Weekly Reflection • God is over all

Listen to the audio version of the reflection here or read below.

Good morning my name is Christopher Carolane, Canon Emeritus here at St Paul’s Cathedral and one of the associate clergy.  It is my great privilege today to bring to you our weekly Monday reflection. As I do, I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of our land, and I wish to pay my respects to their elders past present and emerging as we continue to pray for the work of reconciliation.

Let us pray.

Oh God, whose Son has shown the way of the cross to be the way of life: transform and renew our minds that we may not be conformed to this world but may offer ourselves wholly to you as a living sacrifice through Jesus Christ our Saviour; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Our reading this morning is yesterday’s Gospel reading from Luke 9:23 – 26.

Then Jesus said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.  What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

I was privileged to be born into a Christian family. When I was a little boy, I was taught that I should follow Jesus. Indeed, we used to sing songs about it. In my young mind I had the picture of a kindly Jesus walking along the road, perhaps beside the sea of Galilee, or on a verdant hillside surrounded by white fluffy sheep, and me following behind him. In my child like mind, I didn’t really know why I was following him, but I did have a sense of being safe and secure. Now, some 60 or 65 years later, I look back on my life following Jesus and see that it hasn’t been quite as simple as my young mind saw it. In today’s reading Jesus warned his closest disciples that those who really want to follow Him must do so with the same determination as a condemned person walking to their execution.  Now that is quite a different image from the one I had as a child.  But it’s important not to lose sight of Jesus’ encouragement to his disciples to value those things that are most important.  He reminded them that life had no value at all if in the end a person lost themselves. Just as Jesus did, during the troubles that the path of life may bring, we must keep our sight on the final goal, knowing that the goal of the heavenly kingdom and eternal life in the presence of our all loving, compassionate, and holy God is where our path will finally end.

Amidst the trials and suffering we may be called to endure, God does not leave us alone, but rather, blesses us despite them. 

Again, when I was young, my dad taught me a wonderful hymn written by
Johnson Oatman Jr. (1856-1926) that reminds us of that amid trials and tribulations, God does not leave us.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold.
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your Lord on high.

So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.  

Let us pray.  

God our Father, give us courage to walk the path before us, keeping our eyes fixed on you, our Saviour, teacher, and Lord.  When we are faced with the struggles, trials, and temptations before us, help us to know that you are with us, and your love surrounds us. Help us to remember the goal before us, as daily we take up our cross and follow you.   

And now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. And the blessing of God almighty, the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit be with you today, this week, and always. Amen.