June 7th, 2020
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
Upper St. Croix Parish UMC
“God is with Us in Unexpected Times too.”
What are you passionate about? In other words, what is your primary prayer? It is perhaps, for your health to handle enough in your daily life? Or, maybe it is, for your family’s health if you have a family member who is in illness or has a weakness. Perhaps, it is for your children and grandchildren. Or, it is, possibly, for peace and justice throughout the world.
For some people, it is for overcoming stressful situations such as a job, daily food, shelter, addiction, disharmony, injustice, violence, and an oppressed system. Your prayers lead your future, your dreams, and everything. If you do not pray, there is no future for you. Furthermore, no prayers mean that you do not believe in God. Whatever you do pray, please remember that your prayers do come true someday. Your prayers are your passion for God. In other words, your prayers indicate how you believe in God.
When the disciples could not heal a boy with an evil spirit, Jesus says to his father, “everything is possible for him who believes.” After healing the boy, Jesus says to his disciples, “This kind can come out only by prayers” (Mark 9:14-29). For Christians, prayer is like a breath of life. As if we have to breathe every moment to sustain our physical life, we should pray to maintain our spiritual life. Remember please, we have the strong Supporter our Lord, who listens to our prayers. Jesus says, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14). What the grateful Supporter is! I know some of you could not get any answers from God yet. But your time is coming soon because our Lord is sincere for his promise.
Let us listen to the Scripture reading for today. It is a very famous so-called Jesus’ Great Commission. The eleven disciples are aware that Jesus resurrected. Of course, some still doubted. However, whether they believe or doubt, they went to Galilee. Galilee is their hometown and where they met Jesus first. Jesus told people that he wants to see his disciples in Galilee. It is the place Jesus called them first, saying, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). They then left their home and their workplace, followed by Jesus for about three years. They perhaps, expected something to get a dominant position or a better job than a fisherman. The more they have experience of miraculous events, their dreams may become more significant and higher. Their goal grew from rural town Galilee to a big city Jerusalem. When their dream stands on the top of tops in Jerusalem, they lost both their Master and their dreams. After Jesus died on the cross, they lost their way totally where they have to go. The event of the cross was that they never expected to happen.
However, Jesus came back to them with all authority as he promised them. He says to them, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This statement is a declaration of the ultimate victory of Christ. He might have the supremacy in everything (Colossians 1:18). Jesus, with all authority, says to his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”
In other words, we may understand that Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I have all authority. Therefore do not worry at all. Go confidently to make disciples of all nations. I will be with you always to the end of the age.’
Why did Jesus encourage his disciples with this strong promise? Think about the situations of the disciples. When Jesus called them, they left their home and their job. They dreamed of getting a better life than a fisherman. They did follow Jesus, whether they understood or not. However, unexpectedly Jesus died on the cross, and Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers threatened them. At the front of Jesus’ death, they ran away and left Jesus alone behind them. They returned to their hometown with failure. They are depressed, anxious, and shameful. However, Jesus came back to them again. And he says that do not worry. You may begin it again from here Galilee, where we met first.
We know that even though we do the right things, the wrong things happen in our lives. Also though we work hard and sincerely, sometimes bad result comes to us. Nevertheless, remember that God is there for us in our failure, and in unexpected times too. Please sense that God is with us in unexpected times, also, because Jesus promised us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus did not say, ‘I will remove all obstacles in your life. Or I will make you success always.’ Instead, he says, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” It means that whether we are in joy or concerns, he will be with us.
Sometimes, we face good things or bad things in the wilderness of life. However, as if God guided Israelite with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire in the wilderness, God will guide us in our lives. Is there an obstacle in your way? Please pray to God that you can pass over the obstacle. Are there any family members or beloved ones who suffer? Please pray to God that God guides them into God’s will.
You may know one of the Apostle Paul’s famous confession, “I can do everything through him [Jesus Christ] who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). This confession was from his lots of challenging experiences. He says, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want” (Philippians 4:11-12). He recognized that God is there for him, always in all circumstances. Therefore, he confesses that “I can do everything through him [Jesus Christ] who gives me strength.” I hope that his confession will be ours. May God meet all your needs according to God’s glorious riches in Jesus Christ! Do not take negative thoughts! I worry that your thoughts may negatively lead you. Even if you have lots of failures, you may start it again. God may give you a second chance.
In the Scripture reading for today, we find “to make disciples of all nations.” Jesus wants us to open doors to all nations and to go to the world from Galilee. Even if you start it again, you finally go to the world to make your dreams come true. Because Jesus has all authority, he gives his disciples the Great Commission in the name of Father, of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And Jesus’ saying, “I am with you always” means that the God of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will be with you. Therefore, by making disciples, baptizing, and teaching them, all things are for God’s glorious ministry, in the name of Jesus Christ, and by the Holy Spirit’s guidance. That Commission is not on our behalf but on behalf of Jesus Christ. As long as we do so, God is with us always.
God, the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will always help us with all authority to make all things happen. The risen Christ is building the church, using us as his agents of reconciliation. We are ambassadors for the church. Until all things are restored, recovered, and reconciled in all nations, our mission will be continued. Jesus is our peace, who has made both one and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us. Whatever your primary prayer is, through God’s answer, you may glorify God in the name of Jesus Christ. God may be there in your suffering to listen for your prayers. May all nations be full of God’s peace and justice through us!
Thanks be to God, Amen!