Cost of Discipleship!

Cost of Discipleship!

Exodus 3: 1-15
Psalm 105: 1-6, 23-26, 45c
Romans 12: 9-218
Matthew 16: 21-28

‘Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.’ Romans 12:9

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

I hope you have taken the time this morning whanau, to read the bible readings set down for today before reading my kauwhau. By doing so, scripture or the word, will enable you to reflect and be better equipped to understand what is needed in terms of discipleship.

In saying that, our gospel today from Matthew continues on from last week when Jesus took his disciples to the region of Caesarea Philippi. Where Jesus engaged them in a conversation concerning who people thought he was. After the disciples gave their responses, Jesus asked them directly: But “Who do you say I am?” In that context we heard Peter’s bold response, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus immediately commends him for his insightful response and then makes the bold promise that, upon the solid rock of Peter’s strong confession of faith, Jesus would build his Church.

So the story continues today. Imagine this: Jesus, not wanting the disciples to be unprepared, tells them what will happen next ~ When I get to Jerusalem, the authorities will have me arrested and they will not rest until I am put to death. But on the third day I will be raised. Peter is shocked by these words and he can’t accept this outcome. So he pulls Jesus aside and shouts: The Saviour of the world to suffer? No way! God will not let this happen to you Lord. In that moment, Peter starts the tradition of Jesus’ followers thinking that they are smarter than Jesus. Of course, this kind of thinking is not unfamiliar: Adam and Eve thought they were smarter than God when it came to what they could or could not eat in the Garden of Eden, Joseph’s brothers thought they had a better idea and they sold their brother into slavery, David thought he had a clearer sense of who should be Bathsheba’s husband and so he arranged for the death of her husband Uriah so he could marry her. And I am sure, there are times when we all think we are smarter than God and Jesus.

Matthew tells us that Jesus’ response to Peter was fierce and angry: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Perhaps Peter touched Jesus at a point of vulnerability. Ouch! We know that Satan had tried to break Jesus down when he was weakened by hunger after forty days in the wilderness. Whatever the reason, Jesus was brutal in his response to Peter. One minute Peter was the rock on whom Christ would build his Church; the next minute he is Satan, Jesus’ sworn enemy. Instantly Peter is transformed from hero to zero. But the critical factor in today’s gospel is the reality that in this moment, Peter is convinced that he is smarter than Jesus. However, we shouldn’t be too hard on Peter for we too are always looking for a pain-free, ouch-less form of Christianity ~ a form that by-passes Jerusalem. But Jesus wants us to know that the cross and the crown of glory belong together. No glory, Jesus says, without the pain and agony. 

Jesus challenges our perceptions against God’s intentions. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me:” This is not what we want to hear; we would prefer: Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest… Or God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. These are words that bring us comfort and peace. But deny yourself and take up your cross … this isn’t what we want to hear. Many preachers don’t like to talk about Jerusalem: the pain, sacrifice, self-denial, and servanthood. They want to focus on success, prosperity and blessings.

But today’s Gospel cannot be watered down. When Peter claimed to be smarter than Jesus, trying to stop the Lord from going to Jerusalem, he was strongly rebuked. We all must struggle to avoid acting like we are smarter than Jesus. Like Peter, we, too, would rather focus on our personal concerns and play down God’s intentions for our lives, justifying and explaining away:

Why it is that we don’t do more or be more active in God’s kingdom;

Why we need to hold onto 95% or 98% of what we receive from the Lord for our own purposes, instead of being more generous stewards we know we should be;

Why it’s so hard for us to come regularly to karakia and to assume tasks and ministries that will bless others, especially new comers, reflecting and sharing how much we have been blessed by God and Jesus Christ. More people want to come to church now that it’s closed rather than when it was open.

So whanau, let us resist the danger and temptation of thinking we are smarter than Jesus. We have been called to follow Jesus Christ, to be his disciples, living lives that matter … to deny ourselves for the sake of God’s kingdom. Let us not be so smart that we abandon our Lord and Saviour for a life of pleasure and self-satisfaction. I don’t think that’s very smart at all.

Lord God, you have called us, your servants, to journeys of which we can’t see the ending, by paths we are yet to walk and through challenges and dangers that are unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us. Amen.

Archdeacon Kaio Karipa

Eternal and everliving God, our beginning and our end, you give us strength in the face of suffering and death. Set our minds on divine, not worldly things. Give us courage to take up our cross and follow you. Help us to trust and live in the power of the resurrection of Jesus. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu