This sermon was given by our Reader Christine on Sunday 22 August 2021. Here it is for you again.
Last month Rev. Deborah and I chose the theme of walking with Jesus for Messy Church.
We began with an activity about his birth and then focussed on a couple of parables and miracles. Trying to imagine ourselves walking with Jesus as the disciples had, watching and learning from him.
Last week Rev. Deborah gave us an insight on Jesus’ mother Mary and how she must have felt saying “yes” to God. She gave herself wholly to God as a vessel through which his son was to be born and accepted the rough with the smooth. She walked with Jesus through his life and was there with him when others deserted him.
God is used to people turning away from him and then choosing people who will speak up and be an example to others, as in Joshua. Joshua, who Moses had chosen to lead the people into the Promised Land and who was familiar with the people turning away from God. The people now had become complacent and begun to worship not only the Lord, but the gods of the Amorites in whose land they now lived. So Joshua sets them straight and tells them that they have to choose either the Lord or the other gods, but as for Joshua: “me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua chose to walk with God and to be faithful to him.
It’s easy to be led away from what you believe by false promises, by envying what others have and by chasing riches, but that’s not always fulfilling.
Being faithful to God has its ups and downs and walking with Jesus is not always easy.
I know I’ve mentioned Sat Navs before, but for those of you who use them, I’m sure you’ve found out that if you don’t choose the precise route you want they can take you on all manner of detours before you finally reach your destination. Sometimes, I feel it’s like that walking with Jesus, we take detours, but God has a plan for all of us and Jesus is walking the path set before him with his Disciples following him.
However, you just get to the point where you think you know which way the path is going to go and then Jesus turns it around.
I’m sure that how the Disciples felt in today’s Gospel. The crowd Jesus is speaking to are most likely some of the people he has fed with the five loaves and two fish, since then he has walked on water and began to talk to them about the ‘true bread from heaven.’ And then he says the unbelievable.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.”
You can almost feel the shockwave blast through the crowd of people standing there listening to these words, mouths open aghast at the very thought of the actions he is suggesting. The Disciples are disturbed, “what on earth is he talking about” and some begin to desert him, without waiting for a full explanation, but this is something that always seem to happen when Jesus says something that people do not agree with, they forget everything, all the good he has done, and walk away.
He tries to explain to those who have walked with him saying: “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” But it’s just not reaching their ears or understanding. The path has become too difficult, there are too many twists and turns, or if you like the diversion signs have sprung up and they’ve lost their way and destination.
Then Jesus turns to the twelve, the ones who have been walking with him from the start of his preaching, even knowing at this stage that one will betray him and asks them if they too want to turn away, “Do you also wish to go away?”
And Peter, only Simon Peter, the one who always seems to overstep the mark, who questions Jesus and openly asks for clarification, however simple that may be, only he has the courage to answer; “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
I’m sure some of you will have been in a situation either at school, college, listening to a lecture or to someone delivering a speech and thinking to yourself, “I really don’t know what you’re on about?” but you don’t want to ask a question or even answer one, because you think it’s too simple and everyone else in the room understands perfectly what the speaker is declaring and you’d feel a fool to ask. Then someone raises their hand and asks/answers the question you’ve been deliberating on and you feel satisfied that you weren’t the only one about to walk out or maybe go to sleep!!
Peter is the one who stands up, he is the one who speaks out, he is the one who becomes the foundation of the church and by being the spokesperson he possibly holds the small group together. Peter seizes the opportunity to voice unequivocally his faith in Jesus, his continued commitment to walk with Him. Whether things would have gone differently had he failed to speak we don’t know, but we do know that the twelve continued to walk with Jesus.
Faith, acceptance and commitment and at the last supper the words Jesus says in today’s Gospel are understood. The bread is the body of Christ and the wine his blood: “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
Walking with Jesus does have stumbling blocks and these cause some people to have a tendency to reject Jesus, because they don’t always agree with what he has said or done and he doesn’t always seem to have anything good or practical to offer, so they turn away from what is ultimately their salvation.
Paul faced many stumbling blocks as he walked the path set before him, he was persecuted, imprisoned and beaten, but he takes faith a step further and tells the Ephesians to: “Put on the whole armour of God,”
Of course, he is not speaking about physical armour as the Roman soldiers wore, but an armour of faith to fight evil.
For us today evil can still be seen in many ways, but we can’t physically go out and begin fighting against it anymore than the Ephesians did, but we like them can be witnesses to the truth, we can be examples of righteousness and proclaim the gospel of peace. We may only be able to do it by signing petitions and writing to MPs, but we should never underestimate the power or influence of one person as in the case of Peter. With faith we can speak the words of God and pray in the Spirit for peace. We should never doubt the importance of our witness, however unimpressive it might seem to us at the time.
And to sum up Paul offers us instructions about how to walk with Jesus in faith, in the same way Mary and the Disciples lived their lives:
Proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ at all times.
- Strive to live a righteous life.
- Be agents of peace and reconciliation in the world.
- Have faith in our Lord, believing that God is for us and with us.
- Believe and value our salvation.
- Let the Holy Spirit guide us and take control over our lives.
- Pray in the Spirit at all times.
Let us pray:
Almighty Father, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son: govern the hearts and minds of those in authority, and bring the families of the nations, divided and torn apart by the ravages of war, to be subject to his just and gentle rule; through Jesus Christ our Lord.