By Rev. Heidi L. Barham | June 4, 2023
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Read Matthew 28:16 – 20
Last Sunday, we celebrated Pentecost Sunday… the day that is traditionally considered to be the birth of the universal church. Today, according to the liturgical calendar, is Trinity Sunday… a day which celebrates the mystery of the Triune God… something that we sing about in the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
The lyrics to the first verse of that hymn say:
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
(Written by Reginald Heber, 1826, public domain)
As we think about Trinity Sunday, it can almost be viewed as a culmination of sorts… reflecting back to Advent and the Christmas season when God came to earth to dwell among us… and then moving into the Easter season when we celebrated Jesus’ death and resurrection… and ultimately leading us to Pentecost and the celebration of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.
All of which brings us to Trinity Sunday as we focus on the Godhead, the three-in-one… something that can be hard for some people to grasp… after all, how can one God be three persons… God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all at the same time?
Although it is a rather simplistic analogy, think about it like water… when it is boiled, water turns into steam or vapor… but when it cools… it is still water.
And when water is frozen it becomes ice… but when it melts… it is still water.
Different forms… different functions… still water.
Different forms… different functions… still God.
Now this concept is particularly relevant on this Trinity Sunday as we consider our New Testament lesson from Matthew 28… a passage of Scripture that is most often referred to as “The Great Commission.”
It is in this passage that Jesus refers to all three persons of the Trinity when He tells His disciples to “[baptize] them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Notice, Jesus did not say in the “names” plural… but He said in the “name” singular… a clear indication of the nature of God being three-in-one… the Trinity… which we celebrate today… and we can see the presence of God in three persons as we live out the Great Commission to which Jesus calls us.
Now I want suggest that there are three facets of Jesus’ Great Commission which call for our attention this morning… and those three facets are simply GO, SHOW, and KNOW.
Jesus told His disciples (and by extension tells us), “Therefore GO and make disciples of all nations…”
It is important for us to note that the command to GO may mean simply go into the next room, or go to the neighbors next door, or perhaps go to the next town over… it does not necessarily mean we must go to a mission field in a country far away.
It is not the distance that we travel that is most significant… it is our willingness to do as Jesus has told has to do… and to go where Jesus has COMMISSIONED us to go.
And when we do GO, there is also an opportunity for us to SHOW.
To show “what” you may wonder… well I am so glad you asked.
To show a dying world who our living Savior is… to be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samara, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) … in other words everywhere we go… wherever we go… It is up to us to show the world who Jesus is in word and deed.
We are to show them what it means to be baptized… like John the Baptist did when he spoke to the crowd that was gathered that we read about in Luke 3… and like Phillip did for the Ethiopian eunuch whose story we find in Acts 8… We can explain that even Jesus was baptized… as it is recorded in Matthew 3 where we read, “At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” [A moment in time when we actually see all three persons of the Trinity at the same time…]
And as we are showing others who Jesus is… we also have been called to teach them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded…
And what exactly has Jesus commanded?
It really boils down to two simple things: to love God and to love the people of God… ALL of the people of God… understanding that God so loved the WORLD that He gave His one and only Son… not just for some… but for whosoever would believe (see John 3:16).
And so, it is incumbent upon us to show the world that when Jesus gave His life at Calvary… it was for all of us.… regardless of age, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, political affiliation, cultural background, or any other artificial means of separation and segregation.
We show our love for God whenever we love the people of God and do as Christ commanded… feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, caring for the sick, and visiting the imprisoned… understanding that whatever we do for the one of the least of these, we do for Jesus (see Matthew 25:36-46).
Showing the world who Jesus is through our words as well as our actions is what we have all been COMMISSIONED to do as His followers.
And then… accepting the fact that we have been COMMISSIONED to go as well as to show… the last thing our New Testament lesson encourages us to do is to KNOW…
To KNOW that Jesus is with us always… even “to the very end of the age.”
We find this promise repeated in multiple places throughout the scriptures, including Deuteronomy 31 (6, 8), Joshua 1 (5), and Hebrews 13 (5) …assuring us that God will NEVER leave us nor forsake us.
That means even in the worst of times and the best of times and every time in between… the Lord has promised to be with us… ALWAYS!
And when we are armed with that knowledge… when we KNOW that we KNOW that we KNOW… that we are never alone… we should have no fear about doing what Jesus has COMMISSIONED us to do.
We can GO where God tells us to go because we are not going alone.
We can SHOW the world who Jesus is… spreading the Good News that with the Lord by our side… there is now way for us to be alone.
And we can KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that because Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit to be our comforter and advocate… we are definitely not alone.
Isn’t it good to know that no matter what happens, no matter where we go, no matter what we do… we are never alone? That there is never a time… never a space or a place… where God is not right there with us?
As the Psalmist David writes in Psalm 139 (7 – 10):
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
And isn’t it even better news to know that no matter what we do… it will never stop God from loving us?
I don’t know about you, but I have done more than my fair share of things throughout my life that have left me feeling unlovable, unworthy, and undeserving… and yet in Romans 8, we read:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And that is ultimately the message that is at the heart of the Great Commission… that is the story that we have been COMMISSIONED to tell… that God loves us and as Ronnie might say, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.
Now, not only should we KNOW that we are never alone… we need to KNOW that the Lord will give us exactly what we need to live out this Great Commission.
I am reminded of two Old Testament stories in particular. One is the story of Moses and the other is the story of Isaiah.
In the book of Exodus, beginning in chapter 3, we find the story of Moses standing in front of the burning bush. It is there that Moses hears from God who tells him, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).
But Moses is less than eager to accept the assignment and begins to pose a whole series of questions, ostensibly to persuade God that He has chosen the wrong one to GO.
However, God knows best and proceeds to SHOW Moses what he will be able to do if he just does what God has told him to do. But Moses was still not completely convinced that he was the right man for the job. So, God told him that his brother, Aaron, would be there to make up for Moses’ perceived shortcomings… and in this way, Moses would KNOW that God had made provision for him to do what God had COMMISSIONED him to do.
Now, if we look at Isaiah 6, we find the story of Isaiah that actually comes under the heading, “Isaiah’s Commission” (at least in the NIV). And it is there that we read Isaiah’s account of encountering the Lord and recognizing his own limitations and shortcomings along with those of the children of Israel.
He did not feel worthy to be in the presence of the Lord and said as much, “Woe to me… I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5).
And that is when the Lord responded and blessed Isaiah… cleaning him up and freeing him from his sin as one of the seraphim took a coal and touch his lips, issuing the proclamation, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7).
And having his sin cleansed and atoned for, Isaiah writes, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” And God’s response to Isaiah was, “Go…”
To go and show the people the error of their ways… and to know that although the majority of them would not turn from their wicked ways… there was still a remnant… and there was still hope… God would not abandon His people.
God made provision for Isaiah to fulfill his commission to be able to GO, SHOW and KNOW… just as He did for Moses… and just as He will do for us.
So, let us be encouraged today on this Trinity Sunday…
We can GO where God sends us.
We can SHOW others what Jesus has taught us.
And we can KNOW that with the Holy Spirit, we are never alone and have all that we need so we can do what we have been COMMISSIONED to do.
And, if you ready, willing and able to GO and SHOW and you KNOW that you have been COMMISSIONED by Jesus… and that there is work for you to do… then I want to invite you stand and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship: I Am Thine O Lord #601.