Seventh Sunday in the Time of Resurrection
“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.” These were the last words the resurrected Jesus spoke to his disciples. It is called the “Great Commission” or the “Final Commission” because the whole of the ministry of Jesus was a commission to his disciples. It is our text for Commissioning Sunday, the last Sunday in the Season of the Resurrection in our community of faith.
We have in fact been walking in the footsteps of Jesus since November as his ministry has been told in the Gospels. We have done that because we needed renewal. We needed our hope and our courage to be renewed as we have faced a new, harsh and racist reaction from the government of this nation. We are not just observers of the nation now. In fact, we are among the main objects of the hate of the Trump administration. We are in a time of trouble –some have already felt the trouble in their lives and others know or at least fear it is coming soon.
Every Sunday we have tried to make ourselves aware of the ministry of Jesus. Sometimes we missed one or two weeks. It doesn’t matter. The spirit and the revelations of that ministry have been among us, carrying us forward like the changes in the weather, whether we knew it or not. This is a decisive week – the culmination not only of the resurrection but of the entire ministry of Jesus. The renewal of our hopes and our courage is at hand – and today we are called to grasp that renewal as our own. Today we are called to accept the Commission of Jesus Christ!
Let’s begin with our guide, with the scripture. Jesus commissions the disciples to “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Remember that the baptism of Jesus is different than the baptism in water of John. The baptism of Jesus was made up of his entire ministry: Jesus began with the Good News: the news that the Kingdom of God could exist among the faithful on earth. That is why He taught us to pray saying “Thy Kingdom Come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That is why Jesus healed and drove out demons, so that the people could see the Kingdom of God with their own eyes. Jesus preached justice – and especially justice for the poor and those who were marginalized and discriminated against – the non-citizen and the poor and the young. In his ministry he confronted the hypocrisy of wealth and status and religion - and the injustice suffered by the people at the hands of an Empire. His ministry led to his courage on the cross and the victory of his resurrection in a new people of God.
Along our own journey with Jesus this year we have also felt and seen the Kingdom of God among us. We have seen families reunited, moments in which the love of the Kingdom overcame the hatred of the government. We have tasted the unity of unselfishness among us as some sacrificed for others. We have seen young people turn to the service of their community – and to the struggle for justice. Gradually the Spirit of His ministry grew in us – making us ready for this moment.
Now Jesus calls on his disciples – and on us – to do for others as he has done for us. He calls on us to lead others to experience the Kingdom of God, to be joined together in resistance to injustice, to be joined together in unselfish love for each other, to walk the baptism of Jesus.
The courage and hope that the Baptism of Jesus brings is something very real. We experience the good news of the Kingdom in Kingdom communities of faith. It is in these communities of faith that we find something different from the selfishness and hatred and greed of the world. And the power of the Kingdom, the authority of the Kingdom of God, protects us.
Jesus speaks in his ministry of the kind of communities of faith we are called to form. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus speaks of “eklesia”, the first mention of “church” in the Bible. In his final commission to the disciples Jesus is making clear that that church, that Kingdom community, must be a “church of disciples.” During the resurrection Jesus instructed us as to baptism, reconciliation, communion, prayer and abundance. These are the sacraments that we practice in the church. Yet we would miss the meaning of the church Jesus called us to form if we did not pay attention to his commission to make disciples of all nations; if our community of faith did not reach out to those who are oppressed and join with them in confronting injustice.
When Jesus first sent out his disciples to show people the love and power of the Kingdom of God he sent them to his own people in his own land. For many in Mexico that began with the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe to Juan Diego. Now in this final commission Jesus prepares them to make disciples in the many lands to which they were dispersed – for like many here, the disciples were driven from their homeland and would come to live in lands which were often very hostile to them.
We know we are in a struggle. We also know our own weaknesses – weaknesses which divide us, even in our own families, in our own communities. Jesus called his disciples to form“churches of disciples” wherever they would go because those communities of faith would protect them, heal them and make them strong.
Today, we see that there are many speaking out in resistance to Donald Trump and the hatred he represents. It is a “grand coalition” that brings together many political movements. We are grateful now that the movements against deportations is embraced by these other movements. We are grateful that the movement against the criminalization of our youth and against mass incarceration is now embraced by these other political movements. A common enemy has brought us together.
And yet there is a problem. Those that want to protect the environment and those that oppose the Republican attack on ObamaCare are protesting – but they are not being put in prison. They are not being deported. While millions now march and protest on these many issues, our own people live in a fog of increasing fear and hopelessness. It is a good thing that the churches teach all people to support causes of justice – but it is a necessary thing that some churches provide the spiritual strength to those most affected to withstand fear and to find hope where now there seems only hopelessness.
The grand coalition of political resistance will not stop young men from killing each other out of the hopelessness and disrespect with which they are confronted. The grand coalition of political resistance will not stop a family from being separated or give the courage to the members of that family to stand up and fight when to do so they risk everything. The grand coalition will not take up the cause of our people south of the border, in Mexico and Central America, on the besieged island of Puerto Rico, in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, in Ecuador and Venezuela. For these fights, a church of disciples is required. And in the time when Donald Trump is gone – for that time will come - the grand political coalition may soon forget those who have suffered most. We cannot forget the two million deportations under Obama. We cannot forget that Obama care excluded what he called “Illegals”. We must prepare to protect our own!
There is a difference between a group of people who are socially or politically active and a community in which the Kingdom comes to those most marginalized in which “Thy will is done, on earth as it is in heaven!” For God gives his Kingdom communities the Authority to bind on earth what he binds in heaven!
We need a church, a community of faith, to protect us but it cannot be a place to hide. The church can only have power if it is made up of people who have the courage to stand against injustice – and to stand with each other without selfishness or fear. Such a church is a “church of disciples”, a church of those who accept the commission given by Jesus to live his baptism together and to offer it to others.
There is much confusion and often corruption and compromise in churches. Some of you have left other churches to come here. Some were already disillusioned with religion. The lesson we have learned is that we must constantly renew our faith and that is why we make the journey with Jesus through his ministry each year. The church we seek – the church we need – is made up of people who accept the call to make disciples through following the baptism journey of Jesus Christ every year.
The apostle Paul explains to us in the scripture today that different people bring different gifts in answer to that call. This morning, we ask each other to accept our commissions to different ways of this church. This is so important to making this church what we need it to be that we want to spend a few minutes on each of these different ways.
Today we commission those who will act as Way of Scripture Guides. They will accept the call to learn the way we walk through scripture each year. Guides will teach and learn together with individuals and families and small groups over the final four months of this scriptural year. Guides will assist in the preparation of the young people of our community for first communion and confirmation on September 3rd, the first week of the Harvest.
Today we commission Defenders of the Pueblo to help our people and our families to withstand the campaign of mass deportations that has been established by the current administration: Defenders take on the responsibility to be trained in deportation defense, in assisting with different ways of legalization and will identify legal permanent residents and help them apply for citizenship. Defenders will work with the leadership of Familia Latina Unida to mobilize support for those individuals and families facing deportation and separation or seeking reunification.
From the ocean of the undocumented and their families, the Latino Diaspora, there is arising a wave of young people born here whose parents face possible deportation. They are joined by friends who feel the call to justice. Today we commission these Fighters of the Wave of Five million to sign up the wave in a class action suit, to bring the wave to the door of the White House and to organize a massive voter registration drive as young voters turn eighteen.
There is no more basic right than the right to health care to prolong life. The attack on that right is intensifying by the current administration and we are called to organize “Health Care Sanctuary Zones” in which we mobilize especially the youth of our community to provide early detection of those diseases which are creating a 20 year death gap for our people and to negotiate needed access to care with health care providers. Today we commission the Youth Health Service Corps to protect the right to health care, with or without papers, to continue and expand the 5 plus 1 to get 20 movement and to call forcefully on all health care institutions to provide for those without insurance.
In response to the increasing campaign of mass incarceration and the militarization of police forces to criminalize and intimidate an entire generation of people of color, frequently using lethal force, and in response as well to the internal violence among people of color that came from the plague of the drug trade and the forced fragmentation of street organizations, a vital Black Lives Movement has emerged. Today we commission a cadre for a Latino Assembly to address the specific ways in which this campaign of mass incarceration and criminalization affects Latinos and to bring Latinos into unity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Our ministries of discipleship come to us from the people God sends to us. We have experienced now the pain and the spirit of the veterans this nation sent to war and forgot – especially those without citizenship. Today we commission Defenders of Deported Veterans and the Ashly Project to take up their cause.
We have a commitment to be a reconciling congregation. The movement of white supremacy survives and spreads through the generation of hate towards “the other” and a glorification of ignorance. For this reason the national reaction which has seized control of the U.S. government has been fed by vocal and organized opposition to the rights and human dignity of the LGBTQ community, energized by the adrenalin of hate and the proclaimed self-righteous ignorance of human sexuality. Today we commission Defenders of the LGBTQ Community to organize the collective protection of the rights of the LGBTQ community and to find reconciliation in contradictions among the pueblo.
Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras was founded to resist the cruel and inhuman separation of families and to raise up Latino unity on both sides of the border. Today we commission “Multipliers”, individuals who have become members of the ministry of Familia Latina Unida, to multiply the membership of this Ministry of the Pueblo by discussing membership with at least five families each week between now and the October harvest this year. When a person joins Familia Latina Unida they commit to stand with others when they are attacked and they can live knowing that many others will stand with them. It is an organization of Latino solidarity and Latino Unity, a family of families, called by God to serve his purpose in planting us here in this land.
We ask that you pray sincerely on these choices today and in the week to come. Each will require your time and commitment. Some will require study and training. Those who accept each one of these commissions will be called together in groups in June – and we will begin the work of making disciples.
There is another reason why we ask you to pray sincerely on this commissioning Sunday and in the week to come. We are like the disciples. We have had moments of experiencing the Kingdom of God. We have walked along sometimes without feeling much hope. We have been disappointed and lost our faith from time to time. The ministry and call and commission has been laid out for us but we are far from sure.
After Jesus issued his final commission to the disciples, he ascended. He promised to be with them always – but they could no longer see him or touch him. But he promised that something powerful would happen to them. He prepared them to form churches of discipleswhen they found themselves in new and often hostile countries. He called on them to become witnesses to the justice and solidarity of the Kingdom of God. He knew they would be unsure – but he promised them that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and among them.
Who can deny that the Holy Spirit has been with us? We have felt that Spirit in the mobilization of millions, in courtrooms and ICE offices, on the treacherous bridge across the border – and even in detention centers. It is a Spirit that protected our children and gave us courage in dark times, a Spirit that ignited a powerful new Latino Unity but which also dwelled with families giving life to their love. It is a spirit that now rests on a new wave of five million and on those veterans of the street and the prisons.
The Holy Spirit is not like the haunting demons of death and terror. It holds authority over these demons because it comes from the sacrificing love of Jesus and the awesome power of the creator of the universe. It comes to us again this year. Welcome it as those commissioned to bring the church of disciples to life again. It comes upon us as sure as the seasons of the year change from winter to spring to summer. Sweet, sweet Holy Spirit! We ask you to pray sincerely on this Commissioning Sunday and in the week to come because that day of the Holy Spirit is Pentecost – and Pentecost is coming next Sunday!
The Holy Scriptures for the Seventh Sunday in the Time of Resurrection
Matthew 10:1-20 Jesus Sends Out the Twelve
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness…. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give…. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Matthew 28:16-19/Acts 1:6-8 The Great Commission and the Holy Spirit
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…Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
1Corinthians 12: 4-11 Concerning Spiritual Gifts
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. ….. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.