The Great Commission during lockdown

I was never great at rhythm. Beating out in time comes naturally to some folks but not to me. Yet some of your comments on Matt 18:16-20 provoked me to appreciate that I need to get some rhythm in my life, as I am sure we all do.

There is a flow of movement in these verses that is easy to overlook – I know I did! It is a rhythm of “coming and going.”

Coming and going

Movement one in verses 16 and 17 speak to Jesus’ invitation to come and meet him in the Galilean hills. They do, and fall in perplexed worship at his feet.

Movement two calls them to go, out into the nations of the world with the message of the gospel, teaching and baptising.

Coming and going is a rhythm of discipleship. I suspect we all have our tendencies towards coming, or going, to a life of knowing Jesus or making him known. Perhaps we have become stuck in one of these, perhaps we feel the internal tension as we are pulled in two directions, to action or contemplation.

Henri Nouwen reminds us of how essential it is to honour and nurture  both this activist and contemplator within (he uses the terms “mystic” and “revolutionary”!)

“Mysticism and revolution are two aspects of the same attempt to bring about radical change. No mystic can prevent himself from becoming a social critic since in self reflection he will discover the roots of a sick society. Similarly no revolutionary can avoid facing his own human condition.

He goes on to say that Jesus’ ”appearance in our midst has made it undeniably clear that changing the human heart and changing human society are not two separate tasks but are as interconnected as the two beams of the cross” (The Wounded Healer p20).


Catching this rhythm of “engagement and retreat” as Ruth Haley Barton  (Strengthening The Soul of your Leadership) describes it is not easy. Perhaps this strange situation offers an opportunity to reconsider and recalibrate our lifestyles so that we may live richer lives in God and with one another in a way that is more sustainable for our souls, society and planet.

So this week may “the LORD watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” Psalm 121:8.