Matt 28: 16-20; 07022017; 4 Pentecost
I want to thank y’all for your prayers for Cookie and I, while I was away. It was a very difficult thing, to be in a hospital 1600 miles away from Cookie and home. Thankfully, my brothers were there to help me and to do all the driving, and I was blessed to have things turn out the way they did. It appears that I have a stomach scope and colonoscopy in my future, but I can deal with that.
It’s been a tumultuous last couple months for Cookie and I, and I’m sure for all of you. Even my Physician Asst. Maurice, himself a grizzled medical veteran, has been amazed at all that’s happened. But even in the midst of the turmoil and pain, there have been a great number of blessings. As Christ, himself said, in our reading from Matthew, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I must confess I sometimes think about this, as I deal with the challenges of Dementia. Will there come a time when I can’t remember those words of Christ, and what will happen then? But then I think of all the times Christ spoke those very words to his disciples, and I am greatly comforted.
Early in Matthew’s Gospel, we hear an angel quoting the prophet Isaiah; “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emanuel,” which means “God is with us.” And later in his Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
It’s been said that church is a hospital for sick people. Through my years as both a church-goer and priest, I’ve come to understand what that means. There is no good health unless we’re under the care of the Great Physician, our Lord Jesus Christ.
It reminded me of a man who had gone to see his doctor. When his doctor came into the exam room, the man said, “Doc, I’m just not able to do all the things around the house that I used to do. The doctor replied, “We’ll let’s get you up on the table and let me check you out.”
When his examination was completed, the man sat there anxiously awaiting the results. He said, “Well Doc, I can take it. Tell me in plain English what’s wrong with me.” “Well”, replied the doctor, “In plain English, you’re just too lazy.” “Okay,” said the man. “Now give me the medical term so I can tell my wife.”[i]
All humor aside, our health depends a great deal upon our relationship with Christ. One can see the trauma and the pain that’s all around us, when folks close their hearts and minds to the healing words of Jesus. As I’ve preached before, the message that he proclaimed was one of ancient origin. There is a big difference between the Creator and his creation. For some reason, people have been taught to ignore God, and to worship the creation.
Jesus gave his disciples four words to remember, as he said good-bye to them. These four words have been passed on down to us. They are, respectively, Go, Baptize, Teach, and Remember. I suppose the eleven disciples present would have liked to just hang out on the mountain. The view was great, the crowds were few, and the demands on them were pretty much non-existent. They could have just sat there and contemplated their navels, or some such thing, hoping that Christ might return someday. Kind of like some churches these days, holed up and pining for the glory of their yester years.
I believe our ancestors in our country understood this. Virtually all of them had been immigrants to the early colonies. Many of them came to America, escaping religious persecution. Different sects planted different churches, depending on where they landed. The varied colonies became known as places of religious tolerance, for their respective faith traditions.
Our ancestors could have stayed within the confines of known Europe. They could have hung out there, hoping things would eventually get better. At least they had some stability living there, though for many life was awful. But for some, it was better than a risky voyage across the sea, to a land they didn’t know.
But for most folks, it was their only option. If they wanted to worship and serve the Lord in the manner they felt called to, they had to make the journey. It was long and arduous and many of them lost their lives. But their courage was foundational to the building of this country, and to the proliferation of Christ’s church. Their courage was powerful enough to help lead our great nation to its Day of Independence. And though we Episcopalians are still kin with the Church of England, we too felt the need to go, and to do the work that Jesus called us to.
We can’t know for sure if Jesus foresaw all this when he told his disciples “Go!” I suspect he did, in some form or fashion. But how were the disciples to know what it was they were to do? Jesus laid it out for them, as they prepared to leave the safety of the mountain. Those same words apply to us, if we choose to follow them.
Go and Baptize. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, welcome new members into the church. The growth here at St. Nicholas should convince us that those folks are out there. Some of them are afraid of church because of the way that they’ve been treated. All churches seem the same to them, because of this very reason. We are called to go and find them and to model the great physician.
Go and Teach. Teach them to obey everything Christ has commanded you. It is the love of Christ that they must find in you. In some cases, you may be the only the Bible they’ve ever opened. Think about that, the enormity of what I’m saying. You have the grace and power in you, to become the face of Jesus!
And lastly, Go and Remember. Jesus is with each one of us to the end of ages. Not just for your life on earth, but for all eternity. Don’t forget those things you learned, when you became a Christian. Don’t let the darkness of this world overwhelm you. You are Christ’s beloved ones; hold fast to what he’s taught you. For you are his, and always will be, a beloved member of his great communion.
[i] Internet: https://soundfaith.com/sermons/59188-the-great-physician-luke-512-15-060907, accessed 07012017.