Sermons from St Faith's

Fr Neil Kelley: Vocations

On Tuesday of this week is the Feast Day of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. In St. Matthew Chapter 16 we read: ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

It is obedience to this command of our Lord himself that priests have been entrusted with the ministry of forgiving sins for 2000 years. It is also at this time of year, Peter-tide, as we call it, that most people are ordained. It’s much easier to relate an understanding of vocation to priests or members of the religious life. How often do you consider your vocation as a Christian? You perhaps don’t. Who can blame you?

Is the call to follow the Lord an easy one? It most certainly is not. In fact the words in today‘s Gospel reading are extremely difficult and it is a harsh reality that as a true disciple, we have to be ready to go where God calls us to go.

But we want a certain amount of comfort and security very often in doing so. I have often listened to comments from clergy over the years looking a different parishes……. The house is OK but not much of a garden. The church is nice but the area isn’t.…… The people might be in need but where do I send my children to school? What I want seems to come first, what God wants second! Very often the business of following the Lord is muddled with our own individual cares and concerns, not all of them unreasonable.

But its not just clergy who can be picky about how committed they are. I don’t go to Church any more, the new Vicar is simply too high. I don‘t go anymore, the new Vicar isn‘t high enough… They don‘t use the right hymn book. They use the old service, I don‘t like that. There are too many children.… They expect me to get involved and put money on the plate. There are 101 reasons why people don‘t go to church.

Jesus said, ‘the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.’ Our commitment to God must be total,  no holding back.  We do not hold back  in  our  marriages, we do not hold back with our children, we choose our careers and stick to them. So too as a disciple, we go where God calls us, or we should do - no holding back. But, in our gospel, the man said, ‘Let me first bury my father.’ Jesus answered, ‘Let the dead bury the dead.’ In other words, make your choice. We cannot sit on the fence. ‘No one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ The problem is, everyone of us looks back! The good old days were perfect. The old Vicar had it right... The last government wouldn’t have allowed this or that... In my day…... And so on.

We do not live in the past. We have to face reality here and now. Witnessing to Christ is a difficult slog at times. Isn’t that the way it should be? Are the most valuable things in life those which come easily?

Think about it: it‘s only because people fought with a passion that women got the vote, that women got ordained, that gay people are less and less being treated as second class citizens, that racist behaviour and racist comments are unacceptable, that oppressive regimes and governments are being overturned. None of this has come about through people sitting on their backsides and being half-hearted.

Why should the proclamation of the Good News require less effort?

How deep is our desire to respond to the Lord‘s call and to live the implications of following Him in our daily lives?

Will you follow me? says Jesus. He says that to those standing in cathedrals all over the world today being ordained. He says that to those in churches throughout the world being confirmed today.  He says that to the thousands upon thousands of people who will kneel or stand around the world and receive Him in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Pledging ourselves, as we have to, week after week after week. He says that to you and me. ‘Will you follow me?’

There are three answers we can give:
... NO
... YES

Today’s Gospel is hard and challenging. Jesus says the disciple is homeless, with ‘nowhere to lay his head,’ the disciple lets ‘the dead bury the dead,’ and never looks back. Sounds hard. But, only until we try it. Put God first in our lives, be loving, help others, and life takes on a whole new meaning. In fact, we step right into the kingdom of God.

That wonderful poem ‘Blame the Vicar’ by John Betjeman can have the last word!

‘Highness’ or ‘lowness’ do not matter -
You are the Church and must not scatter:
Cling to the sacraments and pray
And God be with you every day.

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