A small child crawled towards the most colourful object in the room – a precious
antique oriental vase. He reached out with one clumsy hand and touched it, and as
he did so, the vase smashed against the fireplace and broke into a thousand pieces.
With the noise of the breakage, the child cried very loudly. His grandmother came
rushing into the room and she cried for her beautiful vase while she got down on
her hands and knees to collect the many broken pieces lying scattered on the floor.
A few days later when her grandchild had safely returned to his parents, the old
woman set a day aside to repair the vase. As she carefully stuck the pieces back
together, the woman really began to notice the intricate detail and gentle beauty
of the ornament. It was only in repairing the broken precious vase that the woman
began to appreciate the true value of her prized possession. She had never really
looked at it before because it had always been kept safely – or so she thought –
out of reach. Each person is like a precious vase. Vases as we know can be placed
out of reach on a high shelf to protect them from the world, just as the old lady
had been doing. Well the disciples wanted to do this with Jesus. They didn’t want
him to suffer and die at the hands of the elders, chief priests and scribes. Peter
even became annoyed with Jesus saying ‘God forbid it Lord’, this must not happen
to you.’ Peter wanted to place Jesus on a high shelf, a place of safety well away
from the world. Peter had recognised that Jesus was quite unlike anyone else and
he wanted to keep him intact. But this was not to be, as Jesus told him in no uncertain
terms. On the surface it would seem that Peter was acting sensibly and responsibly
to protect that which was good. But he could not see as God saw. Protection from
danger would have brought God’s work to an end. When God came to be one of us, he
made himself totally vulnerable. At every stage of the way he could have called for
divine protection, for special provision, but he never did. He came to be one of
us, to be part of us, he didn’t come to separate himself from us. And doing that
had consequences of real risk and danger – danger that in the end would break him
on the cross. But it was in the breaking, that lay our salvation. When Peter says,
“This must never happen to you Lord,” he is saying to Jesus, be careful – don’t tread
on too many toes, don’t ruffle any feathers. It was as though Peter wanted a quiet
life. Peter didn’t want the elders, chief priests and scribes to be challenged or
upset even if it meant compromising important values. But none of this is the way
of God. Thinking in this way falls into a similar category to the temptation of Christ
in the wilderness, when Satan tries to convince Jesus that there must be an easier
way. But there isn’t an easy way. Today’s Gospel reminds us that the life of a Christian
is not an easy one. It is a life of sacrifice, it is a life of renouncing oneself.
It is a life of carrying the cross. And sometimes that will be an uphill, painful
path. But it is not all negative. When we truly follow Christ we gain life, life
in all its fullness, with joy, love, and freedom to which nothing else can compare.
Jesus tells his disciples that there is no point in following him unless they are
prepared to take up their cross and follow him with their whole hearts. To have courage
to speak out, to stand up for the truth, to challenge evil and injustice. If we want
to lead a quiet life that will mean just saving one life – our own. In the end, as
Jesus tells us, this life lived in isolation from the body of Christ, will be lost
too. We are all in this together. The Christian is not called to the easy expedient
life. We are called to shout out against injustice and inequality. As a result we
may have to pay a high price for this in our own life. We need to work out what matters
most to us – success in the eyes of the world or freedom in the life of Christ. Let
us pray today that each one of us here would be given the grace to set our minds
on the things of God and to dare to allow him to lead us along the path of life,
life in all its fullness.
Lord Jesus Christ,
it is easy to talk of taking up our cross and following you,
but we know the reality is different.
We find it hard to deny ourselves, let alone to give our all.
There is so much we want to enjoy,
so much we want to achieve,
and the thought of of sacrificing that
is one we would prefer to avoid.
Yet you have taught that it is in losing our lives we truly find them,
and that we shall find lasting treasure not on earth but in heaven.
Help us to give of our ourselves freely to you,
just as you gave yourself to us.
Canon Dave 27th February 2021
Canon Dave’s Weekly Message
The churchwardens wife had spotted me! The following Sunday I had to admit that my
Lenten discipline had been a complete failure.
The moral of this story is if you don't want catching out keep your Lenten discipline
Many years ago when I was the Vicar of Marlpool, on the First Sunday in Lent I decided
to broadcast from the pulpit that I was going to give up smoking. People in the congregation
seemed very impressed as they knew how much I enjoyed a smoke. I lasted three days.
At the local shop the owner used to sell cigarettes in one's, and so I bought one.
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed that cigarette on my way back to the vicarage.
However, just before walking into the drive a car flashed its lights and blasted
its horn. I extinguished the cigarette very quickly and felt extremely guilty.