Sunday, 31 August 2014

Can't make it to church - August 31

Today's Gospel reading takes us to a place we often talk about and yet rarely, like Peter, really want to go. Jesus is talking about His death and, as is often the case, the minute we start looking at the cost, we being to look elsewhere. Rather than look at the cost we merely focus on the benefits and claiming the benefits look to our rights whilst glancing anywhere other than at our responsibilities; and Jesus points to the fact that we really do live in a world where unless there is pain there is definitely no (eternal) gain!

Now this doesn't mean that being a Christian is something whereby pain is volunteered for, but when the need is before us, neither do we run away. When battle is engaged, we are resolute in our faith and the defence of it. Jesus sums it up rather nicely (but He would, wouldn't He?) when He says:
‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

I recently met someone who was under the impression that they were 'God's gift to the Church' because they 'did stuff' and yet, although they did indeed 'do stuff' they were working on a human level and when it came to things of a spiritual nature had about as much understanding as the rubber ducks that grace my bookshelves (don't ask me why they're there - they were something people bought me a few years back) and that's a big problem with Church:

People are under the impression that 'doing = good Christian' and whilst we find (in the book of James - chapter two) the following cautionary words:

"What good is saying you have faith if it's not seen in your actions - do you think anyone is saved by it? You see someone with no food or clothing and say, 'Go well, be blessed,' but don't feed or clothe them. What use if your faith? The answer is, "None at all," because faith, without good works, it is impotent, dead and useless.

Some say, "You have faith and I have works." My response to that is: "But if you don't do good stuff how can you show your faith - I have faith and from this comes good stuff. Some say I believe in one God, which is great, but so too do the demons!" 

Faith and works are one and the same - they are inseparable; for from one comes the other and together we demonstrate the reality of our Christian belief. Then comes the coup de main as Jesus tells us:

"If you want to be a follower then you need to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me - Those who wish to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what profit is there if you gain EVERYTHING but lose your life? 

And this brings us rather conveniently back to the Gospel passage where the same words are to be found with the challenge it puts before us to put aside the things we want to do to please ourselves and to be willing to pay the price (as Jesus did on the cross) and follow Him (Jesus) on the path that may cost us everything in this life. Human things or divine things - It's our choice - nothing is forced upon us - and we are free to choose (I just wish sin was less attractive, don't you?).

The Collect for today is a great blessing:

God of glory, the end of our searching, help us to lay aside all that prevents us from seeking your kingdom, and to give all that we have to gain the pearl beyond all price, through our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Father God, come to us today and aid us in our daily life.
May we give without counting the cost,
Receive without feeling the shame of need,
Love without demanding reward
And bless because our faith demands that we act.
Be with us, heal, strengthen and bless us as we seek to take up our cross and follow Jesus, the Christ.

Matthew 16.21-28
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’

Exodus 3.1-15
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’

But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name for ever, and this my title for all generations.

Psalm 105.1-6,23-26,45b
O give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises, and tell of all his marvellous works. Rejoice in the praise of his holy name; let the hearts of them rejoice who seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face continually. Remember the marvels he has done, his wonders and the judgements of his mouth, O seed of Abraham his servant, O children of Jacob his chosen.

Then Israel came into Egypt; Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And the Lord made his people exceedingly fruitful; he made them too many for their adversaries, whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people and dealt craftily with his servants. Then sent he Moses his servant and Aaron whom he had chosen. That they might keep his statutes and faithfully observe his laws. Alleluia.

Romans 12.9-21
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Post Communion
Lord of all mercy,
we your faithful people have celebrated that one true sacrifice which takes away our sins and brings pardon and peace: by our communion keep us firm on the foundation of the gospel and preserve us from all sin; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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