Every year since 1950, people have decided to leave the dominant faith in America. The interesting point is they are not publicly changing their faith. It’s not a priority or value anymore. I often wonder ‘Why do people go to church or temple or the mosque while others don’t or won’t?’ I’ve heard people say:
- People are busier these days.
- There are more family activities on the weekends.
- There are children sports on the weekends.
- We only get two days off so why would I want to spend it in church.
- I get more out of reading my bible alone than I do going to a church.
- I commune better with God when I’m in nature.
- The local church seems more concerned with ancillary issues than fostering my relationship with God.
All of these comments are real for some and excuses for others. However, my point is, the riddle of why people don’t value coming together never gets solved.
The Jesus I read about was about introducing others to His Dad. He was about relationship. He spent extensive amounts of time with God. He humbled himself to be a servant. He modeled it for three years with 12 apprentices. He took them everywhere and showed them everything they would need to know before they asked. He demonstrated love in action equals relationship. It was the type of relationship that stimulated a desire to know more in the hopes of encountering a living God.
Missio Dei means the mission of God. Many believe this is the story behind the story. God’s will for us all is that all would come to know Him. The word “know” is not just information. It recognizes our need to grow in our understanding and experience of the relationship, so we can discern when and where to get involved. An involvement that puts in play the two greatest commands (love God and love others) so the people around us will open their hearts to the possibilities what God’s love has for them.
How should we do that?
To answer the question, we will read through Matthew 28:16-20 but before I do let me give a little background to it so that we all get the picture of what was transpiring. Christ had been crucified and the apostles had scurried into hiding. They had no clue what to do. Peter is wallowing in shame about the denial. They were all still really upset with Judas. A few of the boys were talking about going back to their original lines of work. Matthew was complaining that he couldn’t go back. The ladies couldn’t take it anymore, so Mary went to the tomb and low and behold, an angel appears to them and tells her to go to them. Go and tell them what has transpired and to go to Galilee.
If you have your bible or bible app open, look at the first command to ‘go’ from the angel –
- v.7. The angel meets the woman near the tomb. He commands “don’t be afraid go tell the disciples, go to Galilee.”
- Then on the road, Jesus appears to the women and says in Verse 10 – “Don’t be afraid, go tell my brothers to go to Galilee.”
- Then there is a third “command to go’ in verse 18.
Before we go there, let’s begin reading today’s scripture at:
V16 - “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.”
Did you ever think why Jesus didn’t just go to them? Why make them travel? Why meet them there? Was God testing their faith? When we read that scripture you can feel the anticipation of the disciples? You can feel the excitement? The wonder? The pace of the walk probably increased as they came closer. Do you think Peter and John had a rematch of the race to the tomb but this time to the upper room?
V17 – When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
As they arrived excited, some still doubted. I find hope in this line. The disciples had been with Jesus for 3 years and heard and seen all the miracles. How many experiences do we have can compare to the disciples? And yet, they doubted. By doubting they showed their humanness. This means they were just like us. They couldn’t explain it all, but they had faith and occasionally things just seemed to be to unbelievable for them to comprehend. Yet God spoke to them anyway. He stood before them in v18;
“all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Did you ever wonder why Jesus declared this to them? He might have been answering their doubts about the last three years. They might have been still wondering why it all went down the way it did.
In each of these first three encounters with the supernatural, the angel and Jesus soothed the hearts of listeners with the words, “do not be afraid” and paraphrasing 18 – I got this. Relax. I call this Holy Fear. Fear is often said to be an acronym for “Future Events Appearing Real.” For Jew of Jesus day, seeing an angel or Jesus
I think there is probably a good lesson in this for us. Almost anytime God comes near, we get fearful. Let me share my own experience of recent months
-o The Micro Burst removing our electrical box and causing 12,000 dollars in damage
o The building transformation because of the resources from the storm
o The ministry ideas birthed recently - AA, NA, Men's groups, Train the trainer for women who have been abused, Christian Yoga, Christian Karate, Christian Break Dancing, mid-size group meeting
o The people transformation
o The Sunday morning gathering was hatched 8 months in because of request from one of our groups.
What keeps us going when the mission gets hard?
Verse 18. “If ALL authority is given to Christ and He commands us who can stop us. “no one!”
What did he command – look at verse 19 – 20a
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
This is God’s vision for the individual, the community and the world through each of us and the use of the Center.
- Bring them into the community of faith
- Teach them about the good news, walk with them until they make the choice
- Have them commit their lives to the mission
- Help them organize and surrender their life
- And when ready - Send them out – Go.
Why did he say “go” and not stay and have great potlucks or serious small groups? Because this doesn’t challenge us or force us to rely on God. It also doesn’t fulfill the commandments to love God and love others as one self. The beauty of holy fear is the growth which takes place in the challenged and the world around us.
Back to our original question, why start a community of faith in Itasca? We begin new faith communities to witness to the rest of the world what God can do and does do when we are willing to love God and others as well as to step from comfort to discomfort in his name by placing trust in Him.
The greatest of all God’s promises comes in this last line – “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
When you don’t think you can – God is with you
When you don’t know what to say – God is with you
When you don’t know what to do next – God is with you
When you need encouragement – God is with you
When you need a light, God is with you.
When you need forgiveness, God is with you.
When you need hope, God is with you.
When you are disturbed, God is with you.
When you feel unloved, God is with you.
When you don’t feel like you can go on, God is with you!
I believe this last line is burned into those original disciples. They heard this and when faced with challenges, persecution and death, they kept hearing Jesus voice. It’s also what should be on our hearts as we begin this new community at the center.
God is with us!
He was with the early church and he is with us today.