Sermon 3rd September

Readings: Matthew 16, 21-28  Romans 12, 9-21


“You are a stumbling block to me, you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns”

Jesus’ words to Peter, when Peter rebuked him, that Jesus should not suffer and die.

It’s at the beginning of the third section of Matthew’s gospel when the writer turns slowly to the events that will lead up to the crucifixion.

For faithful Peter, it must have been shocking especially preceded by the words “Get behind me Satan”-of course Jesus referring to his own temptation to use his divinity for his own good, not obey God’s will for him.


But you can understand Peter- here, they’d found the promised Messiah, their expectations were huge, and there he was saying he’d die. What would they, the disciples, have left, how could that happen to the Messiah?

It’s a question Matthew wanted his readers to ponder on too, as he leads them inexorably to Jesus’ death. For the new community of Christians he was writing to, the new church, how could it be that this death was necessary, was part of God’s will?

Of course, all is revealed in the resurrection- but it leaves the new church and us, as the church today, pondering the next statements-“ Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross”- just as Jesus did.

So does that mean we too become martyrs to the cause, does it mean we go around within our community with the weight of the cross on our backs saying “we all have our crosses to bear” as we bravely continue to be Christians, faithfully enduring church and endless sermons to show to an unbelieving world what good Christians we are.

And believe me, I’ve seen enough miserable Christins in my time to sometimes think that’s what they believe.

But, that’s not what God wants, that’s not what being a Christian means.

When we look at Christ’s cross, our own version of which we must bear, what is it we see? Yes, we see suffering, awful suffering, pain beyond enduring, humiliation and eventual death. And, it cannot be denied, that sometimes, in some places, being a Christian means bearing that cross of suffering, or humiliation or even death under persecution.

But if we hear Jesus words to Peter I read a few moments ago, we must look beyond the human concerns, the human suffering and have in mind the concerns of God.

And when we look at the cross in that light, beyond the bloody suffering and humiliation, we see love. The ultimate, purest, most powerful love we can only even begin to imagine. The love of God.


God’s concern, God’s love for the world was so powerful that he sent his Son. To deny himself and all his divinity and power. For us, and for all the world. And in that love, in that self-denial, in that perfect obedience to God, God turned human logic, human expectations on their head and conquered death and all things through the power of love.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” Our cross is to deny our self, our self interest our self absorbance, our self centredness and look instead to God’s concerns, God’s love, God’s compassion, to follow the way of Jesus, the way of love. And, yes it is a cross to bear because not all will appreciate being loved, and love makes us vulnerable, and love means standing up against hate and injustice and violence. And sometimes that leads to hurt and pain and isolation and feelings of failure when love is rejected.


Like Christ.

If I were to ask you what it is that you think  makes Christians unique, what I is that makes people in this congregation different from the rest of Sark, what is it that our church displays that is different to the rest of society, what would you say?

Perhaps, more pertinently, if I were to ask the rest of Sark, our community out there what it is that makes the church different, what it is that makes members of the church different from the rest of the community, I wonder what they would say?

Would they say they see a church bravely and stoically bearing the burden of the cross of being the only Christians in town and keeping the church going because only they can, or would they say they see a church bearing the burden of the cross of love?

Paul said in our reading:

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’[d] says the Lord. On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

If everyone of us, got up each morning and read that verse, slowly, taking it in, every morning of every day, what sort of cross would our community see that you bear, what sort of cross would the community see that our church represents? And what sort of effect might that have on how our community might change?

So, to reorder Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel just very slightly,

Let us not have in mind only human concerns, let us have in mind the concerns of God.