The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
June 7, 2020
Matthew, the most ethnically focused of the four Gospels, concludes with Jesus’ commanding His then all-Jewish disciples to make Him still other disciples from every people group of the world. Jesus underlined this universal mission by asserting His universal authority. In this, His last word to His disciples, He said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”
If the first and greatest commandment is to love God with everything we’ve got and our neighbors as ourselves, then we must fulfill this last and great commission from the Son of God – and encourage people to follow Him in an ongoing, transformative friendship. We must let others in on our secret for having our lives changed for the better.
We all know no one will listen to us if we only talk the talk and don’t walk the walk, if we’re all words and no deeds. Yet, if words without deeds are dead, so too are deeds without words. To make new disciples, we have to both walk the walk and talk the talk. Let me illustrate this by telling you how I was made a disciple.
I entered college as a spiritual seeker. Early that first semester, I met Rick, Miles and Pat – men who followed Jesus so closely and consistently that I could clearly see in them a joy, a peace and a purposefulness that I didn’t have but wanted to.
If those three had only walked their walk as Jesus’ followers and not talked their talk about how Jesus had given them what they had, I would have always admired them but never supposed I could have what they had.
Fortunately for me, they were forthright in telling me their secret: that what they had came, not from themselves, but from Jesus. More fortunately still, they dropped on me the happy bombshell that Jesus would welcome me in joining them in that journey of discipleship. Those three guys would have been disappointed if I had been impressed with them, but been left without hope.
If they hadn’t talked the talk, I might have thought that they were just by nature wonderful human beings and that I could no more be like them than the athletes I marveled at but never imagined becoming. Or I might have thought they had become who they were by their ethical exertion and spiritual diligence and that I could become like them by working long and hard at the remaking of myself – only to find my good intentions and strenuous efforts failing me again.
Either way, if they had failed to talk the talk of God’s grace, I would have been sucked down into the quicksand of despair.
But God bless Rick, Miles and Pat! It never occurred to them just to shine their light but not explain from where – or, rather, from whom – they got it. They explicitly attributed whatever goodness and happiness people saw in them to the impact of Christ upon them, and they assured me that the same Jesus who had done so much for them would love to do the same for me – and would, if only I gave up trying to make my own way and gave myself over to following His way.
Rick, Miles and Pat didn’t care much about what I thought about them, but they cared mightily about what I thought about Jesus because of them. They wanted more than anything to give me a glimpse of who He is and of what He can do – and thus they kept pointing to Him to account for what I was drawn to in them.
To fulfill Jesus’ great commission to make disciples, doing our best to walk the walk is necessary; but it is not sufficient. We have to tell our secret of what He, the very best, has done, and would do for anyone who dares to trust Him enough to follow Him.
To commend taking that risk of faith, we must tell the secret of who we were before we started walking with Jesus or who we would be had we never started walking with Him. We have to give Him all the credit for our improvement, not only because He deserves it, but also because it gives others hope of what He might do for them.
So let us be faithful disciples in both deed and word.
Let us walk the walk in these days as we fight injustice, change systems, serve the community, cry out with a loud voice that Black lives do matter, listen carefully and considerately to everyone (even those with whom we disagree), and treat all people with fairness and respect.
But if others only think we are decent people trying to make a difference, we have done only half our job. We need to talk our talk and tell the secret of how Jesus re-created us in who we are in and what we can do. He may not have yet made us all we should be, or all we shall yet be before He’s finished with us; but He has made us much more than we used to be.
And He has made us those on whom He depends for collaboration in making still other disciples. Let us then tell the secret of His bountiful grace and invite others to join us in this amazing adventure of ongoing transformation and expanding effectiveness.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, you draw us close in a loving embrace, and then send us out to reach to all with the good news too good to keep to ourselves. You have given us talents and tongues to employ in talking the talk and drawing others into the fresh air of Your Spirit with whom your grace abounds and by whom everyone can breathe freely, now and forever. Amen.