The Great Commission - Taking It Serious

CALL TO WORSHIP: God has blessed us in so many ways; He made us;
He has sent Jesus to show His love for us. He gives us His Holy Spirit to guide us.
Isn’t such a God worthy of our worship? Yes; let’s worship Him now.

Lord, the Bible tells us that everything was dark, then You spoke, and there was light.
Shine a light today on everything that we see and hear. May Your Holy Spirit enable us to understand the things that puzzle us.

When the service is over, may we take Your light with us, so that we may see the world filtered through the lens of the one who created it, loves it, and sent Jesus so that it might be redeemed. Amen

HYMN 6: FATHER, WE LOVE YOU-StF

PRAYER OF ADORATION:
O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.

Even tiny children can sing Your praises, leaving Your enemies with nothing to say.
When we look up at the night sky, and see the moon and the stars, all set in place by You. We are amazed at the work of Your fingers.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.

How is it that a God who has a universe to care for should be interested in human beings?  Yet You are concerned with our lives. You made us in Your image and we matter to You.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.

You have given us responsibility for the world; You have placed flocks and herds, wild animals and birds, and everything that lives in the ocean into our care. All for us to use and enjoy.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.

You have sent Jesus to be our Savior, to live with us and to die for us. To be raised from the dead; You give us the gift of Your Holy Spirit, sending us out with power to tell others of Your mighty works.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens. Amen

TALK FOR ALL: TEACHING GOD’S LOVE (MATTHEW 28: 16-20)

What is the name of your favourite teacher? Have you ever really thought about their jobs? What does it mean to be a teacher? What do teachers do? (Solicit children’s responses.)

That’s right – being a teacher is a very important (and busy) job! Teachers do lots of things, but their most important job is to help you learn. They teach you to be readers and writers, mathematicians and scientists…the list goes on and on!

But there’s something important that I want you to pay attention to as you watch them when you are allowed to resume classes. Great teachers don’t just tell us things – they show us how to do the things we’re trying to learn. When teachers give us examples to follow, learning becomes much easier.

In this week’s Gospel lesson Jesus asks his disciples to teach others about God – and to help bring new followers to Him through their teachings.

Wow – that’s an important job! Did you realize that you are teachers too?

If we want to teach others about what it means to follow Jesus’ teachings, what kind of examples will we need to set? (Solicit children’s responses and link back to the importance of setting an example. For instance: If we want to teach about kindness – or taking care of the less fortunate – how could we model this in our own lives?)

It sounds like you’re ready to be teachers for God!

Will you pray with me?

Dear God, we are ready to be your teachers in the world. Help us to be examples of your love so that others may come to know you better. Amen.

HYMN 11: HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, LORD GOD ALMIGHTY-StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING

Lord, You are the creator of all things, and all life comes from You. As we recall the creation story from the Bible, we remind ourselves that we do not always treat the world that You have made with sufficient care. You made day and night, and set the sun and moon in the sky; but we fill the world with light pollution, so that it is difficult to see the stars.

We know that we need the rain to make things grow and the sun so that they will ripen; but we grumble whether it is sunny or rainy.

You made the sea and filled it with fish, but we take more than we need and make the water dirty with chemicals.

You made the earth so that it will grow enough for everyone, but we exploit poorer workers and find it difficult to share.

You made animals and people to live alongside us, but we close our eyes when they are exploited and do not try to make things fairer.

You rested on the seventh day, but we push and push ourselves, not taking the rest which You designed us to have.

Forgive us Lord when we abuse the world that You made with such loving care. Your plan always included sending Jesus, so that we might be forgiven. Thank-you Lord for that forgiveness which You offer to us through Him. Help us by Your Holy Spirit to live more faithfully in Your world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

READINGS: GENESIS 1: 26-2:3 AND MATTHEW 28:16-20

HYMN 18: BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD-StF

SERMON: THE GREAT COMMISSION-TAKING IT SERIOUS
(Matthew 28:16-20)

 “Go, and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19-20) We call it the Great Commission. It’s stood for ages, and it still stands today, as the church’s call to arms. So, why is this so hard for us living in the west? Why do we give evangelism such a bum rap? I can think of three reasons:

• One, we’re temperamentally reserved. We’re not overly demonstrative in showing our emotions or verbose in expressing our feelings about sensitive matters. We don’t like to talk openly about money or sex; why should we be different in talking about our relationship to God? This is personal stuff, and to air it publicly seems a little uncouth.

• Two, we’re socially restrained. We don’t like to impose ourselves on others, and we don’t like others imposing themselves on us. We try to be gracious about inviting others into our fellowship, but we don’t want to be pushy about it. We think it’s incongruous for the church to market its wares or openly solicit new members.

• Three, we’re theologically grounded in the doctrines of politics, social media, sports, celebrity life styles, our jobs, security and wealth. We believe the church is made up of those whom God has called to bear his name and sing his praise. It’s not we who decide who belongs to the people of God, but God alone. If the Spirit of God stirs your heart and quickens your spirit, so be it; if not, who are we to interfere?

So, as westerners or people living in the west, we’re temperamentally reserved, socially restrained and theologically grounded in many doctrines.

Jesus said, “Go, and make disciples of all nations…” These were his parting words, his final commandment, and it’s up to us to carry it out to the best of our abilities. And so, this morning I’d like for us to take another look at the Great Commission and see how we might take it more seriously in a way that’s consistent with our christian heritage. The passage begins, “But the eleven disciples went into Galilee…”

We’re not told which mountain the disciples went to, but we do know that, in the Bible, mountains symbolize the abiding place of God. Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments; the Jews went up to Mount Zion to worship; Jesus went up to Mount Calvary to be crucified for the sins of the world. Where else would you expect the disciples to go to meet their risen Lord except on a mountain?

Matthew says they went up to the mountain which Jesus had directed them, “When they saw him, they bowed down to him, but some doubted.” You can translate this two ways, that there were some slackers in the group or that even the most faithful have their misgivings.

This is something we ought to be able to identify with: There are varying degrees of faith represented in every congregation. There are those of you whose faith is seasoned and mature, and there are those of you who are still unsure of God’s faithfulness and his love. To be honest, there’s a mixture of faith and doubt within each of us.

One of my favourite prayers is from the Gospel of Mark, where a father brought his child to Jesus to be healed. Before Jesus healed the boy, he said to the father, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” And the father cried, “I believe. Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Doubt and faith go hand in hand. The fact that you can’t prove the existence of God makes trusting in God all the more remarkable. They believed, and they doubted. And to both their faith and their lack of faith, Jesus said:

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.
Go, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you.”

So, how can we take this Great Commission more seriously? It’s as simple as 1-2-3.

One: Go. That’s the first word of the Great Commission, and it’s an imperative. God commands us to be proactive. It’s not enough to sit back and enjoy your relationship with God and each other, accepting those who may, from time to time, wander into our churches or communities. We are to take the initiative and make the first move. This may not come naturally, and it may not be easy, but it’s the first step to taking the Great Commission seriously.

And so, when you see someone sitting near you on Sunday morning that you don’t know, introduce yourself. Offer a word of welcome. Is that too much to ask? If it happens to be a long-time member who hasn’t been here in years, well, so be it. They’ll get over it. More than likely it’ll be a newcomer, and your willingness to reach out, in itself will convey a message of hospitality and an invitation for others to be a part of our family of faith.

And, in between Sunday mornings, take it upon yourself to introduce yourself to those moving into your neighbourhood or joining your civic club. Be the first to welcome and invite those you meet to visit your church.

We’re told that 80 percent of folks visiting a church for the first time do so because someone they respected invited them to come, and then met them at the door.

Step two: Make disciples. Note that Jesus did not say, “Go and recruit church members.” What the church needs least is to have its rolls filled with members who are not committed to the Lord Jesus Christ.

No, Jesus commands us to go and make disciples. The implication is that disciples are made, not born. God may call us from birth to be his children, but someone has to give us the training to be disciples.

A disciple is one who is disciplined, who conforms to the standards and expectations of his teacher. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are disciplined by his teachings and examples.

The best way to make disciples – perhaps the only lasting way – is to be disciplined yourself, then share those disciplines with others, saying things like: “Well, this is what works best for me … this is what I believe … this is how I try to respond in situations like that.” You can only teach what you know and what you believe and what you practice.

Start by strengthening your own spiritual disciplines. Then share them with others. Take time to sit down and explain to others what we believe, what we do and why. Tell them such things as:

• We go to church on Sunday morning to praise God and listen for God’s Word, not to be entertained.

• We study the scriptures to find meaning and direction for our lives.

• We seek to be a blessing to others not because we have to, but because we’re grateful for the many ways God has blessed us.

• We pray morning, noon and night to thank God for his mercies and ask God to be with those in need.

• When trouble comes, we look to God for comfort and strength.

• In times of uncertainty, we’re not afraid because we know that God is with us, we are not alone, his grace is sufficient for every need.

• We believe all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purposes.

• And we believe that nothing shall ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Step three is: Share the Good News with everyone you meet: “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” The gospel of Jesus Christ is inclusive. It’s not just for us, but for everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord.

Our tendency is to be attracted to those like us: “Birds of a feather flock together.” And it’s true: If it were only up to us, the church would be a pretty homogeneous group. But Jesus commands us to reach out to those who are different, to people of other races, other nationalities and other religious backgrounds and work together for the common good.

The question is: Are we willing to go and make disciples of your neighbours across the street and across town, different though they may be?

Well, here’s the gist of it all: Jesus left us with a Great Commission: Go and make disciples of all the nations. To take it seriously,

  1. We have to be proactive, take the initiative, make the first move;

  2. We have to be disciplined by his teachings and examples and share those disciplines with others;

  3. We have to be willing to embrace those who are different, letting the love of Christ alone be the tie that binds us together as one.

Well, don’t just sit there. Go and make disciples … in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

HYMN 403: GOD’S SPIRIT IS IN MY HEART-StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION:

Before He went back to heaven, Jesus went up a mountain with His disciples. Let us think about what happened then, and use those events to help us in our prayers for ourselves and others.

Let us pray: Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!

Lord, as we come before You in prayer, worship is always a good place to start. Lord Jesus, we worship You; we know that You are the Lord, and that we may have confidence in You. Help us now as we offer these prayers in Your name.

First of all, we pray for those who have doubts; for those who are struggling with their faith, and who perhaps dare not tell anyone because they feel afraid or ashamed. Maybe someone is sitting here today who feels like that. Be close to them, Lord; speak to them of Your love. Remind them that You can always be trusted.

Jesus, we pray in Your name For You are with us always.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.”

Lord, Jesus has the ultimate power, but there are worldly powers who need our prayers. We pray for the Queen, the Prime Minister, for the government, and for those in local government. We pray for bosses of large companies, with power over many people’s lives. Help them to use their power wisely and thoughtfully, remembering that it is only theirs for a time.

Jesus, we pray in Your name For You are with us always.

Jesus said “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations.”

Lord, we pray for those who hear Your call, and travel far from their homes to serve You. We pray for those training for Christian ministry; for those working in churches at a distance from family members; for those who have gone to serve You overseas. Fill them with Your Holy Spirit as they seek to obey the call of Jesus.

Jesus, we pray in Your name For You are with us always.

Jesus said “Baptise them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Lord, we thank You for the services that take we listen to or follow week by week; for Sunday services; for weddings, funerals and baptisms. May all who attend them Come to know You as their creator, Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and the Holy Spirit as helper and guide.

Jesus, we pray in Your name For You are with us always.

Jesus said: “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”

Lord, we cannot teach new disciples anything unless we learn from You first. Help us to live lives that please You, by following the guidance of Your Holy Spirit. May we always remember the words of Jesus: “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus, we pray in Your name For You are with us always. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

HYMN 550: FORTH IN THY NAME, O LORD, I GO-StF

BLESSINGS: Jesus said, I am with You always. As we have heard these words in our homes and with this confidence the Blessings of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit continue to be upon us and remain with us always. Amen