Therefore go ...


Icon of the Great Commission

Therefore go and disciple all nations …

It seems hard to believe that this will be the last time I preach in this chapel as a member of staff. It is therefore serendipitous that the text for the week is the Great Commission.

I have just returned from visiting my 40th country which sounds a lot until you realise it isn’t even a quarter of the total number of countries and territorities in the world. So I am still some way from going to ‘all nations’ or, in Methodist terms, to counting ‘the whole world as my parish’ … But I’m working on it!

Without doubt, these few verses of the Great Commission have energised countless generations of Christians to leave the relative comfort of their own lives and countries to endure extraordinary suffering in order to fulfil Jesus’ last words. How many of you have noticed the plaques opposite the entrance to the Handsworth Room, taking from the old Handsworth Methodist College? On it are the names of those who trained for the mission field and died, often within a few weeks or months of arriving. It is reckoned that over a third of those who trained at Handsworth went overseas to serve, many never returning. Hence the Cassowary on the coat of arms.

But I’m not here to glorify the missionary era – far from it. The more we find out about the colonial practices that missionaries, at best, turned a blind eye to, the more repentant we must be about that period in our history. But that history should not mean we reject the challenge of the Great Commission:

Therefore go and disciple all nations …

Surely Jesus wasn’t serious about ‘all nations’ or ‘to the ends of the earth’ stuff? Wasn’t it a bit of rhetorical hyperbole, like the stuff you hear in an election campaign – ‘strong and stable’ or whatever?