Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Church is a Verb

Let’s face it when many of us hear the "Great Commission" in (Matthew 28:16-20), we may not necessarily feel inspired or encouraged but instead just a little guilty. Why? Because day in and day out we somehow do not perceive ourselves as being called and sent to bear witness to our faith and, even more, do not feel equipped to do so. So when we hear Jesus' very clear instructions we are reminded of one more thing we should, but regularly do not, do – which as we know, is a sure recipe for guilt.

As adults, much of our identity is related to our areas of competence -- at work, at home, in volunteer activities or hobbies. When we find ourselves in situations where we do not feel competent, our anxiety shoots through the roof. (This, psychologists tell us, is why adults have a hard time learning a new language or musical instrument -- it's not that our brains are too old or hardwired to learn something new; it's that we don’t like feeling incompetent and so quit before making much progress.)

Now, think about how often we have been invited to make connections between our faith and our daily lives; to share that faith with others, or invite others to come to church. Perhaps it’s because we’ve rarely been asked, let alone shown how to do these kinds of things even in the relatively safe confines of church let alone in more threatening situations outside of church. It all means that we don't feel competent to fulfill anything remotely resembling Jesus' Commission.

These few short verses in today’s Gospel summarize our “Great Commission” and are such an important text in the context of Matthew's gospel that there is a danger that its use on Trinity Sunday will lead to too much focus on its links with the Trinity and dilute those pivotal themes around which are faith is centered: It clearly proclaims the supreme authority of Jesus, as being one with the Father and having no earthly equal; it reminds us that the purpose of the Church is to develop followers, baptize, teach, obey and remember that God through the life of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, is with us until the end of time.

Yet let's admit it, most of us feel a little guilty when we hear Jesus' instructions. More than that, most of us don't have the foggiest idea of what it would look like in everyday life to implement his instructions. So after acknowledging where we are, how can we go about gaining a sense of competence in these matters and thereby grow in our confidence to share our faith?

Perhaps it starts with moving to a more participatory style of Christian formation in which we reach out to one another, inviting our hearers to do more than just hear but to respond to the word proclaimed in our services and revealed in our daily lives. And maybe, over time we will be inspired to share these revelations and proclaim the Word with our own “gift of tongues,” and in and by our actions. How good are we at doing what we are told? How good are we at not allowing arrogance, negative patterns from the past, and doubts to hold us back from making disciples for Jesus Christ? We can't afford to wait until we are perfect and conditions are optimal to become and make disciples. Some people who call themselves Christians can't bring themselves to share their faith. They remain forever trapped on the mountain depicted in the scene from Matthew, mired in their doubts and excuses.


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