As Christ was preparing to end his ministry on earth, he gave explicit instructions to his followers about what it was He wanted them to do next and how they should go about it. For centuries, Christians have called those instructions The Great Commission. It is Matthew's Gospel account that famously includes the imperative, "Go and make disciples of all nations..." But in Luke's version of the Commission, Jesus not only instructs, but promises: He tells his disciples that they will receive power from the Holy Spirit, which will enable them to be witnesses starting in Jerusalem and extending to the ends of the earth. This geographical sequence (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth) not only provides an outline for the Book of Acts, but is also a guideline for the Church's ongoing work to carry the Gospel to all peoples.
What does it mean for us to be "witnesses" from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth today? The United States is unique in that many of the world's peoples have come to our shores seeking freedom, economic opportunity, or education. About 43 million Americans are foreign-born, and most come from countries where Christianity is not the dominant faith or may even be forbidden by law. Furthermore, mission researchers tell us that 86% of all Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists have never met a Christian personally. This is not just true of those who still live in India, Pakistan, or Thailand--it is true of those who live in in South Richmond or at VCU or in the near West End of Richmond! Today the opportunity to be witnesses among "all peoples" and to "the ends of the earth" exists here as it does in most American cities. We have an enormous opportunity to carry out the great commission without buying a plane ticket, but just by seeking out personal contact, instead.
This week, in preparation for coming together to worship and study this passage of Scripture, pay attention to how God has brought "the nations" to your own neighborhood, to the places you work or shop or go about your other daily activities. Let us pray that the Spirit will give us eyes to see as the first step in empowering us to fulfill the Great Commission right here in RVA.
The STUDY GUIDE for this sermon can be dowloaded by clicking the image below, with audio being added on Tuesday morning. We encourage all small groups to use these resources to foster self-examination in community, in addition to privately, and as a way for our whole church to be participating in this season of preparation together
Click the image below to learn about Third's commitment to missions and how you can take up the Great Commission today. OR click through to our LOVE page to explore the full range of our Mission Partners.
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
A Thousand Tongues
Since Christ's Church is global and we have worshippers in our midst from non-English dominant cultures, our Convergent and Contemporary services this week will include songs of praise with lyrics in Spanish and Swahili. So that we can all participate in this foretaste of the New Jerusalem (and pick up a few words of Swahili), you can listen to a short tutorial for Kim Taulbee's new setting of O for A Thousand Tongues to Sing below, as well as see the music for that song and Joyful, Joyful/Te Alabamos. Worship Guides for all services and the music insert for these new songs are below.
Sri Lankan artist Nalini M. Jayasuriya has exhibited her paintings from Manila to London, Bangkok, Paris, Toronto, Tokyo, Jerusalem and New York. She has lectured on sacred art in many universities, including Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut, and Tokyo University, Tokyo, Japan. She was artist in residence for two years at the Overseas Ministries Study Center (OMSC) in New Haven.