Trinity Sunday — June 4, 2023

Editor Teri McDowell Ott notes that the Great Commission calls us to go do — and to teach.

Year A
Matthew 28:16-20

I’m not sure how it fell to me to teach our 15-year-old son Isaac to drive — my husband Dan is the less anxious parent. But here I sit in the passenger seat – white-knuckling the door handle, imaginary braking with my foot – coaching Isaac how to park, check his mirror before getting in the left turn lane and avoid the mailboxes on the right side of the road. I try to be calm and confident for Isaac’s sake as we drive, but I am praying for Jesus to take the wheel.

Moments arise in life when we are called to teach — even when we’d rather not or don’t feel up to the task.

Jesus was a teacher. It was a distinctive mark of his ministry. In his final commission, Jesus turns to his disciples and charges them to take over this important work. I imagine the disciples saying, “Who, me?” in this moment because to accept the role of teacher assumes we have some expertise, some wisdom to share. But no one feels like an expert in the Christian faith (or at least they shouldn’t). Jesus isn’t joking, though. He hands the disciples the keys, telling them it’s time to take over, ready or not.

Mark DeVries and Trey Wince recently wrote for the Presbyterian Outlook about preparing young adults for leadership in the church. “Can I Have the Keys?” names our reluctance to give young people real responsibility and opportunities to learn by trying, and sometimes failing, in a community dedicated to fostering their potential.

“If the audacity of investing in a generation of leadership before they’re ready sounds familiar,” DeVries and Wince write, “we don’t have to look much further than the gospels. Without completing (much less passing) any required coursework, the 12 were sent out to do things they were wildly unqualified for. Remember how they were expected to do things like preach and cast out demons (Mark 3:14), all without passing the Bible content exam or completing a Hebrew or Greek exegetical paper?”

I wonder if our hesitancy to give young people real responsibility is tied to our own hesitancy to teach. Oftentimes it’s easier to just do something yourself than to pass on knowledge. Assuming the role of teacher uncomfortably exposes what we don’t know, the questions we can’t answer, the skills we don’t have. But Jesus’s call to discipleship rarely includes staying in our comfort zone.

Despite their inexperience, the fallible, newbie disciples share Jesus’ teachings with an ever-expanding audience from Israel to “all the nations.” Over time, and with experience, they developed their skills, learning as they taught.

Teaching is Jesus’ charge to all his disciples — from the birth of the church to today. The continuation of every church hangs on this essential part of the Christian call. Articulating what we know to others, thinking hard about what we can say and share about our Christian beliefs, inevitably leads us to grow in learning. That’s the best part of teaching — how much you learn as you go. That’s the grace of Christ, as well.

Jesus did not commission his disciples and then deploy them without resources. A Holy Trio (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) rides with us as we relinquish our control and the keys to the car, white-knuckle the door handle, and pray to Jesus to keep us safe. The very fact that teaching is a challenging, nerve-wracking, yet essential call turns us to our Savior for help and hope. “I am with you always, to the end of the age,” Jesus says as he sends the disciples into the world. We are to teach, for our own benefit as well as the future of Christ’s church.

Questions for reflection:

  1. What do you picture yourself doing as you read the Great Commission from Matthew? What thoughts and feelings arise as you imagine yourself responding to Jesus’ charge?
  2. Teachable moments arise constantly in life. When was the last time you felt called to teach, to share what you know? What happened? How did you respond?
  3. What keeps you from teaching? What hesitations do you have? How does your faith encourage you to hand over the car keys and help others learn to drive?

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