Saturday, April 10, 2021

HOMILY – 2nd Sunday of Easter – Go!


Jesus is commissioning his disciples this weekend to Go!

In this Gospel passage, we find the disciples hiding out in the upper room from those who killed Jesus, afraid of their own fates, when Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.”  And everything changes.

This is the launching of the Great Commission in John’s Gospel. The Great Commission is as important to our faith now as it was then or is to our future, because without it our faith would wither and die, instead of thriving and blossoming as it has for nearly two thousand years.

Just what is the Great Commission?

It’s OK if you don’t know. A survey in 2019 found a majority of Church going Christians in the U.S. were unfamiliar with the term. Even those who knew the term, only a small percentage could explain it.

The Great Commission is not about proselytizing, but about evangelizing – preaching more with our actions as Christians than with our words.

The Great Commission is found in all four Gospels and even has a place in Acts of the Apostles.

           This version in John’s Gospel doesn’t have the same impact as ones found in Mark’s or Matthew’s Gospels.

In John, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  

That’s not as strong a definition as is found in Mark’s Gospel, “as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.

          But the best version (the Hollywood movie-ending version) is found at the very end of Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, 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 observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

In essence, Jesus is saying, “You, me, let’s go! We have work to do, and it’s urgent! Join me!”

How many of us live this Great Commission daily?

So, what exactly are we called to do?  I love what New Testament scholar and former Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright said about the mission at the heart of the Great Commission.

 “Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; … every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the Gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world — all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. This is the logic of the mission of God.”

We, my sisters and brothers, are co-missioned in this mission of love from God. That is the Great Commission.

How appropriate this passage comes as we begin baptizing new members of the Church during the Easter season after a short Lenten break.

It all started with our baptism. Through water and the spirit, we were commissioned to join Jesus is this mission of love in the world. We were sealed with Sacred Chrism to become priests, prophets and kings, sharing Jesus with the world.

In many ways, what we do today is different than what the apostles did. Or the early Christian disciples.

After their encounter with the Risen Jesus, the apostles gave up everything and walked to far way lands to share the message of the resurrection of Jesus. Most lost their lives during their Great Commission.

The early Christian disciples pooled their resources together to build up a community of followers of Jesus who daily joined in the Great Commission.

We hear how they lived in today’s first reading from Acts of the Apostles:

“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common… There was no needy person among them…”

In our culture today, some would decry, “That’s Socialism!” But that is how the early Christians lived, endured, even thrived during a time of great oppression and persecution.

How many of us could live like that today? How many of us are brave enough and committed enough to follow Jesus in this way? How many of us are that generous? Something to ponder in the coming week.

I have a new ear worm. That’s what the young people call a song that gets stuck in your head. My new favorite song is from singer Bruce Springsteen, called, “There Goes My Miracle.”

In it, he sings,

“Heartache, heartbreak

Love gives, love takes

The book of love holds its rules

Disobeyed by fools

Disobeyed by fools

There goes my miracle

Walking away, walking away”

So, do we let our miracle, Jesus Christ, just walk away?

           Or do we go! And follow him in the Great Commission? 

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