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Here we are at the final act of worship. Act 4 – Sent by God into the World. This is the final act of worship and the first act of moving from a believer to a disciple. Formed by the previous three acts of worship – Gathered into community by God’s loving grace, Strengthened by the proclamation of God’s word and assured of our place in God’s ongoing story, led to respond through the sharing of our gifts and the elevation of prayers – Now, God sends us into the world. Sent, shaped by the thing that is called worship. Shaped by the hand of the God who created the cosmos. Shaped into the disciples who are sent into the world, even into the margins – were are sent into God world – for now our worship has ended, but service begins.
Let us pray…
The women came into the upper room breathless. Gasping they began to tell the strange story of what has just happened in the garden. About how the stone was rolled away. About how there was a messenger from heaven who told them Jesus was not there. About how in their fear they fell and saw the nail pierced feet of the Lord. Breathless they told the men that they were being sent back to Galilee. They were being sent back to where they came from; back to the streets.
The disciples had been holed up since Friday when they watched their savior bleed. Murdered by the state, having been on death row for a crime he did not commit. They looked at the women like they were speaking in a foreign language. There is no way this happened. Some of them saw Jesus’ side pierced and gasped as the blood and water drenched the parched land. Others, unable to bear the pain he was enduring ran and found shelter in the place where they had their last fond memory of their master. His upper room where they shared the passover feast.
And now, these women had the audacity to tell them they were being sent. Sent from the safety of this sanctuary they had built. Sent back into the very place and to the same people that crucified their lord.
Unable to believe the reluctance of the men, the women turned and left. They began the walk up the dusty paths back to Galilee. Seeing their determination, the men followed. At a distance.
For five days, the parched desert landscape and it wind swirled sands stabbed their skin. For the five days it took to walk from Jerusalem to Galilee their minds were reeling with the events. Remembering how they had been called. Gathered by Jesus – the fishermen called from their boats, the tax collector from his office, the zealot and the twin. And the women, they remembered how he had dined with them, called them by name. Treated them as though they mattered. How he appeared to them first, knowing they were the ones whose faith was strong.
Gathered together they shared the stories of the words he had spoken. Words that brought them into the Reign of God. Words that were dangerous and world changing: Love your enemies; blessed are the poor; turn the other cheek; sell all you have and follow me. They shared the stories that told of God’s love – about how the prodigal son was welcomed with open arms; about the love a stranger and enemy showed to a fallen man. The reminisced about the healings; the lame walking, the blind seeing, and the possessed being brought to renewed life.
As the days passed, as the fire flickered they broke bread together – remembering that final meal they had with him. Seeing how this meal now was something different, they felt his presence as they shared the bread and wine. They joined hands and prayed the prayer that he taught them.
The sun now rose over the mountain and they saw his silhouette. Through the shadow of his outstretched hands they saw the light piercing the darkness. Knowing it truly was them they sprinted from their place to the top of the mountain. The women fell at his feet. They all worshiped, even though there were lingering questions in some of their minds. Once again he had gathered them together to worship.
Then came his words: “Friends, All power has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, now. Go and make disciples of all people…of all people. Baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them, help them understand and observe all I have taught you and told you. Go boldly. Unafraid, for I am with you. Today. Tomorrow. Forever…even until the end of the ages.”
Sent. They went to where the Spirit blew. Some to Jerusalem, some to Egypt and Northern Africa, some as far as India. They went as disciples, gathered, empowered, fortified. They were sent in hope.
Friends, we are gathered this morning, only to be sent from this place into the margins of the world to proclaim the love, the grace, the unparalleled mercy of our God. This is why we are here. This why this church has been here these 94 years. Many have gathered and many have been sent.
This being sent, though is a daunting task. It is something some of us would rather not deal with. Even when the Good News of the Risen One is announced, the safety of our upper room is more appealing. The safety of our sanctuary is what comforts us.
We say to ourselves, if people really want to believe they need to come here. Why don’t they? Why don’t the food pantry guests, or the dance or art students come? We know that the Good News is true and is found here so why don’t they come?
The thing is, even as we believe the Good News, we don’t trust it. We don’t trust that it is as powerful as it claims to be. We don’t trust that when we are marked in the cross of Christ we have been anointed for something special. We don’t trust the words that Jesus said, “Go boldly. Unafraid, for I am with you. Today. Tomorrow. Forever…even until the end of the ages.”
And it is easy to understand. The world outside of our doors can be a frightening place. There is bad news everywhere we turn. Like the disciple sheltered in that upper room – we don’t know what terrors might be waiting for us.
This week as the public execution of a news reporter and her camera man shocked our nation; we stay safe in our cocoon – it is dangerous out there. When the worship of firearms and the idolatry of the second amendment is more important that human lives. When anyone is allowed to conceal carry, leaving the decision of life and death into their own hands, up to their own mood and temper, it is safer to stay in our sanctuaries.
As race baiting politicians try to paint their racists platforms in the guise of defending jobs and keeping us “safe,” when they want keep the entire nation safe behind walls as the expense of families, lives, and basic decency – it is easier to tune out and turn off. Isolating ourselves from the world.
When the chance of peace through diplomacy threatens ideological and warped theological ideas – when some are determined that bombs are a better deterrent than peace – it is safer to stay where we are.
We want to be where it is safe and warm. We want to be swaddled in the comfort that is our sanctuary. It is natural. Self-preservation is important. But when we do that. When we insist that people come here, when we refuse to engage the world, when we don’t emerge from our cocoon, we will die.
Churches are doing this all over this country. They have been so consumed with saving themselves, of remaining safe, that they have forgotten the command of Jesus. They refused to emerge from their cocoon the beautiful thing God has created them to be and instead die from malnutrition and lack of air.
We are gathered by God to go out into the world. Unafraid. Boldly. To not be trapped in the safety of our sanctuaries. It is a challenge and it isn’t easy, but have have been gathered into this place to metamorphose into the beautiful creation God has made us. We are fed by the word and respond in love.
It is hard to step out in a world of violence and proclaim, blessed are the peacemakers. Love your enemy. Turn the other cheek. But it is easy when we trust the good news. when we trust that Jesus is with us today. Tomorrow. Forever. Event to the end of the ages.
It is easy to do when we trust in the power that Jesus gives us.
We see it. We see it every day in this place. When we have reached out into the world – we see little girls in tutus running around the building. We hear Spanish coritos being sung in our alls. We see hungry mouths being fed. We watch as beautiful art unfolds before our eyes. And none of this has happened because we want to stay safe. We have moved our of our cocoon and said to the neighborhood this is what the Kingdom of God looks like. This is what happens when believers become disciples and engage the world around us. This is a place where there is safety and where there is the building up of people who love the lord.
Sisters and brothers, we have been gathered by God into this place to go out into the world and share the Good News. The good news that there is a God whose love for is is so profound that he can lead a wandering people into a promised land.
Whose love is so deep for us that when we face giants we have nothing to fear.
We have been gathered by a God who promise that the walls that get in our way will come tumblin’ down.
That when we are trapped in the a fiery furnace, it will only cause the chains that bind us to melt away.
That when surrounded lions, we can trust they will wait to eat something tastier than us.
We have been gathered by a God who was born to a teen aged mom in a backwater town to a laborer father.
We have been gathered by a God who feeds us with the word of life: There is rejoicing when you are found; that God rushes to meet us; that God is the one who heals our wounds; mends our hearts; creates in us clean hearts.
We have been gathered to uplift each other in pray, not alone but in a community.
And we have been gathered to be sent into the world. Sent to bear this precious good news. Sent to change the world.
“All power has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, now. Go and make disciples of all people…of all people. Baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them, help them understand and observe all I have taught you and told you. Go boldly. Unafraid, for I am with you. Today. Tomorrow. Forever…even until the end of the ages.
Thanks be to God.