St. Andrew's Benefice
Pippa's Sermon - Trinity 12
Trinity 12 - alternative Collect
God of constant mercy,
who sent your Son to save us:
remind us of your goodness, increase your grace within us,
that our thankfulness may grow,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thoughts on the gospel – Matthew 16:21-28
What a turn-around - last we heard, Peter was blessed; was a rock on which Christ’s
church would be built. He would be given the keys of the kingdom. And now – he is a
stumbling-block; an agent of the devil. Why? What has he done? Or not done?
In a way, what he does is understandable. Through faith he has seen that Jesus is the
messiah, and here Jesus is , saying that rather than a glorious triumphal battle, he’s going suffer and be killed; and killed by the very people you might think would be rejoicing, the elders, and chief priests and scribes, those guardians of the nation’s heritage. So Peter takes him aside and tells him that can’t, mustn’t happen – and is roundly, utterly told off. For he has done two things; he hasn’t listened properly; and he has, as Jesus puts it, set his mind not on the things of God, but on the things of men. On a vision of earthly success, on conquest, on Israel as top nation. On the ways of the devil; remember Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness.
But he must learn that that is not God’s way – and must not be the church’s way either. To follow Christ is joyful, but not always easy. To sacrifice one’s own interests, deny oneself, to serve others. As Christ did – unto suffering and death. It can be hard, very hard; we are not immune from suffering just because we are Christians. but we can always know that Christ is there, with us. In Isaiah’s words,
‘But now, this is what the LORD says –
‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.’
He doesn’t say it may not be bad; but he does say we are his, we are redeemed. If we
take up our cross, lose our life for his sake, we will find it - we will have found the keys of
the kingdom. And of course in so many ways, for so many people, it is bad at the moment. There is suffering of many sorts, not only bodily suffering, but of mind and spirit. So we need to see again, to hear again Christ’s words about losing our life – and finding it – in him. And we need too, as this crisis hopefully eases, not only to give thanks but to remember Peter; and not seek first the things of this world – power, wealth, human things - but the things of the soul. The caring and community and Christ’s presence to hold.
And too we must do that other thing that Peter didn’t do – listen properly. He wanted
everything to be rosy and closed his ears. But listen to the last words of Jesus as he
warned them of the suffering he must endure, that was to come; that ‘on the third day he would be raised’. For unlike Peter then, we know the Resurrection – we know Christ is
risen, he is risen indeed. He is coming into his kingdom. What lies before us can truly be
life in him. Thanks be to God.