Eastertide: Matthew 28:16-20

Artwork by Kerrie James

Artwork by Kerrie James

Sure, the story of the resurrection is amazing, 

but for so many of us, there is still an un in front of believable.  Christ’s resurrection might sound great.  It might even sound like good news to you.  But maybe when you think about a dead man coming back to life, you still have some doubts.

If this is true of you, you are certainly in good company.  You’d be with the eleven disciples.  

There had been, you remember, twelve.  But here, there are eleven.  Twelve minus the brother who had betrayed their Lord, who had left them, and had taken his own life.  

After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his followers and most of our translations say that even after seeing the risen Lord, “they worshiped...but some doubted.”

They worshiped.  

But.  

Some.  Doubted.  

Here is Jesus himself.  The guy who was nailed to the cross.  The one who died in front of everyone, who was pierced in the side just so they could make sure that he was really, truly dead, who was wrapped in linen from head to toe and stuck in a tomb.  Here he is, walking and talking among them.  And some doubted?

It's a fair translation, but the Greek is a little more nuanced.  It's possible that the translation might be better read that they "worshiped and doubted."   They worshiped and they doubted simultaneously. 

Can you worship and doubt at the same time?

Well...yeah.

Faith is a process.  Theology is done in conversation.  We are always meant to be growing and moving toward faith and away from fear, and if you think you have to get it altogether theologically before you can worship, you'll never be able to in this life. 

Writer Annie Lamott once wrote that “the opposite of faith is not doubt; it’s certainty.”

And it’s true so much of the time, right?  We live in a world of uncertainty and often confusion about who we are and who God is.  We are bombarded with differing values every day, a panoply of choices from which hamburger to order to which city to live in.  The world is our oyster.  But sometimes we find ourselves paralyzed by options and in a world like ours, it can be easy to become uneasy with mystery, with unknowns, with risks. When we’re afraid of uncertainty, it can be easy to cling to solid ground anywhere we can find it, and absolutes can seem more appealing than ambiguities.  So we draw lines, we build fences, we demonize our doubts.

But faith does not preclude doubt; it only requires that we engage with doubt honestly, trusting that God can see what we cannot.   That's why we call it faith.  And when it all comes down to it, if these disciples saw the risen Lord and even they had their doubts, then maybe it’s ok that I still have mine.  

The very next line is what we know as the “Great Commission,” Christ's invitation to his disciples to go into all the world, to teach and baptize and make disciples of all people, not just Jews, but all people throughout all nations of all the world.

Let’s unpack that word, “Go.”  

We treat it like an imperative.  Go out, we say.  Take a trip, we say.   Go somewhere else, we say.  But in that way, we’ve misunderstood.   It’s not an imperative but a participle:

As you are going...

More like, “wherever you go in life, make disciples..."  

As you are walking, make disciples.   As you are teaching, make disciples.   As you are parenting, make disciples.   As you are studying, make disciples.   As you are prescribing, make disciples.   As you are on the playground, make disciples.   As you are writing, painting, selling, friending, advertising, marketing, defending, taking calls, researching, cooking, eating, listening, counseling, healing, make disciples.  

Of all nations.   Of all classrooms.  Of all waiting rooms.   Of all offices, cubicles, study rooms, courtrooms, living rooms, make disciples.  

As you are doing what you’re already doing, make disciples.  

This is not a commission for special occasions or for summer missions but for every single day as you are going.  

Talk about Christ when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Put him on your foreheads and on your wrists.  Make disciples, as you are walking.  

It had been a profound tragedy to lose the one, and yet their Lord gives them a commission anyway, the ones who were left limping, incomplete.  And he gives it to us too, the imperfect Church that we are, limping as we are, to make disciples of all nations.

He knows we can.  Do we?  

His commission is for all, even those standing around doubting, even those who could see him but who were struggling to figure it all out, like you and me.  A friend once reminded me that Jesus doesn’t get rid of their doubts so he can send them on a mission; he sends them on a mission so they can get rid of their doubts.  

Will you join him?  Because if you will, you're in good company; Matthew ends the way it began:

Emmanuel, God with us.  

Surely, I am with you, he says, until the end of the age.  As God was with them, so God is with us, so God is with you, for all eternity.

Pastor Brynn Harrington

Consider: 

How can you make disciples as you are going? What does it look like for you to make disciples in your day-to-day life? Are there any fears or worries standing in the way?

Pray: 

An adaptation of the “Lorica of St. Patrick,” an ancient Celtic prayer:

Christ be near at either hand Christ behind, before me stand, 

Christ with me where e’er I go, Christ around, above, below. 

Christ my life and only way, Christ my lantern, night and day, 

Christ be my unchanging friend, Guide and shepherd to the end. 

Christ be in my heart and mind, Christ within my soul enshrined, 

Christ control my wayward heart, Christ abide and ne’er depart. 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

Amen.

Embody: 

Today, tell someone you live or work with about how you’ve experienced Emmanuel most recently in your day to day life.

Pastor Aaron Engler