Matthew 28:16 – 20: Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Let us pray:
You call us to be your light in the darkness, your voice in the wilderness, your hope for the hopeless. You give us strength in our weakness, peace and gentleness, words and boldness, to proclaim more of you and of us, less. Amen
Legacy, what is a legacy?
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me
America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me
You let me make a difference, a place where even orphan immigrants
Can leave their fingerprints and rise up
I’m running out of time, I’m running, and my time’s up
Wise up, eyes up
These words could very easily be a modern retelling of Scripture. A warning and a praise. A note to all of us to listen, to pay attention, to do wise up, to do something. That’s not what they are though. Those words are from the Broadway hit musical “Hamilton”. Hamilton rose to fame over the past eighteen months as the words of Lin Manuel Miranda become raps and rhymes recited by people across the globe. It caught our attention because for once young people wanted to know and learn the stories of the founding fathers of America. Young people saw their likeness reflected in a multiracial cast, and they wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
I have a question for you: why don’t we see that same hunger in our community of faith? Why don’t we see young and old people alike rushing to church like they do to Broadway shows? The entirety of Hamilton is filled with faith-filled theological gems, but really it is the lesson of legacy that I want to focus on today.
The scripture for today is most commonly called the great commission. A charge to all of us to “Go and make disciples of all nations”. The narrative begins with the disciples going up a mountain and worshipping Jesus because they encountered him there on the mountaintop. Some of them were scared; was this really Jesus? The same Jesus who flipped tables and healed the leper? They were scared because they had seen first hand all of the awful things that happened to him. Their hearts were scared, they were hesitant. Others of them fully engaged in worshiping the risen Christ; full of joy to see their beloved again. They gather on the mountain and worship together.
Their worship doesn’t end there. It is on that mountain top that the disciples are given a job. A task. “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”. The Message translation says this: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.
The Great Commission is more than some nice words of Jesus. It’s more than red-letters in our Bibles. It is an action. It is a verb. It is more than something that we have to go and do. It is something that we must embody, it is something that we must be.
They say that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. So what is it that we, the Church, are not getting? What is the missing link? What is the vinegar we are sharing instead of the honey?
We believe in our heads that in order to be the best Christian, we have to post Scriptures on our facebook pages, tweet out daily devotions and click “like” in order to save malnourished children that live in other continents. We believe that in order to be a good Christian we have to have the Bible memorized and ready to insert a verse to someone’s life during a time of grief, struggle or joy.
We encounter people in our lives who seem to live their best life: their bills are paid without worry, they make it to soccer games and dance recitals, they have more than one car and everyone makes it to Sunday School and church every week. Without fail.
Those people do exist, maybe moreso in fiction than real life, but we have all encountered at least one person who seems to lead that life.
What we don’t see is what happens behind closed doors. The mad rush in the morning, the late nights making sure everything is ready for the next day. We also don’t see what goes on inside of a persons’ heart. The trauma they may carry around, the pain, the hurt.
What Christ wants for us on that mountain top is to put away the image that we project to others. Christ wants our authentic self. Christ wants us to share our brokenness with others. That vulnerability is what makes people want to know more about your source of strength. Another term I have heard for it would is: “First the pain, and then the rising”.
We use our real life stories of how God’s story has intersected with our own and that’s when people will want to know more. That is when people will want to show up.
We are most effective when we share our hearts with one another, when we are honest. When we are willing to admit that everything isn’t picture perfect and that we need one another and God in order to be the body of Christ.
At Peakland, I see that in the work of our Stephen Ministers; they help extend the ministry of our church by caring for those in our community and those sitting around you.
At Peakland, I see us being vulnerable in the conversations we have with each other on Sunday mornings in the hallways, and in the parking lot after choir practice.
I have seen that vulnerability in the way our children interact and care for one another. We have fostered a sense of community here that allows us to be our most broken selves, made whole when we gather to worship God.
We do not get far by sharing vinegar with the world.
We use honey.
What does our honey look like? What is our legacy? What do you want your children, your grandchildren and for generations to come to say about the faith they were raised in and grew into?
You want to leave a good legacy. You are planting seeds in a garden you will never see.
Our legacy. What is the legacy we are leaving here? What do you want people to remember about Peakland United Methodist Church and the people who gather here to worship?
Will people remember the common table meeting where someone’s feelings were hurt? Or the trustees who come in at all hours to make sure the air system works and the roof doesn’t leak?
Or will people remember the preschool – where children have been nurtured and loved for 50 years? Will people remember the Advent dinner where people gathered to enjoy a meal with one another? Will people remember the blessing of the animals, where all of creation is celebrated?
Or will people remember the common table meeting where someone’s feelings were hurt? Or the trustees who come in at all hours to make sure the air system works and the roof doesn’t leak?
Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you will never get to see.
By investing in our community, we plant seeds. How do we invest in our community? Our Lenten offering was one way that we invest: we provided 12,000 dollars to help organizations that are doing the direct person to person contact in our neighborhoods. Our playground is utilized by families in the area. It’s a place where people feel safe to gather and engage in the ministry of play.
Jesus wants us to take big risks. Our faith should be so apparent that people want to know more. On the mountain top is where Jesus makes bold directives and we should follow. We should be living in to that call. We should be so full of Christ that people want what we have.
As Christians we should bold in our faith. Ready and willing to be Christ to everyone that we encounter. Whether it be in the grocery store, or while eating dinner at Mi Patron. Being bold in our faith requires that we take a leap. We have to live our faiths out in such a way that those around us remember our love, our joy, our patience, our faithfulness. We should be living in such a way that we bring honor and glory to God.
Every day we have a choice. We have the choice to be the hands and feet of Christ. Daily we can decide to live in the light, or to move in the darkness. We have the choice to leave a legacy of hope and faith, or a legacy of hurt and pain. That is what will be remembered about us.
Fifty years from now, what do you want people to remember and say about Peakland UMC? What do you want your children to remember about the way you lived your life? I want people to remember that we were a church that loved our neighbors. I want people to remember that we were a place where people felt safe, where everyone was included regardless of socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, race or nationality.
I want people to remember that we served alongside those who are on the margins of our community. The ones who are most likely to be forgotten. That we did our best to live out our call to make sure that everyone was cared for, and knew the love of God that we have all so freely received.
Fifty years from now, what will the United Methodist Church look like globally? Currently, the UMC in Africa sees growth of two hundred thousand members PER YEAR. The UMC in America sees an average decline of seventy thousand members per year. In order to be the Church, we have to think outside of the box. What are the things we can do here to in order to be in relationship with our sisters and brothers overseas?
We can pray for and with them. That the Holy Spirit would move within us and within the church in America. Maybe the future of the Church doesn’t solely lie in the hands of those in the West, but rather we should be sitting at the feet of those we consider to be “developing” peoples and learning what it is that the Holy Spirit is doing through them. We should be giving them not only a seat a table, but a microphone, letting them share with us how the Jesus of the mountaintop is changing their life. Maybe it is only then that we can truly become a global church, learning and growing from one another.
We can be in relationship by meeting and learning from those who don’t look like us. The body of Christ is so uniquely made. We all have different tasks in order to bring God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
The work being done in Africa and Korea is important for those of us in America because it helps us to bear fruit. As we plant seeds of faith locally and globally, we see the fruit of God all around us.
We see people coming together, singing in foreign languages, hearts on fire for God. We see people gathering in prayer for what the Spirit would do through us as we move forward in new ministries. We see people gathering for tough conversations, studying, learning and helping to move us all together as one body, with uniquely different parts.
Jesus commission to us is that we must GO. We have to go out into our homes, into our schools and our community and be the transformation. We cannot expect ourselves to be transformed if we are not willing to do the work of Christ out in the world. We cannot expect the world to magically change around us. We have to be willing to dig in the dirt, to climb the mountaintops and proclaim the living truth of God in Christ.
As we continue to learn and grow together, I want you to know that the fruit you have beared, the love you have shown does not go unnoticed. I am honored to serve with you, to go to the places in our hearts, our lives, our country and world that no one else would dare to go. I am thankful that we can challenge one another, that we have and will continue to push boundaries together and grow with one another. There will be moments where we feel like all we’re doing is producing vinegar; when our possessions, our hesitations, our fear may hold us back; but I have found that it is most often during those moments we are making honey.
Friends, let us write the notes of song that people will sing for generations to come. Let us empower those around us, to live out a faith so bold that we plant seeds we may not even recognize. Let us go out, doing the work of the Spirit in new and profound ways. Let us be the people that Christ is calling us to be. Amen.