Sermon for 15th Sunday after Trinity

James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-end
Revd. Dr. Philip Krinks
‘But who do you say that I am?’

Talk is cheap, people say. But, also, what we say matters. As the writer
of James says, we can choose to speak in blessing or curse, to pour forth sweet
water or bitter.
Look at St Peter in today’s Gospel. First of all, he gets top marks. He is
the one who is prepared to stick to what had started to be said about Jesus
before, when everyone else has begun to doubt.
‘Who do you say that I am?’
‘You are God’s anointed King, the Christ, the Messiah’ says Peter.
‘…Even if it doesn’t seem like it, Lord. Even if you haven’t put yourself at the
head of a military force and started biffing the Romans. Even if you don’t
look like someone who’s going to go and live in a palace in Jerusalem.’
But what St Peter has not realised is what that means: what it means that
Jesus is the anointed King. Jesus tells him: He will suffer, be rejected, be
killed, before rising again. And now Peter is not nodding along any more. He
thinks Jesus is, well… wrong. At least he is polite enough not to rebuke Him
in public! He takes Him aside to rebuke him! Mark’s account does not tell us
what Peter said exactly. But in Matthew’s account, Peter says, ‘Lord, this
cannot happen to you’.
Alas, it is St Peter who has got that one all wrong. And Jesus – who
probably thought the others could imagine what Peter was saying –feels the
need to make His rebuke to Peter in a way the others can hear. And it is a
harsh rebuke: ‘Get thee behind me Satan’ – in that splendid King James
Version translation.
Peter has made a serious mistake. He was saying, roughly: ‘Lord, you are
wrong: you can have the crown without the Cross’. But it is St Peter who is
wrong there. And I think, when we reflect on it, we all know, deep down, that
that is wrong. Yes, God is sovereign, His is the Kingdom, the crown, and we
have our share in it. But praying ‘Thy will be done, thy Kingdom come’, to the
extent we come to pray it deeply, is not to expect that all our wishes will come
true without any cost.
No. Instead it is to say, ‘Lord I will deny myself: the parts of me which
are not yet aligned to Your will. Lord, I will take up my Cross: in whatever
ways, small or big, you ask of me this week, this month, this year. ‘Lord I will
follow you’: to that Cross, and through the Cross to my share in Your
kingdom, under Your crown.
‘Who do you say that I am?’
Peter started out the right way to answer that: ‘You Lord are where the
sovereignty lies. You are He to whom we will dedicate our lives. You are He
for whom – if I had to – I would give my life; in fact You are the only one for
whom someone could give their life with integrity, could deny themselves,
take up a cross.
And that is what we say, too, isn’t it? We may say it most of the time
pretty quietly, hesitantly – and, if you are like me, a bit indirectly. Like most of
Jesus’s first followers, we find it hard to say it when the going gets tough. We
wish, at other times, we could just do the right thing quietly and not say why
we are doing it.
That’s ok. That’s human. What matters is that, in our own small ways, in
the ways we can, when we can, we speak the truth of Christ’s sovereignty, our
faith that His Kingdom is coming
That’s the truth that Daniel and Anneliese and Isabel’s and Olivia’s
godparents will say in a few moments on their behalf. That’s the truth we
support them in saying today, and in teaching to and sharing with these
children.
What we say matters. For what we say, usually, becomes integrated with
what we believe, and what we believe becomes integrated with the ways we
act.
As some of you know I came to faith partly through participation in the
musical life of the church. And when I was 11, and a boy treble in the front
row of High Wycombe Parish Church choir, what was our vestry prayer?
Some of you will know it. It is often called The Chorister’s Prayer.
‘Grant, Lord, that what we have said and sung with our lips, we may believe in
our hearts, and that what we believe in our hearts, we may show forth in our
lives’
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.