29 Church Street, Hamilton, Bermuda HM CX

St. Mark’s

Dare we follow Jesus

By Rev Gav

I wonder if there is a bit of a ‘control freak’ in all of us. We like things to be done a certain way, and usually this means things being done ‘our’ way. For example, the thing that makes me twitch is the poor loading of dishwashers. One may be able to hear me sucking my teeth, tutting, and mumbling under my breath as I remove items and re-load them ‘correctly’. Yes, it matters! Seriously, though, all of us have things under our control that we would rather not relinquish. Although this is putting it very simply, there is often a correlation with our need to control one area of our lives because another area is ‘out of control’ and it can take a high degree of self-awareness or even professional counselling to unpack our control issues.

We are no doubt used to being asked of things such as our time and our money, yet God neither needs nor requires them, however, the extraordinary invitation at the heart of the gospel message is for us to give ourselves to God; to surrender control over our own needs, wants, desires, and wills and be subject to God; to give up our own sense of entitlement and our own rights in favour of God’s.

I wonder if we consciously or subconsciously gloss over this inconvenient requirement of Christianity. We feel comfortable giving a donation to the church, volunteering to help with the mission or ministry, or turning up on a Sunday and participating in worship. Those things we can do, but to give ourselves entirely to God, to relinquish our personal identity to find our identity in Christ, to forfeit our own hopes, dreams, and plans for the future, well, that is something entirely different, and yet, this is what Christ asks of us.

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus turns to both his disciples and the crowd and says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Just before he makes this statement, his disciple Peter had affirmed Jesus as the Christ, the one who would stand up against the corrupt powers, the Herodian puppet rulers and the Roman overlords. Yes, when a strong leader stands and asks you to follow them and when the crowds rally with chants of victory, when we are fueled with adrenaline and pumped up with excitement, we can all say, ‘yes’ and follow. But hang on, Jesus said he would undergo great suffering, be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and then he asked us to take up, what, a cross and follow him? That does not sound exciting or appealing.

Of course, today we cannot literally follow Jesus to the cross, and history shows us that none at the time dared do so, no matter how sincere and well-meaning they were, yet, Jesus is asking us to trust in Him and hand over our lives into his care; to make Jesus Lord over our lives; and to be subject to God’s will and not our own. Can we say these words with conviction, “I will go wherever you call me to go and I will do whatever you ask me to do.” Do we trust that God has the best for us?

It makes logical sense that we would give ourselves over to the Lord and creator of the universe; the one who knit us together in our mother’s womb; and who knew us before we knew ourselves. It makes sense to trust in a God who, leading by example, has never let anyone down, and has proved to be reliable, honest, faithful, and worthy. Yet, it is so hard to do is it not?

Last Sunday, little Zoe in our church congregation, wanted me to lift her up and swing her around. She utterly trusted that I would not drop her, as she stood, arms outstretched, repeating the words, “Again! Again!” The same Jesus who asks us to take up our cross and follow is the same Jesus who said we need to become like little children, like Zoe, utterly trusting that God has got our best interests at heart and that God will not drop us.

I can remember the day I became a Christian. It was not the day I did good deeds, read my Bible, went to church, or even believed in God. No, it was the day I prayed the prayer, “Lord, I put my trust in you.” The moment I said that prayer I could sense a shift in my being. I literally felt it in every fibre of my body and my soul. Like a train switching tracks at a set of points, or a surge of electricity down a cable that had laid dormant for years, I knew, at that very moment I had passed from death to life, from one realm or reality into another, such was the rush of inner peace and joy. Not that my heart was settled for I also felt bewilderment, excitement, and even a sense of Godly fear, because I was now in the very present hands of God, the Lord Almighty, the awesome, glorious Holy Trinity. From that moment on, my life would forever be found in theirs. I had become their child.

A Christian is not someone who adheres to Christian values, belongs to a church, or is a ‘good’ person. A Christian is someone who adheres to God, belongs to God, and is only ‘good’ because God has sanctified them and made them holy. A Christian is someone who follows Jesus, and has put their trust wholly and squarely in God.

The day I gave myself to Jesus was the day I was reborn, the first day of my new life in God, and the first day of the most incredible and remarkable adventure — one, I have been on for thirty-four years without looking back and with no regrets.

It is not for me to tell you what to do or how to live your life. I know not whether you will respond to the invitation set before you. These things are between you and God. My job is simply to show you the door. Only you can walk through it and pray, “Lord, my trust is in you.”