Podcast Reflections

Sermon for Trinity 12 (2021)

Listen to a sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, 22 August 2021

Jesus asked the twelve: Do you also wish to go away?

I wonder what sort of emotional response went through the minds of the twelve disciples when Jesus asked them this question?

We know the response of Simon Peter, but do the recorded words tell the whole story?

The disciples were called by Jesus, and they had responded by leaving everything, sacrificing everything and following wherever he led.

As they watched others turn back and no longer go about with him, they must have had even a brief moment, of wondering about their own positions … their own relationships with this itinerant teacher and healer.

Of course, such questions rise in our hearts from time to time.

There are moments when the deck of life seems to be stacked against us as one calamity seems to follow swiftly on the heels of another.

At such times, when the going seems to be unbearably tough, what do we do?

Do we become more resolute in our faith, or do we shrug our shoulders, turn our backs and walk away?
Or, do we turn to God in faith and prayer, trusting that he will guide and support us through the stormy waters we are experiencing?

During the course of the coming days, the daily readings on our website will challenge us to consider our readiness and resolve for the moment when we are called to meet God face-to-face.

We will read and reflect upon the parables of the ten bridesmaids and the parable of the talents.

We will also be called to reflect upon the way we respond to temptation – the temptation to live our lives in a hypocritical and self-serving way.

That, of course, is where we are in today’s reading.

Suddenly, Jesus’ message is difficult;
suddenly, Jesus’ message is one of hope for the future, and not obviously the ‘here and now’;
suddenly, Jesus’ message demands faith that will see us through some very challenging times.

Today, we are hearing of those for whom all of this was too much to bear – the ones who turned their backs and no longer went about with him.

There are many times in my ministry when I encounter people for whom the demands of faithful discipleship are too much.

Following early days of enthusiasm and zeal, the Christian life slips down the list of priorities until, one day, the day out with family, the need to go shopping, the golf course – all of these become a much greater priority than gathering in the community of prayer and worship.

Sometimes that move is slow and almost imperceptible, whilst sometimes it is as swift as switching off a light.

And that, of course, is what is happening … the light of Christ is being ignored while the glitzy façade of worldly pleasure is beaming ever brighter.

Over the last few weeks we have heard and reflected upon Jesus’ teaching that he is the living bread … the bread that will sustain us in our life of faith.

Jesus also reassures us that eating this bread will fortify us for the journey into eternal life in God’s nearer presence.

This may be difficult teaching for some, but it isn’t really!

At the Last Supper Jesus showed exactly how we might fully participate in this teaching.

Jesus shows us that by sharing the simplest of meals in a spirit of love, prayer and service, we will find ourselves ready to face the challenges of this world head-on.

How strong is our faith in this teaching?

At the moment, are you listening to my words and reflecting upon your response to Jesus’ teaching? …
Or, are my words wafting over you as you consider your priorities for the rest of the day?

Are you ready to allow Jesus’ teaching to equip you for a life of true discipleship in a troubled and sometimes hostile world? …
Or, are you considering turning your back on the one who came to bring you the greatest gift … the gift of eternal life?

Simon Peter responded to Jesus with these words: Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. He also said: We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.

The question is: Where do we sit in this moment in the gospel narrative?

Do we believe and know the Holy One of God, Jesus our risen Saviour? …
Or, have we had a glimpse of his glory, but are still ready to put worldly matters ahead of his call?

Are we ready to remain steadfast in our faith? …
Or, are we about to turn our backs and follow the path that leads further and further away from God?