Sermon 4th June 2023

ReadingsMatthew 28, 16-20   2 Corinthians 13 11-14

A sermon for Trinity Sunday

I don’t know how you read your Bible, I’m sure Christians all read it in different ways at different times, different versions, different favourite passages, different contexts. Some will read daily perhaps following reading notes or even an online version, some will dip into it occasionally, or seek solace in difficult times, some go to Bible study to explore the depths of the words, or read in prayer groups, some may only hear the few verses we share in our Sunday worship, some may have an app which posts up daily quotes for inspiration. Today we have endless ways of accessing God’s word.

I was thinking about this, as I read the passages for this Trinity Sunday, both short, but both saying so much.

Of course, I use all sorts of different Bibles and apps in my daily devotions, but when it comes to preaching, there is an enormous challenge from God. Because as I read, I am challenged to listen to the words, especially those of Jesus.

And then to discern, through the Holy Spirit just what it is God wants me to find in those words for the community in which God has placed me, rather than for myself and my faith. And believe me, that’s not easy even after 6 years of University study, 20 years experience, all the commentaries available to me and the wise words of others, because everyone will hear, or not hear, in different ways.

And why do I raise this today? Because, as I said, as I read these two passages,  as I studied commentaries, as I prayed, I was aware, for Trinity Sunday, of God’s challenge to me, of Jesus’ words and of the Holy Spirit’s promptings in a powerful way.

Think about those eleven disciples. They had been traumatised by their friend Judas’ betrayal and suicide, (imagine what that was like in a close group of friends) by their leader’s horrendous trial and execution, by the fear of persecution and then the impossible, but incredible resurrection of Jesus. Matthew says some still had doubts- doubts about what, I wonder? They’d seen the risen Jesus, so not that, but maybe doubts about the challenge of continuing his mission, of the risks of persecution, or even death, like him, of the impossibility of what they had witnessed perhaps. We’ll never know, but Jesus, with great compassion did, and that great commission Matthew ends his gospel with were plainly words that echoed in their hearts and minds and, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and courage spurred them on to establish the church.

So I wanted to listen more closely to Jesus’ words.

“All authority in heaven and with is given to me”, he said. Of course it has, after all he is the Son of God, but it almost sounds pompous, authoritarian even. Which isn’t the Jesus we know from the gospels, the one who overcame the temptation in the wilderness to rule with authority, the one who didn’t exercise his power to come down from the cross, but gave up his power and his life for the sake of others.

Jesus’ authority isn’t the authority of humanity, the authoritarian authority of power. The sort of authority he has shown in the gospels is of the power to forgive, to heal, to cast out demons, to liberate, to free people from what bound them, to free people to love and be the people God always intended them to be.

And listening to Jesus’ words, there is a word that follows which is pregnant with meaning “Therefore”.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising 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.”

Therefore, because of, as a result of, in consequence. Because of that authority, that liberating, freeing, loving, compassionate yet powerful authority which only Jesus, Son of God has, because of that authority we, his disciples are commissioned to make new disciples, baptise and teach them to obey everything Jesus had taught them.

Commissioned- co- missioned. Our mission is with Jesus, with his imparted Holy Spirit and with that liberating, loving, compassionate yet powerful authority imparted by him through the Holy Spirit. Not the sort of authority the church sadly subsequently has sometimes used to subjugate, control or assume human authority ( think of the Crusades perhaps as the worst example, but there have been, and continue to be other examples of the wrong use, and abuse of authority), but the authority of liberation and love, the authority to speak of God, of his Son.

The authority to open people’s hearts and souls to the power of the Spirit, The authority to heal broken lives in  God’s mysterious wholeness which is often outside human expectation or understanding. The authority to serve as Christ served, in humility, in self-sacrifice, in obedience to God- God’s will, not ours.- Jesus's own words. The authority to speak out against injustice and war and oppression, poverty, persecution, corruption and abuse of human authority.

The authority to speak God’s word.

And when we think of authority in that way, then when we hear Jesus’ word that we should teach people to obey all that he commanded, then the words obey and commanded take on a whole new meaning too- not the human interpretation of subservience, of following instructions, but the embracing within lives of all that Jesus was and is, of all that he showed us, taught us, revealed to us, as we read the gospels, and within that liberating authority Jesus imparts through the Holy Spirit, these things become second nature, that way of life becomes second nature.

But those things don’t happen their own. Because Jesus’s co-mission  commands us, in that unique authority we have just explored, to teach. To teach with and of and  because of that unique liberating, loving, compassionate yet powerful authority that is in Jesus.

Not just me, although that is part of my life changing calling to you, and why I am preaching this sermon, but every disciple, every co-missioner- to make new disciples, baptising and teaching them everything about Jesus and all he taught.

And for us, those who already know Jesus, and as we worship here on Trinity Sunday, we can only do that if we are prepared to continue to be challenged by God, to listen to Jesus’ words and discern the Spirit’s promptings. Together, as one people of God, all different yes, thankfully all unique, but one in Christ, no matter our denomination, creed, colour, gender, sexuality or anything else that makes us both different and unique.

“Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” Those were Paul’s words we read this morning, written to a struggling, often divided church at Corinth which had perhaps forgotten the co-mission of Jesus in all their squabbling. We would do well to listen to Paul’s words too, and discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to our churches today. And yet he finishes too, with the same sense of encouragement that Jesus left his disciples with and remains our strength, our rock of faith no matter what we or the world is going through; Jesus said,

“And surely, I am with you always, to the end of the age”

Read your Bible. Be challenged by God, Listen to the words of Jesus and discern God’s Holy Spirit’s purpose for you and the co-mission you are charged with, to make new disciples, baptise and teach them everything about Jesus, his love, his compassion, his forgiveness, his healing, his wholeness, his peace, his hope, his joy, his servanthood and his authority. Because you are his church, his disciples, and no-one else here on Sark, or anywhere else in the world, is going to do that unless you do.