In the Gospel of Matthew there are two occasions when Jesus’ disciples started over in their understanding of what it meant to be his followers. The first occasion of starting over occurs in the 16th chapter of Matthew when Jesus changed the invitation to follow him that is found in the fourth chapter of Matthew, the invitation Jesus offered by the Sea of Galilee when he said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people”

This first instance of the disciples starting over in their understanding of what it means to follow Jesus is found in the 16th chapter of Matthew at Caesarea Philippi, a place of pagan worship where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” After hearing different answers to this question, Jesus reframes his question by asking, “Who do you say that I am?” With divine inspiration, Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Following this affirmation of faith by Peter, Jesus reframes his invitation to discipleship by inviting his disciples to start over in the path of discipleship as he states “If any would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

The second instance of starting over in the path of discipleship is found in today’s scripture reading from the 28th chapter of the gospel of Matthew as the disciples stand on the resurrected side of the cross following Jesus’ crucifixion. A journey of discipleship that started out as a pleasant walk by the seashore of Galilee and that had turned deadly on Calvary has guided the disciples back to Galilee where they first begun the journey of following Jesus. Standing on the living side of the cross, the resurrected Jesus tells the disciples they must start over in their understanding of what it means to be his followers as the resurrected Savior and Lord states, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, 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 that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

There are two things that make Jesus’ call to discipleship unique in these closing words of this closing chapter of Matthew. First is a change in the focus of discipleship from “Follow me” to “Go therefore.” The second is how Jesus’ call to discipleship starts over with these words from the resurrected Jesus, “Go therefore 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 observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. ”

What makes this command of discipleship unique from following as disciples of Jesus to making disciples of Jesus” is the inclusion of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity that took almost 300 years to develop following Jesus’ invitation for his disciples to follow him. It is the inclusion of this doctrine of God’s identity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that defines the Christian faith as God’s opportunity to start over again as disciples of Jesus go and make disciples of all nations. It is through the doctrine of the Trinity that the Christian faith offers the opportunity to start over again as we remember that the risen Jesus is with us always.

Today is Trinity Sunday. It is the day that followers of Jesus proclaim that we are never alone because God is never alone as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Today, and every day, we remember that Jesus is with us as the substance of God defines the substance of our lives as we are created in the image of God and start the journey of our lives time and again through our faith in the God who creates, redeems, and sustains us.

Today, we recite the Nicean Creed that originated from the Council of Nicea 1,699 years ago – a mortal statement of faith about the God of eternity. A mystery of faith in God that is impossible to state as witnessed to by a pastor who writes about her first Children’s Message she delivered as a seminary student, nearly 30 years ago. She sat down on the chancel steps on Trinity Sunday, certain that she had the perfect object lesson. She tells of coming forward holding a banana and asking the kids how many bananas she had, to which they all answered “one.” So she proceeds to separate the banana into three equal parts, and asks the kids if she is still holding one banana. Some said yes, and some said no. Then she explains that it is still one banana, just in three equal parts. She writes: I launched into explaining that all three parts were equal and had the same amount of “banananess” as the one banana had before I separated it. Little heads nodded. I gave them all a piece of the banana to eat…and as they ate their banana pieces, I asked the fatal question: Tomorrow morning when you have bananas on your cornflakes, what are you going to think about? One, angelic little blondhaired, blue-eyed, dimpled innocent three-year-old said, “God is bananas!”

Maybe this three-year-old was right. Maybe God is bananas or maybe we just feel like we are going bananas when we try to describe God through the doctrine of the Trinity.
Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor writes, when speaking of the Trinity: Who are all these people? How can God the Father be his own son? And if Jesus is God, then whom is he talking to? And where does the Holy Spirit come in? Is that the spirit of God, the spirit of Jesus, or someone else altogether? If they are all one, then why do they come and go at different times, and how can one of them send another of them? There are orthodox answers to all of these questions but I have never entirely understood any of them. I accept them as earnest human efforts to describe something that cannot ever be described, which is the nature of God. We would probably be better off if we left that whole subject alone, but if you have ever lain on your back looking up at a summer night’s sky full of stars then you know how hard that is to do.

I will confess that sometimes I feel like I am going bananas when I try to define the Doctrine of the Trinity. I also will confess that sometimes I feel like I am going bananas with life in general. It is in these times that I remember the lessons that the first disciples learned:

Lesson #1 – Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not a static experience. It means that you must be willing to start over time and time again as you live with faith in the promise that the risen Jesus is with you always at all times.

Lesson #2 – To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, you must believe that God can make all things new even when life goes bananas.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Starting Over

by Pastor Marc Brown
May 26, 2024

Accompanying Scriptures: Matthew 28:16-20

Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for May 26, 2024

Scripture Lesson      Matthew 28:16-20

The Good News      “Starting Over”

Music                          “Glorify Thy Name” by Donna Atkins



Closing Music      “Sing Praise to God” by Bob Burroughs

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