‘Pick up your cross’ – 30th August 2020 – 12th Sunday after Trinity

The Readings

Exodus 3.1-15

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’

But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name for ever,
and this my title for all generations.


Matthew 16.21-end

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’


Scripture Quotations are from The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Sermon
By Joe, a Lay Reader at St Mary's.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

This week I came across the following news story:

Mother Mechthild is the abbess of Abbey of Maria Frieden in Kirchschletten, Bavaria. She is presently being pursued by the authorities in court for having granted asylum in her convent to an Eritrean woman.

“I have stood up for what I consider to be right. I could not be proud of it, I would simply have to accept it. But I would have a clear conscience, because I have stood up for what I consider to be right”,

The Reverend Mother Mechthild Thürmer, told the newspapers, the Verlagsgruppe Bistumspresse with regard to the possibility of her imprisonment.

Quite a woman; and quite a follower of Christ.

After looking at this Sunday’s readings – especially the Gospel reading -  I’d already decided that I could only focus on a small part of the scripture.

It is an astonishingly rich text – I think I worked out that if I put my mind to it I could get maybe 6 sermons out of it – in which Jesus lays out some central truths of our faith.

I decided to focus on one verse, that I think we need to bear in mind on every part of our Christian journey.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Actually making this decision and then encountering the news item above made me think ‘Yep, that’s the one!’

This statement from Jesus is present in the Gospels according to Mark, Matthew and Luke.  Jesus’s Ministry has become widely known, and people have been wondering who He is – some say he’s John the Baptist; some Elijah; others think he is another prophet.  Jesus is able to confirm what Peter thinks He is; that Jesus is ‘the Messiah’.

Jesus then tells them that “undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Now, there are a number of places in the Gospels where I wish that the writer had given us some insight into the reaction of the listeners.  This is one of those moments.  This is almost certainly not what people expected would happen to the Messiah.  And then, to drive this home, Jesus tells His followers that to follow Him they need to deny themselves and take up their own cross.

Powerful words, especially as everyone present would know that the cross was a cruel method of Roman execution used against those who would raise their hand against the state.  This is probably NOT what they all signed up for!

Following Jesus can be looked at in two ways. You might think of following Jesus in the same way you follow the activities of a celebrity or a soccer team; you might follow and study His teachings in the Gospel, in an almost academic way. Alternatively, following Jesus involves you ‘walking the walk’ as well as ‘talking the talk’.  Jesus says (John 14:6) “I am the way and the truth and the life” and in this statement I think we see what approach Jesus expects of his followers.  The way of Jesus is to be walked; the truth to be found; the life of Jesus to be lived.  Following Jesus is an active process, a life changing process.

Jesus is pointing this out to his followers.

This is where things start getting real; your life will change; you may die; this is what following Jesus really means.  Sounds heavy; I have to say that if I’d been there I might have considered this to be a good time to remember I had an important appointment to keep….about 200 miles away.

In Jesus’s statement we’re given three things to do if we wish to follow Him.  They’re actions – not just statements of belief or promises.  We’re told:

To DENY ourselves



At this point it sounds really hard; we’re going to follow Jesus to death.

But, as is often the case with Jesus’s statements, there’s more…

Now, in the version of this statement in Luke 9.23, there is an extra word:

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me”

A subtle but important change; discipleship involves a daily denial, and a daily taking up of the cross.  It’s a process; it’s a lifestyle; the cross may not be the instrument of our physical death, but a symbol of the death of our old life.  When we become a disciple; the change is total – our previous self dies.

So, what are WE to do to become followers – disciples – of Christ?  There is a cost to discipleship.

We deny ourselves – we focus on following the teachings of Christ and become the best representation of Gospel living we can be.  We will never be perfect, and we’ll always have things to do.  We will be denying the prime importance of the daily world in our lives, and making ‘Gospel living’ our prime aim.  We deny our own desires and follow the commandments and teachings of Christ in our lives.

Now – taking up our cross.  None of us wish to put ourselves through pain and humiliation, or even death.  But sometimes, this is necessary for a Christian.  Dietrick Bonhoeffer said “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  This may be physical, literal death – or it may be a great personal loss or struggle – or it may be imprisonment – like Mother Mechthild.  Or it may be something within our lives that needs to be gone.

For example, if we find it difficult to control our anger with people, we can carry the personal cross of being patient and showing humility.

If we are judgemental, we can carry our individual cross of being forgiving.

And we do this daily, as long as is needed.  For some people it will be a lifetime struggle to carry their personal cross.

And finally, we follow Christ; we follow Him knowing that everyone who truly follows Christ is also denying themselves, carrying their own crosses.

May we offer our fellow travellers all the support and help that Christ Himself offers us.


The Prayers
Prepared by David.

From the rising of the sun to its setting, let us pray to the Lord.

We pray for your world.
For peoples and nations and for those who work across such boundaries.
We offer to you the challenges which affect the whole world and pray that we may each be given wisdom and inspiritation to respond as best we can for the sake of the common good.
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We pray for your church.
Scattered and divided, may she be united in purpose and love of you.
We pray for Pete, our Bishop, Sophie, Bishop Designate of Doncaster, and all who minister within the Diocese of Sheffield.
Praying especially for our partners at St Mark's Broomhill and St John's Ranmoor.
May we all be guided by you in paths that lie ahead.
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We pray for our communities.
Whose with whom we live, work and enjoy life.
With so many necessary barriers between us at this time may we find new and creative ways to live our shared life.
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We pray for those who suffer, in body, mind or spirit.
The lonely, the anxious, the depressed. Those suffering, in pain or grieving.
We pray for the light of your presence with them, your healing in their lives, and where we can ourselves as servants in this work.
We offer to you those known to us and all known only to you O Lord.
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We pray for those who have died.
We give thanks for the gift of their presence in our lives.
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them.
May they rest in peace and rise in glory.
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.