May 30, 1999
Jesus' eleven disciples went to a mountain in Galilee, where Jesus had told them to meet him. They saw him and worshiped him, but some of them doubted.
Jesus came to them and said:
"I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world. [CEV]
1. Often this is called the Great Commission to Evangelize, to share Good News. How does this definition of evangelize strike you?
"To evangelize means to help someone ponder on their former experiences until they can recognize in the person of Christ, in his death and resurrection, the truth that lights up their own life."
"Pondering" and "recognizing" and "lighting up" are different kinds of words than "authority" and "go" and "make".
There is an inherent question of "How?" to be addressed in these final words of the Gospel of Matthew. How hard or soft do we address someone? How quickly or slowly are we to go with them? How many opportunities will we take with another -- if they don't say it our way right away do we knock the dust off our feet and leave them behind? Do we follow the forgiveness rule of 70 times 7 times? To set this agenda is not to micromanage the evangelical style. Spiritual leadership can still be quite varied, even within a common direction having been set.
2. It sounds as if doubt continues even in the presence of resurrection. It is apparently possible to doubt and worship. This is an interesting dynamic in that worship often presupposes a suspension of everyday life. When in the presence of the religious, there is a tendency to err on the side of the common definitions of God and Good. There is probably not enough work done on the dynamics of doubt.
A question here is, to whom do you see Jesus coming? To those that worship without doubt? To those who doubted? To the whole body which is not of one mind? To whom do preachers come today?
A second question is, whom do you see being sent forth? The special true believer? The questioning believer? The whole body which is not of one mind? (Is is necessary here to presuppose that folks are able to love one another even if they are not yet on the same page of worship?) Who is being sent forth today and with what are they equipped to go forth?
3. The disciples are interesting in their slowness of heart and mind, their ability to betray even against their best intentions, and their powerlessness to do anything on their own. Those who didn't seem to "get" Jesus' teachings directly are called on to pass on those teachings to others. Perhaps the idea is that we learn best when we are trying to teach others.
A danger the Church has faced at every turn since this commission is that of saying more than is known. Jesus' authority becomes an institution's authority. The willingness of Jesus to die without condemning becomes the Church's willingness to condemn others to death and separation. What is intended to be good, the highest quality of belief at every turn, claims more than humble belief can bear. No wonder Jesus, or the Spirit sent by Jesus, needs to be with us until the end. Our denial of doubt and imposition of certainty will always call forth a correcting word from the first authority to the derived authority.
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