Hello and Welcome to Thursday. My name is Alan and I trust you have been able to find somewhere free from distraction to listen to today’s podcast. Wherever you are try to focus your full attention on what is being said, the bible reading and the worship song. Press in to God and he will speak to you. Distraction is the enemy of hearing God.
Today’s reading is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 10 verses 21-42. I will read them at the end of the reflection so do stay tuned! Today I am going to focus on v21 but before I start do be warned that today’s reading is incredibly challenging: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
He goes on to say in v28: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
And in v34: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law…’ “
These are strong words. Jesus means business. This is the same Jesus who loves us so much that he will die for you and me; he will lay down his life for us. He gave everything that we might put our complete trust in him and really live. But his love for us – unconditional though it is – is costly. And because of his great love for us he is not going to shy away from confronting and challenging us. Because I love my kids I am going to have difficult conversations with them. If I were to see them embarking on a path that is going to lead them to harm I will speak out. I will challenge – and no, they might not like it.
I am willing to bet (not that I am a betting man, this is a figure of speech!!) that the people in your life who are happy to challenge you have nothing on Jesus.
Jesus says you will be hated.
Jesus says that you will be persecuted.
Jesus said that your family members will want you killed because of Jesus.
;But don’t be scared of them… be more scared of God… he can do far worse than kill you, he can utterly destroy you in hell.
Jesus means business! He is not messing about! He is deadly serious – well you would be if you were going to sacrifice your own life for those that come after you!
I wonder what our approach to our faith is? I wonder what our approach to Jesus is?
Do we mean business? Are we messing about? Are we deadly serious?
I did a quick internet search for news articles with the key words “Religious Symbols” thinking about the air stewardess a few years ago who was banned from wearing a cross… here is a little of what I found from the month of September 2018:
Christianity crackdown: Government destroys 7,000 CROSSES and BURNS Bibles
China’s shocking Christian CRACKDOWN: Attack ‘resembles Kim Jong un’s North Korea dictator
Do Christians in China mean business? Are they Deadly Serious?
Nun who survived Odisha pogroms saw persecution but is not afraid
Deepika Nayak is originally from Tiangia, a village that saw some of the most vicious violence by Hindu radicals. In 2008 she survived by escaping into the forest.
“I saw my people brutally killed for their faith in Christ,’ she said, “but persecution in Kandhamal did not deter me. On the contrary, it pushed me to accept God’s calling.”
In the west we may not face arrest, the attack on faith and religion may be more sophisticated but it is happening…
Christianity crackdown: 18 US schools ban prayer before football games after complaint
Appeals Court Says Pensacola Bayview Cross Must Come Down
Saying “our hands are tied” by legal precedent, a federal appeals court Friday upheld a ruling that requires the removal of a decades-old Latin cross from a Pensacola park.
What about us? What is going on in this country, in this city, in our workplace, on social media?
Do we think twice before we mention God or Church or Jesus for fear of reaction? Do we think twice about expressing an unpopular opinion on twitter?
Do we quietly alter our speech, our dress or our behaviour to fit what is socially acceptable?
But I like to be liked. I like to be well thought of. I like to be respected. I like my job and my position. I don’t want to be thought of as offensive. I prefer the way of grace!
Of course we don’t pick up weapons and fight… that wasn’t Jesus’ way, of course we don’t hate and point our fingers and pick fights. Jesus’ way was the way of love… strong, powerful, no non-sense, meaning business, deadly serious love!
Martin Luther King led a people to resist the evils of segregation in America. There were groups that wanted to take up arms and fight back. Instead Dr. King urged peaceful protest, dignity, arrest, and a refusal to meet violence with violence.
What does it look like to follow Jesus’ way of no–nonsense love in our world today?
Father, I want to thank you that you love us with a no-nonsense, uncompromising, strong, powerful, life transforming, world transforming love. I want to thank you that in your love for us you will correct us, rebuke us, challenge us and although that is uncomfortable lord, I pray that you continue to do it and lead us out of our place of comfort our self-centredness into a life changing love for those around us. Fill us with boldness; fill us with courage, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
READING: Matthew 10:21-42
‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
‘The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
‘So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
‘Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
‘“a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law –
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”
‘Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.’