Dear Church Family
I write this as the sun is revealing Tollerton at it’s beautiful Spring best. The daffodils are opening in the garden to join this years awesome display of snowdrops and there is the beginning of the feel that this long hard start to 2021 is giving away to the green shoots of recovery. Our awesome NHS has survived the worst that COVID can throw at it and we were heartened to read that the threat level has been officially lowered from 5 (the highest) to 4 (still under great pressure). We now have a tentative road map forward toward greater normality and, for us, discussions will begin next month as to when we can return to in-person services at St. Peter’s.
The bishop’s ‘Start the Day’ picks up some of these things and ends with a lovely encouraging worship song. (look out for the daffodils!).
Bishop Paul and Sarah read from Psalm 57 and speak about the new freedom and confidence that comes through worship as our souls wake up to the presence of God.
‘My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul!’ Ps 57v7
Thank you to Joanne Arton and Neil Wilson for the beautiful song: Awake my soul!
As we look to a brighter future, the bible passage set for this weekend has a different trajectory. Jesus and the disciples are entering their period of greatest trial and Jesus seeks to prepare them for it.
(Mark 8:31) He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.”
(32) He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it. But Peter grabbed him in protest.
(33) Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.”
(34) Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how.
(35) Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self.
(36) What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?
(37) What could you ever trade your soul for?
(38) “If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.”
Here are three thoughts out of the passage.
It is necessary? Verse 31
Why? This is the favourite cry of the toddler and the teenager. My parents took the old fashioned line of saying ‘because I say so’. Children (and adults for that matter) never ask the why question about something nice. Why do I have to have my favourite chocolates as birthday present? This is a phrase never expressed. If Jesus had said to the disciples ‘It is necessary for the Son of Man to take his authority, dismiss the Romans and the corrupt authorities and reward his disciples with wealth, long life and happiness’, not one of the disciples would have said ‘bad idea Lord’. With the benefit of hindsight and 2000 years of Christian theology we know that the season of suffering leading up to Easter was the path to defeating the cosmic enemies of death and sin. Even then, there is much about redemptive suffering that we do not fully understand. What we do know however is that most of our periods of spiritual growth have happened when we have gone through tough times. In those times we have had to up our levels of trust. Our faith has carried us through those times in a way that being spoon feed blessings could have never done.
What is the real you? Verse 35
All of us want to be the best person that we can be. At one stage, I had a whole shelf in my study that could be labelled spiritual self-help. Titles like- ‘How to be a better leader’ and ‘7 Habits of Highly successful people’ – the list goes on. In the end, they didn’t help much and some of them made me feel worse. As a good Anglican, I should have gone to the collect for the third Sunday in Lent. Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. The best way to get the most from anything is to go back to the maker’s instructions. Only God knows us for what we are and what we can be. We are at our best when we are what and who he made us to be. The ‘real us’ emerges when we allow the maker to bring it out. We are the product of divine love. That love is giving and self-sacrificial. When we live that out we find the deepest reality.
Can we lose ourselves? Verse 36
Peter (our patron saint!) got many things right and also made some spectacular mistakes. He thought that he understood what his master wanted and how it could be obtained. He was impetuous and, like all impetuous people, he wanted to take the shortest route from A to B. He discovered Jesus as Lord and King and knew that Jesus had the power to call on the legion of angels to make it happen. Jesus who knew his true self also knew the father’s will and the father’s timing. He knew that, when the time was right, the legion of angels would come. He also knew that there were no short cuts to establishing The Kingdom. The path to that Kingdom was narrow long and painful. It was literally the Via Delarosa -the road to the cross. We all wish that finding our true selves will be easy, but it never is. It is spelt out in verse (34) Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how.
May God bless us all this Lent and help us all to real and deeper faith