June 11, 2017
“Mobilized to Make Disciples”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon is our Gospel text from Matthew 28, a passage commonly called “The Great Commission.”
My dear friends,
Sometimes I feel like a crotchety old fart when I talk like this, but when I was growing up, there was ONE TV in the house. Not two or three. One. No DVR, no TIVO, no dish, no cable, no pay-per-view. No retreating to your room to play video games or “surf” on your PC. One television. And kids watched what the parents wanted. Period. End of discussion. And so, I grew up watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (who else?), The Price is Right with Bob Barker (again, who else?), and 60 Minutes. But another show I watched, because my parents watched it, was “M*A*S*H.” M*A*S*H, a show about the doctors and nurses of a mobile hospital during the Korean war, aired from 1972 until 1983 and, when it went off the air in 1983, it became the most watched television episode in U.S. television history at the time, with a record-breaking 125 million viewers. A distant 2nd was the series finale of “Cheers” in 1993.
Established in 1945, “M.A.S.H.” stands for “Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.” These units were decommissioned by the army in 2006. MASH units originated because too many wounded were being lost between the front lines and the hospital. So the army took the hospital as close to the front lines as possible. Victims were treated, stabilized, and sent to hospitals down the line for follow-up.
The key word in M.A.S.H. was mobile. The MASH units moved because the lines of battle were not static and would move as sides won and lost battles. The MASH units went where the fighting was.
So also in today’s Gospel, Jesus commands not doctors, but disciples – His church – to mobilize towards the “front lines”: “go and make disciples.” In the Greek text, “go” is a passive participle; it could better be translated “while you are in the process of going.” Hear the difference? Wherever the places that life takes you day in and day out, it is there that you will encounter people who have not been baptized and who have not been taught about Christ. Not all mission work is across the ocean and done in a jungle; much is down across the street! Christ has commissioned his church and mobilizes us to go and make disciples of all nations (imperative form; command), starting with our own little corner of the world. Do you know that Europe and the United States are some of the largest mission fields in the world?
In the M.A.S.H. unit, the hospital was taken to the wounded. The injured needed treatment sooner than later, and so these mobile units were created so that if the wounded wouldn’t make it to the hospital, the hospital was brought closer to them in a sense. In much the same way, the Church has been called “a hospital for sinners.” We who enter here, injured and wounded by life, rejoice when our sins are forgiven in the name of our compassionate Lord. We rejoice when other fellow sinners are baptized into Christ in the Triune name for the forgiveness of their sins. We rejoice when we are taught the good news that Jesus Christ died and rose for us all. We rejoice when we partake of our Lord’s body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus Christ is the great cure for the spiritual warfare and sinful disease of our world today.
Even though we face regular attacks from an ever-growing enemy, the hospital for sinners is open and ready for action! Anyone and everyone is welcome. But how can they come in if they have not heard the invitation? Who was the last person you invited to church? While pastors are trained and called to baptize and teach, all Christians can and should reach out in love to the lost. You’re not here to help me do the work of the Church; I’m here to help YOU do the work of the Church: “Therefore…let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25).
I know what you might be thinking. “Well, this Great Commission stuff is for someone else and not for me. I’ll just ignore this and wait for the next hymn.” That, my friends, is a bad idea. MASH units were a good idea; “10 Cent Beer Night”, now THAT was a bad idea. On June 4, 1974 the Cleveland Indians hosted the Texas Rangers at which fans could pay 50₵ for a ticket and 10₵ for a 12 oz. Stroh’s on tap. $5 would get you a ticket and enough for 45 beers! Sounds like a good idea, right? It wasn’t. Over 25,000 fans showed up – double the normal attendance. Fans shed their clothes and raced around the field naked, many jumped onto the field, and eventually a Rangers player had his hat taken by a drunken fan. Legendary manager Billy Martin, then manager of the Rangers shouted to his players to grab bats and “get them, boys!” The ensuing riot resulted in 9 arrests, countless injuries, all 3 bases were literally stolen, and the Indians had to forfeit the game. But did they learn? Nah. Cleveland brought back “10 cent beer night” a month later which attracted more than 41,000 fans. Ignoring the clearly obvious is a bad idea; ignoring the Great Commission not a wise thing to do…for the eternal sake and safety of others.
Learning to love begins at the cross, where we see Christ our Lord, who gave himself completely for us. We daily ask the Lord to show us needy neighbors around us who need both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. These may be people who are going through a major life changes such as a recent marriage or divorce, the birth of a child, a job change or loss, serious illness and/or addiction, or loss of a loved one. These people are in need of spiritual support, care, love and healing. As a church we have been mobilized to make disciples! A MASH unit didn’t ignore the wounded. Why would we? Strengthened by our Lord’s promise that the Almighty God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is with us, since we have been baptized and taught in his name, we bring healing, show our love, and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel in the name of the Triune God in all that we do and Amen.