To God be the glory for the first Sunday in our Connexional Year. The Gospel reading for today suggests a prophetic and missional purpose for us, ‘Following Jesus’ in this Connexional Year. In Matthew 16, Jesus revealed the purpose of his earthly ministry to his disciples which resonates with us today. This is God’s divine plan for the salvation of all humankind and the good news (Gospel) that He, the Christ, had come to suffer, die and be raised again for the forgiveness of our sins and the sins of the whole world.  In verse 21, the phrase, ‘From that time,’ marks a turning point, to Jesus’ new emphasis on his death and resurrection. The reflection is that the disciples did not grasp Jesus’ true purpose because of their preconceived notions about what the Messiah should be. Their insight into Jesus’ identity has no room for suffering. Prophetic Connexional Year as a turning point for growth calls us to become Christ-like in thought, word and deed and we become Christ-like in our attitudes, ambitions and activities. ‘From that time,’ from the beginning of this new phase, this Prophetic Connexional Year, Jesus is calling us to break out from our old life and take God’s life so as to soar upward in fulfilling God’s purpose and mission.

Great temptations can come from those who love us and seek to protect us for their personal interest. Peter, who had just eloquently proclaimed Jesus’ true identity, sought to protect him from the suffering he prophesied. The truth is that if Jesus had not died we would have died in our sins. Jesus’s famous reply to Peter’s reaction to the fact of suffering with fear and denial, “You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things,” provides us a prophetic focus in this Connexional Year. We are encouraged not to react out of fear of suffering and loss in a human reckoning of things and time. Just as Jesus instructed Peter to focus on divine things, I believe God is saying to us in this Prophetic Connexional Year to focus on divine things, a great and glorious future, the promise that Jesus will be raised and in the last day, we shall all be raised. God is calling us to stop evaluating God’s mission from human perspective and lenses of this materialistic world. It is very easy to leave God out of the picture like Peter and pursue our own individual interest.

The gospel for today calls us to follow in obedience to Jesus. This is a difficult concept for our culture of independence, personal choice and autonomy. In this prophetic Connexional Year, God is calling us to get behind him and walk his way, carrying our cross, a true commitment to our God’s given ministry and mission. This Prophetic Connexional Year as a turning point summons us to the way of discipleship, the way of the cross and it is not an easy way. Discipleship carries a cost of acceptance and a cost of rejection. Faced with the testimony of scripture, the prophetic Connexional Year calls us, not just to confess Jesus to be the Son of God but to believe and behave it. It is a call to deny ourselves, make Jesus our priority unlike Peter who shifted his priority from Jesus to himself. He refused to believe the words of Jesus just as we can easily rely on ourselves, following our self-will which often leads to misplaced concern. Satan’s message was that there is no need for Jesus to die and that was why Jesus refer to Peter as the devil. This prophetic Connexional Year calls us to be motivated by God’s purpose. It is possible, just like Peter to be speaking and acting out of genuine concern and actually working against God, working to prevent Jesus from fulfilling His mission. The Prophetic Connexional Year calls us to base our decisions on the Word of God and not on human emotions thereby joining forces with the kingdom of darkness. The Peter is us may act and speak by position and power but may become unmindful of the things of God. Jesus has no part-time disciple or church. Let us pray for the grace to stand firm in the freedom of Jesus Christ.