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Sermon 6/7/2020

Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

It’s so true.

And so frustrating!

Clearly, there are times in life where we see what another creature needs to thrive in life and we don’t always have total control over making it happen.

Anyone who has ever had to sneak medicine into a pet’s treats knows this.

Anyone who has ever had to bargain with a kid to drink water knows this.

Anyone who has ever seen a person stuck in cycles of addiction knows this.

Anyone who has ever seen blatant hate and racism exhibited knows this.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

That doesn’t mean you don’t still try to lead it to the water.

It doesn’t mean you don’t still try again and again to get the dog to eat their medicine or get the kid to drink their water .

It doesn’t mean you don’t still love the person struggling with an addiction.

It doesn’t mean you don’t still speak love and inclusion into the world.

Today’s Scripture feels like a pep talk, a rallying cry from Jesus.

  • This scene takes place after his torture, death, and resurrection. These are the last Scripture verses of the Gospel of Matthew.

  • The disciples - note 11, not 12, because Judas has already died - are needing inspiration and instructions on “what do we do now?!”

  • This scene is where Jesus tells them “this story isn’t over. It is only beginning! Go, make disciples, like how I discipled you. Take all the parables and teachings and spread this message of love and mercy and equality. And, remember, I’m with you - you won’t see me in person like you used to, but I’m with you. Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit - we are with you! Go get ‘em, guys!”

I don’t think this message stops with those 11 disciples. We know it doesn’t. We know it continues to this make disciples, to spread Jesus’ teachings, to remember God is with us.

Making disciples is hard. Sometimes it is hard work because you are trying to lead people to the water and they don’t want to drink. If you know anything about horses, particularly untrained ones, you know that if you pull on a harness, they pull back. And you immediately are in a tug o’ war with a creature who outweighs you. Good luck with that.

If we try just pulling people into following Jesus’ commands, we can’t be too surprised when they pull back. We have to journey alongside one another. And that is hard work.

  • It requires patience.

  • It requires compassion, humility, and love.

  • It requires listening...asking questions to better understand one another. Not asking questions so that you now have more information to combat with, but more questions so that you know where they’re coming from.

I look at how Jesus made disciples. It was by no means always easy. It seems that way on some accounts. Some accounts in the Scriptures simply say that Jesus said “come, follow me” and people put down what they were doing and started following him. And then we also read repeatedly in some accounts of Scripture that Jesus basically said to the disciples “really, I have to explain this to you AGAIN!?”

Regardless, Jesus knew that he would not spread God’s message of love far by himself. He knew that all the world needed to hear it and he knew working as a team would make it happen.

So, what are these commands that need disciples to be spread?

In reading the teachings of Jesus, in reading the books of the Bible which recorded Jesus’ life, those Scriptures are repeatedly about people -

about loving people, about loving the poor, the outcast, the unheard, the marginalized.

It is repeatedly about non-violent opposition to oppressive authorities.

It is about reaching beyond society’s imposed borders to let a woman at a well know that she is seen.

It is about listening to one another.

There’s a lot of hurt in our world today. Hurt that has been happening for centuries, such as domestic abuse and racist discrimination and hate-filled crimes. Right now, we feel so much of that, on top of navigating life during a pandemic.

It can be exhausting and discouraging when we feel we are trying, once again, to bring a loved one to the waters of justice and non-discrimination and equity. And, once again, they aren’t budging. It doesn’t mean we don’t try again with them or with another individual. It just means we can’t force it.

And so, right now, I encourage you to remember that Jesus is with us always. The Holy Spirit absolutely is connecting people and bringing people together - to stand for justice, to help provide for all, to truly see people who have been pushed to the margins.

The process isn’t perfect. Not everyone we have a conversation with will “see the light.” Who knows - in some cases, we may be the person who needs to “see the light.” And, yet, each small step taken toward spreading Jesus’ commands is a step in the right direction.

So, church, let’s keep moving. Moving toward justice. Moving toward equity. Moving toward spreading Jesus’ message. Moving toward love.

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