A Selfie Stick for Christians

Sermon at St James Colwall and All Saints Coddington, 1st March 2015

Mark 8. 31-end

One of my grand-daughters who is 15 was given a Selfie Stick for Christmas.  I hope you all know what a Selfie Stick is. If you thought it was something to do with Ken Dodd, then you might remember that he had a tickling stick and bringing Ken Dodd to mind might suggest that you are not as young as you look! A Selfie Stick is an aluminium pole on which you can mount your smart phone so that you can take not just a picture of yourself but include some friends as well. You then post the picture on Facebook or Instagram or some other social media and watch to see how many of your friends click the ‘like button’ – an instant way, perhaps, of measuring your popularity.

You often read disparaging remarks about the media forcing young people to be very conscious of their self-image and to compare themselves with the models and celebrities who feature in magazines and television. Some see the pressure as leading to despair and depression in some youngsters, because they cannot measure up.

And yet most of us have grown through periods in our lives, when we have compared ourselves unfavourably with others – particularly during adolescence. So it may be more an issue of who we are, what a human being is, especially if he or she is inclined to reflect on the person they find themselves to be. It may be inevitable and natural. The struggle to find who you truly are is a battle as old as mankind itself.

In today’s Gospel from St Mark, Jesus sets us a standard, which few, if any of us, can reach. It looks impossibly high and beyond us. Hear the words again:

Jesus called the people to him, as well as his disciples, and said to them, “anyone who wishes to be a follower of mine must leave self behind; he must take up his cross, and come with me. Whoever cares for his own safety is lost; but if a man will let himself be lost for my sake and the Gospel, that man is safe. What does a man gain by winning the whole world at the cost of his true self.”

Very, very demanding and we have to recall that the first disciples had left their jobs and their families to follow Jesus. Some of them died for their faith. So with this image set before us let me ask five questions:

I guess it feels to you as it does to me that we do not measure up very well, but there are two points to bear in mind.

Those first disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus because they thought a new age was about to begin, a new Kingdom where the whole structure of life would be different. They did not see and were shocked to realize, that it would all end in the cruel suffering and death of their Lord and Master. In this way they were mistaken and now we see things from a different perspective.

And secondly if everyone gave up their jobs, families and friends, the world would be a dire place with no economic activity, a desperate place to live. Most human beings have to be selfish in the sense of caring for their families and friends as well as themselves. It is a responsibility that we have before God and it is only for a few individuals to give up everything and become a nun or a monk and join a religious community.

So when we shine a Selfie Stick on to our lives as Christians, we come up short of the example and teaching of Jesus and his disciples; but we should not be downhearted because we have one principle to hold to firmly and that is the idea of self-denial. Many of us have crosses to bear which come second to our personal wants and needs.  These crosses may be caring for another, or physical or emotional burdens, but all of us pray that we will put others before ourselves. As bees will sting and die to protect their hive and as birds will risk their lives in warning of a hawk, so we hope to think little of ourselves in the face of others’ needs.

We have a supreme ideal to follow and we fall short, but ideals are like the stars. They guide our travels and we set our paths by them even though we can never reach them.