... Ecclesiastes 2:26 ...
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

PENTECOST 11 Year A, Message Aug 28th, 2011

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This time of year, as we move into September, I always get a sense of new beginnings. I think even more so than start of the New Year. In September, we check our wardrobe for fall. We prepare ourselves or our children for back to school and all that goes with that. We decide on courses or workshops to take. Many make major changes in school, jobs and so on. It is a time for new activities and schedules after the summer months of vacation, casual living, summer jobs and extra company.

Now is a time of choices. It may be the turning point in a life. A crossroad. It may be a time of change with major decisions to be made. The questions arise: How do we prepare? What do we need to face the future? Turn back or go on?

Although Labour day is not part of the church liturgical year, the fall seems to be the natural time for people living in the northern hemisphere to reflect upon their commitments and priorities for the coming season.

I have just made the move back to my home after spending most of the summer at the river. The move, the cleaning of my house and revisiting my garden gave me the opportunity to reflect. In preparation for today’s sermon, I pondered how the lection readings appointed for this Sunday fitted into the theme about choices and new beginnings. As usual questions kept popping into my head. What does it mean to answer God’s call as Moses did in our 1st Testament reading? I don’t know about you but I haven’t seen any burning bushes lately except the two shrubs at entrance the walkway of my home.

Yet as I walked about my garden this past week, I could not help but stand in awe of THE moment and marvel on the sacredness of all creation. I thought, I am in the Presence of the great I Am. The sovereign God. The God who is always where I am. The God who is always where we are.

Then I got to musing that if we are truly open to the presence of God in every place and every situation it can really stop us in our tracks (to remove our shoes). Then we do become more conscious of our attitudes and actions and choices and the fact that God does give a call to each of us – may not be as dramatic as Moses but we all have a calling.

Then as I pondered the gospel reading I began to wonder what exactly is the cross Jesus is calling his disciples to carry in our gospel reading?

Jesus is getting nearer and nearer to Calvary and he needs to have the disciples understand something. He needs them to know that the life of discipleship is not one of fame, fortune and glory in the world’s eyes but that it is the way of cross bearing. This is hard for Peter to understand. Remember, last week in my sermon, I said to “stay tuned”? Well here is Peter again. Although he demonstrated he has great faith in Jesus and is a devoted follower, he does not seem prepared for some of the implications that this new found faith will have.

This is hard for us to understand also. Our text is about the difficult task of following Jesus. Why would anybody want to be a Christian? Denying yourself. Carrying your cross. Following Jesus. Why would anyone want to do that? Why do we do it? Why do we encourage others to do it?

It is important to note here that the cross Jesus is referring to is not the same as the burdens we bare - we all have burdens – could be a physical handicap, the death of a loved one, the illness of a spouse, the break up of a relationship or various other tragedies – you may hear “this is the cross I must bear”. These are burdens or conditions that take courage perseverance and we have Jesus and the community to help us to carry them. However, the cross Jesus is asking his disciples to take up – and us also, is always a conscious response to a call, a determined effort and a choice. A calling as to the way one lives ones life. The struggle in following Jesus – it is not a matter of knowing what to do, but a matter of the will. Jesus lays it out: If anyone wants to be my follower, adopt my ways and my style, my method, let them give up their own plans, their own methods, their own style, and imitate mine instead.

Paul, for all his wordiness in 12 chapter of Romans, speaks of Christian commitment, following Christ in terms of things like eagerness, respect, hard work, reverence, joy, patience, disciplined prayer, generosity, hospitality, fairness and equality, peacemaking, forgiving and courage. The list goes on and indeed sounds daunting. Nevertheless, Paul gives clear formula of how Christians are to live and how their gifts are to be used for the community. Paul also says, we are all given gifts – we have been equipped to become cross carrying disciples and to become followers of Christ rather than stumbling blocks for others. Peter had to learn this lesson and so do we if we are to take up our cross.

As followers of Jesus we continually have choices to make and the choice to live this way or that is often contrary to what the world teaches. We are asked to answer the call of God to be the Body of Christ in this world.

In our Catechism in the BCP we acknowledge that “according to the gifts we have been given” we are to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world here and now, where we are and while we are here. We will not all do this the same way. As Paul says, not everyone has the same gifts. Not everyone has to follow Jesus in just the same way as the next person but as Christians, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that we each of us is expected to do no less than what God has equipped us to do. We make the choice. That means that our confession of Jesus as Christ must be joined with right deeds of love, justice and loving kindness extended to all. By all, of course we mean all of creation.

So once again we approach September with another opportunity to make choices. Choices to take up our individual cross and collective crosses to proclaim in action and in our very being that we are followers of Jesus Christ. Let us ponder just what that may mean for our future here as a community at Trinity St. Alban’s.

Amen