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Becoming Fully Human as Disciples of Jesus (Trinity Sunday)

June 13, 2014

Psalm 8, Matthew 28:16-20

What does it mean to be human? … That is the topic of todays sermon. In the Psalm we see it in the words of the old translation ‘what is man that you are mindful of him?’

But notice how different it is if you put the question that way! It is not an abstract question about human nature, which I might imagine some philosophy of human life. It is the question of one who wonders at the mystery of the universe itself… And in that wonder addresses God as the source of all that is… This is not some ancient farmer calling on a local deity to protect him. This is someone who begins to consider God as creator of all. And in that context calls out to God in delight and wonder… wonder at the greatness of God and an intense awareness of the smallness of human life. Why does the creator of the universe have the slightest interest in human life?

And when the question is put that way… suddenly the question of what it means to be human becomes a question of responsibility. Humanity is responsible. Responsible to God the creator of all. Responsible for all that is less complex, less powerful than it. To ask the question that way, is to find ourselves at the intersection between God and the created world… conscious… but conscious in a very specific way… conscious of responsibility.

But notice the poet here is even more specific about God’s interest in humanity. God is interested in humanity as a location of danger in the scheme of things. Humanity is endangered by violence. The enemy and the avenger threaten God’s creation. God seeks to provide for creation in the light of this danger So in verse 2 we read

Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark (a defence, a strong place) because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger

It’s hard not to see an anticipation of the Christian gospel in this Psalm. God speaks here, from the mouths of the weakest of humanity. God chooses, not the warrior, but the little ones (babes and infants). It’s not clear in this brief and mysterious sentence, how the voice of the babes and infant silence the enemy and the avenger. But it is clear that the psalmist in his enthusiasm for the greatness of God is not worried about the usual so-called ‘realistic’ solutions to military and political problems.

And yet, having said that, the last thing the psalmist is doing is avoiding responsibility. To be human in the presence of God the creator is to be accountable to God for the welfare of the creation in which we live. The psalm calls it ‘dominion’ and if you listened to any of Selwyn Yeoman’s sermon’s over the last few years you’ll know that that doesn’t mean domination of the world. It doesn’t mean doing what we want with other creatures. It means care or stewardship, in the name of God who delights in all of creation – the language, the way the psalmist summarises the description of the created world is very similar to Genesis 1.

It’s an anticipation of the Gospel… Human beings matter so much in God’s purposes that God became flesh among the little folk of Israel… gathered a group of little ones to train in the Way of peace and reconciliation. To put it another way… human beings mattered so much to God that God took responsibility for their responsibility (which doesn’t mean that they no longer had responsibility… but that God enabled that responsibility after it had been disabled and bound up in sin). This is the mystery of the Gospel… God became human that we might be human also and thus participate in the life of God.

We live as shadows of our true humanity… And so Jesus lived a fully human life, gathered the least of the world around him as disciples and called them to ‘make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’ (according to our Gospel reading for today)

‘Making Disciples’: What does that mean?

I guess many of us grew up with a kind of idea about what it means for Christians to make disciples… this business that Jesus left in the hands of his disciples… We used to call it the Great Commission, often meaning that the mission of the church was to get people to join something… perhaps it was to join the number of the ‘saved’ through making some kind of decision… for others perhaps it was getting people to join the church, perhaps because it was thought to be a great way of improving society… or for whatever reason… My point is though, that Jesus doesn’t talk about joining something. Jesus talks about a process of learning and following. A disciple is a learner or a follower. The mission of the church is that the whole world (‘all nations’) learn the way of Jesus Christ.


And what we learn is the way of Jesus… because the name, Jesus, is now part of the name of God. God has moved into the human world. God is, in this complex way, moving out towards creation, towards humanity as a human person, that humanity might, with our own proper responsibility, move more fully into the life of God… and so all creation will flourish as it is intended to (as the writer of Psalm 8 imagined).


“teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you”…We are people under authority. The first thing about Christians is that they are followers of Jesus. If Jesus says to abandon the sword, we abandon the sword. If Jesus says to give our wealth to the poor, we give it to the poor. If Jesus says we are to love our enemies, we love them. We mightn’t know exactly how to do that in all situations, but we take that ‘how question’ with utmost seriousness.


“and remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”

And in doing so we are not alone. We live with Jesus … and in the wake of Jesus… We live in the age between the ages.

And while doing so we call God, Trinity – Father, Son, Spirit. And we do so because Jesus is also God’s name. Jesus is not just ‘a human being’ the divine human being, God coming towards us, gathering us in the Spirit.

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