Sunday 4 June 2023

Matthew 28  v 16-20

The lesson for this week comes frm Matthew 28, and is known as The Great Commission.  These verses close Matthew's gospel, and were last words of our Lord before He returned to heaven. They are the commands of Jesus to His Apostles, to take the gospel to all nations, and telling them to teach all He has commanded.  Those words now apply to His Church to do the same.

Jesus had arranged to meet His  Apostles at a mountain in Galille, and when He met them,they worshipped Him.

Jesus begins speaking to them, and told them that He had all power over heaven and earth given to Him. This is a declaration only Jesus could make, claiming God the Father had appointed Him to be in charge of all matters, the anointed One who can absolve sinners, who can cleanse us, who can give repentance and remission of sins. He is the Way; the truth; the light; the good shepherd.

Jesus bid His Apostles to go out and teach all nations, they were not to think the gospel was only for Jews, or keep it to themselves, they were to make all know.  That order of Jesus is still in full force, and it is the duty of every follower of Jesus, to do all they can in person and in prayer, to make others followers of Him.

The primary duty falls on the clergy by the preaching of the gospel,  as it is written without distortion or personal opinions added.  But every Christian can help, by letting family and friends know you are a member of the Church, and if possible to invite them to attend with you,or on their own. A family should all be of one mind, for one day there will be a day of reckoning when we all appear before the Lord and should have a place in heaven, but remember that those who reject Christ will be rejected by Him.

Jesus  tell His Apostles to baptise those who have received their message and become followers, and who have made a public expression of faith, which Jesus expects, of those who receive Him and believe the gospel.

Baptism has now become a total charade in our Churches. Some Ministers anxious to increase numbers, will allow people to call the Church to arrange a baptism ,usuall for a child or  young person, at a time convenitent for them, sometimes even specifying who should administer the service.

I have yet to find any justiofication for a person to be baptised, who has not repented and made a confession of faith. It is ludicrous to state a child, little more than a baby, can be said to be born again, and many of those  who come for such services, first make promises to bring the child up in the Church, but knowthey will never do this, and claim they themselves have cleansed themselves of all sin, when  many with their lifestyle, would deny all cleanliness.

I see on tlevision, services from a Presbyterian Church in America, where children are often being baptised, and the Pastor tells that this is a continuation based on the Old Testament children being offerd to God.  That is a novel suggestion.

Baptism is an outward sign, which in itself will not lead to salvation, the thief who died on the Cross alongside Jesus was taken into heaven without being baptised.  The plain necessity is a confession to Christ and His redeeming work, for when He gave His life to grant righteousness to all who repented. Jesus rquires all who become His followers, to observe all He has commanded.

Such a demand disqualfies much of what the Churh supports. In Matthew's gospel, Jesus refers to marriage as between a man and a woman (as God made them male and female) not two of one sex. In the Letter to Romans,  the Bible condemns homosexuality, yet the Church approves.

Jesus expects true Christians would live to practical obedience to His ommands. Nothing can be gained if people go to Church, and hear the Ministers give approval of any action which contravenes the Bible. The only reality is obedience to what Jesus has taught, and alleging faith which is not practised is hypocrisy. We should all pay reverence to such teaching.

In the final words of Jesus, He stated I am with you to the end of the world. These should be words o   f comfort and strength.  Christians are to accept Christ is with us for 'always'. He came into the world being God in the flesh, now He has done all God the Father sent Him to do, and now He is about to end His earthly ministry, to be with us in eternity. Whatever happens, He is with us, and we come to the end of the gospel story.

Let us reflect on the message of this passage, and consider how we may act upon what has been stated.

An important start, is to decide what kind of a Church we want to ne part of. Do we have a desire to be one of ceremonnial, on perfect formality with a tendency to be a High Church, semi-Catholic. Or is an evangelical Church, with a strong commitment to the preaching of the gospel, giving full authority to the Bible. There still remains a Church without any distinct function, leaving it to be asked do they know why they are so abstract.

Anyone who watches television, will know how business spends thousands of pounds i advertising their product. Obviously, they would not do so unless they received some financial return. We in the Church do not make a lot of effort to make what we offer in the Lord's business.  In effect, I often wonder if some are ashamed to be unique in what we are here for. Only the Church can offer to people free of charge, an opportunity to energise their life, and offer hope and comfort to the suffering. 

Jesus told the Apostles to GO. He probably meant go into the streets and highways, but here in the United Kingdom some preachers  do actually go into the streets to preach the gospel, but often find someone has called the police, and the preacher is arrested and detained in a police station for hours. The preacher ends up in a Court of law, and some indeed, have been heavily fined; just for telling what is in the Bible. We can however, hold what a Bishop in my Diocese did, and have weekday evenings for a 'teach in'.  He was an exceptional teacher for one who is a bishop, and there was always a good attendance.

Our services need thoughtful preparation, and essentially need to be made appealing. There was a Pastor in Atlanta,, United States, who recently sadly died, who attracted people simply with his preaching.  He would take a secular subject, such as loneliness, or meeting friends, things which people meet, and would wrap them with explained bible verses. \What a succes he was.

There are various ways an enterprising Pastor can  take, to convince people we are still normal and caring. Two items are essential. Music, for people love to sing providing the hymns and songs can be understood.  The Bible as the supreme authority of the Church. We have to acknowledge that many people, and especially young ones, have no idea of what the Bible states, for many of the characters are unknown to them. There are so many stories in the Scriptures, if properly explained can be very good to hear. Such services can be extended into social gatherings, as long as the social  part is the minor one.

The Church was once a focal point for the locl community,which is why there was at least one in evey district.  Lives were  lived through it, and it was a beacon of light in a dark world.  It needs to be so again.

Remember, Jesus said, go into all the world, make disciples, teach all I commanded.

Durinfg the rcent pandemicmany people were grievously upset as relatives, members of the family and friends were seriously ill or even dying. Some were sincere c|hristians although that was not a factor, they still werelooking as people do when they are on difficulty tothe Church. But the leadership hadordred all Churches to be closed. There has to be a means by which  we can be contacted. 


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