Holy Trinity Church

Anglican worship in Geneva

Sermon for Sunday next before Lent – 11th February 2024

Sermon: Dedication! 2 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Cor 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

People of a certain age, who grew up in England, might remember a children’s TV show called Record Breakers. In this show, Roy Castle, an actor, went around finding people who were breaking Guiness World Records, and sometimes, Roy and his team would join in or break the records themselves.

But the reason hazy childhood memories came back to me today was because of the theme tune to that show. Don’t worry, I’m not going to sing to you! But the lyrics are:

Dedication, Dedication, Dedication

That’s what you need

If you wanna be the best

and you wanna beat the rest

Ooo-ooo, Dedication’s what you need!

And that came back to me reading about Elijah and Elisha. For Elisha was one dedicated man. Elijah says “I’m going to Bethel”. Elisha says “then I am too”. The prophets come out and say “Elisha, you know Elijah is going to be taken to God today?”, and Elisha basically says “Yes, shut up and stop distracting me!”. Then Elijah says “right, now I’m going to Jericho”. Elisha once again, refuses to leave him. Some more prophets come out, and Elisha tells them to clear off!

Finally Elijah goes to the Jordan river, and Elisha simply will not leave his side. And that dedication, that loyalty, is rewarded. Elisha was not like many of the other people who said “Oh there goes Elijah, he’s a holy man, we’ll listen to him when it’s convenient.” No: Elisha was dedicated and kept with Elijah to the end.

And his reward was a double blessing. A double portion of Elijah’s ministry. And he goes on to do pretty much double of the amazing things that Elijah did.

This last week, we celebrated the reburial in the Cimitoire des Rois in Geneva of Eglantyne Jebb, a lady who was horrified by the suffering children were going through in Europe after the first world war. She (and her sister Dorthy Buxton) didn’t watch it on TV and then go back to her shopping and knitting; she went out to do something about it.

She went to many powerful people seeking to get help, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, asking for money to be raised to help the poor children. The Archbishop said no, but when he discovered a bit later that she had gone to the Pope and the Pope had instructed all Catholic churches to give some money to help those who were suffering, there was a rather embarrassing change of mind.

The sisters founded the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and also the Save the Children fund, two acts that have improved the lives of millions ever since. That is what dedication can do for you!

And then we have Peter, James and John, disciples who were blessed so much that they went up a mountain with Jesus and experienced a revelation of Jesus in his glory. They knew Jesus was special, but they hadn’t quite worked out who he was. This experience up the mountain was a major step in their progression. Jesus was transfigured, shining in glory, and then declared the Son of God.

Appearing alongside him were Moses and…yes, Elijah! Moses, the one who gave the gift of God’s guiding law to the people of God, and Elijah, often seen as the greatest prophet – who was taken up into heaven, and who many Jews believed would come again before Messiah.

And Peter, bamboozled by the awe of what he is seeing, just has to speak: Lord, can we ….build something?! Can we make little places for you all to stay?” He’s trying to keep this glimpse of heaven, to secure it, to hang onto it…

Yet then it is gone.

It’s just Jesus, James and John, and Peter, on a mountain. Did it happen? What was that all about? What just happened?

They go down the mountain, a bit confused. Later, Peter promises Jesus he will never betray him. A short while after that, Peter lies three times, denying he’d ever known Jesus.

Then Jesus is dead, crucified as a criminal. The vision of glory a very distant memory.

But then…

Then came the resurrection, and that wonderous realisation that Jesus was not dead; that death could not hold him; that he had died to destroy death, to break its grip on us, and to ransom us back to God.

And with that, came such dedication that those few disciples went out in the power of the Spirit to change history. Why are we meeting on a Sunday, 2000 years later? Because those 12 were given such vision that they all gave their lives as a dedicated offering for the message of Jesus.

We can all be dedicated. It’s hard, but we can do it. Yet dedicated to what, is the question. Elisha was dedicated to Elijah, having seen the power of God at work in him, and knowing that, where Elijah was, God Almighty was not far. To serve Elijah was a way he could serve God.

Eglantyne Jebb was dedicated to Jesus, and out of that flowed a vision of a better world, a desire to serve children.

And Peter, James and John, having seen the glory of the transfiguration, having denied Jesus and run away, having shown no dedication, were so inspired with the vision of Jesus’ Kingdom and mission, that they dedicated all they had and the rest of their lives to building the church, which is a new way of being human; God’s way of being human. Not based on power and might, but serving and loving one another.

Now St Paul discussed this somewhat with the Corinthians, pointing out that the good news is veiled and unclear to those who are perishing. And that’s the choice we have: the thing we dedicate our lives to is going to lead us somewhere – are we going to be led towards perishing, or to life? Will we fade, or will we grow?

So let’s consider ourselves, all we are – and let us dedicate ourselves to God’s mission. Now God’s Mission is absolutely revolutionary, and it’s absolutely terrifying. There are different parts to it, but each and every one of us can have a role.

There is the mission to those who have so little, to the poor children, to the suffering, to the aged and weak. There is the mission to help them in service and support, letting them know they are valued and cared for. That can be as little as drinking tea with someone, or helping with a Sunday school class, or as much as serving the homeless at Jardin de Montbrillant.

There is the mission to those suffering intensely from evil. The mission to be peacemakers and peace builders. We are called to seek peace, and to confront evil. That can mean standing up for the women and children dying in Gaza, trying to get local politicians here to pressure governments there; it can mean meeting those causing the evil to try and make them stop. It can put us in harm’s way.

There is the mission to educate others about Jesus: God said “This is my Son, Listen to Him!” Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone listened to and obeyed Jesus? Imagine Donald Trump going to the Mexican border and giving hundreds and thousands of dollars to the poor migrants risking their lives to cross! Vladimir Putin in a Ukrainian hospital, paying for the world’s best surgeons to help maimed soldiers back to health! This is why the gospel is good news – it changes hearts, and people who listen to God start to change their lives and do amazing things!

There is the mission to heal: Christian churches have led healthcare and hospice movements throughout history. What if we all spent more time in hospital with the suffering and dying? How would that reshape are minds and views and perspectives on what is important?

It’s all possible with a changing heart and dedication. I’ve a heart of stone and God has taken decades to make it softer, and it’s work that will continue till the day I die, but the more I listen to him, the more I proclaim him and not me, the more I become transfigured into the likeness of Jesus.

So let us have dedication to God’s mission: to educating others about Jesus, to bringing healing, to helping those who have so little, and to being peacemakers.

Put the basics of worship, prayer and getting to know God’s story in the Bible into place in your life, and learn about Jesus, and let that change the way we live.

Then grasp his mission for you: we all care about different issues, and we have the UN on our doorstep. What might God be calling you to do, to speak into? And which parts of his mission might he want you to dedicate your life to?