St David/ Sunday before Lent.
I feel very spoilt this morning. First of all because I get to be here, in this group of churches this morning, I was really happy to be asked to come here this morning/ afternoon. Secondly I feel spoilt because there was such a range of things I could have preached on this morning. Of course yesterday we celebrated St David’s Day, and we continue the celebrations this morning.
In the church calendar it is also the Sunday before lent, and the celebration of the Transfiguration, and many churches will be hearing this morning from Matthew 17 of how Jesus and a few of his disciples went up to the mountain and Jesus’ appearance changed, and Jesus’ true nature was reviled, and the figures of Moses & Elijah joined Jesus and they had a little chat. And then if you remember Peter, in his typical clumsy way, wanted to build three dwellings.
(I love Peter and some of the things he comes out with, he is one of my favourite disciples and I could talk about him for ages, but you’ll have to invite me back to preach if you want to hear more..)
I struggled a little while thinking about what I was going to say to you, I sometimes have a problem with making decisions, especially when faced with so much choice, but today I want to talk about Lent and St David, because for me this year, they have a strong link,
We all know the stories and legends of David, and you probably know them better than I do. It’s unfortunate that the first ‘biography’ of him wasn’t written until about 500 years after his death, so we cannot be certain which legends and traditions are true. But even so, there is still a lot we can learn.
St David is believed to be the son of King Sant, and St Non, he was ordained a priest, lived the life of a monk, and was made bishop and archbishop of Wales. He founded many monasteries and he lived a very simple life, eating only bread and herbs and drinking only water. This lifestyle even earned him the nickname of ‘David – the water drinker’.
David made some very specific choices about the life he was going to lead. There was no one forcing him along this path, these paths of faith and service, and the life of simplicity, it was a deliberate choice, and the way he believed he should live.
As a result, he has been remembered in the pages of our history books, of our tales and legends and in the heart of our nation. This was not his intention, but just the result of his faithful discipleship, and having the courage to follow what he believed was right.
In our gospel today, Jesus is asking us to make a deliberate choice, to take up our cross, and to follow him.
I consider these some of the hardest words in the gospels, and yet some of the most exciting. Because in these lines, Jesus is asking us to make a choice about our lives, these are challenging words and they have the power to be life-changing.
Jesus at this point is talking to only his disciples who have gathered around, he is talking to a group of people who have already made the choice to leave everything behind and follow him.
But thought the scriptures, he is also talking to us gathered here.
And it might seem that Jesus is setting the bar a little too high. If we were to read this passage away from the rest of the bible, especially the other teachings of Jesus we could easily be lead into believing that our only hope for salvation and being a disciple of Jesus would be that if I was somehow able to discern what in fact losing my life for Jesus’ sake meant; and then actually losing it.
Thankfully we have the rest of the context, and just before our verses today, we know that Jesus just spoke of His cross, and how necessary it is for Him to accomplish His purpose. We then know that as followers of Jesus we can only do what he has called us do.
In verse 23 Jesus scolds Peter for not achieving what in our passage He says that all of his disciples must do;
Jesus said, ‘“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”’
Peter failed, he got things wrong, as I am sure each of us fail; daily!
Peter failed to meet Jesus’ calls, and he is scolded for placing too much on earthly things and not trusting enough in God. But instead of pushing us away, we are brought closer to Jesus, and through this, we can learn that our cross is nothing without His cross.
That we could never carry our own cross; if we try, if we try and do things in our own way, when we try to live without God, we will fail.
We can only do what he has called us to do. And we are at the most perfect time of year I think for discerning what this is.
For too many people, Lent has become a time of year when we MIGHT give up on of life’s luxuries, maybe chocolate, or alcohol. But if that is all you do, I fear the point may have been missed.
Lent, is a time of preparation, it is the time we remember Jesus in the wilderness and his temptations, and it is a time when Jesus prepared to do what God has called him to do.
Likewise, Lent should be a time when we can take stock of our lives;
What are the good things?
What are the bad habits?
What are the things we do that pull us away from what God has called us to do?
What stops us using our gifts and talents?
What separates us from the people around us?
What stops us from following Jesus?
This does not just apply to church, but to the whole of our lives.
For me, I find two big problems, money and time. I spend too much money on things that just are not important. If I want something, I will buy it from amazon or ebay without a second thought. If I have a craving for something, I often don’t think twice about jumping in the car and driving to the shop.
And I fill my time with business, and I get caught up in the doing of things that I fail in taking time to appreciate what and who I have around me.
And so this year for the 6 weeks of Lent, I am going to try and change these.
Firstly with money, I am going to try and live off the budget set by our local Foodbanks which is £14.33 per person, per 3 days. So roughly £30 a week for food. I am also cutting out internet shopping, completely, because those things I think I NEED in those moments of weakness, I actually don’t.
I am also going to try to follow those famous words of St David, ‘Be joyful and keep your faith…Do the little things that you have heard about and seen me do.’
To do the little things, is to appreciate each moment, and give thanks for the blessing that are around us. To do the little things, means you have to slow down, otherwise those moments are quickly gone.
Lent is a time to prepare for what God has called us to do.
What has God call you to do? And what is stopping you from doing them?