Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

06/19/11 Sermon

Matthew 28:16-20

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen 

Now some of you probably know I’m a big fan of the old Andy Griffith Shows from the 1960’s. And one of my favorite episodes is the one where Mayberry is hosting an event and Andy and Barney are in need of some extra deputies.  So they decide to swear in 3 more individuals to assist them: Gomer Pyle, Floyd the barber and Otis Campbell.  Now if you have ever watched the show, you know that these 3 individuals are not the sharpest crayons in the box.  And it's so funny just watching Barney try to swear them in. Gomer just stands there in his deputy uniform that hardly fits, his shoulders pulled back, tie crooked, hat off to the side. He even gets caught with the end of the gun in his mouth.   Then there was Floyd the barber with his serious look on his face, that just his attempt to look serious would make you crack up.  And then of course there was the beloved Otis, the town drinker with is sloppy appearance who also standing there in a deputy uniform that barely fit that made you laugh.

Clearly these 3 individuals being commissioned for duty weren't prepared or equipped to carry out the duties that were given them------they weren’t really ready to be deputies.

Now I thought about this episode because in our scripture today we see that Jesus is giving the Great Commission to his disciples.  In a way he is deputizing his disciples to carry out and continue his work. But unlike Gomer and Floyd and Otis, the disciples had to be ready and equipped to carry out the commissioning that Jesus was giving them.  Jesus was placing upon them a responsibility that required them to have some understanding of what they were supposed to carry out.

They were to make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  The disciples had to have some knowledge of the Trinity.

And it’s the same for you and me as well.  We too, as Jesus’ disciples, have been commissioned and called to witness to others, making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Trinity. 

We Christians have a purpose and a calling. Whether as a parent or a worker or a student or a child or whatever role we find ourselves in, we’re called to witness to others to make disciples.

But how exactly do we go about witnessing to the Trinity when it’s so hard to understand?  After all, as Martin Luther says, “just trying to comprehend the Trinity endangers our sanity."  It’s like the “Who’s on First” routine that can make your head go round!

Well one of the first things we need to understand about Jesus’ commission is that when we witness to others about the Trinity it's more than simply some theological understanding that we’re to explain.  To baptize people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit isn't about getting people to recite or pledge to some dogma or doctrine of the church, The Trinity is not some legalistic litmus test to pledge to in order to be a Christian.  In fact that’s been tried in the past when the early church attempted to force people to commit to the doctrine of the Trinity. And if you refused or denied you would be persecuted and tried for heresy.  

And even today, the Trinity is used in very conservative churches as some kind of litmus test. People are told to pledge their allegiance to the Trinity and commit to it theologically.  The problem with this is that when the Trinity is more emphasized as a doctrine, it becomes nothing more than a legalistic rule that has no personal affect or meaning to it.  The result is that you end up with a shallow, legalistic discipleship in many of these fundamentalist churches.

But when Jesus commissioned his disciples he wasn’t commissioning them to some theological doctrine to raise your right hand to pledge to.  Instead he was commissioning them to witness to the Trinity as a way of life to others. To baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit was about something very personal and life changing that was happening within you; not some kind of rule to follow.

Max Lucado tells the story of a rational, intelligent sort of guy, who wants to learn to dance. So he goes to the bookstore and buys a how-to book. He takes it home and begins studying and does everything it says. When the instructions say sway, he sways. When the instructions say lean, he leans. When the instructions say spin, he spins.  He even cuts out paper footprints and arranges them on the family room floor so he will know exactly where to step.  Finally, he thinks he's got it down pat. He calls his wife in and says, Honey, watch! With book in hand and reading aloud, he follows the instructions, step by step.  It says, take one step with your right foot. So he takes one step with his right foot. Then it says, Turn slowly to the left. He turns slowly to the left.  He keeps it up, reading and then moving, reading and dancing, through the whole thing.  And then……. he collapses exhausted on the sofa and says to his wife, What do you think? I executed it perfectly!

To which she replies, You executed it all right. You killed it! 

The bewildered husband says, But I followed the rules, I laid out the pattern, I did everything the book said ...

But, she sighs, you forgot the most important part. Where was the music?

With that, she puts on a CD. Try again and this time quit worrying about the steps and just follow the music.  She holds out her hand, and he gets up and takes it. The music starts, and the next thing the guy knows he's dancing -- without the book!

Max closes the story with this: We Christians are prone to follow the book while ignoring the music. We master the doctrine, outline the chapters, memorize the dispensations, debate the rules and stiffly step down the dance floor of life with no music in our hearts.

To witness to the Trinity is not some kind of dogma or doctrine that we recite or argue to convince people to commit to.

Instead the Trinity is a way of life. It’s a dance where we immerse ourselves in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  This triune God is personal to us; working within us and above us and beside us in everything we do.

There’s an old illustration that has a round table with 4 chairs around it. In 3 of the chairs is God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. The 4th chair is empty and it represents us.  We are to be within the circle of the Trinity in our life.

And that’s the way we Jesus is commissioning us to witness to others.

But the question is how do we go about immersing ourselves in this Trinitarian way of life?

How do we witness and make disciples of the Trinity without it being a legalistic doctrine?

Well I’m reminded of the Celtic Christianity tradition. Celtic Christianity is an organic spirituality that sees the Trinity in every aspect of life.  Esther De Wall, one of the scholars of the Celtic tradition speaks to how the Trinity is a way of life to her. 

For example, when she is making things or creating things (as you would in a kitchen or some artwork) she sees the creative work of the Father.   When she is working with other people, teaching and listening, trying to widen hearts and imaginations with others she sees Jesus the Son active and alive in her life.  And when she is compassionate and forgiving and healing toward others she commends it to the Holy Spirit working within her life.

In other words there is an intentionality going on in her daily life.  Her life itself is a prayer that is staying connected to God in the 3 ways that God has chosen to reveal himself to us. 

So with that in mind, the question to us today is how are we engaging and being engaged by the Trinity in our own life?

How are you connecting your daily life to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit?

For example, when we think about God the Father we remember that the Father is the Creator. So how are we seeing the Creator and His presence in our daily life? Are we in tune to nature all around us aware of God the Father’s presence in creation?  And when we ourselves are creating something; whether it’s dinner or school project, or creating something at work or a new ministry at church or in the community are we recognizing the presence of God the creative Father working beside us in our life?

And then when we think of God the Son (Jesus) are we seeing his presence with us in our daily life? Are you connecting your life with his grace when you are feeling guilty and need forgiveness or when you need to forgive someone else?

Are you making the connection with Christ when you find yourself suffering, grieving and dying as he did? And are you also in tune and aware of the hope and expectation of resurrection and new life because you connect yourself with Jesus daily?

And how about the Holy Spirit? How is the Spirit engaged in your daily life?   Are you aware of his presence inside you inspiring you to grow closer in your relationship with God and with others?

Do you feel the Spirit nudging you when you choose to act in love and peace, kindness and gentleness, patience and self-control, goodness and faithfulness? Are you really connecting your becoming more and more like Christ with the real presence of the Holy Spirit within you? ……………………………….

For us to truly witness to others; to go and make disciples we have to be true disciples who know the Triune God personally.

So ask yourself today, “Am I really aware of the Triune God and how he is present and working within my life”?

Am I sitting at the round table in the 4th chair?

Am I dancing without the instruction book?

For us to be true witness to others, we have to personally and naturally know the Triune God ourselves………………….

Today on this day that we celebrate our 3 in 1 and 1 in 3 God, let us remember that the Trinity is so much more than a simple doctrine. The Trinity is a way of life.

God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit wants us to know him and experience him in the 3 ways he comes to us so that we might not be like Gomer and Floyd and Otis.

He wants us to be the truly qualified deputized disciples so that we might go and make more true disciples.

Today let us begin or recommit to experience the Triune God in every holy moment of our life.

Let us live life as a prayer connected to God in the 3 ways he has revealed himself to us.

And let us go and make more disciples--- baptizing them--- in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit-------Amen