St Andrew, Glencairn

Glencairn Methodist Church

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July and August 2015

Holiday reading


During July my clergy colleagues, Emma and Colin, were on holiday and so I had the privilege of leading worship and preaching for three consecutive Sundays. I quite enjoyed this, but I don't think I would want is every month, and it sort of explains why I am only writing this now! The enjoyment came from being able to study a chapter with three stories that followed and linked together. I used Matthew Chapter 14 and the three stories were: The Death of John the Baptist, The Feeding of the Five Thousand, and Jesus (and Peter) Walking on Water. The Lectionary directed us to the same stories but using Mark's and John's gospels. We can draw several points from this study that are pertinent to Christian Discipleship.


John was in prison. He had spoken out publicly against the immoral behaviour of the King , Herod Antipas, and his "wife" Herodias. Herodias was the wife of Antipas' brother Philip and the Jewish Law (see Leviticus 18: 16 and 20: 21) forbade a man from marrying his brother's wife while the brother was still alive. So Herodias bore John a grudge and wanted him dead. Herod had arrested him but was reluctant to execute him. Hover Herodias' opportunity came at a banquet the king gave. Her daughter had been entertaining the guests by dancing for them and Herod was so pleased with her that he, foolishly, offered she wanted. At her mother's prompting she asked for the head of John the Baptist, and Herod had no choice but to accede to her request. John bore a heavy cost for his discipleship.


Jesus also bore a cost. First of all the cost of bereavement at the death of his cousin, and then the cost of seeking starkly his own demise, as he continued to speak out about the coming of the Kingdom of God and against the Jewish leaders.


So it is understandable that he wished to get away from the crowds to a lonely place for a while, to be on his own and to grieve. But yet the people followed him and came seeking healing for their sick. So Jesus put aside his personal needs and "had compassion" on the people, and healed them. As it was getting late the disciples, thinking of the best interests of the crowd, suggested that Jesus send them away to get food in the villages. But then we see the Challenge of Service that Jesus gave the disciples. He said, no don't sent them away, you feed them. But, they said, we do not have the resources to do this. All we have are a few small loaves and a couple of fish. Jesus took the loaves and fish, looked to heaven and blessed the meagre food supply. Then he gave it back to the disciples to distribute and the food just kept coming, and everyone one was satisfied.


Christian Service presents us with the same Challenge. We see a need and want to do something about it but we believe that we don't have the personal or financial resources to do it. The story suggests that if we offer what we have to the Lord he will bless our offering and give it back to us, enhanced, and we find we can do more than we thought.


Jesus send them all away and he obtained for a while the lonely peace he sought. The disciples had set off across the lake in a boat. But it was a stormy night and the fishermen got into trouble. Then Jesus came to them - walking on the water. At first they did not recognise him and were terrified, until Jesus called out to them, "it is I, don't be afraid."  But then Peter did a strange thing. He said to Jesus, "let me come to you, walking on the water." And Jesus told him to come. So Peter did so, and managed a step or two until he realised what was happening, and he lost faith and started to sink. Thank goodness for that! Peter was just a man after all, just like all of us. We have faith, yes, but sometimes we doubt. Well, probably quite often, actually. But yet Jesus is there to pick us up when we start to sink.


Faith and Doubt are the two sides of the same coin that characterise Christian discipleship


In summary, we see from these three stories, that Christian Discipleship:

  • involves personal cost,

  • requires compassion for other even when we don't feel like it

  • challenges us to use the talents we have

  • requires faith in the face of doubt

  • but reassures us that Jesus is near to help.



1 August 2015


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