June 15, 2014, Trinity Sunday – Ambassadors for the True King
Below is an outline of the sermon. To listen to this sermon, click here: 131216_001
This occurs after the resurrection. For forty days people had seen Jesus and talked with him and eaten with him. But at this time he called the eleven up onto a mountain to speak clearly with them, to make sure that they understood what they needed to know, in order to go forward with the task he had prepared them for. And that is why Matthew writes this down for us; not just to record what happened, but so that we too can be equipped to carry on the task that Jesus has called us to.
This passage is where the motto for our diocese comes from, of course – we are “disciples making disciples”. But I have often felt that this verse is really only for the Billy Grahams of this world who are out there converting people, not for stay-at-home people like me. But there is no part of the Bible that does not have something to say to every one of us, no part that we are not good enough or important enough to hear for ourselves – like Paul wrote to Timothy “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” The words of the Bible aren’t a rule book for the virtuous or a historical record for the curious – the Word is a living connection with the God who loves us. So for all of us who are not Billy Graham, this passage is for us, too.
- First of all, Jesus was staking his claim as God, with authority on earth as well as in heaven – a lot of people like to say that Jesus, the man, never actually claimed to be God, but that the church later read that into his words. This is just one passage that shows that is not true.
- “doubt” (v. 17) means to hesitate; some hesitated to worship him because they could only worship him if he were the One God. He affirms that.
- Jesus identifies the One God with the three names of the Trinity, though people would not come to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity for 350 more years.
- By promising to be present with them always, he claims the name of Isaiah’s prophecy – Immanuel, “God with us”
- Our commission is fueled by his authority – because he is God, he is King; and because he is King, he has authority to send us out as his ambassadors.
- We were created to bear his authority from the beginning – it’s part of our God-given DNA. Gen. “have dominion” Ps. 8 – “you put all things under his feet”
- We are ambassadors into enemy-occupied territory, aliens in the midst of enemy forces, but the defeat of the occupying forces is already assured and we come to declare the rightful King.
- But the enemy is not our neighbor – The ground on which we stand, the people we meet, every rock, every tree, belongs not to the enemy, but to Christ himself, as their Creator and Redeemer. We have to remind ourselves – maybe daily – that “we aren’t fighting against flesh and blood” as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “our battle is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. “ It is very easy to forget that and to wage war among ourselves instead of doing what we were sent out to do. We are fighting in enemy-held territory. But we represent the rightful King.
- Therefore we are not sent to say, “this world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through”. We come to say what Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.”
- We are ambassadors of reconciliation; our task is not to condemn bad guys – condemnation is not very good news – but to restore all things to their rightful relationship to their creator. Our good news is that he has done all things to make that possible:
- all barriers have been broken down;
- a pardon has been written in the King’s own blood to proclaim forgiveness to all who seek it,
- and the healing of all things has begun with his resurrection from the dead.That means that we have more to offer than “pie in the sky bye and bye”. We have answers for the real pain of this world: people who feel they are unworthy, who feel they have messed up their lives so much that God could never love them, people who feel that they face dangers and suffering greater than anyone, even God, could handle, people who are locked up in a prison of their own making because they have been hurt so badly, or because their lives are being slowly strangled by anger or bitterness they are not able to let go of. The rightful King is here with us and he came for exactly that reason – to proclaim freedom for the captives and forgiveness to sinners and healing to all who suffer. Because we know him, we know in our own lives how Jesus brings life and hope to us when the world tells us we are hopeless. Because his Spirit lives in us we know that love and justice and grace and mercy and compassion are more powerful than cruelty and disease and shame and death no matter what the enemy would have us believe. That is the testimony of Jesus’s life and of his death on the cross, and of his resurrection, and that is what we have to proclaim; that is our great commission.
3. The Fault in our Stars – cancer, and the Holocaust – these are the work of the enemy who has been too long in our midst. When we pray the Lord’s prayer, we should never pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” lightly or mechanically. We are praying that those things we see around us – violence and cancer and hatred and poverty – all those things which are an outrage to God’s good and perfect creation – we are praying with the authority of the creator that they will at last be restored and redeemed by the love and service of the Creator. Let us always pray those words with longing and with faith, and then let us be ambassadors of reconciliation to a world that is dying for lack of hope.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that we see now are passing away, but the things that we do not yet see are eternal.