Please join to celebrate and give thanks at the Mortimer, MWE & Padworth
Online Sunday Morning Eucharist for 30th August 2020 at 10.00 am - at Zoom ` https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6931233940
If you have difficulties please contact the tech team - Lorna/Louis 01189333136
Our guest preacher this week will be Fr Jonathan Ewer SSM, D. MIN.
‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow me’. MATTHEW 16.
Prayer Thought: To follow Jesus and live his way may mean derision, hardship and suffering, but dying to self centredness and learning to love as God loves brings true purpose and real direction to our lives, to our families, to our communities, to our church and to our world.
Reflections on the Gospel reading:
This Sunday’s readings warn us against making the Gospel message too cosy.
When someone says: ‘Now, let’s make this absolutely clear’ don’t we sometimes become suspicious that the obfuscation which is likely to follow will make everything absolutely unclear? Jesus knew that whatever he taught could not be misunderstood, providing we want to listen to and grasp and what he’s telling us. This Sunday’s Gospel tells us Jesus 'began to make it clear to his disciples that he was to suffer grievously’ and when Peter heard this message he didn’t like it and his first reaction was to remonstrate vehemently. Nevertheless, Jesus went on: ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow me’. What could be clearer than that? Yet there is always the temptation to misinterpret Jesus’ words or, more precisely, to try and adapt his teaching to what we would have preferred him to have said and cosy things down. Peter didn’t like what Christ said because the implication for him - and for us - is that if we are to follow Christ we must prepare ourselves for a life of self-denial, self-renunciation and self-giving - which seems a far cry from the more liberal way of life most of us would prefer.
Peter had made clear that he understood who Jesus was when he said (preceding paragraph): ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Yet when it came to reconciling that understanding with Jesus telling them that he must suffer grievously and die in order to be raised on the third day then that was just too much for Peter. And if we are not careful we fall into the same trap. Perhaps nothing stands in the way of us living Christ’s way and our own salvation so much as our own ‘cosy’ versions of Christianity - the sort that wants to be a follower of Christ on our own terms and without the ‘nasty bits’ of self-renunciation and sacrifice.
Bishop Tom Wright, in his commentary on this part of Matthew's Gospel, likens it to Lewis Carroll's ‘Alice in the Looking Glass’ in which he created a mirror-image world where to get anywhere you must go in the opposite direction. Christ's teaching is a bit like that: If you want to be a follower renounce yourself. If you want to save your life be prepared to lose it. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) spells out these apparent riddles and contradictions. Our society tends to take the Peter approach: ‘You can't do that!’ To be a success you must be strong not weak; rich, not poor; assertive, not meek.
When Christ looks at our world today to whom does he speak - to those who have seen their loved ones killed, to those who have had their lives smashed to pieces, to rioters, to parents, to teachers, to police, to politicians? Doesn’t he speak to every one of us saying just what he said to that crowd in Caesarea Philippi: ‘When the Son of Man comes, he will reward each one according to his behaviour’ ? Isn’t that really clear enough?