Church of England · Felixstowe · Lent · Sermon

Don’t Let It Hurt Too Much

Dentist this wont hurt a bit

Don’t Let It Hurt Too Much

Words for the Second Sunday of  Lent  – 28 February 2021

A cyber sermon from the Vicarage

 

Text: [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again  (Mark 8v31)

God give you peace my Sisters and Brothers.

Have you had your Covid jab yet?  Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, both being in their Nineties, had their first dose in January.  This week she made a video call about it public to encourage others[1].

HM Queen Feb 2021The call was with health leaders delivering the Covid vaccine across the UK, the Queen was asked about her experience of having the jab.  She smiled as she replied: ‘Well, as far as I can make out it was quite harmless. It was very quick, and I’ve had lots of letters from people who’ve been very surprised by how easy it was to get the vaccine.’ The Queen, who rarely talks about her own health, added: ‘It didn’t hurt at all.’

This won’t hurt a bit… particularly when it comes to needles, removing plasters and any of the paraphernalia found in the dentist room or doctor’s surgery usually means ‘this is going to hurt a bit… but not that much.’  It is a reassurance that though the cure may come with some pain it is as nothing compared to the hurt that would come to us if we did not receive it.

Would that it were the same for the spiritual journey.  Because surely if anything shouln’t ‘hurt a bit’ it should be walking in the way of righteousness and life should be all ‘Peace and joy in the Holy Spirit?’ (Romans 14v17).

But Jesus, after his Transfiguration and the promise of future glory was revealed, turns around and says to the Disciples, ‘Right!  No time to hang around sipping tea with Moses and Elijah let’s get down to some serious suffering!’  To be honest I don’t blame Peter for trying to stop him.  They do say ‘No Guts, No Glory’ but if you’re already in possession of the ‘Glory’ is it really necessary to go through the painful, bloody, gut wrenching crucifixion and death that was the speciality of the Roman soldiers of the day?

Surely there must be another way?  Judas’ song at the end of Jesus Christ Superstar points this out;

spurgeon no cross no crownDid you mean to die like that?
Was that a mistake or
Did you know your messy death

would be a record breaker?

Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ
Who are you what have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ
Who are you what have you sacrificed?

Apparently no.  Or else why would Jesus be saying ‘all this quite openly?’  It seems that the way to glory lies through passion and pain.  No Cross, no Crown.

 

There are several sources for the pain that comes with following the Gospel.

When we refuse to live the way the world lives the world will bite back.  Sometimes viciously and cruelly.  Across the world many Christians (as well as those of other faiths) face persecution and death simply for choosing to proclaim a common humanity and trying to walk a path of peace.

For this reason, to follow Christ means to take up a cross.

When we refuse to live the way the world lives we will bite ourselves back!  This may seem a strange statement but I know that I consumed selfish ways of living along with my mother’s milk, and it is very difficult to wean ourselves from them.  These ways of living are so ingrained within us that we use phrases such as Original Sin to describe them.  (Though, as Richard Rohr reminds us, before the sin of our first parents there was Original Good).

For this reason to follow Christ demands that we deny ourselves.

And finally (and most sad of all) when we refuse to live the way the world lives some within the community of faith will bite back.  I’ve never quite worked out why this is so but it is a commonplace amongst churches of all denominations and down the ages.  Read what Paul writes to the Church at Corinth;

…to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud – and believers at that.  (1 Corinthians 6v7-8)

Love-Words 1 Cor 13…and there are even more tales of Christian squabbling and fighting with Christians throughout 1 Corinthians.

Little wonder that in Chapter 13 he has to explain to them in fine detail the ‘most excellent way’ of Christian love.

For this reason to follow Christ demands that we forego following others.

This is hard work and, as we grow in faith and dive deeper into the love of God, we will find it harder still.  A former vicar of mine described it as what happens when a bartender is polishing glasses.  All looks fine and clear until they hold it up to the light and find a smudge. They buff it away with a cloth and then makes the ‘mistake’ of holding the glass even closer to the light and see even more smudges!

The walk of faith with our Beloved is a walk of passion and passion always involves suffering.  As the dross is purged from us in a refiner’s fire we are ‘transformed from ‘one degree of glory to another.’ (2 Corinthians 3v18).

Many years ago I read the story of a Jesuit monk who on the night before he made his Solemn Profession wrote these words in his journal;

‘Lord, I will follow you wherever you send me.
Just don’t let it hurt too much please?’

This won’t hurt a bit…

This denying of self, cross bearing, and following someone other than myself.  Well yes, I am sorry it will ‘hurt a bit.  Some days it will hurt like Billy Ho.  There may even come days when it will hurt so much that we will be tempted to give up on the journey and stop being disciples.

But we will not because, regardless of the pain, we now regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord.’ (Philippians 3v7-8)

 

[This blog ‘Don’t Let it Hurt too Much’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2021 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]

[1] The video may be found here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56203768

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