APC 28th Feb 2021 “Seeing and choosing what’s best”
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Sunday morning worship. Today we look at one of the major turning points in the lives of the disciples and in Mark’s gospel. After all this time, they would finally discover who Jesus was, why he had come and what that would mean for them all.
But first, let’s worship God for all that He has done for us in Christ as Elaine, Sharon and Rebecca lead us in the hymn, “Before the throne of God above”….
(End Part 1)
Opening Song “Before the throne of God above”
Elaine, Sharon and Rebecca thank you as always for leading us so beautifully.
Let’s take a moment to pause and to talk to our heavenly Father, let’s pray…
Gracious God, once more we meet together during this season of Lent. We come in the name of Christ remembering again those lonely and testing days he endured in the wilderness. We come, recalling how deliberately he spent time there alone, reflecting on who He was and what you wanted of him. We come reminded of the faith, the courage and commitment he showed during that time- qualities that were to characterize the rest of his ministry.
Gracious God, help us to use this time given to us. May we draw closer to you through it, understanding more of your nature and our own. May it deepen our faith, strengthen our commitment and confirm our sense of calling. May we learn what it means to follow Christ and what it means to serve you. May we recognize more clearly the true cost of discipleship but equally the rewards. May we understand more fully why you have put us here, what you would have us do, who you would have us be, how you would have us live, where you would have us go.
Gracious God, prepare us through this time of worship, this day and this season, to understand and celebrate more fully all you have done for us in Christ. And so may we love you more truly and serve you more faithfully, to the glory of your name. Amen.
Join me as we say the Lord’s Prayer thoughtfully and sincerely together…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Introduction to Kids Video
So if your kids aren’t beside you right now, why not pause the recording, and call them in to watch a short video about the story of who Jesus is and why He came to earth. And at the end of this video I’ve a few words to say to the children so don’t let them rush away.
(END Part 2)
Kid’s Video God’s Story - Jesus
Kid’s Talk Summary
Hey boys and girls. Hope you’ve enjoyed the video today. It’s amazing that the God who made the whole world (and that includes you and me) came to live here on earth. Jesus is God who came to earth as a human being. Isn’t that amazing! So when we see how Jesus lived we see how God wants us to live. What’s even more amazing is that Jesus was willing to die on the cross for you and me. He died to take the blame for all the wrong things we say and do. If we say sorry to Him and mean it He will forgive us and be our best friend forever. Jesus is in heaven now, but when we say sorry to Him and ask Him to be our friend he sends His Spirit the Holy Spirit to live in us. It’s like having Jesus as your best friend with you everywhere you go. Its really cool because that means at any time we can ask the Holy Sprit to help us or guide us and he will. He can also remind us when we are about to say or do something wrong! I hope you believe Jesus died on the cross for you. I hope you have said sorry to Him for the wrong things in your life. I hope you have asked Jesus to be your best friend forever. Have a great week and don’t forget to say thanks to God for your teachers and your mums and dads and grannies and grandas for all their help with your schoolwork. If you ask your mum and dad they can download todays colouring sheet from our Facebook page or website to help you remember about Jesus. Don’t forget to tune in again next Sunday. Bye for now…
Colouring Sheet Link
Introduction to Bible Reading
One of the things I love about the bible is it’s honesty. It’s great to know that the disciples were just as slow as we are to really understand who Jesus was, why he’d come and what it would mean to follow Him. In our reading today this is exactly what we discover. So sit back as Lesley Anne reads for us from mark Chapter 8.
(End Part 3)
Bible Reading Video
Thanks so much Lesley Anne for reading our lesson today. We hope you and Paddy and the boys are all keeping well in these days.
Reflection “Seeing and choosing what’s best”
I want to begin with a true story about Kevin. His left eye was hurting and eventually he went to see his optician. During the consultation the eye specialist questioned Kevin to see if she could get to the root of the problem. “It’s funny” said Kevin “but my eye only hurts after I’ve been drinking tea.” “Well, I suggest you stop drinking tea” advised the lady. Kevin looked disappointed. “But I love tea” he said, “with two sugars.” The optician looked at him and said, “Okay, then make sure you take the spoon out.”
As a wearer of glasses, I can relate to any funny, eye-related stories. I love watching the Specsaver’s adds highlighting the importance of clear vision. Like the vet who panics that a cat needs immediate resuscitation, until he realizes the animal is actually his winter hat. Recently, I read about a man who had to have an operation after swallowing his hearing aids. He thought they were cashew nuts!
You know, when it comes to spiritual sight, it’s exactly the same. As we read the gospels it’s encouraging to see that even those who were closest to Jesus often needed a checkup from the Master. In our passage today we discover how despite all that he had witnessed and all that he had been taught, the apostle Peter still couldn’t clearly see who Jesus was and why He had come.
It’s easy to be critical of Peter, but we need to understand that he would have been brought up being taught that the Messiah, that God would send, would be a super-human figure who would rise up in power and destroy all the enemies of God with great political and military might.
So when Jesus began to explain that He would be rejected by the religious authorities, suffer and then die, Peter was utterly confused. I can imagine Peter taking Jesus to one side and saying, “Look Lord, you’ve got it wrong. You can’t be dying. Your role is to be strong. To take control. To build God’s Kingdom in power and might!”
Jesus’ abruptly tells Peter to clear off, because his advice was exactly the same as what Satan had tempted him with in the wilderness.
Jesus already knew the suffering that lay ahead of him. He knew that he had to die for the sins of the world. It was hard enough resisting the temptations of Satan. The last thing he needed was his best friend telling him the same thing!
You know, sometimes it can be the same for us. Our greatest temptations often come from our family and closest friends. Like Peter, other people may simply be naïve about how their requests or advice may be leading us away from what God has said to us.
At those times, we need all the help of God to be firm and to say “No”.
Once Jesus had got over his initial frustration, Peter’s reaction must have helped him to realise just how short sighted most of his followers must be. Whilst Peter’s earlier answer, “You are the Son of God,” showed that the disciples were beginning to understand that He was the Messiah, it was clear they hadn’t a clue what that would mean for Him and what ultimately, it would mean for them.
So effectively, Jesus calls an emergency meeting, gathers everyone around and without pulling any punches lays it on the line. He says,
“If you want to come after me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For whoever tries to save their life will lose it but whoever loses their life for my sake and the gospel; will save it.”
The verb used here which is translated, ‘deny’ literally means to disown. So Jesus here literally says to would-be followers, “If you want to follow me then you need to stop living for yourself.”
Our natural reaction is probably to say, “Hold on a minute, I don’t just live for myself.” Well, if you’re still not convinced that deep down we all live mostly for ourselves, then try answering this question - “who has the right to tell me how to live my life, how to spend my time, how to conduct my relationships with others, how to do my job and how to spend my money?”
Our instinctive response is, “No one!” “It’s my life! I’ll choose how I live it!”
But Jesus says, “It’s not your life, it’s mine. I made you, all you have I give to you! You want to follow me? Then you need to put me first, others second and yourself last. You want to follow me? Then your own interests, your own desires have got to take a back seat. My mission and your job to take that message to the world is so important, it’s got to be your number one priority. At times that will mean saying no to ease and comfort, no to certain instincts and desires, no to self-interest and self-will. You’ve got to let me do the driving in your life!”
Every day we must battle against this sin of selfishness. If you and I are not prepared to let God decide how we use our time, how we behave towards others, how we spend our money, what our attitudes should be, then we’re not ready to follow Christ.
Reflect Are you willing to give the keys of your life to Christ?
In addition to denying ourselves, Jesus goes on to say that “we must take up our cross and follow Him.”
What did Jesus mean?
In those days under Roman law, criminals weren’t sent to prison. Instead their arms were outstretched and nailed to a piece of wood. They were then forced to carry this cross beam through the streets to the place of their execution. There, they were lifted up and the cross piece was nailed at right angles to a wooden post in the ground. Eventually, the air would be squeezed from their lungs and they would die.
Crowds would line the streets to shout abuse at the criminals as they carried their ‘cross.’ Jesus uses this symbol to convey to people who wanted to follow Him, the shame, the ridicule and the cost that they would have to endure.
If you and I want to receive the blessings of Christ’s cross then we also must take up our own cross and be prepared to walk the path of abuse and pay the cost of being a Christian. But what will it mean to take up our cross?
Are we prepared to be considered ‘narrow minded’ because of some of our Christian beliefs?
How would we respond if God called us to serve Him with our gifts in a less well-paid job or in another part of the world?
Are we prepared to be called a prude because we don’t agree with sex before marriage or refuse to laugh at suggestive jokes in the office or the classroom?
Are we willing to live a simpler lifestyle, so that we can devote our time to the things that really matter such as our family relationships, going to church regularly and caring for those who are in situations of poverty and suffering?
Have we the courage to share our faith with those we rub shoulders with in our daily lives?
Have we the energy to go that second mile for others or the courage to forgive those who treat us wrongly?
Here Jesus reminds us, if we’re not willing to bear the cross then we’re not ready to receive its blessings.
Reflect Are you willing to take up your cross each day?
Let me stop and make one thing very clear if it isn’t clear already:
Many of the benefits of being a Christian are in the world to come.
Following Christ here and now demands our 100% commitment. At times it will cost us dearly. The question is “Is it worth it?”
If we only think of following Christ in earthly terms the answer is “No” it isn’t worth it. But Jesus adds these final verses to give his first followers and us, the right perspective. He says,
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and the gospel will save it. What good is it for a person to gain the whole world yet lose their soul? For what can a person give in exchange for their soul?”
Aside from your family, what’s the most precious thing you have? A house? A car? A picture? A ring?
What if I offered you E20 for it? You would be absolutely crazy if you took me up on that offer! And yet, every day, as a coffin is lowered into the ground, the devil rubs his hands and laughs, knowing that someone else has swapped their most precious possession, their eternal soul, for the measly sum of a life of selfish pleasure.
Don’t let it happen to you!
Your spirit, your soul, the real you, is the most precious possession you have! If you lose it, there is nothing you can do to get it back!
To prevent that happening Jesus wants to lift our eyes from the present and fix them on the future! In one sense He is reminding us that this life, and all that’s good about it, is simply a dress rehearsal for the next. And that’s because ‘the next life’ as we call it, will last forever and all of us will live it!
In so many places, the scriptures encourage us that if our souls are found in Christ (if we love Him and follow Him) we will live in the splendour of heaven forever! (God will clothe our souls in a new resurrection body and raise us to be with Christ forever).
That’s why when mum died last year I was both sad and happy. Sad to have lost her but so relieved that her suffering was over and so happy that she is now living the life with God in heaven.
But the reverse is also true. That’s why in even more places the scriptures warn us that if our spirit is lost, (if we ignore Christ and don’t follow Him) we will be separated from God’s loving presence forever. It’s a choice between 60 years of commitment and an eternity of pleasure, or 60 years of selfishness and an eternity of regret.
Don’t be fooled! Jesus here teaches that there is a connection between our commitment to Him now and our fate at death.
Or as Maximus puts it in the film Gladiator, “What we do in life echoes in eternity!”
Every decision in life has its pros and cons, its costs and benefits. The decision to follow Christ is no different. Through Jesus’ death on the cross we receive all the blessings of forgiveness of sin and the promise of a greater quality of life both now and in the world to come. But to receive these blessings aright, we must accept the other side coin, for with the blessings comes the cost of commitment. As the old children’s song says, “If we cannot bear the cross we can’t wear the crown.”
Because Jesus is the King who will one day be our judge, whatever we might lose by following Christ now will pale into insignificance compared with how He will reward us then. Jesus pleads with us to give up the very things that will destroy us-
self-love, self-worship, self-will.
In 1000 AD, 186 years after the death of the Emperor Charlemagne, officials of the Emperor Otto re-opened Charlemagne’s tomb. Before them was an extraordinary sight. In the midst of all the gold, jewels and priceless treasure buried with him- there was the skeleton of Charlemagne himself, seated on his throne, still wearing his crown. In his lap there lay a bible and a bony finger rested on Mark Chapter 8 v 36… “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” I wonder what answer Charlemagne gave?...
Introduction to Song
It’s not easy for any of us, myself included to always follow Jesus. One thing that keeps me going is knowing what awaits us in heaven and the people who have gone before us who will be there to welcome us. So sit back and be inspired once more to give Him your all as we listen to the song, “When we all get to heaven”. (End Part 4)
Song of Response “When we all get to heaven”
Lord Jesus Christ, you call us as you called your first disciples to follow you- not simply to believe, not merely to declare our faith and confess you as lord, but to keep on following wherever you lead. Lord Jesus, help us!
Help us to follow you eagerly, faithfully, devotedly, seeing where you are at work and staying close to you. Lord Jesus, help us!
Help us to follow in your footsteps, pursuing the way of love and accepting the road of sacrifice. Lord Jesus, help us!
Help us to follow after you, letting your presence fill our hearts, and trusting you so competently that your love shines through us. Lord Jesus, help us!
Help us to follow through the life of discipleship, not allowing ourselves to become distracted, or to lose heart so that we wander away from you, but keeping faith to the end. Lord Jesus, help us!
Lord Jesus Christ, you call us as you call all your people, to follow you. Teach us what that means, and by your grace help us to respond and be followers of your way.
Take a moment now to pray for one or two people you know who need God’s help at this time….
All this we ask in the name of the one who denied Himself, took up His cross and gave His life for us, Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s reflection. Please do spend some time in quiet over the next couple of days and ask yourself…
I’m afraid we’ve no word yet about when church will be able to reopen but as soon as we get any further information we will let you know.
I just heard this week that Father Padraig Parish Priest of St Mary and Peter’s is in hospital. Please do pray for his recovery at this time and for Fr Dave as he leads the parish in his absence.
Please do pray for Bev who is also in hospital at this time and for his wife Sharon and their family.
I would also like to highlight two wonderful resources. The first is a series of Lenten reflections specifically aimed at bolstering our emotional wellbeing produced by the Bible Society. It’s called ‘Lifting the lid’ and you can register by logging onto the National Bible Society of Ireland’s website. They will be running on Monday nights for the next 6 weeks during the season of Lent. The Second is an App called Lectio 365 and you can download it for free. It provides a short reflective and prayerful reading of scripture in the style of Lectio Divina each day. I’ve found it a great way of helping me to slow down and to prayerfully reflect on scripture in a way that nurtures my spirit rather than just my mind. I hope you will find it helpful too.
As the challenges of Covid continue I’m conscious that this is a very difficult time for us all. If you are feeling particularly low, then please do reach out and let me know. I’ll be more than happy to meet and pray with you in a safe and socially distanced way.
And let’s keep a special eye out for each other whether that means just picking up the phones and seeing how someone is.
But for now, let me lead you in a Benediction after which I invite you as always, to say the grace together…
Go now, and live before God in openness and integrity.
Set your minds on the ways of God,
not clinging to your own life,
but taking up your cross and following Jesus. And
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
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