The Great Commission

Good morning, Friends! Thank you all for coming today.

Ever since Easter, we’ve been looking at what people did, how people felt, and what it all meant to them. There was a lot of confusion. Some people believed that Jesus was alive again. Other people doubted. Some people were afraid, because they’d never seen anything like this before. Others were probably afraid, because they thought they might get in trouble and be killed, too.

People remembered different things in the days after Easter. Even though they all say the same basic thing – that Jesus was alive again – when it came time to write them down, they all remembered different details. So, we’ve been reading all the different stories. Trying to figure things out for ourselves.

The other big question, both then and now, is, “What are we supposed to do next?”

OK, we read the Easter story. We sang the Easter songs. We put the flowers on the Flowering Cross. We took Easter lilies to the shut-ins. What now? What next?
This morning’s scripture gives us at least part of the answer.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20

If you grew up having to memorize Bible verses, you probably remember learning the Golden Rule – “In everything, do unto others as you would have others do unto you. . .” (Matthew 7:12)

You probably learned the Two Great Commandments. The first one is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. . .” The second one is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Or you might remember what Jesus said in the gospel of John: “A new commandment I give you, that you should love one another, just as I have loved you. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. . .” (John 13:34-35)

So, you’ve got the Golden Rule, the Two Great Commandments, and the New Commandment. Those should be enough to keep us all busy! But there are more things that Jesus said.

When Jesus first sent his disciples out, he told them, “Wherever you go, proclaim the good news! Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out spirits. . .whatever house you enter, share you peace with everyone there. . .” (Matthew 10:7-13)

Jesus told us to do lots of things – forgive each other. Let your light shine. Get rid of whatever causes you to sin. Don’t swear, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile. Give to the poor. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t judge. Be humble. The list goes on and on. We study all these things throughout the year. They’re a new way of life that Jesus taught.

But today, in the light of Easter, Jesus gives us a fresh commandment. It’s often called the Great Commission.

“Go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. . .”

The Great Commission is a huge challenge to all of us. It’s not enough for us just to try to be good people. Jesus wants us to be infectious. He wants us to make new disciples, just the way he did, himself.

Jesus wasn’t specific. He didn’t give them any funding. He didn’t give them a 6-point plan of discipleship. He just said, “Teach them everything I taught you. . .” He even said, in one of the other gospels, “If you forget anything, I’ll help you remember. The Holy Spirit will remind you of everything I said.” (John 14:26)

We might think that these were Jesus’ instructions to his original disciples. Maybe they were special people. Maybe these instructions don’t apply to us today.

But I don’t really think Jesus leaves us that kind of wiggle room. Now that it’s our generation, it’s our turn to do what Jesus said.

“Go and make disciples. . .” It’s our job now.

“Baptize people. . .” I know — Quakers don’t do water baptism. But what Jesus and John and Paul and all those others did say, was that people need to turn their lives around.

“Turn around, you’re going the wrong way! You’re heading down the road, and the bridge is out. Turn back, while you’ve still got a chance. . .”

That’s really the inner meaning, behind baptism. What matters is changing our lives, turning back, choosing a better way.

And then, “Teach them everything I have commanded you. . .”

Making disciples, turning around, and teaching what Jesus taught are the new job Jesus gives us to do.

Here in our meeting, a lot of people have done their best to live out the Great Commission. Some of us have gone far and wide. Others have found plenty to do, right close here to home.

I know some of you think that I talk too much about history. Well, I want you to be proud of your church. I want you to feel amazed and impressed about the amazing people who have worked and worshiped here for the past 250 years.

But I don’t want you to worship the past. I want you to feel that you can do great things, too. You can do great things, and you can do humble things. You can do amazing things, in Jesus’ name.

Almost the very first thing the people who came to Springfield did, was they started to worship, and they started a school. For 150 years, there was a school, right here at Springfield.

There were no public schools back then. So the families got together, everybody contributed, and they hired a teacher. The school met during the winter months, when kids could be spared from work on the farm.

That wasn’t enough. So we started a Sunday School, the first one in the whole state. Sunday School back then wasn’t just for coloring pictures. It was a basic literacy program for poor kids whose families couldn’t afford a teacher.

It met on Sunday, for two hours in the morning, and two hours in the afternoon. The meeting paid for the books and supplies. People from the meeting went out and combed the neighborhood, for miles around. Some kids walked for two hours, on foot, leaving home before dawn, to get here to Sunday School. Because it was their only chance for an education.

Many, many members of Springfield served as teachers. Old people, and people in their teens, came and taught. We started satellite schools in Archdale and Oak Hill and Trinity.

Martha Jay, the wife of Allen Jay, taught school every Sunday afternoon over in Trinity, to former slaves and children of former slaves.

When Joash Reynolds, one of the most beloved teachers at Springfield, became disabled and couldn’t walk, young men of the meeting went to his house down the street and carried him here every week, so he could teach.

Hundreds of people from Springfield have been teachers or supporters of education.

Isaac Clarkson Blair, a member of Springfield, served for many years as the head teacher at the State School for the Blind. Every year, he took the train out to the western part of the state, and personally accompanied blind children to bring them safely to school.

We helped to start a college. We helped to start a summer camp. Right here at our meeting, we ran a training program for eight years, to raise up a whole new generation of teachers after the Civil War.

My point is, all these people from here in our own meeting were living out the Great Commission.

During the Depression, hundreds of families got together, to build the Rock Gym. They had no money. But they brought stones from home. They built a gym which still stands today.

For a number of years, we ran an after school program. Some of you who are here today came here, because of it.

Many people here at Springfield went to the Allen Jay School, and some of you worked there. The Great Commission.

We started an orphanage. We started at least six new meetings. One of our members started the first bookmobile to serve rural areas that had no libraries. Another member ran a special program, just for home makers, and traveled all over the state, to teach about nutrition and canning and health.

A member of Springfield, Charles Tomlinson, was the chairman of the High Point School Board for many years, and oversaw the construction of High Point Central High School. He wanted it to be the best and most modern high school in the state.

Another member, John Jay Blair, for many years was in charge of the design of all new public schools in the state.

Other members helped to build the first high school in the state for African-American students, the Penn-Griffin School.

Springfield has also sent out missionaries. Nancy Lee spent 40 years teaching at a school for girls in northern Mexico. That school is still in existence today, and has been re-named after her.

Anna Jones was a missionary. She taught for a while at the State School for the Blind, and at a school for Cherokee students way out beyond Asheville. That wasn’t enough, so she went out as of the pioneer Quaker missionaries in East Africa. She died and is buried in Kenya.

A few of you remember Laura Davis, who was a missionary to Palestine, and taught for seven years at the Friends Girls School at Ramallah. In many ways, Laura Davis was the best kind of missionary, because when she came home, she taught people here about the people and culture she met.

Some people stayed right close to Springfield. Others went far and wide.

We sent teachers to Oklahoma to work at schools for Native Americans who were deported along the Trail of Tears. We’ve had many people from Springfield who dedicated their careers to healing, as doctors and nurses and health professionals.

The need is different in every generation. Members of our meeting worked on the Underground Railroad. Other members started local chapters of the YMCA and the YWCA to serve the community.

We go on mission trips. We join 12-step programs. For years, we sent hundreds of shoeboxes. Over across the street, we still send hundreds of kits of basic health supplies to hurricane victims, migrant workers, and people in need.

We helped to start COAT. Many of us bring boxes and bags of food for COAT every month. There are so many ways to live out the Great Commission of Jesus.

“Go make disciples. . .turn lives around. . .teach what I taught you. . .”

What do we do after Easter? What happens next?

There’s a whole world for us to explore and serve, in Jesus’ name.

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