Jesus says, ‘ Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.’
The 12 apostles had been sent out to proclaim the Good News – that is that the Messiah was here, the Kingdom of God was at hand, sins were to be forgiven and Jesus was the means of eternal life. Jesus Christ warns them however, that in proclaiming the Good News they would face opposition and persecution as the message was so strong, so powerful that it would upset some people. To identify with Christ is demanding and costly. However, Jesus says that the apostles will be filled with the Holy Spirit who will speak through them. Their body might be hurt- but their soul would be intact, and their reward will be acknowledged by God in heaven.
With this in mind, Jesus then confronts the disciples – and us- with the question about what our priorities are in life- oneself or God? What we want or what God wants?
During the time of the English Civil War there was a Puritan preacher and scholar called Thomas Goodwin. Goodwin is remembered for his preaching and great wisdom. Although of course popular with Cromwell, he didn’t side with one side or the other. He said ‘I never yet took up party religion in the lump…..there be some truth on all sides’. He adhered to the principle to ‘ acknowledge every truth and every goodness wherever I find it’. His was an example of someone who focused on what God wants for his people and not what humans want.
In the Great Fire of London, Thomas lost something he valued greatly- his library; a massive collection of books he had built up worth then £500. As a scholar and preacher this was especially devastating. God, he said, ‘Had struck him in a place as if his books were his sin. He said that, ‘ since he loved his books much too well, so God had sharply chastened him by this sore affliction. Thus, out of destruction came, instead of despair, new hope and inspiration’
What Goodwin has experienced and said is really relevant today. I wonder if this applies to you as well, because in this time of lockdown in a pandemic, those things which I have valued so very much as if my happiness and fulfilment relied on it, has been taken away – close contact with family, the fabulous building of our church – statues, the incense, stations of the cross, the bells, processions, colour, the close relationship of people, the chat, the banter, prayers and physical contact with each other. And above all for me- the music. In this time of lockdown, all gone. I felt that I could be only truly happy, fulfilled and spiritually fed with these things. I feel as if, like Goodwin, God has sharply chastened me/ us by this sore affliction.
Jesus is calling us in this gospel passage to re evaluate what is really, really important This time of lockdown has been an opportunity for a time of personal reflection. Prophetically, however, I can remember Fr Bob asking us what we would do if the church fell down. You’d all support each other and maintain a church family of course, he said. And we have! We have not fallen apart, collapsed, given up, disbanded. We have worshipped together, supported each other through phone calls. But what I hope we have also discovered is that it is God we focus on – not things., not even the music which was such an important part of our worship. That’s what Jesus means when he talks about not loving family more than Him and life more that him. It’s all a question of what is really important- to God- what our focus is, where our life values lay.
St Paul in his letter to the Romans which we heard just now says that to become a follower of Christ there must be some dying to the self- our old self is crucified with Christ. And in doing so we will then live with him. as Christ has risen from death and is alive with God.
Jesus is not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy and value our earthly treasures- our family and fiends, our home, our hobbies, the things we have etc it’s just that they shouldn’t get in the way of what it is that God wants us to do and be. In order to do that we need to be in touch with God – through prayer, still time, reflection, scripture.
To sum up, Jesus tells us to make choices about what God wants and what we want. If we find that our lifestyle, our things are more important than God, we will lose the life God has promised us. We’ll miss out! If we turn and focus on God in the first place, we will find life in all its fullness and be fulfilled.
Sometimes we’ve got to stand alone in the world to do this. In taking this risk (and some lost their life for this), we receive our life back. We are not poorer for investing in God but much ,much richer.
‘Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.’
I, along with you, I am sure, look forward to returning to our church building for worship and fellowship together – and for some of us, to our music making, really not virtually’- but hopefully with a renewed sense of what is truly important – what is God led, God fed. I wonder what is it in this lockdown that we have learnt? What really matters to God? Where am I in this?
Thomas Goodwin- Thus, out of destruction came , instead of despair, new hope and inspiration’
Jesus says, ‘Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.’