5/22/05, Trinity Sunday, Year A

“Teaching Them”
Matthew 28: 16-20

s often happens, this Sunday is set aside as a celebration of more than one important experience within our church year. The First Sunday after Pentecost is always observed as “Trinity Sunday.” In today's text we hear Jesus make his clearest statements declaring the concept of the Trinity, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Note that it is not an explanation but a declaration--- He is simply saying, “This is the way it is!” God's three-in-one, triune nature, is a recognition of The Almighty's multi-faceted personality. Your personality is that way too. You are one person but you are also a Parent and a child, a husband or a wife, or maybe you are a gloriously happy single person. Some of you had a big change in your life just this week. Thursday you were a sixth grader and now you are an all grown up seventh grader. There's a big difference in 6 th and 7 th graders. You may have walked in this room as a Preparatory Member, but now you are a Full Member of this great church and of the Church everywhere.

God can be that way too. Our Heavenly Father—we kind of think of Him sitting on a golden throne. That same God was Jesus. He was not a look-alike of Jesus, but the fullness of the Godhead dwelled in Jesus. Toward the end of his life, Jesus began to talk to his followers about “Another Comforter,” The Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit dwelling within us we can experience God/Jesus alive in our hearts.

Experience is a wonderful thing and our Christian Religion is so much more than a declaration of vows, it is an experience; and it is a life lived.

For Methodist denominations tomorrow is “Aldersgate Day.” May 23 rd is the day when we recall the Evangelical Conversion of our founder John Wesley. He wrote: “I felt my heart strangely warmed…” and we can't express salvation better than that. We will celebrate Wesley's Aldersgate experience next Sunday.

Today, we also say “Godspeed” to our beloved Director of Christian Education, Julie Hunter and her wonderful family: husband Kim who landed the great new position in Salem , Virginia , and children, Kristie, Caroline and Ryan. It is hard to give up such great folks.

It is in times like this that I am glad that we have a suggested lectionary of biblical texts. There is a phrase in our gospel reading that ties all of the above together; “TEACHING THEM.” It is a part of Jesus' “Great Commission” to the Church:

“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.” (Matt. 28: 16-20, NRSV)

Could we have even begun to grasp the concept of the Trinity if we had not been taught? Today these have given affirmation to Church Membership Vows that they have over the past few weeks, and throughout their lifetime in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School , come to understand and believe through the ministry of teaching. Many years of teaching preceded John Wesley's moment of evangelical salvation. Many of us came into the Christian Faith as adults; however, we came bringing a bulwark of accumulated knowledge gained through sometimes forced participation in the teaching ministry with children.

I hope that Julie Hunter knows how much our families appreciate her leadership in “bringing up the little children in the way of Christ.” She has been a super effective leader of teaching ministry among us. And we never outgrow our need for teachers in our Pilgrim's Journey.

The words “teach” and “preach” which rhyme are both a form of the didactic outreach of the Church. Bishop Nolan Harmon said that the main difference is that Jesus stood to preach and sat down to teach. Preaching is more emotional and perhaps more pointedly designed to win adherents. Teaching is about changing the student's mind, whereas preaching attempts to reach the heart and change attitudes and behavior.

Reaching the world through teaching and preaching both require that we model, with our lifestyles, the precepts of Jesus' message. We instruct by example, especially in a setting where non-Christians do not fully understand what is being said but can easily watch the missioner's lifestyle and attitudes.

Both preaching and teaching, in a Christian context, are a holy calling. Lay and ordained persons begin their preparation with a sense of compelling direction from the Holy Spirit.

And remember, all that is done is aimed at one day fulfilling Jesus' Great Commission to bring everybody everywhere to faith in Christ.

The most assuring part of this calling is found in the last sentence of Matthew's Gospel, “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This sentence sounds to me as if Jesus never expected His Church to fulfill the goal of making disciples of all nations, or all people of the nations; but rather, having this ultimate goal means that we will still be working to fulfill our calling whatever the age is. It could also mean that we are called to keep on working until “our age,” or “our personal lifetime” is over. Indeed, the great missionaries, teachers and preachers worked hard right up until the end. One never retires, or completes, his/her calling in this life. My dear parents continued to preach and teach as long as it was physically possible and that is my calling and our calling. “Work for the night is coming when man works no more.”

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
5/22/05, Trinity Sunday, Year A