December 13, 2011

Wednesday after the Third Sunday in Advent, Ember Day

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 1, 15, Jeremiah 23:9-15, Luke 12:35-48
Evening - Ps. 92, Jeremiah 23:16-22, Matthew 28:16-20
Heading into the change of seasons, we come to the time of fasting and prayer known as Ember Days. Historically, Ember Days have been a time when men were ordained to the ministry, and our Scripture readings for today reflect that tradition. Matthew 28:16-20 is known across denominations as the "Great Commission," for these verses record Christ commissioning the Apostles to take the Gospel to all nations.

Looking at the Apostles, eleven men of modest means with little or no contacts or networks outside of their own tiny country, this may seem an impossible task. Yet it is clearly the intention of Christ, go, teach, and baptize all nations. Even in this time of instant news and internet, making disciples of all nations seems an impossible task, yet Christ's charge to the Apostles quite obviously continues to the ministers and churches of today.

"Teach" (28:19) means to make disciples. It is to enlist people as students in the school of Christ. He Himself is the Teacher, the Headmaster, and He is the curriculum. The subject of each course is: "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." As Christ stated it, we are to teach people to "observe all things whatsover I have commanded you." It is not our ideas of what things ought to be like, or what we would do if we were God that we teach. It is not ours to add to or detract from the message. It is not our task to make it more attractive by adapting the ideas and practices of the world. That has all been tried before, and it attracts large crowds and nets large offerings. The road to destruction is broad and well traveled, and we are not to point people to it. The means by which this commission is fulfilled is the preaching of the Word. We preach Christ, and all things He has commanded. Entertainment draws those who want entertainment. Gimmicks draw people who want gimmicks. Shows draw people who want shows. The Gospel draws people who want Christ.

The messengers, the message, and the means of accomplishing the enormous task of teaching all nations may seem impossibly small and weak, until we remember we are Christ's messengers, it is Christ's message, and they are Christ's means. The commission comes from God in flesh, who rose from the grave, and possesses all authority and power in Heaven and earth. As it is His commission, it is naturally to be accomplished by His means. And it is as His messengers carry out His commission in His way we have His promise, "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

As you observe this time of fasting and prayer, please remember those charged with leading the Church in the ministry of pastors and teachers. Ask God to keep the faithful faithful, and to return the erring to the faith. Ask God to be with them in their work, that they would do God's work the way God has appointed it to be done. And ask God to make the people willing to hear and learn the word of God.