Sermon 5th of Trinity 2016
This time of year is often when the ordination of priests and deacons take place. The 29th June is the day when we celebrate St Peter, and many ordinations take place in what is known as Petertide. Though the Chichester Diocese ordained its ordinands’ on the 21st of May this year.
It is a tough demand to follow God’s call to ordained ministry or, indeed, as we hear in the Gospel reading today, to be a follower of Christ, even, without the pressure of ordained ministry.
Jesus we are told, in Luke’s gospel, had set his face to go to Jerusalem, he had sent others on to make ready for him, but we are told that he wasn’t received.
Jesus had chosen the quickest and most direct route to Jerusalem, which meant going through Samaria, now because of an age long quarrel, Jews ordinarily would have avoided Samaria, we are told this in John’s story of the Samaritan women at the well, where we read that Jews do not share anything in common with Samaritans. So perhaps it was little wonder that he wasn’t received.
When James and John who were with Jesus heard this they were ready to have the Samaritans consumed by fire… they were obviously slightly angry… But Jesus rebuked them, showing perhaps a lost virtue in today’s world, and often in the church, the virtue of tolerance…
We then read on and someone, we’re not told who, says to Jesus “I will follow you wherever you go…” Jesus said to him “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
I think I can probably safely say that all of us here have somewhere to lay our heads, but for those in our world who are displaced, a refuge is needed as sadly we see far too often. Yet sometimes those of us who follow Christ need a refuge also. A safe place, a haven to reconnect with the God we have chosen to follow, and that haven will differ for all of us.
Yet in today’s gospel story, Jesus, at that particular time, had no such place and the message that came across to his would be followers was basically it can be a tough call. Jesus never says it will be easy we are never called under false pretences.
It would seem that Jesus’ words “Take up your cross daily” had never been spelled out so concretely.
Jesus, now, set towards Jerusalem had no bargains to offer, it was either follow me or don’t…, no half measures.
Understandably, at times, we all follow Jesus in half measures; we often put things before Christ. But all who are ordained, put their hand on the plough without looking back knowing the vows they make are for ever, and that with God’s help they will go out proclaiming the kingdom.
However, all of us, will at times get things wrong so Petertide is a perfect time for ordinations to take place!
Peter thought he would be Jesus’ follower to the ends of the earth and when Jesus told him that before the night was out he would have disowned him – he protested “I will never desert you”. But of course we know the story and we remember Jesus saying to Peter “before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.”
Yet we can gain such hope from this because with all his failings Peter became the rock on which Christ built his church.
Peter helps us to understand that we may well put our hand on the plough and go forward but we may not always plough in straight lines…and that’s ok.
Jesus had set his face to Jerusalem and nothing was going to stop him… because the journey he was on was for each of us. He knew exactly what he had to do, he didn’t run away like Peter, or like we do from time to time. No! he stayed the course and he died for us and for our freedom. The Galatians reading tells us that we were called to freedom. The freedom Christ calls us to is freedom to love one another, not a self-indulgent freedom. It is not a freedom to do just as we like, or a freedom from pain and suffering it is a freedom to live a life worthy of Christ. Peter proves that we can all be reconciled to God.
Jesus does not only tolerate us as the gospel proved, he loves us beyond all knowing, and sometimes there are no words to describe this, sometimes words are not enough, so to explain this Jesus’ wounds become the clinching argument.
There is picture by Iain Mckillop called, the reconciliation of Peter in the picture Peter is being embraced by Jesus, but the embrace begins to open once again the wounds on Jesus’ body, the wounds where he had been flogged. The wounds by which Peter was healed.
Moreover, we are also constantly being reconciled to God, we are constantly being healed, and we are constantly being loved. Even when like Peter we get things totally wrong we can confidently say “By Jesus’ wounds we are healed.” Amen.