07. June 2023
Holy Trinity Wednesday
Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
What is the mission of the church? Do you believe in the mission of the church? Are you going forward with the mission of the church? Are you yourself missional? Do you know what a missional church is without being a non-missional church?
All mainline denominations are dying, we’re told. There is a last-ditch attempt to keep dying institutions alive. This seems to be the only way to do it. The so-called missional way, the church growth way, the growing the church fashion. Now all of that is a complete confusion. It is not the way that the gospel is preached. And, as history itself is already showing and has shown before, it won’t work. So the institutions are being ruined because people will not preach the gospel.
Remember, the 11 disciples have now been gathered in Galilee on the mountain. Jesus had, Matthew says, “directed them,” that is, he told them to go to this mountain. And when they saw him, they worshiped him. There’s a whole movement that is trying to modernize worship, or rather, trying to electrify worship. And in that particular way, we’re trying to figure out, is that what discipleship is, is this the solution to the decline of the church? But we’re looking at this all wrong.
We know that the 11 disciples are meeting in Galilee and on the mountain. As everybody points out, the mountain is always where something eventful will happen regarding an apocalypse or a revealing of God. Something like that will happen, to which Jesus had directed them. But Jesus is not going to respond with a miracle. He’s not going to respond with tongues of fire coming down. He’s going to respond with a sermon. That means he’s going to say something to them. He’s going to have them hear something. He first says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
When we hear of the authority on heaven and earth, we usually think of the two kingdoms, civil and religious. But not here. Now, the authority is going to function in a very different way. It’s going to be the difference between the authority that frees you and the authority that commands you or imprisons you, enslaves you. And these two authorities will both be used, but they will be used in their own place and time. And only one of them is going to be forever. The Law gives its authority by threatening you. And the Gospel is an authority that frees. So Jesus has just said, I’m going to use all authority here, and I’m going to use it in its proper way.
Now, we come to the famous Great Commission, even though the word doesn’t appear there. This is the last word from God, and God is now telling his disciples, this is what you go out and do. But we get it all wrong. We think: you start out with the basics, you know—preaching, absolving, baptizing, and the Lord’s Supper. Those are the floor, but you need walls and a ceiling to build a church. You can’t just rely on Word and sacrament. You need to do something to make disciples over time, your overtime. What you’re doing is building, building on all of these building blocks, and all of these, then finally, will mean that you will be disciples of nations. That is, the church will be big and won’t be small. Isn’t that what we all want?
The word here for disciple is a verb. In English, it’s been turned into a noun by putting “make” in front of it to make disciples. I’ll spare you the Greek grammar, but it should be translated like a verb, as in, “Go disciple.” And if “disciple” is our verb, how do we “go disciple” people? It’s by baptizing and teaching and going. Typical “missional” theology typically has cut off the phrase from “baptize,” and then it’s tried to establish what it means by making disciples without the baptism Jesus gives!
It has been deadly. That has messed up not only what disciple means. And It would even be better translated this way, “Continue to disciple.” Continue to disciple as you have been to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That’s how you do it. Go on discipling. Baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Then in verse 20, Jesus adds, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Jesus says, “Take charge of all that I have invested or charged you with.” He’s telling them, “Remember those keys to release and bind sins that I gave you? That’s what made you disciples. When I made you disciples, I authorized you to use the keys. The keys are to the kingdom of heaven. You are the doorkeepers. When I am on my long journey, I want you now to be responsible for using it, use the Office of the Keys.”
When the pastor exercises the Keys, he closes the door to those who doubt. He is opening the door for those who have heard the promise, actually giving the promise. How is the kingdom of heaven once and for all? Not keep the stone rolled in front of it, but how do you open it up? How do you become a good doorkeeper for Jesus, a slave to Jesus? How do you do it? Give the promise of baptism!
So, what is baptism? Baptism is not water only but water used together with the word of God. Which word? Baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That’s what disciple is. That’s what a disciple is doing. That’s what makes disciples if you want to use that term. And “discipling” is doing exactly that. What is baptism? The Word put in water, it is not water only. Which word? This one from Matthew 28 the word that gives you the name. When you have the Name, you will be saved whenever you call upon the name on the final day. Not may be saved, not sort of, but entirely saved. What benefits do you get in the baptism? God forgives sin. He delivers from death and the devil. He’s giving everything here that he’s promised. What has he promised? He who believes and is baptized will be saved. And whoever is not, this is the binding key. Whoever does not believe will be condemned.
But I don’t understand how water can do such great things! Baptism doesn’t save or start saving or may save you if you follow it properly. It does save, it shall save you. What does baptism mean for daily living? It drowns my life through daily repentance. And that day after day, a new self will arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever. Because we were buried with him by baptism into his death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
That’s the only way it happens. That’s the only way it can happen. None of these other things that supposedly go into making the church and the church do that, including what “discipling” means, what discipleship means, or how you go about having classes on discipleship and all of that. The Trinity is the name of God. The name is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You get it in baptism. Baptism applies to you personally by using your name. So in baptism, you get your name, and you get God’s name. God’s name. And when you call upon that name, you shall be saved.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin