Summary: A sermon considering the price of discipleship, and challenging people to action. I borrowed the Illustration at the beginning of my sermon from Revd. Martin Dale sermon in 2006 with thanks :)
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
26 Christians were crucified at Niz-hiz-aka Hill in Nagasaki, Japan on the 15 February 1597, amongst them was a young seventeen year old boy, Thomas Kosaki, who had been sentenced to die for his Christian witness - along with his father.
He wrote a letter to his mother the evening before his crucifixion.
"Mother, we are supposed to be crucified tomorrow in Nagasaki. Please do not worry about anything because we will be waiting for you to come to heaven. Everything in the world vanishes like a dream. Be sure that you never lose the happiness of heaven. Be patient and show love to many people. Most of all, about my little brothers Mansho and Philipo, please see to it that they are not delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. Mother, I commit you to the Lord.”
Following Christ is not easy – it can be very costly. Our own Church was founded on the blood of martyrs such as Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer who were all burnt at the stake in Oxford 465 years ago.
Our Gospel this morning has been described by theologians as “one of the profoundest and most demanding sections of the entire Gospel. There are depths here which defy all sounding.”
Today we enter into the final week of Lent, the time known as passiontide, we draw closer to Palm Sunday and begin to prepare ourselves for our pilgrimage through Holy Week, which will lead us to the cross, and beyond into salvation.
I wonder what Lent 2021 has held for you, has it been a time of quiet reflection, an opening of minds to come to a better understanding of what faith means personally, has it been a time to Study God’s word, to spend more time in prayer, perhaps is has been a time where God has worked in some aspect of your life, or another way in which your walk with God has found a new level?
I hope that for each person, that the answer to at least one of these suggestions has been yes, and that through our lenten journey, both personally and corporately each person has had that opportunity to walk more closely with God.
However, we need to remember that we haven’t finished our walk just yet, and the worst, or should that be best is yet to come as we head towards Golgotha. This week the Lent groups will meet for their final time, and will consider all that has been studied, and think about how Holy Saturday, one of the most neglected days in the churches observance of Christ Passion should be observed.
Whilst we have already taken time to contemplate todays gospel earlier in the course, it continues to not only to us individually as Christians, but it also speaks into the final part of our Lenten study.
As we have journeyed through lent our focus has been to come to a deeper understanding of the significance of the events of Holy Week, how it affects and deepens our understanding of our faith, and why it is such a deeply pivotal part of our Christian life and discipleship. As we gather for our final session on Wednesday we will consider how it all fits together.
Last Tuesday as the body met together for our Annual Meeting, I spoke of the challenges that will lie ahead for us as a benefice, what changes may need to be made, what will our churches look like post pandemic.
All of these important questions, and conversations speak to this profound and demanding section of Johns Gospel?
‘Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.’
Christ is looking for people who will follow Him with a reckless abandon. He wants people who will throw caution to the wind and embark on the journey called discipleship.
He is searching for those with a daring heart who will fully devote themselves to Him, and who are willing to give their lives for Him.
I wonder have any of us ever really and truly thought about what it means to be a disciple of Christ? He isn’t asking us to be students, he is asking us to be disciples. The difference between the two is that a disciple strives to become what their master is, and show the traits that He himself came to show the world.
The problem is that this costs us much, for some perhaps too much, because it isn’t just about what we do on a Sunday morning, but in all of our lives. What Christ says in this passage is not, will you be like me for this hour of worship that we have together, He challenges us to be like him 24 hours a day, every day of our life.