Summary: Given in a young adult’s prison, this sermon challenges the temptation to violence and intimidation and take the braver option: to walk away and come to Christ
Given at HM Prison Moorland, Doncaster, 27th August 2000
In the name of the +Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You have probably heard the saying “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”.
Now, this is not a reference to the way I cook, but if you like things done crispy on the outside, then come to me, but the saying suggests that if something is a bit much for you, a bit stressful, a bit heated, then you should get away from the problem, turn your back on it and chill somewhere else.
For some people, they see that as a bad thing: losing face, bottling it, standing down. They think that Jesus’ commandment to ‘turn the other cheek’ is a bit weak and so they front out any amount of confrontation, no matter how much trouble it lands them in.
But I don’t think that Jesus ever asked us to do anything simple or easy, and for that reason alone, it must be worth trying to follow. For every difficult situation I encounter, whether its in the pub, in here or wherever it may be, I am forced to struggle with my own emotions and my desire to build up my own pride, and following Him means I have to seek to find another way. Sometimes it is really hard to act out (holds up bracelet) What Would Jesus Do?
In this morning’s reading, we hear Jesus suggesting much the same thing to his disciples: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen… after a particularly heavy round of teaching, which we have covered in the past few weeks, large numbers of Jesus’ followers have given up: too difficult, bit too hard a lifestyle, bit too much effort – they were impressed by the healing of all those sick people and thought the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand was excellent: free food for life. But Jesus’ real message was coming through – turn back to God, say sorry, and live your life properly according to God’s wishes. All those people who thought the feeding of the five thousand was a picnic, were sadly mistaken, the heat was too great, and they got out of the kitchen.
So Jesus turns to Peter and asks him if he’s off too, after all, he has a fishing business and probably a wife to go back to. But here, Peter gives the game away completely and reveals in his reply that he has sussed who Jesus really is: “Where else are we going to go to?”
Because Peter has worked out that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Holy One, he cannot leave, and neither can the others. Jesus, he knows, speaks with real authority on things that really matter, and his message must be truth, by virtue of who he is.
Yes, the teachings of Jesus are hard, yes, the call to life a Christian life is difficult, and yes, it is very hard to turn the other cheek and walk away from confrontation. We struggle with that on a daily basis, and the difficulty that I face in my daily life to follow him is probably reflected in all of us here. It was known as well to those 12 or so disciples who opted to stay with him in today’s Gospel.
I feel the same as Peter, for as he said “you have the words of eternal life”, and I now know that I, like Peter, cannot turn around and walk away.
In my case, that means turning away from my previous life, following him into the Priesthood and continuing to serve him there, but this inescapable message is there for all of us to hear, and he will call you too… not necessary down the same line as me, but a calling just the same to the life that we wishes for all of us: fulfilled, happy, at peace with ourselves and with our neighbours.
So, the phrase “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” was not one of Jesus’ teachings. Although he taught us a lot about humility and strength under pressure, and told us to forgive those who put us down, what he really shows us is that once we hear the message that means eternal life, as Peter put it, you really can’t turn away from it:
“Where else are we going to go to?”