scorn,

Remember—you are never alone

When grace is viewed as weakness,

Remember—you are never alone

Summary


God’s word consistently shares with us His concern and love. He demonstrated this in the most dramatic way in human history. He came to be with His people. In our text this morning Christ has provided proof to his disciples and given instructions that they might receive the fullness of the God head with the coming of the Holy Spirit.

We are never alone. The Love of God is forever with us. Christ resurrected is the greatest testimony of love the world has ever known. God’s immanence—He proves to us daily that He has not abandoned the world. He is active in the world. His transcendence is proof of his power beyond this world. And by that same power he is the center of all creation. And the resurrection is our proof of God’s abiding love and eternal power. But it is demonstrated most by his presence. His presence is the foundation of ministry. Tell the world the good news that Jesus the Christ has conquered death and has risen from the dead. It is the essential belief of our Christian communion.

~The Rev. Dr. Gregory E. Thomas, Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Haverhill, MA; Part of the 2011 Summer Preaching Series, “Evangelism in the Liberal Tradition”

For information about our summer preaching series, please contact us at chapel@bu.edu.

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