The Feast of St George - Reflection

‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.’ 2 Timothy 2:8

Brothers and sisters, those who follow football will know right now it is crunch time for the teams. Arsenal and Manchester City are fighting it out for the title. Players and supporters nerves are stretched, and I’m guessing that what they are saying to themselves is trust the coach. Trust the one who got us into the top position who got us this close to winning. If you’re Arsenal trust Mikel Arteta. If you’re City trust Pep Guardiola. Trust the coach, is the mantra of this part of the season. Today we celebrate the Feast of St George, a Christian who was killed for following Jesus in around 304AD. The Roman emperor took a dislike to the beliefs of Christians, and persecuted them viciously. No doubt Christians of the time would understand lockdown. Hiding in their homes—not from a virus that might kill them—but from a king who certainly would. And it was in to similar environment—of hardship and persecution—that St Paul would write two letters to his friend Timothy over two hundred years before St George died. Have a look again at that second reading (2 Timothy 2:3-13) and let’s hone in on just one line.

Now,  you often hear people use the word Gospel and by it, they mean all sorts of different things. One might say ‘oh I like the Gospel, it reminds me to be a good person’. Another person might say ‘Oh I like the Gospel, it’s all about taking care of the poor’. People were confused about what the Gospel was in Paul’s day too. So for our sakes—as well as for the people of his time—Paul outlines the Gospel in verse v.8: ‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.’ Here it is folks short and simple. The Gospel is not be a good person, nor is the Gospel to take care of the poor. Now don’t miss hear me once you believe the gospel, you will start to live a better life, you will start to take care of the poor. Those are good things…it’s just they’re not the Gospel. The Gospel is this: ‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.’ Now watch out… for here is a Gospel which can get you killed. Notice first that word, Christ; it’s easy to miss it, as we often think of it as Jesus’ surname. But Christ is not His surname it is His title. Christ means King. When we say Jesus Christ we’re saying King Jesus. The Romans had a saying Kaiser Kyrios - Caesar is Lord. And what the Christians believed flew directly in the face of that. When they were saying Jesus Christ what they were saying was: Caesar is not Lord Jesus is Lord. Caesar is not in charge of the world Jesus is! And how do we know that? Look back at our verse: ‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead’. Here is the Easter story. Jesus was raised from the dead, and in doing so God made Jesus not Caesar, king or Lord of the world. Now we can see why St Paul—and later St George—were killed for their faith. For they believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead and was ruling over all things. Such a claim troubled people in Paul’s time and it troubles many people today. Not Putin, nor Biden, nor King Charles, nor even ourselves are in charge of the world. No…Jesus is in charge of the world. Say that in the wrong place and expect opposition. This is why Christians are killed for what they believe. For what they believe challenges the order of the day. Whether Roman dictatorship or Western liberalism.

So there is the challenge of this verse. However, there is also a comfort and a reason to keep going. Jesus has been ‘raised from the dead’ and therefore there is hope. When pandemics, economic decline, or suffering and bereavement come we see that people are not really in charge. And often in times such as these—realising we are not in charge—we start to ask if God is in charge. We ask questions which people of St George’s time—and indeed St Paul’s time—must have asked too. And no doubt for George—as for all those suffering such hardships—the message they needed to hear was similar to the one I suggested for the football teams: trust the coach. Not Mikel Arteta or Pep Guardiola—trust Jesus. How tempting when facing persecution, how tempting when facing being arrested, how tempting when facing execution, to give up trusting the coach, to give up trusting Jesus. How tempting when the economy IS on the rocks, when our friends get sick, and when we lose a love one to give up trusting the coach, to give up trusting Jesus. But this is the Good News, this is our Gospel, this is what we as Christians believe: ‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead’. Jesus is King of the world and He has defeated death, and He will ensure that His children get through the difficult times through death and out the other side. St George trusted Jesus which is why he was willing to die for his faith. St Paul trusted Jesus which is why he was willing to die for his faith. And now Paul and George look to you and to me. Will we trust the coach? Will we trust Jesus in good times and bad? Will we believe the Gospel as it tells us to ‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead’? As I close, let me pray again that marvellous prayer with which we started our service which reminds us to trust the coach, to trust Jesus, just as St George did. 

Let us pray:

God of hosts, 
who so kindled the flame of love 
in the heart of your servant George
that he bore witness to the risen Lord
by his life and by his death: 
give us the same faith and power of love
that we - who rejoice in his triumphs -
may come to share with him 
the fullness of the resurrection; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. Amen. 

(from Fr Mike).