Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I remember one year when I was in my early twenties and observing Good Friday with a friend; an attorney in the town where I lived happened to see us downtown. “Why so sad?” he asked.
We explained that we were observing the anniversary of the death of Jesus on the cross. He didn’t say anything much after that.
If there was a snapshot of this event, who would look like the followers of Jesus? It would be tempting to say that it was us kids.
But the attorney was an advocate for battered women, tenants who had issues with their landlords, recovering alcoholics who were dealing with the consequences of terrible behavior, children who had committed serious crimes – lots of people who, in other words, needed representation but who could not pay him. And he was a Baptist.
In my life since then there have been long periods during which I did not identify as a Christian. It would have been tempting for anybody observing me to say that participating as a young adult in that Episcopalian Good Friday liturgy didn’t mean much in the larger trajectory of my life. And yet for years now I have once again journeyed through Holy Week with an Episcopal faith community. The rich, ancient rituals nourish my soul and deepen my relationship with God.
My church shares a building with a Lutheran and an Ecumenical Catholic congregation. This past week we had opportunity to participate in the unfolding of the Christian story from within three different traditions, and it was extremely rich and beautiful. It reminded me of the vast diversity, worldwide, in how Jesus is understood and followed.
As I read the Great Commission in the Gospel passage for today, the word that jumped out at me was “disciples”. “Make disciples,” Jesus bids his followers.
It seems to me that being a disciple means more than professing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. For each of us it will be saying “yes” again and again to that to which God calls us uniquely throughout our entire lives. Disciple-making is not a job only for clergy or missionaries; each of us has a part in it. Whether we reach out in our participation in ancient liturgy, making all people genuinely welcome in the celebration of the Christian story, or we reach out in helping those in need, quietly professing through our actions that we are followers of the God who is Love, or in any other way, we are each commissioned by Christ.
As we begin the Easter season, let’s be challenged by this bidding. Let’s allow it to shake us up and yank us into the work God has in mind for us. For there is nothing more meaningful in this world than the relationship each one of us has with the God who loves us boundlessly, and there is nothing more important than helping to introduce that God to those whom God loves.