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Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lent 2: Deny, Take up, Follow

Mark 8:31-38
My devotional reading for Lent (Tom Wright's Lent for Everyone) had me reading Luke 6:20-27 on Friday, where Jesus seems to give folk a little poem to help remember His teaching.
Here these words of Jesus, and let them minister to you:


Blessings on the poor, God's kingdom belongs to you!
Blessings on those who are hungry today: you'll have a feast!
Blessings on those who weep today: you'll be laughing!
Blessings on you when people hate you, and shut you out, when they slander you and reject your name as if it it was evil, because of the Son of Man. Celebrate on that day! Jump for joy! Don't you see: in heaven there is a great reward for you! That was what their ancestors did to the prophets.
But woe betide you rich: you've had your comfort!
Woe betide you if you're full today: you'll go hungry!
Woe betide you if you're laughing today: you'll be mourning and weeping!
Woe betide you when everyone speaks well of you: that's what their ancestors did to the false prophets.


If I were to say to you: "Ring a ring of roses, a pocket........", or "Humpty Dumpty sat on...." you would in all likelihood be able to finish what I've begun. Can you remember how old you were when you first learnt some nursery rhymes? We sing nursery rhymes before we can even understand what they mean, they are a way of exercising our brains with music and words and rhythm and rhyme.

Now, suppose you're in the crowd listening to Jesus telling you all kinds of things about God and His kingdom, in fact you've heard a song every time this man preaches, that goes something like this:

The Kingdom of God is at hand,
Repent and believe the good news.

The Kingdom of God is at hand,
Repent and believe the good news.

The Kingdom of God is at hand,
Repent and believe the good news.

Here He is again, talking about this upside down kingdom, but it's so much to take in, so much to think through, so much to remember, ..... but wait, He's teaching us something we can learn quite easily ... it goes with a swing and a flow.

Blessings on the poor;
Blessings on the hungry; 
Blessings on the weeping,
Blessings when they hate you.
Woe betide the rich,
Woe betide the full,
Woe betide the laughing,
Woe betide the popular!

Now, repeat after me...

And soon the whole crowd is joining in (to the confusion of some who've come from the next town where Jesus taught them a slightly different version of the same thing. He seems to develop it as He goes along.) And they join in :

Blessings on the poor;
Blessings on the hungry; 
Blessings on the weeping,
Blessings when they hate you.
Woe betide the rich,
Woe betide the full,
Woe betide the laughing,
Woe betide the popular!


I believe that is what it was like to be around Jesus, it's why He commanded:

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 18:3)
and 
Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Mt 19:14)

But what does it all mean? It sounds like the words we heard His mother sing (Advent 4) when she knew He was on the way: the rich getting brought down with a bump and the poor getting a leg up. God turning the world the right way up at last. Promises, promises...but it does seem to be coming true, for some people at least. That old lady down the road, the fisherman's mother, she seems 20 years younger since He prayed for her. Another woman crawled to Him in a crowd, and touched him, and she left running for joy. It, it really seems that those who've been waiting for the Lord .... well if they come to this man crawling, they seem to walk when He's been with them ... and those who walk to Him, seem to run, ... and, well, as for Lazarus, well, he's literally flying since Jesus called him out of that tomb.

But, and this is weird, not everybody seems that excited about Him. There are mutterings and mumblings, not to His face of course ... but the so called religious leaders don't take some of these teachings very well .... I guess that's to be expected if you go around teaching rhymes like that: 

Blessings on the poor;
Blessings on the hungry; 
Blessings on the weeping,
Blessings when they hate you.
Woe betide the rich,
Woe betide the full,
Woe betide the laughing,
Woe betide the popular!

I wonder how long He'll survive if He keeps this up - the occupying forces have eyes and ears everywhere and old Happy Herod up the road isn't going to be jumping for joy either with all this talk of a King and a Kingdom, and our religious leaders are following Him everywhere with us, taking in everything he says, making notes, asking Him questions to try and catch Him out, but He always seems to have an answer which makes them look foolish...I wonder if they'll let Him get away with this so called good news of the Kingdom. The other day they brought a woman to Him who had been caught in the act of adultery, and they quite correctly had stones in their hands and a crowd gathered because we all enjoy a good stoning of the sinful filth in our midst ... people, especially adulterous women must learn, but He said "Let the one who has no sin throw the first stone" and our religious leaders and teachers of the law slowly dropped their stones and walked away, but boy oh boy you could see they were angry. I don't think He's going to last ... our Scriptures teach us that the religious hypocrites of the day have always found a way to get rid of the prophets of God in their midst. In fact He just reminded us of this when He said just now:

Blessings on you when people hate you, and shut you out, when they slander you and reject your name as if it it was evil, because of the Son of Man. Celebrate on that day! Jump for joy! Don't you see: in heaven there is a great reward for you! That was what their ancestors did to the prophets.

Now what's He saying ... I'm sure He's talking about the executioners cross which is only for the very worst of criminals ... what's He saying .... No! ....Surely not:

Want to be my disciple?
Deny yourself,
Take up your cross,
Follow me.
If you lose your life
You will save it,
If you save your life
You will lose it.

Want to be my disciple?
Deny yourself,
Take up your cross,
Follow me.
If you lose your life
You will save it,
If you save your life
You will lose it.



We are called to be a community of folk here in Alberton who deny self, take up our cross and follow Jesus on the path to that personal holiness without which none of us will see the Lord, which in turn becomes the catalyst for Scriptural holiness spreading throughout our homes, schools, church, city and nation.....whatever the cost.

When Methodism was still Methodism, this was a costly calling, but as we looked at last week, we are never tested beyond what we can bear, and we, who have the Spirit of God within us, can do all things in Him who strengthens us.

On this second Sunday of Lent, hear this very good news:
Want to be my disciple?
Deny yourself,
Take up your cross,
Follow me.
If you lose your life
You will save it,
If you save your life
You will lose it.

And then to those who take up this calling, hear this:
Blessings on the poor, God's kingdom belongs to you!
Blessings on those who are hungry today: you'll have a feast!
Blessings on those who weep today: you'll be laughing!
Blessings on you when people hate you, and shut you out, when they slander you and reject your name as if it it was evil, because of the Son of Man. Celebrate on that day! Jump for joy! Don't you see: in heaven there is a great reward for you! That was what their ancestors did to the prophets.

Cling to these promises of God as you draw near in faith to the table of His sacrament.

Mark 8:31-38
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

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