Good Friday

Cross at Hucclecote
Empty Cross at Hucclecote Methodist Church

 

 

 

 

Today, Rev Phil Summers’  tells the story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion from the Gospel of John. Click here to open the text of John 18

Click anywhere in the picture to watch the video.

At 10am today you can watch a reflective service for Good Friday from Wesley’s Chapel

Click here to watch Wesley’s Chapel

You can also join in a short service using images from the Methodist art Collection

Click here to open the service

The President of Conference, together with Church leaders from across Britain and Ireland have issued a statement in response to the current crisis:

Click here to read the statement

A reflection will be broadcast from Westminster Central Hall on BBC local radio at 3pm today.

Reflection for Maundy Thursday 2020

Lonsdale Road Lenten Cross Palm Sunday
The Lenten Cross at Lonsdale Road Methodist Church, dressed for Palm Sunday

Today, in Church,  we would normally remember the Last Supper that Jesus spent with his friends before his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, later that evening.

The evening begins, according to John’s gospel (John 13), with Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. This is not something we would probably do for visitors, even close friends, today even if we were not staying at home and keeping to social distancing rules. But as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he was showing his care for them, and not just by taking care of their foot hygiene! As he said to Peter “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but one day you will”. 

In this act there is the symbolism of the water and the washing, which relates to cleanliness. But, as Jesus tells Peter, it’s not physical cleanness that is the issue here. It is about their readiness to continue Jesus’ work when he is gone – and as the gospel writer tells us, Jesus knows that his hour has come. So this is about cleanliness before God – doing the spiritual laundry, cleansing their souls to enable them to make a new start with God: A new start that will be available not just to the disciples, but to all people after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

But there is also a more explicit message of humility. Jesus is demonstrating how important humility is in their relationships with each other and with God. They are being prepared to continue Jesus’ work, to continue his mission, to take up his teaching. They need to be prepared to preach his message and take his love out to the world. When Jesus has ascended to heaven this task must be continued through his church, which will begin with the disciples and if they are to do this successfully, they must demonstrate through their own lives the life of love and care that Jesus taught and demonstrated through his. 

In all his teaching Jesus said that the greatest command was love for God and love for one another. And these two commands are intimately connected. It is not possible to love God without loving your neighbour. You cannot love God if you do not first love his children – as Jesus said “Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me”. When we hurt another human being we hurt God. When we show love for one another, we show God that we love Him too.

At times like that which we are facing at the present time, often the best in people is seen. We show our love for one another when we offer to help our neighbour or our family. In recent days we have heard about volunteers offering to do shopping for those unable to leave their homes, we have heard of the sacrifices being made by those who are involved in providing essential services, from shop workers to health workers and many others. People are going out of their way to keep in touch with one another by telephone or by social media or video conferencing. And when we show our care for each other in this way we are sharing the love of Christ to him as well as to one another.

Some people I have spoken to though have mentioned how much they are enjoying this time, because they are receiving far more offers of help and social contacts than they normally do. People who are alone throughout the year are suddenly finding that they are receiving calls from friends and family on a much more regular basis. Hopefully this will continue after the virus has been dealt with as we all need human contact even when there is not a crisis.

But we must also remember that washing of feet is not just about giving.  It is also reminds us that sometimes we need to have the humility to receive what is offered to us. We often find it difficult to receive from others, whether it is a word of praise, a compliment, a present or an act of kindness or charity. We often react with embarrassment or we brush them off as unnecessary, or worse we negate them – and in doing so devalue the gift we have been offered. When we do this we prevent others from demonstrating their love and care for us. Receiving gracefully is just as important as giving humbly.

Why do we feel this way? Perhaps because we are not used to being loved unconditionally. It is a measure of how far we fall short of the command to love our neighbour, that we so unused to receiving gestures of love that we are embarrassed by them. Paul tells us in Thessalonians 5:11 that we should encourage each other and build each other up. But we are much more inclined to voice our complaints and criticism of others than to offer a word of praise or support. 

Jesus said that we should “love one another as he loved us” and his love for us was unconditional. So great that it extended to going to the cross for our sake, even though it was undeserved by him. He was prepared to suffer and die for those who had hurt him and condemned him. What kind of love was that? A love full of grace.

Perhaps a time of crisis forces us to reassess our relationships with each other. But maybe at the same time we can think again about those times when we have hurt or been hurt, and see whether our love can come anywhere near to that of Christ in overcoming our differences, in showing one another that we care, and in making sure that the love of Christ shines out from this community of disciples. Amen

Click on this link to open an act of worship for home worship. This has been been prepared by Rev John McNeil:

An Act of worship for Maundy Thursday

 

Celebrating Easter in Lockdown

Hannah's CrossesI saw a meme on Facebook last week which said something along the lines of “Don’t worry that the Church is empty on Easter Sunday – the Tomb was as well!”.

We won’t be able to get together to celebrate the risen Christ this Easter Sunday, nor will we be able to share in Holy Communion together. There will no doubt be online Communion services to watch, but it’s not quite the same.  But the meme reminds us that the important event of Easter was the fact that the tomb was empty! It was empty because it was not able to hold our risen Saviour.

So how shall we celebrate this event together yet apart this year?

Yesterday Hannah posted on one of  Hucclecote Methodist Church’s Facebook pages a picture of some crosses that she had made for Palm Sunday and they were beautiful! It got me thinking that this is something we could all do on Easter Sunday. So I am asking you to:

Make and Decorate a cross that represents the risen Christ and post it in your window on Sunday morning.

If you want to be more creative then make a cross, as large as you like and either put it in the window or maybe even the front garden – somewhere where everyone will see it. 

Usually in Church we would decorate the cross with flowers or we would place them on the Easter garden. So make the cross as colourful and bright as possible.

To me though the Easter garden with its empty tomb is the most poignant symbol of the Resurrection – the empty cross shows that Jesus was taken down, but the empty tomb represents his resurrection.

So as well as the cross why not build an Easter Garden and display it in your window? Here is a video that shows you how to do it.

I remember making Easter Gardens just like this in Sunday School many years ago. We even had Easter Garden competitions!

If you can, please take a photo and post it on our Facebook pages. If you don’t Facebook then email a picture to me and I will post it.  Fill Facebook with the empty cross and the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. I’ll look forward to seeing them all.

As well as this don’t forget the Churches Together in England initiative to “Sing Resurrection” on Easter Day: Sing Resurrection

Palm Sunday

I have not posted on this blog for quite some time, however in this time of COV ID 19 restrictions, as out churches are not able to meet,  I am going to try to resurrect it as a place to post reflections and communications.

Today is Palm Sunday and the following is from the email and accompanying worship resources that I have shared for our “Worship at Home today”:

Good morning!
I hope that you are all in good spirits and keeping safe and well.
You can also watch Phil Summers’ excellent reading of the gospel here Gospel Reading by Phil Summers
 Holy Week begins today, but it will be a strange Holy Week with no Maundy Thursday, or Good Friday services and no celebration of Holy Communion on Easter Sunday (our Conference has previously said that Holy Communion over social media is not allowed). However we can celebrate Easter in other ways. One way is to join in with the Churches Together in England initiative “Sing Resurrection”.
They are asking that at 10am on Easter Sunday, we all go outside and sing two popular and well-known hymns: Christ is Risen Today and Thine be the Glory. They have been chosen as they are “cheerful, confident and joyful acclamations of resurrection and will be uplifting for other people to hear on Easter morning”. You can read more and print off a copy of the words here CTBI Sing Resurrection
I hope that you will all join in this and maybe all our neighbours will come and join in as well!
Today, Remember also to share in the service on BBC local radio at 8am and also the service on BBC 1 from Hereford Cathedral at 10.45am (this service features the Dean of Hereford leading a service in the Cathedral, interspersed with pre-recorded hymns from previous Songs of Praise programmes – so if the Cathedral looks full during the hymns it probably was 3 years ago!).
I have attached a picture of the Lenten cross at Hucclecote on which I have placed three palm crosses (I’m sorry I haven’t been able to do the same at Lonsdale Road).
The latest guidance issued this week, to comply with the government restrictions and in line with other denominations, is that our churches are closed to all (including for funerals). The only exception is for one designated person to visit weekly to check o the building and the Minister as it is considered their normal place of work! So please follow the government guidelines, stay at home, stay safe and help the nhs and other frontline workers who are are doing such a good job in difficult circumstances. Continue to pray for them and for each other. We are continuing to light our candle in the window and we invite you to do the same.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and always.

Our Lent Cross Liturgy for the Sixth Sunday in Lent – Palm Sunday

On this sixth Sunday in Lent we attach palms to the Lenten Cross. What kind of King is this?

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Matthew 21:8-11

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’  The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

Prayer:

In this most holy of weeks help us to stay close to Jesus that we may recognise the unfolding work of God. Amen.

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The following is from The Methodist Church Ministries, Vocations and Worship, prayers by Rev John Staton Service sheets

Opening Sentences.

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!

Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

righteous and victorious,

lowly and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Hymn: 

1   All glory, laud, and honour

to thee, Redeemer, King,

to whom the lips of children

made sweet hosannas ring!

Thou art the King of Israel,

thou David’s royal Son,

who in the Lord’s name comest,

the King and Blessèd One.

 2   The company of angels

are praising thee on high,

and mortal men and all things

created make reply.

The people of the Hebrews

with palms before thee went;

our praise and prayer and anthems

before thee we present.

 3   To thee before thy Passion

they sang their hymns of praise;

to thee now high exalted

our melody we raise.

Thou didst accept their praises;

accept the prayers we bring,

who in all good delightest,

thou good and gracious King.

 4   All glory, laud, and honour

to thee, Redeemer, King,

to whom the lips of children

made sweet hosannas ring!

Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to it here:

Glory Laud and honour

Let us pray together

God our Father, we thank you that you sent your Son Jesus to be our King and Saviour. We thank you that he came to his people in triumph, but also in humility, and was willing to die so that all who believe in him may be forgiven, may become your people, and may share in eternal life. Forgive us for the times we have refused to believe, for the times when we have not listened, and the times when we have been unwilling to follow him on the way, and work in us by your Holy Spirit to make us the people you want us to be.. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1: 9)

Philippians 2: 5-11

Today’s Gospel Reading: 

Matthew 21: 1-11

21 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the amount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately. ” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” 

Rev Phil Summers reads Matthew 21:1-11

Reflection

Palm Sunday  Matthew 21 1-11, Isaiah 50 4-9   Philippians 2 5-11

Jesus is King

I wonder what first impressions were created when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey that day? What impression was created in the minds of those who had heard about Jesus. Heard tell of  his teachings and his actions and had come out to greet him? What did they expect of this man who had spoken about the Kingdom of God and declared that it was now here? What did they expect him to be: a leader, a prophet, or a King in royal splendour?

Their actions and words bear witness to their expectations of his Kingship: they spread their clothes on the ground before him just as they had done when Jehu was anointed King by Elisha the prophet (2 Kings 9:13) in ancient times. They spread in his path branches cut from the trees, just as they did when they rededicated the Temple in the time of the Maccabees (2 Macc 10:7) That had taken place at the time of the festival of Tabernacles and we see that festival atmosphere reflected in the actions that accompany Jesus’ entry into to Jerusalem. The people shout “Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” reflecting their belief that Jesus was from God, a Saviour for the people, the expected Messiah.

No doubt the great excitement stemmed from a belief that Jesus’ ministry was, at last, about to come to fruition. The disciples share in the excitement and expectation of the amazing things they believe are about to happen. The excitement reaches a crescendo as the feelings of apprehension build. They are about to witness a turning point in history. God is about to bring forth a new order of things. 

But their hopes appear to be dashed and the peak of emotion and excitement wanes quickly as Jesus fails to meet their expectations. His humble arrival on a donkey although royally greeted, is a contrast to what was expected. Jesus comes as King but not in command of a great army. Jesus comes to claim his crown, but it will be a crown of thorns not of gold and jewels. He comes in obedience to God and he has already told his disciples that he must suffer before he can be raised up in glory. It is in humility rather than glory that he enters his capital.

The emotions begin to subside over the next few days as Jesus continues to fail to meet expectations.  Disappointed, Judas is driven to try and force Jesus’ hand and so he betrays Jesus to the authorities probably believing to the last that Jesus will be forced to reveal his power and use it to over throw the establishment. But Jesus moves from adulation to rejection as he faces the crowd again. But now it is in very different mood as it urges Pilate to crucify him.

This is a story of a roller coaster of emotion, a build up of apprehension based on a perceived expectation of something great to come, on that first impression of what Jesus was about and on an incomplete understanding of his mission and purpose. A build up that reaches a peak only to be followed by a dive into misery and dejection as that expectation fails.  As such it can be seen as a metaphor for many aspects life. 

I’m sure we can all think of times in our lives when we have built up our hopes with great excitement; only for them to come crashing down with unfulfilled expectations, by unexpected outcomes or circumstances: The fairytale wedding that ends in divorce, the promising career prospects spoiled by unforeseen circumstances. The move to the dream house, which turns out to have rising damp and neighbours from hell. 

Just a couple of examples which serve to illustrate the wave like pattern of life for many. These are part of the ups and downs of life. But how are we able to deal with the emotional highs and lows of life? They are not always within our control either physically or emotionally because they happen inevitably as a result of our interaction with the world. 

At the present time as our lives have been interrupted by the spread of the Coronavirus, and by the actions taken to try and slow and stop it, we all face such roller coasters of emotion.  There is our natural anxiety over the situation and uncertainty of the future. There is our fear of losing our lives and those of our loved ones as we hear daily rises in the number of deaths. There is our disappointment at cancelled plans and holidays. 

I wonder how Jesus felt on that day as he rode into Jerusalem amid all the outward displays of excitement? He is aware of the crowds’ enthusiasm at his arrival, but he is also very aware of what must come, that the day of his ultimate suffering is drawing painfully near, that things will get much worse before they get better. He knows that this welcome will not last and that soon these same people will reject him and put him to death. He would have felt the same anxieties and fears as we do..

In continuing on his path regardless, Jesus sets an example of faith and obedience. The “Servant Song” of Isaiah 50 4-9 points us towards the Good Friday experience. The theme is of obedience to God even in the face of suffering and humility. Even when things seem to be as low as they can get, there is cause for hope because God is there alongside us. Isaiah says:

“The Lord God is my helper, therefore no insult can wound me. I know that I shall not be put to shame; therefore I have set my face like flint. One who will clear my name is at my side…The Lord God is my helper”. 

The prophet tells us that God will always be alongside those who suffer. It was the strength of God that enabled Christ to remain obedient to him, and it is his humility in accepting the will of God that ultimately leads from crucifixion to resurrection glory and salvation for us all. Through death and out the other side.

The theme is taken up again in Philippians 2 5-11:

 “Take heart amongst yourselves what you find in Christ Jesus: He was in the form of God yet he laid no claim to equality with God but made himself nothing, assuming the form of a slave.” 

So  although Christ was equal with God and had God’s power at his disposal he chose to put aside equality with God for our sake. He accepts the pain and the suffering which leads him to cry out to God in anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before his arrest as he prays to God to take “this cup” from him and on the cross as he cries out “Why have you forsaken me”. But ultimately he knows and accepts that it is God’s will that must prevail. He chooses the weakness of the human condition, he chooses the course of action that will lead to rejection, suffering and death. So here we have the paradox that in choosing to be obedient to God’s will, in being brought low he will be raised up by God and glorified.

And in doing so, through this act of perfect love and grace, he offers salvation to all humankind, going to the cross in order that we can have a pathway to eternal life through him. If his love for us is so great that he is willing to suffer and die for us then we can have absolute confidence that he will be there beside us as we traverse the waves of life, both in the celebrations and in the desperations. We cannot control the ups and downs of life but we can be sure that God will always be there alongside us as we live through them, and he will give us strength when we feel we have nothing left.

Today, on Palm Sunday, as we remember how Jesus was first recognised on earth as King, Saviour and Messiah so we celebrate this high point in his journey. But we are also aware of the cross standing on the horizon and of what it represents.  In our current situation, we can celebrate today the coming of Jesus. But we know, because we have been told, that the virus has not yet done its worst. We also know that we can place our trust in the hope that God offers us because he has been through and shared our suffering himself. We know that he will always be there for us and will not forsake us if we place our trust in him.

Trust Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Amen

Andrew Biggs 5/4/2020

A time of prayer

We stand with Christ in his suffering.

For forgiveness for the many times we have denied Jesus, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For Christian people, that through suffering of disunity there may grow a rich union in Christ, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For those who make laws, interpret them, and administer them, that our common life may be ordered in justice and mercy, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For those who still make Jerusalem a battleground, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For those who have the courage and honesty to work openly for justice and peace, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For those in the darkness and agony of isolation, that they may find support and encouragement,

let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For those who, weighed down with hardship, failure, or sorrow, feel that God is far from them, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For those who are tempted to give up the way of the cross, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

Holy God, holy and strong

Holy and immortal, have mercy upon us. In Jesus’ name.  AMEN

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father ……

Hymn: Listen to You laid aside your majesty

SOF 633 Copyright © 1985 Thankyou Music.

YOU LAID ASIDE YOUR MAJESTY, 

Gave up everything for me, 

Suffered at the hands of those You had created. 

You took all my guilt and shame, 

When You died and rose again; 

Now today You reign, 

In heaven and earth exalted.

I really want to worship You, my Lord, 

You have won my heart 

And I am Yours for ever and ever; 

I will love You. 

You are the only one who died for me, 

Gave Your life to set me free, 

So I lift my voice to You in adoration. 

A prayer of blessing

Christ crucified draw us to himself that we may find in him a sure ground for faith, a firm support for hope, and the assurance of sins forgiven and the blessing of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be upon us and remain with us always.

Peace or a sword?

C Ordinary 20

Jeremiah 23: 23-29; Hebrews 11: 29-12:2; Luke 12:49-56

I know that some of you are into the online world while some of you are not. Like many things in modern life it can be a mixed blessing, but not one that can be avoided if we wish to continue to participate in mainstream culture and society and not find ourselves sidelined. The internet has many uses and social networking which means using websites like Facebook and Twitter – and other less well known ones, is a case in point. On the one hand they provide a means of keeping in contact with friends and relatives who live far away. Being able to keep abreast of what is going on in their lives makes it easier to feel closer to them and maintain regular communication. On the other hand it means learning a whole new language!

Social networking also provides a space where people can express views and opinions and take part in discussions on things that interest or concern them, and it allows us to publish information in a way that is easily and quickly accessible to anyone with a mobile phone, tablet or computer. For example, if we are away for any length of time I always use the internet to check out the place we are going – see what churches and local amenities exist so that we are prepared when we get there. I booked most of our recent holiday on the internet – ferry crossing, hotels, travel insurance, route planning.

The downside is that people can easily get carried away and forget that their comments once out there cannot be withdrawn and may be seen by many. And the fact that some sites allow anonymous participation means that some people can feel too uninhibited in expressing abusive or extreme views and opinions. Some online debates can become quite heated at times but they can also be a way of sharing the gospel message and modelling kingdom values.

Some time ago now I got involved in a discussion with an atheist who was writing about his view that Christianity is destructive to humankind and quoting Bible passages which he said proved that Jesus was not who he claimed to be but a troublemaker who’s true purpose was to cause war and destruction. The passage that we just heard from Luke was one of those that he used to support his argument, and when read out of context it doesn’t sound good does it?

“I have come to set fire to the earth”; “Do you suppose I came to establish peace on earth? No, indeed I have come to bring dissension. From now on, a family of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother” and so on. It doesn’t sound good for someone claiming to bring a message of love and reconciliation does it? and the fact that Christians often do act in violent and destructive ways lends further credence to his ideas and there were many who agreed with him.

That is why I got involved in the discussion, because such views of Christianity are, in my opinion, the ones which are destructive and often stem from ignorance of what Christianity is really about and a lack of understanding of how the Bible should be read. It is also a reason why it is important to learn how to read the Bible properly and it shows the danger of taking individual passages from the Bible without considering the historical and cultural context and without considering how it contributes to the overall narrative of the Bible.

As far as this passage from Luke’s gospel is concerned, in order to understand what is going on and why Jesus is speaking in these terms we need to begin by understanding what has gone before in the gospel of Luke which is essentially this:

Jesus, after being baptised by John, travels around the Galilee region – healing, challenging assumptions and behaviour, teaching through parables and performing miracles – telling people about the kingdom of God and spreading a message that he later sums up as being rooted in loving God with all your heart soul and mind and loving your neighbour as yourself.

In chapter 9 he begins to prepare the disciples to be sent out in his name and continue the work under his authority. They move out from the Galilee region to take their message further afield. Its a sort of training exercise for the disciples. He tells them to proclaim the kingdom of God and heal the sick, and he tells them to take nothing for the journey but to rely on the hospitality of those they visit. They are being taught to rely on God to provide for their every need. But Jesus also warns them that they will not be warmly welcomed everywhere they go and that where they are not welcomed they should symbolically brush the dust of that place from their feet as a warning of God’s judgement and move on.

On their return Jesus tries to take them quietly to Bethsaid for some kind of  debriefing but they have been so successful in spreading the word that crowds are now following them wherever they go so it doesn’t quite work out as planned. Then comes the moment when their travel turns in the direction of Jerusalem and they start the long journey which will ultimately lead to the cross. Before that though at the beginning of chapter 10 Jesus now appoints and teaches a further 72 people to go ahead of him proclaiming the word of the kingdom and he gives them similar instructions to those given earlier to the 12 disciples.

It is clear through Jesus’ teaching, the example he sets and his challenges to the authorities that Jesus has come to bring change. He has come to challenge those who disregard God’s will and purposes and he has come to save those who are willing to hear his message and respond to it. He has come to lead people to fulness of life here and in the hereafter instead of sleepwalking into a death which is the consequence of sin.

The reference in the passage to “setting fire to the earth” (12:49) is about this – it is not a reference to the destructive force of fire that will about bring destruction to the earth, but about the cleansing and purifying aspect of fire that is a metaphor for how Jesus will change people into the holy people God wants them to be. Jesus wants people to live in a world typified by justice, mercy, love and harmony and this can only be achieved through changing people by challenging attitudes and assumptions.

But the imperative for change inevitably will bring division. No one knows more than a Methodist minister how difficult it can be to bring about change. It is always something that is embraced by some but resisted by many. There are always those who are prepared to hear and give something new a try, and those who shut their ears and minds as soon as any form of change is broached.

Jesus says to those he has chosen and is sending out in his name “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” Jesus prepared those he sent out to face such rejection – through peaceful means – by walking away once they had delivered their message, when it was clear that it was unwelcome; by warning them to be on their guard against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (12:1); by telling them not to fear those who kill the body – (because they can do nothing more to them after that), but to fear God instead who will choose their path beyond death. He encourages them by reminding them that they are more valuable to God than five sparrows and that those who acknowledge Jesus before others will be rewarded in heaven.

He also gave them advice for how to react when brought before the authorities: “Do not worry about how you will conduct your defence or what you will say. When the time comes the Holy Spirit will instruct you what to say” he says.

So Jesus is fully aware that his message will not be calmly accepted by everyone, that some of those he has come to challenge will put up opposition, that even a message of love, peace and justice will not be accepted kindly by those with a vested interest in the status quo such as: those who risk losing their corrupt power base; those who would rather build up and keep wealth for themselves than use it to help others, even by those who are just not prepared to make the changes of lifestyle that following Jesus will require.

Jesus knows that his message will result in conflict and even persecution for those who carry it. Hence his warning that his message will not bring peace but will cause dissension and conflict, even within families, because that is what always happens when you try to change things or people. Conflict was inevitable. But Jesus did not avoid or turn away from it – instead he recognised this inevitability and he prepared his disciples for it and guided them in a way of dealing with it peacefully and without resorting to violence.

Perhaps this is a lesson we should remember when people suggest that Christians should always be peacemakers. Sometimes true peace requires being prepared to engage in a certain amount of conflict in order to challenge injustice or to stand up for the values of the kingdom. The important thing is that we engage in that conflict by clearly and unequivocally stating our message and then allow people to accept it or reject it as they choose but having been clearly made aware of the consequences. Allowing people to reject the message you bring is an act of grace and is the way of Christ.

Jesus called the people hypocrites because they had heard the message and they knew what God required of them but they preferred to turn a blind eye to God’s will. I wonder what he would say to us if he were here now? Would he call us hypocrites, for failing to act or speak up in the face of injustice in our society or for our failure to tell people about him, or to identify ourselves as Christians because we are afraid of rejection or conflict?

Or would he see our courage in the face of adversity and say “Well done good and faithful servant?” Its not too late if we, on examination, happen to find ourselves in the former group. We can take courage from the example of Christ and the early disciples and call upon the Holy Spirit to give us courage and resilience as we accept the challenge of being a true and faithful disciple of Christ. Amen.