For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. Mark 8:35
When I preach I usually preach on the Gospel set for the day, but today I feel called to preach on this passage.
This week has seen a remarkable transformation in our country, and in other countries around the world. At the start of the week most things were happening pretty much as normal. Then things changed rapidly.
On Monday Lesley and I felt ill, and have self diagnosed with Covid-19 (with current advice no one else is going to do so) and are now self isolating.
On Friday two of the boys came home from uni, so we will be self isolating for 14 days from then (unless the advice changes again).
By Friday most things were shut down.
- We read about young people partying because they have no reason to be scared of it (not strictly true – but perceptions matter) .
- The Blitz Spirit is invoked, as though standing up to the virus is similar to standing up to bombing.
- People with second homes away from the cities are going to stay there, where the risk of infection is perhaps lower, but perhaps the risk of overloading the NHS should the virus spread in those areas (the risk being higher now that lots of people from many different places are moving in).
What do all these have in common? It is people looking at the situation from only one perspective.
My take on today’s reading is that Jesus is telling us that acting on our own selfish wants is not the way to live a fulfilling life.
It will depend on your definition of “the Gospel”, but I believe that the Good News that Jesus is calling us to is “Life in all its fulness“, and that this is achieved by working towards the Kingdom of God, which is working towards making this world the way that God wants it to be.
As a country and a world we have been becoming more and more insular: believing that we control our own destiny. Death is something which is seen as unnatural for people under 70 (or perhaps older) and has become something we don’t talk about (perhaps we should – note the date of the article – factual information may be out of date). Yet only a century ago the Spanish Flu killed between 17-50 million people; the two world wars killed about 20 million and 75 million respectively. Before the creation of the NHS 6% of children were expected to die before they were 1.
For most of history we have known that life was precarious, and that we rely on each other. We have also known that employment could be precarious, until the rise of the unions, and as their influence wanes we are discovering it again.
And yet this myth persists that we are in charge of our own destiny. This myth leads us away from the Kingdom of God, where we care for each other.
John Donne wrote: No man is an island, and during this pandemic we seem to be rediscovering this, and rediscovering the Kingdom of God (to be clear, I am not saying that God sent the virus so that this would happen, but when things do happen God can find some good in them, however bad they may be, as well as comforting those who are suffering). Let us pray that that sense of the Kingdom of God lasts beyond the current pandemic.