Sunday sermon 16 September – Sacrifice

Readings: Romans 12:1-2;  Mark 8:27-38

MAKING SACRIFICES – who you are determines what you live for

Rom 12:1  So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.

Rom 12:2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.

Mar 8:27  Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

Mar 8:28  They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

Mar 8:29  “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

Mar 8:30  Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Mar 8:31  He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

Mar 8:32  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

Mar 8:33  But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Mar 8:34  Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Mar 8:35  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

Mar 8:36  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

Mar 8:37  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mar 8:38  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

________________________________________________________________________

SERMON

Story of the chicken and the pig.

A chicken and a pig were best of friends. One day, they were looking at a newspaper and read about an orphanage not too far from them that needed food.  The chicken said, “Brother Pig, why don’t we go down to the orphanage and make a donation of food? We could donate a ham and egg breakfast.” But the Pig replied, “Wait a minute, Sister Chicken!  For you, that’s   just a contribution, but for me, it’s a total commitment!  It’s laying down my life.”

Okay. Jokes are meant to make us laugh.

The trouble is that being a disciple of Jesus is no laughing matter. It’s the most adventurous and challenging option we have.

It wasn’t long before the disciples faced this strange anomaly. This Messiah – this anointed one – was not going to be Mr Famous or Dr Success.

The moment his identity is clarified, Jesus’ destiny is sealed. To put it more formally –

Christology (who Jesus was and what he was meant to do and achieve) and

Discipleship (what it means to follow him) are integrated – are two sides of the same coin. If Messiah Jesus is a sacrifice – the followers are to be like Him too.

And so – “Who do people say I am?” is followed immediately by “Get behind me, Satan!”

Why? Because like Peter – we are most likely to try to make Jesus work for our agenda rather than follow His plan or His lifestyle.

Listen again to verse 33:  ‘… he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”’
It could be that many are following a Jesus of their own making!

WE LIVE IN CRITICAL TIMES

We live in critical times. The issues that get people excited – the debate about gay marriage, about euthanasia, about who owns the wind – and about the general mess of the world (ambassadors getting killed and riots about Anti-Muslim movies and the general conflict points that concern us) all sit under one bigger question.

It’s Jesus saying to us (and the world)”Who do people say I am?

And verse 29 follows – when he asks his disciples directly:

“Who do you say I am?” – That question flies down the ages to us. To me and to you. Now. Today!

When you answer this right – you are the Christ who will suffer and die – then within a few milliseconds this follows:

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (v34)

This is not a tourist industry – where we take people on nostalgic journeys to the Promised Land.

This is a place where we want to help people “find and follow Jesus” and to do that you need a loving supportive community – because it’s a tough journey.

BATTLE OF BRITAIN SUNDAY

Today is Battle of Britain Sunday. It means nothing to this generation. But there is a wealth of wisdom in any study of the sacrifices people made in war – and particularly those who stopped the German Air Force from opening the door to an invasion across the channel.

Listen to this quote:

Many people are unaware that Winston Churchill altered his famous speech on the way to the Commons, following the Battle of Britain in August 1941. It would have read “Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few”. But in the car leaving RAF Uxbridge, General Ismay commented “What about Jesus and his disciples?” From that reflection the speech turned out to be, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” (From a sermon by Canon Michael St.John-Channell, on Sunday 18th September 2011, Winchester Cathedral.)

“What about Jesus and his disciples?” is a question that has to go beyond the early followers to us.

They didn’t like the idea of sacrifice. Neither do we. Peter can be forgiven for resisting the idea that Jesus would die.

I have yet to meet families and friends who welcome the suggestion of a risky sacrificial death by anyone they love. Look at the sacrifice of our soldiers in Afghanistan. We send them there – and when they die in battle the questions come flying in – what’s the point of this? It’s tough!

If you want to understand the courage of men and women who have sacrificed for others – apart from war – look at the history of mission – those who took the gospel to others – from the early disciples most of whom like Jesus were killed for their efforts – through the ages – to Christians today who are being martyred for their faith.

And on a broader front – with the anniversary of 9/11, think of those who have sacrificed their lives to rescue others. The Christchurch earthquakes give us more current and closer-to-home examples, where amazing risks were taken to rescue others.

And then many of you who have given up so much for family, children, grandchildren and friends over years.

And then those who humbly serve behind the scenes – it’s all sacrificial. It’s all Jesus’ way. His whole life he was simple “a man for others”. re you? Or are you obsessed with your needs, your will and your wants?

I CANNOT GIVE YOU A MAGIC FORMULA

The modern church is heretical when it tries to give magic formulae – and people feed on that heresy when they want the church to be a kind of LIFE COACH Organization helping people to be successful.

We ARE NOT called to success. We are called to obedience. To faithfulness. To follow a sacrificial Jesus.

When people could not do that – could not really follow Jesus – they turned away.

And he never ran after them. He simply kept on loving and teaching those who hung around.

ANOTHER JOKE TO WHICH YOU CAN LAUGH – REALLY – to ease the tension of a serious topic today.

There were 11 people hanging onto a rope dangling from a helicopter.

Ten were men and one was a woman. They all decided that one person should get off because if someone didn’t, the rope would break and everyone would die.

No one could decide who would go, so finally the woman gave a really touching speech, saying she would give up her life to save the others, because women were used to sacrifice for their husbands and children, giving to men, and not receiving anything in return. When she finished speaking all the men applauded. 😦

More seriously – following Jesus is about taking risks and not wanting recognition.

BUT THE RECOGNITION OF GETTING IT RIGHT OR WRONG COMES:

Listen to the last few  sobering verses of the Gospel reading:

Mar 8:38  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

And of course there is Paul’s insight into this in 2 Timothy 2:

2Ti 2:11  Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him;

2Ti 2:12  if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us;

Paul of course also says in Romans 12:

Rom 12:1  So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.

We are called to be living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God.

In the story of Jesus, sacrifice is a central theme. He’s no martyr dying for a cause. He is the final sacrifice in a sacrificial system – receiving the punishment for the sins of the world. It is justice at work – and at the same time God showing the world that he feels the pain of all those who suffer and are unfairly accused.

We celebrate this at the Lord’s supper today.

We are called to follow Jesus and be like him. To live like Him. To die to self.

Not to die for our sins. He did that. But to live for God – and for others – as living sacrifices.

Do we live sacrificial lives?  The natural consequence of sacrificial living and service is always gratitude.

Are other people filled with gratitude because of us?

John Calvin said gratitude was at the center of the Christian life. G. K. Chesterton called it “the mother of all virtues.”

If we are really followers of Jesus – we too will be defined by the right answer to the question “Who do you say that I am?” Our identity and our destiny will also be sealed on this road to sacrifice. The moment we say he is the Christ – and that we are followers of the Christ – we follow in his footsteps to the cross.

We deny self.   We live for others.

Amen.

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on September 16, 2012, in Sunday Morning Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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