Sunday 28th February - The Rocky Road
This morning worship will be led by Pastor Julie Newitt and will include Holy Communion which will be self served to ensure it is safely celebrated. Those in church must supply their own bread and collect a wine glass on arrival. The wine glasses were prepared 72 hours in advance.
Opening words Genesis 17:1-2
Hymn: We are marching in the light of God
Holy God, we come from our busy lives. We often forget that you walk with us. As we gather now, help us to be more aware of who you are. Give us the courage to admit when we don’t understand, so that we might grow more like you in all we do. Amen.
All-powerful God of past, present and future, keeper of promises: How we love you. Son of Man, the way, the truth and the life, loving despite rejection: How we love you. Holy Spirit, living Power within, helping, guiding, testing, and transforming: How we love you. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, your unique relationship – open to us: How we love you. Amen.
Psalm 22.23-31 Romans 4.13-25 Mark 8.31-38
Hymn: At the name of Jesus
Comment on Readings
I don't know how many of you have ever had a Rocky Road cake, but they really are quite delicious, rich tea biscuit, lots and lots of chocolate to bind not only the biscuit but also the raisin's and the Maltesers and anything else that you want to put in it, every bite is different, and I just love the name Rocky Road.
Well today's session is about a rocky road, it's about Peter, ironically called the rock, it's about the relationship that Jesus and Peter had at this particular moment in time, a little bit rocky, and it's about the place where it took place, also rocky. I guess if we weren't in lockdown, I would have actually bought you some rocky roads so that we could have eaten them. but let's show you a picture instead, and let you taste buds begin to feel that we are eating this rocky road.
The incident we consider today was set in a place known as Caesarea Philippi. it was a rocky outpost, it was a quiet location, it became a turning point in the ministry of Jesus. for it was in this place that Peter revealed who Jesus was and it was then where Jesus explained to his disciples what would happen to Him, and He spoke of his death of his resurrection, but it was His death that caused some consternation amongst his disciples, not least of all Peter who impetuous as ever tried to dissuade Jesus from this course of action. I am sure that Peter only said what he said out of absolute love for Jesus, he didn't want him to suffer as Jesus indicated he would, nevertheless Jesus’ rebuke must have stung Peter. because for Jesus His one intent from His birth really was to walk towards this cross and I guess he'd already alluded to this so many times to the disciples that he was surprised that Peter was now telling him not to go there. Maybe that was why his tone was as sharp and as harsh as it was. Jesus saw the comments by Peter as being a way to stop Him from doing what He always believed He should be doing, they were in effect the same temptation that Satan had given Him at the very beginning of His ministry and so as with all evilness Jesus rebukes, He is sharp He is cross, get behind me, I do not want to hear anything of this don't try and dissuade me from my task.
But as extraordinary as Jesus’s rebuke of Peter was, what follows next in the passage is even more extraordinary. For Jesus calls us to deny ourselves take up our cross and follow him - these may be quite small words just put in a chapter somewhere, but how important they are. We are called to deny ourselves, to put others first, we are called upon to take up our cross, that has numerous implications for us, For Jesus the cross meant death, it meant torture it meant pain. I wonder what Jesus meant when he said take up your cross. It means that we have to become like Jesus. it means we have to be willing to suffer for the sake of Jesus in doing His will, sometimes we will suffer but that is the life Jesus calls us too. Following Jesus is not an easy option, to truly follow is to sacrifice oneself and commit entirely to him, He must come first and everything you do must be for Him. Now I accept that we all fall far short of following Him in everyway, shape, sense or form, but in committing yourself to Jesus you have to try, failing is okay, Peter failed, Jesus forgave him, we too will fail, but Jesus will pick us up dust us down and say carry on.
After his death, the disciples didn't pick themselves up and carry on, they hid in an upper room afraid. But Jesus came to them, He had not left them alone, when we work for Jesus, we will never be alone He will always be there for us. Gradually Jesus taught them what they must now do after His resurrection, until he left them physically, returning in the form of His Holy Spirit to literally breathe life into the disciples, who then became as bold as Jesus was. Many of those early disciples literally taking up their cross and dying for Him.
Jesus not only tells his disciples about his suffering, death and resurrection, he invites them to become part of it and, in a sense, to share in it. The experience of the pandemic has been a shared experience of suffering. It is only the extent which has varied from person to person. In order to cope with the suffering, people have been crying out for hope. In a sense, that hope was shattered by the late restrictions that were brought in just before Christmas. But the road map (maybe rocky) out of the lockdown was laid down this week to bring us all the hope of a future without restrictions.
Jesus did not just talk about suffering and death but also about resurrection and new life. The Prime Minister has outlined a hope that takes us through the resurrection of Easter and beyond the empowerment of Pentecost. However, we are told by the Health Secretary that it is important that each person plays a part for the end of the roadmap to be reached successfully. In the same way, in order to share in Christ’s dying and rising, he invites his disciples to play their part by taking up their cross.
Taking up the cross means entering into a life of service for God. That service is complete in every way. The Queen this week has made clear that she believes that royal service leaves no room for the partial. It has to be total service and there is no doubt that she has served the country well over her time as the Queen, devoted to the job, she has put her family behind that job often. Jesus says that those who want to save their lives will lose them. The response by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is that service is universal, they want it both ways, service and God’s work can be done by all people, that is true, but we can’t take the good bits and leave the bad bits, we have to take it all. However, it is worth reflecting on the servant rather than the service. Jesus explains that being one of his followers entails total submission. That means that there is no place for the half-hearted. Christian service involves accepting every aspect of the commandments to love.
I love Dancing on Ice but can anyone who watches this, name everyone who was there at the beginning – who’s still in and who’s out? Why are certain celebrities no longer ‘in’? Leaving aside that following Jesus was neither a competition nor on ice (!), we still need to ask, who was there at the beginning? Who dropped out? Who lasted the course?
What did the disciples expect when they first followed Jesus? Were there surprises along the way? And what are our expectations today? What does ‘take up your cross’ actually mean? And how should we respond to not knowing for certain what it means, now or in the future, for each one of us personally?
We started this morning service by using the words found in Genesis and it was about Noah walking with God and our lent study this week was actually about walking with Jesus. and we talked about how we can be transformed because we walk with Jesus. He's always there with us in the darkness, giving us hope, we see Him in the ordinary and in the everyday, He walks by our side. We may not understand what taking up our cross means, but we are called to live each day in the presence of Jesus. We need to speak to Him to listen to Him to know that He is always there with us, and as long as we walk with Him, we will be taking up our cross and following Him. Let us walk forward in hope and expectation as we walk towards Easter.
Hymn: Lord Jesus Christ you have come to us
Hymn: I will enter his gates
as a cautious route out of lockdown is planned,
may we hold on to the hope it offers but not run ahead of the realities.
We pray for the work of Covax as they ensure fair access to vaccine,
and we ask that poverty would not create vaccine inequality.
May we find new and creative ways to reconnect with friends, family members a