Holy Trinity A; Matthew 28:16-20 (2 Cor 13:11-13)
Zion CC; 6/10 & 11/17
A climber fell off a cliff, and as he tumbled down, he caught hold of a small branch. "HELP! IS THERE ANYBODY UP THERE?" he shouted.
A majestic voice boomed through the gorge: "I will help you, my son, but you have to trust me.”
"Yes, yes, I trust you!" cried the man.
"Let go of the branch," boomed the voice.
There was a long pause, and the man shouted up again, "IS THERE ANYONE ELSE UP THERE I COULD TALK TO?"
How many of us would ask the same thing in a similar situation?? I know I probably would!
We are here in church right now. We are here to praise God, to pray to God, to read the Holy Bible together, and to hear God’s Word preached. We all have joined in God’s name to experience God’s presence and love-- and we will leave this place today with the common mission to share God’s love with others.
All of that is true. But sometimes, there is uncertainty. We may have questions. We may have doubts. Sometimes, we are like that climber hanging on the branch, knowing that God is there but finding it hard to trust God with all of our heart, soul, and mind.
A lot of people think that being a Christian means that we have to have everything figured out, all the time. But the thing is, questions and doubts are a part of what it means to follow Jesus.
Even the first followers of Jesus, the original disciples, had doubts about Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel that we read, it says in verses 16 and 17: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”
So let’s get this straight. THE DISCIPLES—the ones who followed Jesus throughout his ministry, all the while learning and seeing healings and demons cast out by Jesus, and then getting to teach and heal and cast out demons in Jesus’ name themselves—then abandoning Jesus when he was on trial and crucified (even though Jesus told them it was going to happen a bunch of times)—then hearing of the empty tomb and seeing and hanging out with Jesus, risen from the dead and resurrected--—after ALL OF THAT, some doubted??
And not only that, all of them were worshiping, but some of them doubted. So some of them were WORSHIPING JESUS and DOUBTING at the same time.
If that doesn’t tell us it’s OK to doubt sometimes, I don’t know what does. We frequently feel like we have to put on a perfect face and have our lives together in order to come to church and worship our Triune God—but even the original disciples didn’t have it all together when they were worshiping Jesus.
Wanna know a secret? NO ONE here has it all together. Raise your hand if you have your life and faith in God completely together and figured out. OK, if I see any hand raised, I want your contact info STAT because you are my new life coach!
No one has everything figured out. No one. And we aren’t expected to—Jesus knows this about us. Jesus knew that when those eleven disciples were worshiping him on that mountain, some were doubting at the same time. He knew that. And yet, he promises all of them—both doubters and non-doubters—something amazing.
It’s the second half of that last verse, verse 20: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
“I am with you always.” There are no conditions attached to Jesus’ promise. He doesn’t say “I’m with you always—if you’re nice to your sister,” or “I’m with you always—if you dress up to go to church,” or “I’m with you always—if you never have doubts or questions about me.”
He says to both doubters and non-doubters alike: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Period. Jesus is with us always, even in the midst of our doubts and questions.
A man was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no body found. In the defense's closing statement, the lawyer, knowing his client would probably be found guilty, resorted to a trick.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all," the lawyer said. He looked at his watch. "Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom." He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all looked on eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened.
Finally the lawyer said, "Actually, I made up the previous statement; but you all looked on with anticipation. Therefore, I put to you that you have a reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed and insist that you return a verdict of not guilty."
The jury, clearly confused, left to deliberate. A few minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty. "But how?" inquired the lawyer. "You must have had some doubt; I saw all of you stare at the door. " The jury foreman replied, "Oh, WE looked-- but your client didn't."
The man on trial didn’t look for the person who was murdered to show up—because he knew that that person was dead! But our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, is not dead. He is alive, risen from the dead, and has promised to be with us always.
And because Jesus is with us always, we are free to share his love with others. If Jesus ascended into heaven and said to the disciples, “Hey, it’s been fun, good luck on your own!”, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now, in this church, talking about Jesus—because the disciples would not have gotten the word out. They had Jesus’ presence and love and guidance backing them up.
And not only THAT, they also had God the Father and the Holy Spirit with them. Last week was our celebration of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in a powerful way and they were inspired to share the Good News of Jesus with the world. They had all three members of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—with them. How could they not share God’s love with other people with that much back up??
We have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with us always as well. In fact, we remember this at the beginning of service, every week. The greeting we usually say comes from our 2 Corinthians reading—chapter 13, verses 11-13: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” That greeting may sound familiar, right? [If it doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because we sometimes use a greeting at this worship service that’s worded differently—but no matter what the greeting is, we always greet one another at the beginning of worship in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.] And we greet each other that way, to remind ourselves that our Triune God, three in one and one in three, is always with us.
And because we know the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are always with us, we are invited to share that good news with others. Jesus says to the disciples in our Matthew Gospel text: “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 obey everything that I have commanded you.”
This is typically called the “Great Commission”, when Jesus commissions all of his followers to tell others about him and make disciples by baptizing in the name of the Triune God and teaching them what it means to live as a Christian.
It’s called the Great Commission, because the word—co-mission (co= together)—means that we are in mission together, with our Triune God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are with us always, in mission with us, so we can help others experience the love and joy in God that we have experienced.
And when we share that love of God, we can know that doubts and questions, are perfectly normal and a part of this journey we call the Christian life. Our own doubts are normal. Other peoples’ doubts are normal. We can even remind ourselves and others that the original disciples doubted!
And in the midst of that doubt, Jesus was with them. And Jesus is with US, in our doubts and questions and fears, inviting us to remember that he is with us always and that the Triune God is always with us, guiding us and leading us to build up the Kingdom of God here on earth, together—our co-mission is to share the good news of Jesus Christ with anyone and everyone! Amen?