Summary: Father Dave’s sermon on faith and discipleship. Why do the disciples so often seem to get it wrong? And what’s the good news in all this?
Yesterday was a great day for this community.
Yes, I’m talking about the Newtown-St George Rugby game at Telstra Stadium, where our team, trailing by 2 points with only five minutes to go, ran in two tries to win by ten and get themselves a spot in next week’s Premier League Grand Final.
Being there yesterday, with a small crowd of die-hard supporters, was quite an experience. I confess that I did say a little prayer when our boy tried to kick the equalizer... and missed! I wasn’t sure at that stage what the Good Lord was up to! But it all became clear a few minutes later when we scored under the posts!
And I couldn’t resist leaping to my feet and cheering, and I confess that there was a bit of a tear in my eye, and I looked across at my mate Terry, and I could swear I saw a bit of a tear in his eye, and it was just a great moment.
And then I went home... and started work on this sermon, and I couldn’t help but think, ‘there’s not a lot of moments like that in the New Testament!’
And I’m not referring to the paucity of references to Rugby League as such. Indeed, I think I’m right in saying that none of the football codes actually gets a guernsey (so to speak) in the Bible. No, I’m thinking specifically of that experience of oneness with your mates, as you celebrate your team going in to score. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of that in the New Testament, does there?
You get the feeling with Jesus and the disciples that they’re never really on the same wavelength. Indeed, you get the feeling that if the group were there together at Telstra stadium yesterday, Jesus and the disciples would have been supporting different teams (Jesus would have been supporting Newtown of course).
Do you know what I mean? Whenever you see Jesus on his feet cheering in the New Testament, you can almost rest assured that the disciples are sitting down silently with their arms folded across their chests. And whenever the disciples are cheering, Jesus is booing!
It’s true, isn’t it? Whenever you see Jesus partying, the disciples are standing around grumbling, ’that party stuff could have been sold and the money given to the poor’. And whenever the disciples are getting excited, saying, ’look what I got!’, Jesus is saying, ’Hey, go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor!’
Nowhere is that misalignment more clear, I think, than in the dialogues that take place in our Gospel reading today, where both the disciples and Jesus seem to be talking religion, but where the content of their dialogues make clear that they have totally different understandings of what they are talking about!
Jesus was teaching them, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.", but we’re told that the disciples "didn’t understand what He was talking about."
Hello! Which part of "he will be delivered and killed" didn’t they understand?
Those of you who have four and five year olds understand what is going on here:
Can I have a lolly?
But I saw a lolly in the fridge
Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you can have it
But mum said that if I was good today I could have a lolly
Yeah, but I’m not mum, and you haven’t been good today anyway
But maybe if I have the lolly, then...
Hang on! Which part of ‘No, you can’t have the lolly!’ didn’t you understand?
Kierkegaard said, "All obscurity is a dialectical interplay of knowledge and will."
In other words, when we don’t know something, it’s always partly because we genuinely don’t know it and partly because we don’t want to know it!
That’s what it was like with the disciples. ’Sorry, but we just didn’t grasp what you meant when you started talking about suffering and death. We figured that maybe you were using metaphor, like when you told us to sell our possessions and give the money to the poor. That was a metaphor, wasn’t it?’
The disciples didn’t really listen to what Jesus was saying because they didn’t really want to hear what He had to say! They already had well-entrenched opinions as to what religion was all about and they really didn’t want Jesus turning that on its head!
Their understanding of religion comes out very clearly when Jesus catches them discussing with each other ‘who is the greatest’. For them religion was about power.
Maybe that’s a bit harsh. But let’s be honest - historically, politically as well as personally, religion has always been used as a means to power!