MATTHEW 28:16-20

This final passage of MT  doesn't sit well with what's gone before. Writing at a time of clashing worlds & understandings, MT paints a Jesus in full imperialist flight. Arming his followers with a formulating of belief which becomes a control mechanism. All too soon 'The Trinity' becomes a measuring rod for 'orthodoxy'. A weapon for excluding others from God's Rule as administered by humans, in contrast with the teaching of the anything-but-orthodox Jesus of earlier chapters who's prepared to include people of many shades of belief. This passage has to reflect a later, more organized & control-minded-if-not-yet- fixated church than Jesus ever envisaged. (Some even dare wonder if he ever envisaged a church - as we know it - at all.) In these verses we're now firmly on early church ground rather than Jesus ground. Are some of us still on that ground in our attitudes? How do we measure up on the control / exclusion front? How many of us actually believe in God more as Infinity rather than just Trinity.

Has moving so far from the 'original Jesus' & the Judaism he springs from with its emphasis more on Wisdom & less on Dogma been a good thing? Except for congregations of more extreme or literalist views, most people in the margins outside the pews & a good many inside them aren't too 'fashed', as the Scots put it, with religious orthodoxy. Out & about in their margins more & more people are opting for more & more folk wisdom. Maybe they feel closer to Jesus there?

The way MT expresses Jesus' view of mission sits uncomfortably beside the Lucan view in both LK & ACTS, not to mention the way all the Gospels show Jesus himself setting about mission. It's not just a matter of paying your money & taking your pick of the Jesuses on offer. It's about us choosing our Jesus very carefully indeed; making sure we commit to the real One!

The meeting in Galilee (somehow the regulation mountain's crept into the scenario) sounds a bit like the average congregation: some worship, but some doubt. Perhaps this is a good launching point for a sermon encouraging accepting people at different stages along the Way. Even celebrating that there are honest doubters in our midst. If they've not already been squeezed out into the margins.

History shows that when those who say they want 'freedom' come to power, others had pretty soon better run for cover! Those who want their own freedom usually start closing down others' options pretty soon. How many countries can we think of where that's happened over the years? In our own, too? The church has a bad track record of that kind of thing, including encouraging if not forcing governments to toe & promulgate their line. How can we work through issues of orthodoxy & authority, local or centralised, in a resurrection frame of mind? Raised & out in the open, emerging triumphant over what's been deadening us (even if that's after a bit of crucifying)?

If Jesus were somehow to hold a de-briefing (that overworked word!) on "Go....Make....Baptise ....Teach........", what success could we report? Am I just paranoid about this, or do 'Authority, obey,command' come on too strong to be the real Jesus speaking? It all seems far removed from the Lowly Servant. The only thing Jesus ever seemed to command is love. And more love. Love takes authority & obedience seriously, but isn't fixated on them. To me, MT's so called last words of Jesus  make, "Lo, I am with you always... " sound much more a threat than a promise.

How does the post-Resurrection Jesus Christ MT (or, more likely, whoever edited his work) portrays here stack up against MT's own & others' version of the 'real Jesus'? Not too well, I reckon! The Jesus MT shows us here on the other side of death isn't recognizably the same One who goes to his grave in utter humility & servant-hood, or even the One who appears to his friends. it's amazing what can happen to Jesus when the church gets its hands on him!!! Now there's an Agatha Christie  for us! When all is revealed, the culprit is.........! Whoever took control of the MT material & bent Jesus to a changed shape for a church already well on the way to losing Jesus' plot? While not wanting to dismiss helpful aspects of the truth of God as 'Trinity', I do want to ask questions like "What happened to Mother, or other discerned glimpses of  God along the way?") I do wonder if it's not God's time to let God's Spirit help us bend God's Jesus back into God's shape. Infinity!

The very last words of the passage make me ask from my less orthodox margins that we become as diligent as the real Jesus in taking the mickey out of those who trade on authoritarianism, & do it on a daily basis to the end of that age he has in mind.