Rev. Rosemary Webb
25th February 2018
We Need to Think as God Thinks

In the reading from Genesis we heard God make his covenant with Abraham, the passage began with God telling Abraham to walk before him and be blameless, for God would make a covenant with him, a covenant which will last forever. A reading which links up well with the passage from Mark, where Jesus is preparing the disciples for the final covenant.

Jesus was preparing them, and during this season of Lent, we are preparing ourselves for the final sacrifice, the new covenant, Christ’s Crucifixion. He was teaching the disciples about a Messiah who would be tortured, who was about to give his life for our salvation, and we are called to truly remember this and give thanks for his sacrifice.

Peter, like all the disciples, had spent the last three years with Jesus. They felt they knew him, and I expect they felt they knew what God wanted for him and for them. Who can blame Peter having difficulty understanding. He loved Jesus. He perhaps wasn’t surprised to learn Jesus would be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, but that the authorities would torture him, and kill him, surely not.

And then after three days Jesus would rise again. How could this happen to Jesus, the Messiah, it really was all too much for Peter. Everyone knew the Messiah would save God’s people from oppression, so how could he suffer. It just didn’t make sense.

And we heard Jesus’ response, not one of sympathy for Peter’s fears but one of frustration, even a touch of anger. Had Peter really never understood all he had been taught. In that moment we learned not only of Jesus’ frustration, but we were reminded that this was the human Jesus speaking. Someone with human emotions, who like us must have felt fear at what lay ahead. And not only fear but anxiety that time was running out, if after spending three years with him they did not understand, could he get them to truly understand now?

And also did Jesus fear that he might be tempted by Peter to run away, he remembered how Satan had tempted him in the desert, was Peter the new tempter, was this why we hear the response ‘get thee behind me Satan, you’re thinking human thoughts not God’s thoughts’.

But what happens after all that is even more bewildering, for he says to the crowd ‘If any of you want to become one of my followers, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me’. We may be surprised at Peter’s response, but what would our response have been?

And this was the moment when Peter and the disciples realised that they still didn’t really understand. That they still saw things as mere mortals not as God thinks. They still were hoping Jesus would drive out the Romans, they still wanted someone who would drive all their enemies away they still thought that power and superiority was the path to a peaceful life

But they were now just beginning to realise that Jesus was teaching them that loving others, feeding the hungry, always thinking of others, was what Jesus was teaching them. Putting others first was what mattered. Quite a change, from the way they had always thought.

But do we yet understand the way God thinks? More to the point do we give ourselves times to even begin to think as God thinks. We pray for peace in our world but do we wait and see what God’s answer to us is? It is so hard, no one likes seeing those poor people in Eastern Ghouta, being killed and butchered, but in many ways we are scared we don’t know the answer.

I marched against the invasion of Iraq, and we now know governments gave us false information, but I am sure that most who supported intervention did so with the best of intentions.

A number of years ago I did a retreat with Bishop Nick and he was trying to point out to us that we need patience. We not only need to pray to God regularly 3 we need to listen to him. We are probably ,I think, quite good at sharing our concerns with God, but how often do we wait for his answer. If we think about it, we hear in the Gospels that Jesus would go into the wilderness to talk to his father. If Jesus needed to do that how much more do we need to do so. We don’t just need to talk to God but we need to listen. We need to give time to God.

But I don’t think it is all bad, for we can show enormous compassion when there is any kind of disaster, and we must not write off aid agencies, for there are many aid workers who risk their lives to help others. Who do it out of true compassion and love.

And certainly God doesn’t call us to be miserable, but he does call us to love one another, to explain his teachings to those who have never heard his word, We must persevere, if the disciples found it hard to understand what Jesus was teaching them, how can we be surprised if today’s young find it hard to comprehend, acknowledging today’s scientific advances isn’t to deny God.

I know I have said this before, but I am going to say it again, for it still annoys me. A couple of years ago my grandson (8) was learning the creation story and when he heard that God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh and he told the teacher scientists had proved that wasn’t true. He wasn’t offered an explanation but was told that you must never say anything in the Bible isn’t true, that to do so was a sin. The family moved back to the UK a couple of months later and the first thing Charlie said to me was ‘the Church lies’. I think we have now convinced him that the creation story isn’t about the number of days but an explanation of how the world began.

So, I believe, we have to explain things more patiently, explaining Genesis wasn’t written by God, but by prehistoric man who wanted to let future generations know how the world was formed, as it had been passed down to them from generation to generation by word of mouth. We must remember it was a long time before science was taught.

We have to help people understand the scriptures, it is just as Jesus was trying to teach that he hadn’t come to offer them an easy life; but teach them the word of God, That no follower of his would ever be asked to do something that he wasn’t willing to do. And whilst Christ knew that some of his supporters would lose their life for their faith I do not believe that is what he wanted.

Today’s society is very much an instant fix society, a society which is apt to expect an instant cure for everything. People don’t like having to wait for anything, they don’t seem able to understand that we sometimes do need patience, that it isn’t that God has gone away, no longer loves us. We know that isn’t true, but for society to work we do all need to work together, accept there will be differences of opinion, that we must all think about what is best for all, what God wants for all his children, not just what is wanted by a certain section of the community.

The season of Lent is a time in which we are encouraged to evaluate our lives in the light of God’s reconciling love for us. Jesus Christ gave his life that we may live; and that love for us requires a response from each of us. We must never forget what God has done for us, and still does for us. The first step towards our fully understanding will surely be that we all have to learn to think as God thinks, not as we normally think, and certainly not as we think God should think.

Genesis 17:1-7,15-17
Mark 8:31-38