22nd Sunday of the Year
|Christ the King, Plymouth|
My family and I have finally moved from St John's Vicarage in Bovey Tracey to Christ the King Presbytery in Plymouth. Bishop Christopher very kindly invited us to live at the presbytery which had been used as student accomodation and the chaplain's flat. Over the summer the heating has been completely refurbished and we embarked on redecorating the place with much help from family and members of the ordinariate group. The presbytery is integrated into the church and hall and was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott and to be his final project before he died in 1960. The church is a chapel of ease to the Cathedral and has a daily mass, as well as the vigil mass for Sundays. We are now positioned in the centre of Plymouth which is a big change for all the family having lived in rural Devon for the last decade. After all the turmoil of the last six months we now have chance to settle down and adjust to our new surroundings. We are fortunate to be positioned near the Hoe which means we can take a walk to see the sea in five minutes or so. Please say a prayer for us that God may bless us in our new home.
|A view from the nave|
1 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
23 But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men."
Saint Peter, by divine revelation, had declared Jesus' true nature, and then Jesus had given him the keys of the Kingdom of heaven, with the power to bind and loose. With regard to whom Jesus is, Peter had got it right. But, as we heard in the gospel today, with regard to the mission of Jesus, Peter did not have it right. It would take Peter time, in his journey of faith, to get to grips with Christ's mission. The mission of Jesus is of course a working out in Peter's life of who Jesus was. Peter had got the first bit right, but working it through would take longer. And this is not just Peter's problem; it is a problem for just about all disciples of Christ. Assenting to the Christian faith is one thing, working it through into daily life is a much longer project for most of us.
If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
|The Lady Chapel|
The difficulty for Peter then, and for most disciples of Christ, then and now, is the attachment we have for the things of this life. We feel more secure grasping the tangible things of this life for support and to find meaning and purpose. But Christ reveals to us that in fact we will not find what we are searching for. If we look for our ultimate security in tangible things we will not find any real security. If we search for meaning and purpose in this world we will find none. If we seek salvation by grasping at our lives and clinging on, we will in fact lose it. Peter saw things as the world saw things and acted upon this way of seeing as he remonstrates with Christ: “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Peter is thus getting in the way and obstructing the mission of Christ; and our Lord calls Him “Satan”, who is the one who always seeks to obstruct the mission of Christ. Peter does not realise that in conforming to the world he is actually doing the work of God's enemy.
St Paul in his letter to the Christians of Rome, sums this up brilliantly in the first two verses of chapter twelve. In the first eleven chapters he has shared the gospel, now he begins exhorting the Christian community to start living it out in their daily lives. For a number of years now these two verses have stayed with me and I have often thought about them, particularly the second verse. The very great danger for the Christian is to be conformed to the world. It is a very succinct way of describing it, but it happens in all sorts of ways – it creeps in; it is invidious. We must be vigilant and beware. Yet this has been one of the very great disasters of the modern period, for, in many and varied ways, members of the church in the West have fallen for the allure of the ways of the world. In lesser or greater ways most of us have been touched by this. This isn't a simplistic battle in the church between revisionists and traditionalists, or liberals and conservatives as it is so often portrayed. It is about discerning the will of God and rightly offering ourselves as a living sacrifice – our true spiritual worship as St Paul puts it. Our mission, the church's mission, is to do the will of God, whether or not it fits into one of our favoured categories – whether that be “conservative” or “progressive” or whatever.
Ultimately we will only give ourselves as a living sacrifice to the one whom we desire most, whom we love most. Jeremiah puts it very strikingly:
You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced;
you have overpowered me: you were the stronger.
It is only in a true relationship of love that holy self-sacrifice becomes a realistic possibility. And a relationship of love is cultivated through familiarity and repetition. It begins in our personal prayer life and culminates in the offering of the mass.