Thursday, June 18, 2015

Star Trek and the Great Commison: On the Feast of Daniel Nash

 Matthew 28:16-20

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyagers of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Most of you will recognize these words as the opening monologue of the popular television show Star Trek. I’m a fan of the show, maybe some of you are too. I’m a bit of a dreamer. It excites me to imagine a future exploring strange new worlds with alien life forms. I say that I’m a fan, but I couldn’t describe myself as a Trekkie. I have friends who are Trekkies and believe me there is a difference. I’ve seen the movies, but I don’t speak Klingon! 

Whether you are a fan of the show, a Trekkie, or unfamiliar with the show, I believe there is something we as Christians, have in common with the crew of the Starship enterprise. We are a people with a mission, called to step out into the unknown world, and plant the flag of the Christian faith in new territories. The crew of the Enterprise only had a five-year mission, but ours is a life-long mission. It is passed on from each generation to the next until that day when Christ shall come in glory.

Our gospel reading from Matthew 28 tells the story of “The Great Commission” in which Jesus commanded his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that he commanded.

Jesus’ disciples are to be people on the move. The Church is more than just a club or even a family, it is a movement. The Gospel shapes who we are and it brings comfort to us in our time of need, but it is also meant to overflow from our community into the surrounding community. It is meant to always be spreading. When the Church stops reaching out, when it becomes insular and narrowly focused on maintaining its own life, it ceases to be what our Lord intended it to be. It stops being something living and active, but becomes something dead and sterile. 

Like the Starship Enterprise, the Church is called to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” I love that phrase, “boldly go.” To go boldly means to be daring and adventurous. It means to go with courage and with great confidence. Where does our confidence come from? Is it confidence in our own skill or eloquence? Our own moral superiority? No, disciples are people who have put their confidence not in themselves but in Jesus their master. We trust that, just as he said, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. 

To believe that Jesus has full authority means, before anything else, to believe that he is alive. It means confessing the resurrection. We believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead and that he ascended to God’s right hand. 

Secondly, to believe Jesus has full authority means that we believe that everything Jesus said about himself is true. We believe that he is God’s own Son sent from heaven for our sake. We believe that he is the unique and consummate revelation of who God is, and that he is indeed the savior of the world. The Lord himself is God and we are his people and the sheep of his hand. 

Finally, to believe Jesus has full authority means believing that his teachings are true, good, and that we are bound to live our lives accordingly. Jesus is more than just a generous person, more than just a nice guy, more than just one great teacher among many. He is the wisest and most trustworthy teacher that ever lived. He is the unique embodiment of truth. Where our lives, or the world, is in conflict with what he taught, he is always right and we are always wrong. 

Trusting is Jesus’ absolute authority is essential for being his disciple. How can we commend him to others if we have not trusted in him ourselves? If you don’t think he is what the world needs the most, why not find some other mission to devote your life to? If we have become convinced, however, he invites us to join him in mission as his disciples. 

You might be thinking, “My faith isn’t all that unshakable. I want to follow Jesus, but I am still at times plagued by uncertainty.” Allow me to reassure you. Take another look at our text. It says, “They worshipped him, but some doubted.” Are you prepared to worship him? Are you prepared to bend the knee and submit your doubts to him, asking him to fortify you in your faith? That is all the trust we need. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." He is able to take our tiny and tentative faith and make it powerful and effective.

Being Jesus’ disciples means that we have a commitment to bring the Gospel to those who have not yet heard it. It means we have an adventurous and pioneering spirit, and that we are willing to set out in faith to new territories. There was a time when Cooperstown was a remote wilderness, and the northeast United States was the wild frontier. Our father Daniel Nash, in obedience to Christ’s command, ventured in faith to bring the Gospel to this place. We are all beneficiaries of his boldness. 

Another great missionary, David Livingston, said, “If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them, I want men who will come if there is no road.” Daniel Nash came where there was no road. He was a trailblazer boldly going where no man went before with the Gospel. 

Today, on his feast day, we are challenged with his example. Will we play it safe, only speaking of our faith with those who like us already believe it, or will we go where there is no road laid, and bring the Gospel to those who have not yet accepted it, who may even be resistant to hearing it? This is an intimidating prospect, but if we want to pass the faith unto a new generation, we need more than a maintenance mentality, we need to have Father Nash’s pioneering spirit. 

Finally, I believe this Gospel has a word for us as we head into a great time of transition and uncertainty in our life together. Where will we find the boldness and confidence to move forward? We must look to our Lord Jesus Christ. All authority has been given to him. He is ultimately the one in whose hands the future rests. We can do no better than to constantly remind ourselves and others of that great and glorious truth.

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