Scripture Reading: Matthew 28:1-20

9 years ago today my family left a home we were renting in Halifax and made our way to Cape Breton. We were on our way to Sydney Mines. We had no idea what to expect. We had no idea how long we would be here. All we pretty much knew is that we were excited to be coming to a place where we wouldn’t have to move for a while. We had moved far too often. Anna was 5 and had lived at 5 different addresses. Anthony was 3, and he had lived at 3 different addresses. So we were very happy to be settling down for a while.

I’ll be honest though, I’m not sure we would have thought we’d still be here 9 years later! But we are, and we are very happy to still be here. We’ve seen God do so much and we also see how God is leading us to do even more. It’s very exciting and we look forward to seeing what God has in store for us all next!

As I think back to 9 years ago, I think about my ordination. I think about the long, long process it took to be ordained. The interviews, the traveling, the education, and even the hurdles I encountered along the way. But in the end, it’s all been worth it.

At the end of it all, I stood on a stage and heard the words saying I was being ordained to the ministry of word, sacrament and pastoral care. Whatever that means!

I guess it means I get to do things for and on behalf of the church. It means I get to worship with communities of people. It means I get to administer holy rituals with people. It means I get to walk with people through joyful and also painful moments of their lives.

All because I heard a voice speak to me in 2003 that I was going to be a minister. God was calling me to do these things.

I’m still not sure how all the meetings fit in with this, but you know, you gotta take the good with the bad sometimes.

I recently re-watched the video of my ordination. Man my hair was a lot darker back then. I remembered the joy, and maybe also a sense of relief, that the long journey had finally come to an end. And I also remember feeling a whole new journey was just beginning. Which was also a feeling of joy, of course.

Today, we’re looking at our final visit of Jesus after the resurrection. This time we’re in the Gospel of Matthew. We read the Easter story again, this time how Jesus met with the Marys and sent them with a message to the other disciples to go to Galilee and he will meet them there.

Meanwhile, the chief priests were trying to stop the message from spreading that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. They paid the guards to spread rumours that the disciples had stolen the body while the guards slept, along with reassurance they would be protected from punishment by the government for failing to fulfill their duties.

It’s good to remember the chaos around the resurrection of Jesus. It wasn’t so cut and dry. It wasn’t that Jesus walked out of the tomb and BAM everything fell into place for the church to start. It’s good to remember that not everyone bowed to his authority. People actually schemed against it, even after everything that had happened. Even when the disciples met Jesus in Galilee we hear that not everyone worshiped and believed. Scripture tells us that even then, some doubted.

This tells us the work of Jesus is not done. And so he gives the disciples instructions.

He says,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

We call this the great commission. This is the mission of the church. Jesus told his disciples, that by his power they are to go out and make disciples, to bring them into the church and teach them about him and what he taught. But don’t worry, because Jesus says he’ll always be with them.

These are the instructions upon which the disciples built the church. And did they ever take them seriously. Remember how we talked a few weeks ago about on Pentecost 3000 people were baptized and joined the church. They welcomed those people and taught them about Jesus, and the church grew and grew and grew.

Someone might think, we can’t do that today. Society has no place for religion, they are too busy, they are too focused on other things, besides, we might offend someone if we try to tell them about Jesus.

Sure, it is hard to be the church today. Especially when the government makes it harder for the church to hire summer students, or build a law school, or to speak against things because we believe otherwise.

But those first Christians faced the possibility death if they spoke about Jesus publicly. They faced persecution, jail, punishment for themselves and their families. Those are far more serious than anything we might face today.

Yet it didn’t stop them.

It didn’t stop them because they believed Jesus when he said, “I’ll be with you to the end of the age.” And because they received the Holy Spirit they knew it was true. The same Holy Spirit we have access to today. Jesus truly was with them, because by the Holy Spirit, Jesus took up permanent residence in their hearts. When this happened, they were confident and willing to take on all risks, because they knew the reward was so much greater.

One thing that’s been talked about following the death of the young man after the graduation party is that we’re talking about underage drinking.

As someone who comes from away, I am astonished how alcohol seems to be at practically every single event here in Cape Breton.

I saw an ad the other day for a multiculturalism event happening at CBU. Here’s what the ad said,
“Celebrate the Multicultural heritage of Canada at the Cape Breton University courtyard.
Cultural Performances • Fashion Show • Beer Tent • Fireworks at Dusk”

Beer tents are apparently part of the multicultural heritage of Canada now.

On CBC radio the other morning there was a discussion that there is somewhere in CBRM where there is a party for young people every weekend, and yes there are kids as young as 12 years old getting drunk.

Every weekend? Seriously?

I get stranger looks from people when I say I don’t drink alcohol than when I say I’m a minister around here.

I gave up alcohol about 15 years ago. I’ve never regretted it. I’ve never had less than the “best night ever” because I don’t drink. I have lots of fun, I enjoy life fully, and I don’t regret it the next morning.

Yet, I’m the strange one. I’m in the minority!

Christians don’t need to look like the rest of society. We don’t need to play to the rules of what a “normal” person looks like. Why? Because we strive to be more like Jesus. We want to follow his teachings and his example, and we want, I hope, to live out his call to the church.

The great commission is a simple thing to follow, really when you look at it. Yet we see so many churches gather on Sunday and that’s it.

And I get it, I do. It’s hard living in two worlds. We want to be Christian, we want to live like Jesus. But we also don’t want to stand out, we still want to be able to be accepted.

Also though, maybe we need a little more Jesus in our hearts. Maybe we need to be more intentional about our own personal spiritual life. We need to let Jesus in more and let him speak to us.

Sometimes the evangelism needs to be the evangelism of ourselves first, before we go out into the world. Some might think it like saying we need to get our own house in order first. That’s partly true. In reality we’ll never have it all figured out, we’ll never be perfect. But if we commit to being the best Christians we can be, and let the Jesus lead us by the power of his Holy Spirit, through all of this Jesus is doing great things in us…

Then we can go make disciples of every nation. Then we can baptize and teach, and bring people into this same relationship with our Saviour we are seeking for ourselves. If people see positive changes in us, then they will want to know about this Jesus we love too.

I was ordained to this ministry by the authority given the Montreal and Ottawa Conference by the United Church of Canada. Such as it is.

Jesus invites us to a much broader ministry, a much more powerful ministry, by the authority given to him as the Son of the living God. By all the authority of heaven and earth, he says.

In that authority, we are his disciples. Growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Saviour, and going out into the world, sharing this incredible gift with others.

As we grow in our faith, and we seek to share that faith with others, let us not be afraid to go to our God in prayer asking him, “Lord, what’s next?” and let him guide the way.

He is our source of life and hope. He is the one by who’s power we are able to serve, as we change lives through witness to his grace and love. Including our own lives first.

Let us pray,

Lord Jesus,
We are your brothers and sisters, we are children of the most high God, and we feel your presence here with us today by the power of your Holy Spirit.

Jesus, we ask you to speak to our hearts, bring us ever closer to you. Ignite our passion to serve you, and help us to feel more of your incredible love for us.

As we continue to grow in our faith, may you strengthen us and embolden us to walk out of here with our faith held up high for all to see, so they may see you have so much more in store for all of us than what the world, in it’s brokenness, offers.

Jesus, you know the sins we carry, and you see the sins of the world we live in, so we ask you to cleanse us so we may be a shining light to draw others out of their own sinful ways, so you may speak peace and love into their hearts.

And may we all know the power of your forgiveness and grace.
We pray this in your most Holy Name. Amen and amen.