Good Morning! Welcome to this mornings CTS service. The message today comes from Rev John Rowe and our virtual Worship leader is Martin Sykes.
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God Bless x
Message - John Rowe
I was this week surprised to hear that 35 million meals were sold in the first two weeks of the Chancellor’ half price meal scheme – ‘Eat out to help out’. It would appear from this that the British public just love a bargain! Interestingly, today’ gospel reading makes clear, that where the journey of Christian faith is concerned, there are no cheap bargains on offer but rather in following Jesus there are crosses to bear, crosses to take up.
The reading immediately follows the account of the disciple Peter’s confession of Jesus, as “the Christ, Son of the living God”. Jesus responded to this confession by saying, “Blessed are you, Peter for God has revealed this truth to you.” Having then, seen Peter and, we assume, the other disciples come to confess him as the Messiah, Jesus begins, in today’s gospel reading to explain what this means for him and all who would follow him.
Here’s the deal, Jesus says, “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and there be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Now, the idea, that in order to carry out his messianic purposes, Jesus must be killed is not only a shocking one to Peter and the other disciples it is also an idea that doesn’t seem to make any sense. How can a dead person save anyone? How can the Messiah save other people if he cannot save himself?
Such questions must have been running through Peter’s mind as he took Jesus to one side to remonstrate with him. “Never Lord, this shall never happen to you.” Jesus, responds to Peter’ objection, with that renowned rebuke ‘Get behind me Satan’ describing Peter’ words as a stumbling block to God’ purposes.
You see, Peter had reached that point in his life where he believed Jesus was the Messiah, God’s saving gift to men and women. But what he and the other disciples had yet to learn was the great cost to God of this gift. Peter’s rejection of Jesus’ teaching, that he must suffer and die, is in effect a picture, not of costly grace, but of cheap grace and undemanding discipleship.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and priest executed by the Nazi’s because of his opposition to them, claimed cheap grace is in fact grace without the cross. He goes on to maintain that grace is costly because it cost God the life of his Son. And it follows that what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
And perhaps we Methodist should remember that more than most because each year in our covenant service we remind ourselves of this very point. (The Methodist Worship Book Page 290).
I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
Those words recognise that when Christ calls men and women to follow him he calls them to die – To die to self. Not once for all time, but daily. To die to self daily isn’t simply talking about those chocolate treats we sometimes want to deny ourselves. To die to self, means putting God first. To do it daily means putting God first all the time. Not simply when things are going well for us – that’s not the deal. That is not what is on offer.
6 years ago Liz and I led a group of Christians on a pilgrimage to the land of the Holy one. On our first full day there we were planned to conclude a busy day by walking the Via Delrosa, the path in Jerusalem Jesus is believed to have walked on the way to his crucifixion. Rather than being a hot and dusty day’ journeying, like many of us supposed it would be, it was in contrast really cold and very wet. Indeed it had rained most of the day and it was really tough. Over our evening meal back at the hotel everyone agreed what a difficult day it had been. But interestingly everyone also agreed that the difficulties we had faced added enormously to the experience. It wasn’t easy for Jesus to walk that path why should it be any different for us. Everyone on that trip learnt that day that we weren’t there as site seers we there as pilgrims. It was hard and it was difficult that day to walk the path Jesus walked, but he didn’t promise otherwise!
Of course it’s alright to love a bargain but when it comes to our lives of faith we are not called to be bargain hunters. We are called to be followers of him who died for us.
To follow Christ means trusting God even when life is hard and unfair; even when our cross is difficult to bear. That’s the deal –The special offer is that the Lord himself has promised to be with us each and every step of the way. I pray today that whatever difficulty you are facing you will remember this promise – the promise of his presence and peace. For, it is in following Jesus Christ, taking up our cross, that we truly find what we were made for – What we were made for is a life with God, here, now and for evermore. Amen