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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Date: 05/22/2005
Feast: Trinity
Church: LHPC
Bible text: Matt. 28:16-20
Theme: Great Commission

YOU – Get out there 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 Jesus has commanded you. And remember, Jesus is with you always, to the end of the age.

You have the power. You probably doubt you have the power. But you still have it.
You have the orders. You doubt you want the orders. You doubt you’re able to carry out the orders. But you still have them.
You have the companionship, the friendship, the everlasting presence of Jesus Christ. But you doubt. You doubt Jesus would want to follow you into all the situations you have to enter. You think you have to do whatever it is all on your own. You doubt the companionship, doubt the friendship, doubt the everlasting presence. But you still have them.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

The Bible is so deliciously honest. In the context of church on a Sunday morning, doubt is so distasteful. We’re not supposed to doubt. We think of doubting as sin. Especially during worship on Sunday morning. Can’t we just believe for one hour? Can’t we spit out our doubt, like a piece of bubble gum, into the shrubs by the door, before we walk in the building?

But here, the Bible gives us something real to chew on. Something honest that connects us to even the eleven saintly apostles hand-picked by Jesus. They got the Great Commission. Some of them doubted. When they saw him, some of them doubted. When they worshiped, some of them doubted. Did they doubt his power? Did they doubt his orders? Did they doubt his everlasting friendship? Maybe. Maybe all three. They were trying to swallow this commandment to “Go, do!”, but their doubt gave them spiritual indigestion.

How does Matthew know some doubted? Could he see it on their faces? Did they tell him afterward? Did their actions show they still weren’t really sure about this Easter version 2.0 of Christ? Don’t know. The fact remains: they doubted. They doubted, and still, they saw Jesus. They doubted, and still Jesus gave them his power, his order, his companionship. Did he abandon his doubting disciples? Not on his life.

So when we doubt… When we wonder how these things can all be true... When we don’t get it… Does this mean Jesus is going to abandon us? Not on your life.

You can doubt the companionship, doubt the friendship, doubt the everlasting presence. But you still have them. And you will have them. Until the end of the age.

And because you have them, you’re supposed to do something with them, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, go! do something with your doubt. Do something along with your doubt. Why? Because Jesus does something with you – you with your doubt, you with your belief, you with your strengths and your weaknesses. You have the power. You have the orders. You have the friendship. Sure, you may have doubts. But the Bible says, in the context of Jesus’ Great Commission, your doubts really aren’t that big of a deal.


There’s an old American folk hymn in our Presbyterian Hymnal. Hymn #80, “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley.” They’ve cleaned it up a little for publication. The version the mountain folks sing is more lonesome. I know this because I grew up in West Virginia listening to Billy Ed Wheeler sing it on a 33 and 1/3 LP record. (Any of you remember Billy Ed Wheeler? See how lonesome he was?)

You’ve got to walk that lonesome valley.
You’ve got to walk it by yourself.
Oh, nobody else can walk it for you.
You’ve got to walk it by yourself.

You, you, you, you. In the Presbyterian Hymnal, they’ve re-written it so it goes, “We’ve got to walk that lonesome valley.” Makes no sense. If we’re walking it together, it’s not that lonesome. Changing the you to a we changes the entire meaning of the hymn, or at least that verse.

Doubt separates us. Doubt separates us from Jesus. Doubt is what kept the disciples from worshiping him in fullness. Even seeing him, even hearing his Great Commission after his resurrection, they still can’t quite make the leap of faith from earth to this heavenly, doubtless confidence.

Doubt separates US from Jesus. It separates us from each other, too. Doubt is the power to make us lonely. When we doubt ourselves, we think nobody else has ever felt this way. Nobody else can understand. You’ve got to walk that lonesome valley of doubt by yourself. Or at least that’s the way you feel.

In so many words, Jesus told his disciples, YOU’VE got the power. YOU’VE got the orders. YOU’VE got my everlasting presence. And some doubted. I wonder if the ones who doubted heard his words the wrong way. And I wonder when we doubt if we’re not hearing Jesus the wrong way.

When Jesus spoke these words, he said, “you.” You go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. You baptize them. You teach them. You remember I’m with you. A doubter would say, “Oh, not me. I can’t do that.” And you know what? You’d be right. You can’t.

Something we miss as we breeze through the rich banquet of scripture is the you in Jesus’ command isn’t an individual message. If you hear the scripture and think he’s talking to you, you’re reading it the wrong way. Because in this instance, this is the Southern Jesus we hear talking. He’s not saying, “You,” – singular – he’s saying, “Y’all,” – plural, in the good-old Southern sense of the word. In fact, the way we use the word, he’s not just saying, “Y’all,” as in this one group; he’s using the real plural tense of the word: “All y’all.” All y’all who hear these words – all y’all go, therefore. All y’all make disciples. All y’all baptize and teach and remember.

He’s saying that all y’all together have the power, the orders, the presence. So even though some of y’all have doubts, when we’re all together, a few doubts here and there don’t add up to a hill of beans. Maybe you have to walk that lonesome valley of doubt, but if we’re walking it together, the valley is transformed. It isn’t so lonesome. If we’re working together, the faith we have makes our doubts wither away. Sure, we may still have them in our private moments, but our private moments aren’t what we’re about. Our public faith, our unified ministry, our time together is where we find life. If we want to find Jesus, we have to become less about you, less about me, and more about being y’all, about being all y’all in faith and in trust.


This Great Commission of Christ is the one ultimate place in the Bible where Father, Son and Holy Spirit all come together in word and in purpose. The Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a tough doctrine. How God can be three in one and one in three is mystifying. It shows how paltry our ability to comprehend God is, and how feeble our words to describe God are.

But the symbol of the Trinity shows how God – in all of God’s parts and persons – God is One. God singular is God plural coming together. Just as we become the people of God when we stop being you and me, and start being all y’all, God is God when Father, Son and Holy Spirit are taken as one. The Trinity is a model for us, to teach us that God’s strength and truth are only found when we stop being separate and lonesome you’s and me’s.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain[top] to which Jesus had directed them.

And there they worshiped. And there they saw Jesus.

As a church, as a body of faith, we get to climb to some pretty awesome mountaintops together. We get to celebrate beautiful times of worship. We get to hear heavenly music (thank you very much, all the choirs). We get to share the joys of baptisms, and weddings, and youth retreats, and congregational dinners. The joy we might otherwise hold individually, gets multiplied and grows by the number of people sharing it.

And, as a church, as a body of faith, we can look down on the valleys. We can wrestle with our doubts. We can cry together. (And if you’re not allowed to cry in church, shame on the church.) But because we’re a church, because we walk those valleys together, they aren’t so lonesome. They don’t have to separate us. In the unity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, just as the disciples were, you and I – the church – we’re turned into a grand “All y’all” of hope. In the unity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we can “Go, therefore,” and share the power, and accept the orders, and receive the friendship Jesus commissions us to have and to give. And if some of us doubt, that’s OK. Someone else in the group can take up the slack.