30th August 2020 Ordinary Time (17)
An invitation to share in Jesus’ story which is as tough as it is good!

Image: Get behind me Satan – Ilya Repin – 1895

‘Put me on trial Lord, and cross-examine me.  Test my motives and my heart.  For I am always aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth.’
(Psalm 26, v2 & 3)

Opening Prayer:

At this moment in time we may not be able to meet in church buildings but we can always come into Your sanctuary Lord where Your glorious presence dwells.  So, we come before You with open hearts and open hands to read Your Word, and know Your will. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, move within us and among us as we worship. Open our eyes to Your presence; open our ears to Your call.  Open our hearts to one another, to live and work as Your faithful disciples.  In the name of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord.    Amen.

READINGS: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Psalm 26 :1-8; Romans 12: 9-21; Matthew 16: 21-28

REFLECTION

It is a world of contrasts.  Happy and sad; rich and poor; saints and sinners; euphoria and sorrow; joy and angry, baddies and goodies.  Contrasts?  There is a dramatic contrast in the Reading from Matthew this week in comparison from last week’s Reading (Matthew 16:13-20).  In the space of a few verses, from his profound and ecstatic insight and eloquent proclamation of Jesus’ identity, here is a complete contrast for Peter.

And Matthew brings out the difference most dramatically.

After recognising who he is, Jesus tells the disciples that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, he would suffer many terrible things and be killed.  Peter’s reaction was to admonish Jesus.  In his strength of conviction and blunt honesty, his rock-liked qualities, Peter spoke out, ‘This will never happen to you!’

How did Peter think Jesus would react to his words?  Did he expect praise or acceptance from Jesus for standing up to protect him?  The opposite in fact.

‘Get behind me Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do have in mind the things of God, but the things of men…’.  (NIV)

This sounds an unusually harsh reaction of Jesus to one of his closest and loyal friends.  It was a complete contrast for Peter whom Jesus had just proclaimed to be the rock on which to build his church and Peter, keeper of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (v16-18).

The rock, a symbol of strength and safekeeping had become a stumbling block.

Perhaps Jesus’ tone to Peter was in anger, or perhaps in deep despair?  And why these particular words from Jesus?

In the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry Jesus faced Satan (the Adversary) and temptations.  And here again, Jesus faced temptation in the words Peter spoke.   And this temptation must have been hard coming from such a loyal and loved friend, words said through love and in protection.  Peter’s reaction illustrates how little he and the other disciples realized what Jesus meant when he acknowledged being the Messiah, the Son of God.  And Peter was giving Jesus a way to escape the cross.  Time and time again, Jesus has to remind his followers and himself that to choose God’s path is the only way to live, not an easy way but a tough way.   The values of God’s Kingdom are in contrast to the world’s material ways.

We too are called to follow Jesus.  Yet there is a challenge in Christian life and it is not always easy; it is likely to be tough, of saying no to self and yes to God.  Christian life is a call of obedience to God, to sacrifice ourselves and put others first, to lose our lives for others, to take up the cross-every day.  It is tough as it is good for as the Psalmist says: ‘I am always aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth…I love your sanctuary Lord, the place where your glorious presence dwells’ (Psalm 26, v 3& 8).   AMEN

HYMN: Brother, Sister let me serve you Rejoice & Sing 474    The Servant Song

Brother, sister let me serve you,
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh, I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow
till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven
we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together
of Christ’s love and agony.

Brother, sister let me serve you.
Let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

Richard Gillard (1953-) altd.
CCL no 213535/OneLicense A-632495

Blessing

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
The peace of God and of Jesus Christ
and of the Holy Spirit be upon each
one of us now and forever more.
AMEN

This week’s reflection is by Dr. Ann Sinclair

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