The Great Commission Today
Cultivating the Legacy, Growing the Promise
“Therefore go 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 I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” These are the words of the Risen Christ to his disciples, which includes us.
passage is called The Great Commission – Go and make disciples of all
nations. There is another passage in
Matthew which adds to the list of shall dos
a very large order, and most start with the preach the gospel part and
baptizing believers. As a greater
church, we have been doing this for the past two thousand years. Christian missionaries have now been
everywhere – moving into
“You’ve got to acknowledge the warts,” Chuck told me yesterday. “Acknowledge the warts.” Okay. Warts. Over the years, we have sometimes been heavy-handed and crude in our work for the Lord. But by and large, I still believe that the Christian mission effort to people around the world, has brought a better understanding of God’s relationship to humankind, has brought education and healthcare to those who would otherwise not have had it, and has been a force for understanding and goodness in the world. We’ve still got a lot to learn about how best to do this, granted, but I believe we are getting better and better.
Christians come in many forms, as we all know – some of whom we would be delighted to be associated with, and others, well, maybe not. We’ve divided ourselves up according to beliefs, forms of worship, forms of government, along racial/ethnic lines – there is the Russian Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church.
I took on a job a couple of years ago that has grown into something much bigger and more significant than I originally realized. I’m the moderator of the Presbytery’s Interpretation and Stewardship Committee. This committee, I find, is charged with raising money and explaining why the money is needed – Stewardship and Interpretation.
Last Sunday, I made a presentation to the Immanuel Session about the Presbytery budget for 2010. During the discussion, someone suggested that not everyone knows what the Presbytery does and that I ought to preach a sermon on the topic. Should be easy – I’ve written histories of the Presbytery and developed little booklets on our aid-receiving churches.
as Chuck will attest, it hasn’t been that easy.
I threatened to write this sermon every day this week – and at the end
of each day, I hadn’t written a thing.
My writer’s block, I think, had something to do with the Great
Commission – Go and Make Disciples of All Nations – and whether or not this is
a popular concept in Progressive Christianity today. And the second question for me – even more
pertinent to the
With each thought, more questions arose – what is the Good News, for instance? Christ, the Son of God, came, lived on this earth, and died for our sins. He rose on the third day and waits for us in heaven. If we believe this, we will be saved. I believe this. I truly do. Don’t ask me to define “sin”. Don’t ask me to define “heaven”. Don’t ask me to define “saved.” Just know that, I have faith that when the journey is over, the Lord will take me in.
But for me, the nagging, all-encompassing question is, “what am I supposed to do in the meantime?”
is the Great Commandment
But there still is a missing component, I think. There seems to be a companion Divine Directive. Something like, Once You’ve Started, Don’t Give Up. Keep Up the Good Work No Matter What. And Re-Evaluate Once in a While and Make Sure You’re Doing It Right.
Mission work today, I am positive, is much the same as it has been for 500
years, and also much different. We are
Immanuel are going to have a unique opportunity to hear from a Presbyterian
missionary on Monday, October 12. Susan
Thomas has been involved in border missions in
don’t know if you know it, but as of
is all a part of sustaining the church’s efforts to follow Christ’s Great
man by the name of Sheldon Jackson heard this call about one hundred and
thirty-two years ago. He and a lady by
the name of Amanda McFarland met up in
read that in 1886, Alfred Henley Hopson, a whaler from
One of those Arctic villages was the home of Andrew Akootchook, the lay Inupiaq preacher from Kaktovik. Andrew served as an elder at Kaktovik until he was licensed to preach the gospel himself by the Presbytery in 1933. He was killed in a hunting accident just before his scheduled ordination.
Andrew Akootchook’s ministry was taken up by his son Isaac, who served many
years prior to being ordained in 1998.
He retired in 2008. Isaac’s
niece, the Rev.
1894, the Rev. and Mrs. Vene Gambell arrived on St. Lawrence Island and began
their ministry there. The Praying Nurse
Ann Bannon arrived in 1935 to begin a second Presbyterian Church on the
1952, the Rev. William Wartes, was flying over the
was Alice Green again, who was among those who noticed that the biggest Native
I mention the membership figures for these little bands of Christians so that you can reflect on how difficult it is for them to keep their churches afloat – transportation costs and the price of fuel oil continue to rise. We know something about this. Immanuel had 55 members on the rolls as of last December, and it is also difficult for us.
saying it in so many words, the message of the booklet is this
Sheldon Jackson and the national Presbyterian Church were responsible for literally going to the ends of the earth with Christ’s message. They arranged for teachers, doctors and nurses, as well as preachers to follow. Churches were established, babies and their parents were baptized, doctors healed, teachers taught, preachers preached. Mistakes were made, but the message of love and salvation was conveyed.
Over the past decade or so, funding to maintain these churches has faded. First on the national level and now on the Synod level. If the promise is to be sustained, the Presbytery has to continue to assume the responsibility for keeping the promise alive.
are fifteen Presbyterian churches in
enough, in my web-surfing this week, I found that Tuesday – yes, two days from
today, Tuesday – is the Presbyterian Church’s “Native American Day.” Don’t ask me why the Native Americans didn’t
get a Sunday – but Tuesday is the day. It has something to do with the fall
equinox. We’re supposed to be reflecting on the contributions of Native
Americans to our church life. In some
communities, that might not be so very obvious.
But in the
During each Yukon Presbytery meeting, the singing and the prayers are delivered in English, Korean, Yupik and Inupiaq. In our sister Presbytery in Southeast, the same thing happens, only the language groups are English, Haida, Thligit, and Tsimshian. When serious issues are discussed, the delegates break into language caucuses for translation. We frequently disagree on points of theology and even how to approach certain social issues, but at the end of the day, we come together as one family, in praise of our Creator. As we listen to one another lift up our voices in our various tongues, we pray that we can keep the Promise alive.
We know that God is listening – and hope She is very pleased.