I’ve had a pretty good week, all things considered, and I can’t help but feel blessed just by being at Christ Church. This past Wednesday, the clergy of our convocation met with Bishop Councell to check in and let the Bishop know of any issues we see in our parishes or in the diocese, and Christ Church managed to be held up twice, by third parties, as an example of what’s going right in the diocese. On Thursday, Doan and I visited the Farmer’s Market at our Cathedral in Trenton; we wanted to see what it was like, and if possible, pick up some corn, but what we ended up leaving with was an invitation for Christ Church to become a Jubilee Center, a national Church recognition of the Outreach programs we have here at our little parish. And the fact is, we’re not that little of a parish, really, and our growth has come with some challenges, good challenges, but challenges nonetheless. Our buildings and grounds are used more often and by more people, so more upkeep is necessary. Our Church School is blessed with lots of kids and youth, and so we really need a Church School Superintendent (hint hint) to help out our faithful teachers, and we really need a leader to revive our Youth Group. These are challenges that we have in the wake of the blessings we have been given, and in looking at the Gospel we just heard from St. Matthew, it seems that God likes to work that way.
Just like last week, we find the disciples blessed in ways almost unspeakable: their crucified Lord and Teacher had been found alive, back alive. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was world changing, and the disciples had front row seats for the greatest event of all time. But these blessings came with a couple challenges, as you might imagine. The commissioning we just heard about “hard on the heels of what Frederick Dale Bruner has called “The Great Counter-Commission” of the religious authorities who bribed the Roman guards to spread the false report of grave robbery as a way to explain Jesus’ now-empty tomb. Jesus was alive but in the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension, he did not make any brash appearances in Jerusalem or Rome or Cairo or Damascus to prove he was alive. Within days of Easter, other narratives were circulating (his body was stolen, he was never really dead, the disciples were behind a hoax, etc.) and yet Jesus does nothing physically to put a halt to those stories.”1
Not much has changed; the same challenge is with us now. The names Dawkins, Dennitt, and Hitchens make up a triumvirate of virile unbelief, their books touting a “new” atheism have sold well, but haven’t made them many friends, really. Scientists, philosophers, even middling magazine commentators have seized their opportunity to take a shot at the Faith, even at faith itself, questioning the rationality of religion, and worse, treating Jesus like the main character in a flawed, badly told fairy tale.2 Perhaps they don’t know they are in league with the scoundrels who denied the Resurrection, denied even Jesus Himself, 2000 years ago; scoundrels who, not unlike so many of our modern-day dictators, attempted to stamp out our Lord and His followers in order to keep that one thing that was dear to them, their own illusion of power.
In the face of such resistance, it may be tempting to hit back, to write our own books, to seize power for ourselves, to stamp out the Gospel deniers as they try to do the same to us. That avenue has been tried and found difficult, mainly because God put a “do not enter” sign on the corner of that avenue. What we do have, the power that has been given to us, is the very life of Jesus Christ, Christ crucified, Christ resurrected and ascended, Christ breathing His life-giving power onto us. Our power comes from taking on the Great Commission, from breathing the words He gave us to breath.
In the days following the Resurrection, in the moments that lingered before the Ascension, Jesus gathered His disciples on a mountain in Galilee. He told them not to be afraid, even unto death, of the challenges they would face. He told them that He would be with them always, even unto the end of the ages. He told them that all power, all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him, and that they were to make sure to do one thing: “Go therefore,” Jesus told them, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”
In other words, “Go make Christians.” I told you it’s been a good week for us, and it has been all the more because we got to fulfill that very command. Just this (yesterday) afternoon, I got to pour water on a baby, not an activity that I would normally take pleasure in, except that I got to say those words of Jesus, I got to breath that holy Name, I got to say “Desmond Salvador, I baptize thee in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost;” in the name of this church I got to fulfill the very command our Lord Himself made on that mountain to eleven confused, blessed, frightened guys 2000 years ago. We at Christ Church could not be more blessed, and in the wake of those blessings, we have our challenges, but they all come down to this: Go and make Christians. That’s a daunting challenges and Bordentown awaits our reply to it, but we should not be afraid; our Lord Jesus is with us, even unto the end of the ages.
Scott Hoezee, This Week
This idea is also all Hoezee.