~By Barb Costa
Have you ever seen a movie or attended a concert so good you couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it? Well, that happened to me last month. After living here almost ten years I finally went to the National Aviary, not once but twice in one week! (Maybe you didn’t know that the National Aviary is in Pittsburgh, not Washington, DC?) Some of God’s most beautiful creations are birds and there are 600 in this wonderful place, most of them in free flight rather than cages. As I walked from the grasslands with
the varieties of finches to the wetlands with the ducks, flamingos and spoonbills, to the tropical rain forest with the Crown Victoria pigeons and swallows, to the eagle corridor and the African penguins, I was reminded of creation and the beauty of the earth. I even got to feed them right from my hand. So if you happened to see me during the past weeks, I probably told you about my experience.
Two thousand years ago there was another event worth telling about, an event so important, so earth-shaking that we count time from it. An event which has influenced civilization more than any other event in recorded history—the birth of Jesus, the Christ. Since the start of this Lenten series we have read about creation, sin, salvation and Jesus. Are you excited about the fact that God loves us so much that He sent his Son to save us from our sin? Well, I am and I really want other people to know about
this. Now if this isn’t news worthy of being shouted from the roof tops, I don’t know what is. But do I do that? No! Why is it I don’t tell everyone about Jesus the same way I’ve been telling everyone about my experiences at the aviary?
Both the Old and the New Testaments tell us that we are so sin-filled we could never qualify by ourselves to be acceptable to God.
There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away…Psalms 14:1-2
But now a righteousness from God…has been made known… This righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…Romans 3:21-2.
But God, in His infinite mercy, is not content to leave us in that condition. So He sent His son to redeem us so that we might live with Him forever! Moreover, He wants everyone to know how much he loves us. So at the end of Jesus’ ministry he left us with these words:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them…. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28: 16, 18-20
Phew! I don’t know about you but I am blown away by this command from Jesus, often called the Great Commission. These words are among the last he spoke to his disciples before ascending into heaven. Look at the verbs: go, make, baptize, teach. Active verbs, ones which require us to do something.
First, He reiterates his authority which comes from the Father in heaven and extends to his authority on earth. Then he says, “Go.” Jesus doesn’t say please; he doesn’t say if you want to; he doesn’t say when you have the time. It is an imperative command.
Then Jesus sends us….where, Lord? You can’t really mean to all nations! Do you know how many countries that includes, how many miles to be travelled, how much money that will take?
Making disciples will require teaching others the scriptures, the traditions and history of the church. And at some point people need to go through a rite of initiation which we call baptism.
Lastly, Jesus says he will always be with us right up to the end of time. Praise the Lord! We don’t have to do this all by ourselves. We have Jesus right beside us if we just ask Him to be there, to help us become faithful disciples ourselves and then reaching out to share his love, his message to others.
Well, let me tell you a story about how the Christian message was spread to one person. Years ago a Sunday school teacher in Boston visited a young man in his class to be sure he was a Christian. That day he led this young man, Dwight L. Moody, to the Lord.
Now Moody was a prominent 19th century evangelist, and he had a great impact on another evangelist by the name of Wilbur Chapman. Chapman invited Billy Sunday to join in his evangelistic campaigns. (Are you beginning to get the picture?) Sunday then started a national ministry in large cities and invited evangelist Mordecai Ham to join him in Charlotte, NC . It was at one of those meetings that Billy Graham received Christ as his Savior! It took 5 people, but because each one was faithful to his calling, the greatest 20th century evangelist met Christ—and it all started with a Sunday school teacher. Will you
be faithful to your calling? Will I?
If you want to learn more about this Jesus and the story of his life, and about His disciples as they spread the Good News to the then-known world, email your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a free Bible. No obligation, no questions asked. Your request needs to be dated on or before April 30, 2011. May God send a special blessing as you read His holy word.
For Further Reading: If you’d like to learn more about evangelism, particularly from an Anglican perspective, Barb recommends reading The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West… Again by George Hunter, Out of the Saltshaker: Evangelism as a Way of Life, by Rebecca Manley Pippert, or anything by Michael Green, especially Who is this Jesus? and “But Don’t All Religions Lead to God?”
~Barbara Costa is the Community Liaison and Health Officer at Trinity School for Ministry. She loves to sew, especially clergy stoles and baby quilts. She is a 2002 graduate of Trinity School for Ministry’s CBCS program; Retired Professor Emeritus from Syracuse University; mother of 3, grandmother of 6, great-grandmother of 2.