Monday, May 21, 2012

Ascension Sunday 2012: The Great Comission

Homily: The Great Commission
Let’s start our homily today with a question: Why Am I Here Instead of Heaven? In other words, why don’t we all just ascend into Heaven. Beam me up, Scotty, no intelligent life here
No worries, I am not turning the grades into the bishop.
Because my home in Heaven is not finished yet. (raise your hand) we know that’s not true—John 14
      Because I must not be good enough yet. (trick answer—none of us are good enough to make it to Heaven
      Because God is having second thoughts about me. (no, He loves you and continues to love you—the greatest miracle in the world is that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son—the second greatest is that God so loved you and me personally that he gave His one and only son—and that Son is on the throne interceding for us)
None of the above.

If you answered D, you are right. There’s something else he wanted us to do.
Our readings today help us to understand God’s plan for continuing His work after Christ left this world and ascended into heaven. This is the only plan he left us. There is no plan B. Failure is not an option.
From Mark’s Gospel, we understand the The Great Commission of the Church.

Jesus tells the Apostles to preach the gospel to the whole creation. In Matthew’s gospel, we see the Great Commission stated as “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. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).

It's Important to see two things (don’t have time to talk about the need to be baptized to become a Christian. Please see me after the services today and we’ll sit down and study that one out; if you call yourself a Christian and have never been baptized, not as something nice to do, but essential to your salvation, something is terribly wrong, and I would not be a messenger of Christ if I left that unsaid. It’s not the only thing, of course, but it’s important that you leave here knowing that people did not just say a prayer and accept Christ to become a Christian the Bible way. We are not talking about sincerity, because you would not be here if you weren’t sincere, but we are talking about what the Bible teaches. But I don’t have time enough to talk about that now!
Several things about the Great Commission:
1. It’s for every disciple. That’s why it’s the GREAT Commission. Inherent in making disciples was teaching them to obey everything—including this command to make disciples. This was the only plan Jesus left for the church to grow. God’s plan is for the church to let the world know how wise God is . . .  

This is the purpose of the entire church; i
t was not just for the talented—these were unschooled and ordinary men—it was not just for the men—the women were some of the most effective evangelizers and teachers—Paul writes about Priscilla and Aquila, and he is not just being deferential to the female gender, Priscilla was a powerful teacher—they converted Apollos, who only knew the gospel of John (see Acts 18). The key was, it was everyone’s responsibility. This is the plan, there is no other plan, there is no plan B; failure is not an option.

We think, in America, well, let’s let the priest do that, let’s outsource it, it’s not my “core competency”, let’s let the youth minister do that, let people who discover that they have a special gift—let them do that. No, the Great Commission is great because it is for everyone.
“Well, I’m not skilled"—"Pray, wait, and tell it anyway.”

“Well, I don’t know what to say.”

"Pray, wait, and then speak."

It will happen in the most surprising places if you pray.

Earlier this week my wife and sister and I are in the Apple store, my niece, a CC student, is getting her phone repaired, and we start talking, and the repair tech geek there fixes her broken screen for free, because it broke by accident. One thing leads to another, and this guy is talking about looking for a church here in town, and he plays hockey and is hoping to make the Olympic Team, and is being recruited by both CC and DU, and he’s coming to Our Lady of the Pines this weekend. We exchange cards, send him an invite a copy of the bulletin, thank him for his grace in fixing something for free—and share with him how moved we are that he is seeking God. This is a Catholic man looking for a faith community while he is in college—and that’s where many Catholics lose their way. And so we’re praising God—iPhones are good for something!

And so we go to dinner
, three doors down at the Briargate Mall at Teds (love that Buffalo), and the waitress shares about how sad the entire restaurant staff is about the loss of one of their own, another waitress who died in the fiery accident up on Old Ranch and Powers earlier this week—leaving behind three children and a husband. Our waitress asked us to pray for her, and she did so because she saw us getting ready to pray in public—and we shared our own faith, invited her to church, and left some information with her in case anyone at the restaurant is hurting and wants some spiritual guidance.

Brothers and sisters, I’m not trying to guilt you out about what you aren’t doing, but just to show you that the opportunities to share your faith are all over—some of them right under our noses. We just have to have the conviction that each of us is a part of the Great Commission. “God, where do you want me to go today? Who are you putting in my life? Where are the needs—in my family, in my neighborhood, at work, in my world?”
The Great Commission is great because it is for everyone. There is no other plan, there is no plan B; failure is not an option.

But did you notice something else; did you catch the power of exponential growth, not just addition, that’s here in the Great Commission?

We see Paul elaborate on this further in 2 Timothy 2: 1-2

I like to get real specific here, so you don’t miss this….maybe if we illustrate it, it would help
Look at the generations, and the phenomenon of EXPONENTIAL multiplication here.

Timothy in the presence of witnesses
Faithful people
Who teach others, who teach others, who teach you, and then you teach.

Do you catch that? Maybe there is another way to think about this. We want to get serious about fulfilling the mission.

What if we asked Father Andrzej to get really fired up, and reach 50 people a day for Christ. Would that be good? Father, do you think you can do that?

Rick, don’t you realize that Father A is not alone? He has the power of the Holy Spirit, he is a man of God, he is fulltime in the ministry, so let’s have some faith here—100 people a day.

Is that a faith goal? Amen!

But Father A says, “I want to take it higher!” Let’s see 1000 people a day become members of the Church—Amen!
Can you imagine how we would grow? Let’s see:

Wow, what a group! In 3 years, we would have over a million members. Do you think they would comp Father a trip to Rome for that? That is awesome!!!
But let’s think about 2 Timothy 2:2, and the Great Commission, and the command—to make disciples (not just converts), who entrust the message to faithful ones who will be able to teach others also….
This other group, actually, starts not as a group, but with just one disciple, on the other hand, leads one person into a relationship with Jesus and spends one full year working with this person simply spending time with them and sharing with them what they have learned in their walk with the Lord. No special program, no additional meetings, no special technique, just sharing our lives together around Jesus in a very focused way—providing spiritual direction, teaching, praying, going out together and evangelizing. At the end of year 1, that church has a total of 2 people compared to the 365,000 of Father A. The next year the two disciples equipped to do the work of this ministry each lead one person to Jesus and spend a full year with those people. The disciple does to the new convert the same thing he was trained to do.

At the end of year 2, that small group of disciples has a whopping total of 4 compared to Father A’s group of 730,000. Doesn’t even compare, right? But you know what? We would obedient to Gospel teaching here. We would be growing not by addition, but by exponential multiplication. But who would get invited to the big church growth meetings? Not this little group with 4 people. Oh yeah, next year they are at a whopping 8! You know something? Father might get tired after a few years taking personal care for 700,000 converts. So, what would happen if we carried out the great commission biblically? If one disciple made a disciple, if those two made two more, and those four made four more? Let’s see:

doesn’t look like much, but look at what happens when you make disciples, you disciple them

In 23 years, we have caught up to Father A. But in 33 years, when Father A is ready to go to Rome for his final promotion, look at what discipling has done. 8 Billion People! This is the power of the Great Commission. It’s the plan of the church—it’s for everyone. The Great Commission is great because it is for everyone. There is no other plan, there is no plan B; failure is not an option.

2. Secondly It’s for EVERYWHERE. Notice our reading in Acts 1 today

How do you get to all the earth? You think globally (Jesus said “go into all the world” in Mark 15), but you start locally. Here’s the instruction again in a different way of seeing it.

We go from math class to geography
Jerusalem ~ the city of Jerusalem represents the disciples’ home. (ie. Their family, friends, home town/city)
Judea & Samaria ~ these two provinces represent the surrounding area. (ie. State, Province, or Country.)

Ends of the Earth ~ this includes everyone else to be reached with the Gospel ~ to the farthest reaches of the earth. (all nations)

How does this mission look to us, in May of 2012, at Our Lady of the Pines?

So when we think about this today, in our world, in our lives, how does this sound? What does it look like?

Where is our Jerusalem?
It’s our home, it’s our family, our children, our neighbors, it’s reaching the community of the Black Forest area, our city of Colorado Springs—my wife and I are really excited to be moving into a new neighborhood next week, already thinking about ways we can meet our neighbors, become friends who are trusted, and get into those discussions that lead to our sharing our faith. We want to reach our Jerusalem with Christ’s message of hope, of healing, of wholeness, of peace, of forgiveness, of life, of goodness—you don’t think people are aching for that today?

But where is our Judea, our Samaria? That’s El Paso County, that’s Colorado. With our diocese, we are planning to reach this entire region for Christ. Who is going to reach the college students at UCCS, Colorado College, Pikes Peak Community College? How are we going to work together to stand up to the abortion death factories in Denver, our Judea, our Samaria? Who will help the folks in poverty and drugs and failure in El Paso County? How will we stand together to preach the message of life, of freedom to do good, not evil, to support families and not make it easier for them to be torn apart. It will be as we work together with other churches in our Diocese, and men and women of like-minded faith.

Lastly, the ends of the earth. Who can make disciples in Bogota? Who can make disciples in Harlem? Who can make disciples in post-Christian Europe, where there are beautiful church buildings that are serving only as tombstones where once vibrant faith communities existed. Who can make disciples in China, in Vietnam, in Utah, in the Rocky Mountain region? It will come when one church, with one voice, issues forth her nonnegotiable standard for discipleship, Jesus is Lord!

Jesus is the Head of the Church. We don’t get to make the rules—Jesus is Lord! There is no other way (John 14—he IS the way), there is no other plan, and failure is not an option—the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.
This is why we are here, and not in heaven yet. We have a mission, a duty, a call. To make disciples, to carry out God’s plan.

So let’s review

Everyone, everywhere, every member, one body, one head, one church. That’s what Christ dies for. That’s our message, that’s our call, that’s our mission, that’s our purpose, that’s our goal, that’s our victory, that’s our meaning in this world.  This is our one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.


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