Summary: The three choices in the life of a Christian. To put the will of God foremost in our lives i) some of the time ii) most of the time iii) all of the time

Briningham and Binham 16-03-03

Mk 8:31-38

Story: One man I admire greatly is Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941).

Maximilian Kolbe was a Catholic priest, who was put in a Nazi concentration camp for his faith.

On May 28, 1941, he was transferred to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. During his time there, he would share his meagre rations of food with those around him - who were hungry.

One day a man in Kolbe’s block escaped. All of the men from that block were brought out into the hot sun and made to stand there all day with no food or drink.

At the end of the day, the man that had escaped was not found and so Fritsch, the Nazi commandant told the prisoners that ten men would be selected to die - in the starvation cell - in place of the one that had escaped.

One of those ten selected was a polish sergeant (Francis Gajowniczek). He begged to be spared because he was worried that his family would not be able to survive without him.

As he was pleading with the commandant, Maximilian Kolbe silently stepped forward. The commandant turned to him and said asked,

"What does this Polish pig want?"

Kolbe pointed to the polish sergeant and said, "I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children."

The commandant stood silent in disbelief for a moment. He then allowed the sergeant to go back to his place in the ranks and Kolbe took his place in the starvation bunker.

Each day the guards used to remove the bodies of those who had died. However instead being greeted by the usual sounds of screaming, all they would hear was the sounds of Kolbe and the others in the bunker singing hymns and praying.

When Kolbe could no longer speak due to

hunger and lack of energy, he would whisper

his prayers.

At the end of two weeks, the cell had to be cleared out for more prisoners. Only four prisoners were left alive and Kolbe was one of them.

The guards came in and gave each a lethal injection and on August 14, 1941, Kolbe paid the ultimate price for following his Master.

We are in the season of Lent and I think Lent is a good time to think about our commitment to following Jesus.

In this morning’s reading, we can see what Jesus himself had to say about discipleship.

If anyone will follow me, let him take up his cross and follow me. (Mk. 8:34)

I doubt any of us will be ask to pay the ultimate price - as Maximilian Kolbe did- in taking up our Cross.

But I do wonder how “taking up one’s cross” might be relevant to us today.

We live in a post Christian culture. Choosing to lead a Christian life is not easy. It runs contrary to our culture.

Jesus recognised this when he said

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Mt 7: 13-14)

Most, if not all, of us here today are Christians and so, in some way or another we have chosen to follow the Christian way of life.

So I would like to ask the question:

Having decided to follow Christ, what is the level of our commitment?

In other words, what does it mean to “take up our Cross and follow Him”

To explore that conundrum a little further, I would like to suggest that we have three choices in our level of commitment - so far as the will of God in our lives is concerned.

1. We can decide to put His will foremost in our lives some of the time

2. We can decide to put his will foremost in our lives most of the time

3. We can decide to put his will foremost in our lives all of the time.

I believe St. Peter made each of these choices at different stages of his Christian life.

1. The first choice

We can decide to put His will foremost some of the time in our lives

In today’s Gospel reading we see St. Peter rebuking Christ when Jesus told his disciples that he (Jesus) must suffer and die.

At this point in his life, St. Peter wanted a comfortable Christianity to follow.

He loved Jesus and wanted only the nice things associated with Christianity – for example he liked

the miracles Jesus performed

Jesus’ beautiful teachings (such as the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon in the Plain) and

Being around Jesus as his follower.

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