Get Behind me Satan

Get behind me Satan it’s a good line isn’t it. Get behind me Satan. When I’ve used it or heard it used it’s almost always been in jest – used to playfully rebuke a temptation of some kind or other. It’s such a great phrase.

But if we look again at the biblical context we can see something deeper going on here. This is a serious matter all joking aside. I can just imagine the conversations that ensue when Peter pulls Jesus aside.

It’s probably like the conversations that many of us have had to have after we speak a difficult truth – after we point out something that others don’t want to see. After we refuse to gloss over pain or struggle after we name what’s really going on in a difficult situation.

However it seems to me however that most of the time however that most of the time many of us struggle to look directly and unflinchingly into reality especially when it isn’t pretty most of us are epic deniers and avoiders we like to encourage and see the best in situations

So hearing Jesus say that things aren’t going to end well just isn’t what Peter wants to hear it’s not going to keep the morale of the disciples up and it’s certainly not going to help them recruit new followers. No one wants to join up with someone who’s predicting their own failure their own demise. So come on Jesus ‘chin up it’s gonna be okay’

I’m guessing that something about how Peters rebuked sounded. The power of positive thinking! but Jesus knows where they’re heading if not in full at least in part. He knows that his enormous popularity with the masses is going to make him unpopular with the authorities.

Jesus simply refuses to lead people on he refuses to pretend he’s on anything other than a collision course with the powers and principalities. and not just the corrupt powers occupying Palestine but also the powers of the cosmic evil the forces of rebellion against all that is good and holy.

For Jesus it was infinitely important to tell the truth, so he refused the ‘tinnery’ of positive thinking. Refused to offer false hope. I’m guessing the disciples had started off with very high hopes that they were following the next big name in Judean spirituality. It must have been so very thrilling to show up into a new town or village and be overrun by fans, to be following a man who could heal the sick, cast out demons. How could it end in the way that Jesus was suggesting. They were doing so much much good, helping so many people offering hope to the hopeless. it couldn’t it it’s too much to imagine at all ending. It felt impossible unthinkable so Peter told Jesus to stop. To stop that negative thinking get on with it.

Get behind me Satan – Get behind – says Jesus have you not yet understood there is no winning on this journey no building up of the self there is little prestige few accolades this -This is the path of downward mobility

We still don’t quite want to hear it, we still want to rebuke Jesus ourselves, tell him that his version of things is. wrong We want a sunnier kind of Christianity, but just like the disciples we’re setting our mind not on divine things but on human things. We’re evaluating things using the wrong framework.

We still don’t want to believe that those who don’t believe, who don’t have faith in Jesus, don’t have salvation. We don’t want to believe it because that may include our loved ones.

it may include us. We want a more tolerant faith, it’s okay: There is salvation for everyone you don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to believe. But then here comes Jesus bursting our bubble. Tiresome isn’t it irritating not really very polite but he keeps on doing it because we haven’t yet really heard.

God has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. God has filled the hungry with good things. The rich has he has sent empty away

Painful so painful because he’s talking to us about us. Yes there are certainly mightier and richer folk than us and we all want to be mighty and rich don’t we? I do. A lot of time I fall into that trap of wanting things. More money would be nice. I watch the TV and I see the adverts I see what I’m ‘supposed to have’ what I’m supposed to strive for. I could be easily taken in. I want to be comfortable. I want everything I need at my beck and call. I want only the highest quality the best of the best. I want to be rich. but you see it’s not just about power or money it’s also all about control and comfort and ultimately about trying to save our lives

These are the things we do to try and save our lives these are all the ways we try to outrun annihilation These things our buffers we build to protect ourselves from suffering. To keep us from caring too much about the dying in foreign wars, those coping with addictions, those homeless on our streets, those who don’t yet know Christ. Ultimately these are all the ways that we separate ourselves from God. Separate and protected. Protected from the impingement of others And yet it is precisely in losing our lives by opening them up to others in need that we can be saved It is finally releasing our fear our tightly wound efforts at control that we can finally walk into freedom.

Are you afraid of filth?

Go and be with the dirtiest people you can find

Are you afraid of illness?

Go and be with the sickest people you can find

Are you afraid of losing your security?

Go and be with those who have no homes, who experience addictions.

Jesus has the perfect prescription for each of us

Jesus can help us lose our lives and in the process he can and will save us

on a Thursday evening service here we often mark an anniversary of someone who has been influential in bringing people to faith to salvation or who have stood up in the faith even to death.

So I thought I’d tell you a couple of stories this morning the first (Blessed) Archbishop Romero he was one of the most remarkable figures in the 20th century who sacrificed his life standing up to injustice. Oscar Romero was the Archbishop of El Salvador from 1977 until until he was assassinated in 1980.

He became increasingly outspoken about human rights violations in El Salvador during his three years as Archbishop, Romero repeatedly denounced violence and spoke out on behalf of the victims of civil war in a time of heavy press censorship his weekly radio broadcasts were often the only way people could find out the truth about the atrocities that were happening in their country

He defended the right of the poor to demand political change, a stance which made him troublesome a troublesome adversary for the country’s rulers. Romero wrote to President Jimmy Carter urging the U.S. to stop backing the Salvadorian government and supplying it with arms and military advisors.

Not much change from the US

He urged soldiers and police … not to follow orders to kill civilians and to stop the repression ‘the peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters’ he preached ‘when you hear a man telling you to kill …remember God’s words: Thou shalt not kill’

In the name of God and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise to heavenly to the heavens each day I beg you I beseech you I order you in the name of God ‘stop the repression’

Archbishop Romero was shot dead on the 24th of March 1980. aged 62, while celebrating mass. In thet ensuing decade some 70,000 Salvadorians were killed in that civil war.

Another story: Elias Shakur

Elias was born in the Palestinian village of Biram in the Galilee near Nazareth in 1938. In 1947 Zionists occupied much of Palestine and destroyed Palestinian homes killing and taking possessions. Elias’s father and elder brother were kidnapped taken away thousands were killed the family was later, eventually reunited but they were then refugees with no possessions and there were never able to return home.

Despite this his parents remained strong in faith and taught to their children “blessed are the peacemakers” and love your neighbour even when bad is done to you.

Elias was able to resume school eventually he entered the Greek Melkite seminary and was ordained priest in 1965. he was then sent to the small Galilean village of Ibelin. He was asked to rebuild the broken-down church. He began to quietly physically rebuild and invited other local Christians and Muslims to join him.

But then he realised that God was asking him to do more than that and with the help of the local community he built a school, just a small square hut with just one room, but he invited Christian Muslim and Jewish children to attend.

The Israeli government authorities were not happy with this and they … demolished the school but it was rebuilt and demolished several times. Elias had to fight hard to get funding from abroad and against the Israeli authorities who tried to stop him at every turn

Until today the school in Ibelin has 3000 students from infants to seniors from all three faith backgrounds. it is the only school of its kind in Israel and by studying and working together students come to value each other their differences, and this is all in a land which is otherwise completely divided

Sometimes we have to go against the prevailing thought the prevailing country and say ‘get behind me Satan’ so that we can clearly hear God’s calling. It will never be an easy ride as God’s Way is countercultural but he does promise to be beside each one of us each step of the way

There is no winning on this journey there is no building up of self there is little prestige and few accolades. This this is the path of downward mobility but ultimately we have salvation

I wonder have we the courage to step out and follow Christ?

Amen