An act of worship at home
Reading Matthew 16 vv 21-28
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’
As we know all too well it’s amazing how trouble can come out of the blue. One moment life is going along nicely, the next moment everything is in pieces. Just before our reading begins life for Peter must have felt good. Jesus had asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” and Peter had replied, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus told Peter that could only have been revealed to him by God. Peter must have felt brilliant, top of the class. But then, with bewildering speed, Peter is down in the pits.
Our reading begins with Jesus telling his disciples that his life will end very soon in misery and in agony, but Peter refuses to believe it and encourages Jesus not believe it. But Jesus drops on him like a ton of bricks. The man he has just praised for being the only one to recognise who he was, he now accuses of speaking words of temptation to him.
Jesus knew that although things seemed to be going well and people were hearing about and seeing God’s love revealed through all he was doing and saying; although things seemed to be going well and the sky was blue the clouds would come from nowhere and the darkness would descend and soon he would suffer and be killed.
But he also knew that because he would see it through to the end, even when it led to the cross,
he would experience a glorious resurrection. And he encourages us to do the same when trouble comes out of the blue, to take up our crosses, whatever they might be, and follow him.
Those crosses, that crucifixion, almost always arises out of the blue. One moment life is sunny and happy and swinging along beautifully, the next moment the clouds have gathered and are hugely dark and threatening, and it can feel as though God is absent.
But these moments of crucifixion are also an opportunity to grow, to hold fast to our own integrity and to hold fast to God. And the result of crucifixion faced with courage and integrity, is a glorious resurrection more fantastic than anything we could have imagined.
However bad life is for us at any particular moment, if we see it through, God will redeem it for us. He will bring good out of it, over and above anything we could ever expect.
Because although darkness descends out of the blue, God is in the darkness, and so the end result of that darkness is resurrection – if we allow it to be so.
God of the whole of life,
It’s difficult to be grateful for bad times. Mostly I want to rage and rail against them. But I’ve discovered you’re with me in the bad times, even though I often can’t feel your presence at the time.
God of the whole of life, enable me to offer the bad times to you, so that you can redeem them for me and bring good out of evil. Help me to maintain my own integrity and to hold onto you, so that you can use those dark times to help me grow. May I remember that life is a pattern of highs and lows, and that you use the whole of life for my benefit.
Through the one who suffered it all with integrity and love, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Amazing grace (how sweet the sound)
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.
As grace that taught my heart to fear
so grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear,
the hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
God’s grace that brought me safe thus far,
and he will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures;
and, when this heart and flesh shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil
a life of joy and peace.
Send us out, Cross taker, to be cross takers too.
Send us out, Cross chooser, to choose the cross too,
and lose a life that is worth little for one that is worth much.
Send us out to see your kingdom coming
and all your glory.