A Matter of Life or Death.

A Meditation for Good Friday

John 18:28-40

In this word from the gospel of John we learn of a discourse between Pilate and Jesus where the discussion is a matter of Life or Death. In this meditation I want to turn our attention to just two of the players in this scene: Pilate and Jesus.

Pilate.

As a governor he was complete failure. He had contempt and complete lack of sympathy and religious sensibility for the Jews. He’d already killed and threatened Jews in an argument over bringing graven image of the Emperor God on his standard into the Old Palace of the Herods. He’d also raided the Temple treasury to resource the building of a new Aquaduct, causing a riot in which he and his soldiers finished with killing many of the rioters. At another time he’d refused to remove special shields made in honour of Tiberias the Emperor god from the palace of the Herods, for which the Jews reported him to Tiberias who ordered him to remove them.

Little wonder, then, that Pilate acted as he did. The Jews blackmailed him into crucifying Jesus. They said in effect: “Your record is not too good; you were reported once before; if you do not give us our way, we will report you again to the Emperor, and you will be dismissed. On that day in Jerusalem Pilate’s past rose up and haunted him.

Have there been times in our own lives when fear of loss of security, status or job have forced us to make decisions we know are wrong that later cause us to be racked with guilt.

Pilate did not want to condemn Jesus, because he knew that he was innocent; and yet he was caught in the mesh of his own past.

So how did all this affect his conduct of the trial?

  1. Pilate began by trying to put the responsibility on to someone else.

He said to the Jews: “You take this man and judge him according to your Laws.” He tried to evade the responsibility of dealing with Jesus; but that is precisely what no one can do. No one can deal with Jesus for us; we must deal with him ourselves.

  1. Pilate went on to see what compromise could do.

He ordered Jesus to be scourged. This he perhaps thought might satisfy, or at least blunt the edge of Jewish hostility and avoid him having to give the verdict of the cross. Once again, that is what no man can do. No man can compromise with Jesus; no man can serve two masters. We are either for Jesus or against him. Let us seek forgiveness for the times we have compromised our faith when challenged by the secularity of our culture.

  1. Pilate then tried to see what appeal could do.

He led the scourged Jesus out to the people and asked: “Shall I crucify your King?” He tried to swing the balance by this appeal to emotion and pity. But no one can expect the appeal to others to take the place of his own personal decision. No man can evade a personal verdict and a personal decision regarding Jesus.

In the end Pilate abandoned Jesus to the mob because he lacked the courage to make the right decision and do the right thing.

Now let us come to the central character of the drama – Jesus.

  1. First and foremost we can see in this encounter the sheer Majesty of Jesus There is no sense that he is on trial. When a man faces him, it is not Jesus who is on trial; it is the man. Pilate may have treated many Jewish things with arrogant contempt, but he did not treat Jesus in this way. We cannot help feeling that it is Jesus who is in control and it is Pilate who is floundering and at sea in a situation which he cannot understand. The majesty of Jesus never shone more radiantly than in that time when he was on trial before men.

2. Jesus speaks with utter directness to us of His Kingdom .It is not, he says, of this earth. The atmosphere during Passover was particularly explosive which is why extra troops were always drafted in, but if Jesus had wished to raise the standard of rebellion and to fight it out he could have done so easily enough. But he makes it quite clear that he claims to be a King and equally clear that his kingdom is not based on force but is a spiritual kingdom built on love. His was a conquest of love. Have we understood the immensity of the suffering that Jesus voluntarily endured on the cross to bring us all through the gates of heaven. Have our hearts been conquered by his supreme act of love?

3.Jesus tells Pilate, and us, why he came into the world.

He came to witness to the truth; he came to tell men the truth about God, the truth about themselves, and the truth about life. That is one of the reasons why we must either accept or refuse Christ. There is no half-way house about the truth. And Christ is the truth regardless of what the world may say. He is the way and the life. And He is the only way by which we can pass into eternal life.

4. There is the physical courage of Jesus. Jesus stood a scourging from which few remained conscious and some died or became raving mad. Pilate led him to the crowd and said: “See the man!” It is always true that whatever else we do or do not say about Jesus, his sheer heroism is without parallel. Here indeed is a man! Oh, that those of us who know him would show one small iota of that courage in witnessing and spreading the good news of his kingdom. Were better at keeping it a secret than spreading the news!

5. We see here in the trial of Jesus the spontaneousness of his death and the supreme control of God. Pilate warned Jesus that he had the power to release him or to crucify him. Jesus answered that Pilate had no power at all, except what hade been given to him by God. The crucifixion of Jesus reads like a story of a man caught up in a web of circumstances over which he had no control. Jesus was not hounded to his death; those last days of Jesus were a triumphant procession towards the goal of the cross with all its agony and pain. Let us ponder on the infinite sacrificial love and courage that that entailed.

6. There were the times when Jesus was silent.

Not only before Pilate, but also before the Jewish authorities. Let us think about, with regret, the times when our minds have been so shut by pride and self-will that there is nothing that Jesus can say that will make any difference. At these times he remains silent; but never absent, waiting patiently for us to turn back to him, seeking forgiveness and re-aligning our wills to his.

So in the dramatic trial scene in which matters of life and death are discussed we see the immutable majesty, the undaunted courage and serene acceptance of the Cross of Jesus. Never was Jesus more majestic as when men did everything to humiliate him.

Lastly in one final scene we find Pilate, faced with an urgent decision as to what to do with a man he knows to be innocent in a politically charged situation turning to the crowd appealing for them to make a choice – this guilty man Barabbas or this innocent man Jesus.

The choice that faced the mob in Jerusalem is still before our world. Whom will we follow? Whom will we make our king? Ourselves? Our Career? Our sporting heroes, etc? Barabbas continues to represent an alluring alternative, the fulfilling of worldly ambitions and dreams, the gratification of human lusts and hungers, the nationalist dream, the political kingdom. But Jesus still stands before us also, knocking on the door of our hearts, offering his truth, a knowledge of the Father which, beginning in the valley of confession and repentance, leads forward along the pathway, guided and directed by the Holy Spirit, of daily surrender to him as King. Though on the surface less attractive, however, that choice frees those who make it to serve him in the world. It carries them at the last beyond the passing shadows of this earthly life into the enduring order of the heavenly kingdom which will have no end.

Every day we are faced with a decision to choose Barabbas or Jesus as our King? Maybe, like me, and like the apostle Peter there have been times when you rejected him; usually when the going gets tough. However, perhaps more importantly, can we like Peter accept the forgiveness that comes with repentance.

Let us meditate on, confess, repent and accept Jesus’ loving forgiveness of wrong choices, let us accept the righteousness before God which he bought for us on the cross, which gives us a pass into his eternal kingdom. And let us also have the courage of our convictions.

It is a matter of life or death.

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Light for our Darkness

Jn 9:1-41; Ephes.5:8-14.

In these dark days of winter and of darkness penetrating many areas of our fractured culture I am reminded that Jesus’ birth is described as the unquenchable light shining in the darkness. We are now in the season of Epiphany where the birth and significance of Jesus was revealed to three wise men from the East as a bright new star in the heavens [possibly a Super-Nova] they were motivated in their spirits to follow the star which guided them to where Jesus was born.

Light is the energy source upon which all life exists and is maintained. This was one of the first acts of God in creation; He spoke let their be light, and there was light in the creation of stars. Life receives light by a process of photosynthesis carried out by chlorophyll bearing organisms that convert solar energy into chemical energy. The source of this light is our Sun. If the world became blind to light, for some reason plunged into darkness unable to receive light through, say, a thick blanket of dust cloud, all advanced life would soon cease. Light is also very important to us in revealing the make up of things around us we “Hold things up to the light to help us to see the detail of what things look like, to avoid obstacles in our path.” Without light things are hidden from us, often dangerously so. Imagine walking blindfold along the road outside your house. You would be feeling your way groping and stumbling over obstacles that are in your way. You would risk bumping into people and falling down man-holes! What a daft thing to do you would say!

But spiritually this is the exact cause of humanities problems. We are groping around unable to see who we are, where we have come from or where we are going. We go through life blindfolded, groping in the darkness, stumbling and tripping over many obstacles. The man Jesus saw was blind from birth (Jn.9:1) but are we not all born spiritually blind at birth, worse still we are born into a dark world without light.

God saw that what we needed was light to drive away the darkness. According to Strongs concordance there are over 250 references to light in the Bible about a hundred of them in the New Testament. God’s love and grace made provision to meet our need. Jesus came as Light for our Darkness. He describes himself by the words: “I am the bread of life. I am the door. I am the good shepherd; I am the way, the truth and the life, I am the resurrection and the life; I am the light of the world.” Jesus Christ is the light of the world. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Jn.1:1-4. We need Light to see; and what we see with our eyes is only possible when there is light. When there is absolute darkness, we cannot see anything even with exceptionally good eyesight. When however the problem is with the eyes no amount of light will enable us to see unless sight is first restored.

The man Jesus met was born blind and for him everything was in darkness since the day of his birth. He had never seen the light of day and, since he couldn’t work, was forced to beg. Asked by the disciples the reason for the man’s blindness Jesus declared that he was born blind so that God could reveal his great work of salvation in him; so that God, through Jesus, could show his majesty, his power and his great mercy (Jn.9:2-3). In the sovereign providence of God, this man was born blind so that the Lord Jesus Christ could heal him of his physical and spiritual blindness as a symbol or a sign for all mankind.

Since we are all born spiritually blind into a dark world because of sin, we need Christ the light of the world, to restore our sight. Jesus is the great sight giver. Without this inner sight we grope around in a spiritual darkness. What does this imply?

When we are spiritually blind we are unable to discern the truth (Ephes.5:9 ) and as a result we cannot see things as they really are and therefore run the risk of valuing the wrong things. Without light and without sight we cannot see and understand the truth about God. Our eyelids are often closed over those weaknesses in ourselves. Sometimes when the light exposes these things to us we develop spiritual cataracts of guilt which blind us to the solution. Only Jesus can restore our sight to enable us to see things as they really are; illuminated in the light of Christ.

The tragedy for many people is that they are not conscious that they are blind and are in darkness because they have rejected the light. Why? Because one of the properties of light is that it exposes things that are hidden in the dark.(Ephes. 5:11-13) We often are fooled by the dark into believing we do nothing wrong. We often do things in secret that we do not want others to know about. We prefer to live without the light because being in the light means that we have to give up too much.

The Pharisees accused the blind man of being “steeped in sin at birth” (Jn.9:34). What they did not see was that they too were sinners who needed to be saved. They were blind to their own sin and the need for salvation. Instead of rejoicing that people were being healed and lives changed and taking advantage of the healing taking place they were only concerned about the observance of the Sabbath (Jn.9:16). Keeping the Sabbath was more important to them than caring for the needs of others. Because of their blindness they did not realise that God never intended the Sabbath to prevent an act of mercy or kindness.

Christ the light of the world disperses our darkness and restores our sight. He brings us into the light so that we can also become light (Ephes.5:8). When certain materials are exposed to light they absorb that light and re-radiate it in the form of fluorescence. Paul asserts that we should witness to others the difference that light makes in our lives. We should live as children, a re-radiance, of that light. Many of the people that Jesus healed wanted to go with him. He always refused and advised them to stay where they were to serve as a fluorescing light for those who had known them and where the difference in their lives was evident for all to see. Christ came into the world to give light but it is left to us to accept that light or reject it. The gospel is not only good news to those who receive it but bad news to those who reject it. The gospel heard and accepted is life ; the gospel heard and refused is death.

The story of the healing of the blind man is both a miracle and a drama of central conflict going on in the gospel. When first healed and asked about the miracle the man replied that “a man called Jesus” healed him (Jn.9:11). The next time he was asked he replied that “He is a prophet”. When pressed again about Jesus he asserts: “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” And when he finally came face to face with Jesus, he fell down and worshiped him. The man who was healed gained not only physical sight but also spiritual sight as he recognised Jesus as his Lord. Contrasted with this is the hostility of the Pharisees. At first some of them defend Jesus but soon they all decide that Jesus’ defiance of the Sabbath is inexcusable and they told the man who had been healed to “give glory to God,” declaring that they new him, Jesus, to be a sinner.

Light represents what is good and holy and darkness what is sinful and evil. In the dark good and evil look alike. In the light they can clearly be distinguished. Just as darkness cannot exist in the presence of light, so sin cannot exist in the presence of a Holy God. Let us come into the light and put aside our sinful ways of living.

There is to be a distinct walk on the part of those whose sight has been restored and who are in the light. It is a walk and lifestyle that is different from that of the world. It is a life that is blameless and pure. We are to live in such a way that our behaviour is above reproach (Ephes.5:9 -11). It is not living a perfect life, but a life that nobody can point a finger at. We should live a life that will astonish a darkened world. “People may doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do”. As people in the light we are to be light. It is only when we feel at home in the light of Christ that we can face many challenging temptations, which come to us in the ordinary experience of life. Whenever Jesus performed a miracle, it provoked all kinds of questions. Often these questions give the believer an opportunity to witness for the Lord.

The man who had been blind, at first did not know how or why he was healed, but he knew that his life had been miraculously changed and he was not afraid to tell the truth. His testimony was simple, yet convincing. Like the blind man we do not need to know all the answers to share the light of Christ with others, it is only necessary to tell others how he has changed our lives.

Unfortunately the world seems to prefer the darkness to light. We live in a fallen world, in a culture that today I believe has lost its way and gone astray blindly groping in its own way, where absolute God given morality has given way to relative personal standards of liberality, blind to the light of guiding star that leads to Jesus; the source of eternal truth and true freedom. When blind to the light of Jesus we trip and fall down the ‘man-holes’ of life. Today Jesus has sent us the gift of Holy Spirit to heal us and and remove the cataracts from our spiritual eyes.

Those who admit they cannot see are given sight, but those who insist that they can see perfectly, without Jesus, are confirmed in their blindness. Spiritual sight comes from a personal encounter, an Epiphany, with Jesus and leads to a new life in relationship to Him. In the world today there is light and darkness. There are those who accept to live in the light and those who chose to remain in the dark. Darkness prevents us from seeing things clearly. It hides the reality from us. It also hides the dangers that threaten our well being and even our life itself. Light enables us to see clearly. We can see where we are going, see what we are doing and have a fuller awareness of all that surrounds us. Turning on a light in a dark room brings darkness to an end. Jesus is the light for our darkness. By his death on the cross he has disarmed and overcome the powers of darkness so that we can turn away from the darkness, come into the light and become a light. The light of Christ will never be overcome by darkness; nor will those who live in the light.

Those whose blindness Christ has restored, those who see the light of our Lord Jesus Christ become children of the light and will remain in his light forever.

Do you have a clear vision of your future with Christ? Are you sharing that vision with others who may yet see? I hope so.

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Immanuel -God with Us


Isa. 7:10-16; Matt.1:18-25.

There are times when we find it hard to trust God to look after us. Especially today as we look back over the past year with the ravages of Covid 19 pandemic bringing fear, pain and heartache and economic disaster to us individually and to our way of life. There are times when we think our situation is so bad there seems to be no way out. There are other times when we think we know the best solution to our problems so we don’t bother to ask God for help.

All three of those statements were true for Ahaz, as Jerusalem lay surrounded
by the armies of Israel and Syria. It looked like Jerusalem was doomed. The
people were starving and there didn’t seem to be much hope unless they were
rescued by another nation. In fact Ahaz had it in his mind to form an alliance
with Egypt or Assyria. Maybe that would solve their problems.

Unfortunately, too often when we make these sorts of short term decisions we
overlook the long term consequences. If they formed an alliance with, say,
Assyria, they’d lose their independence, The nation of Judea would be handed
over to a pagan king. Jerusalem would become a secular city just like any
other city in the world.

I wonder what you do when you’re faced with some impending disaster? Do
you use your own political savvy, your own applied logic, to find a way out by
yourself or do you ask God to intervene? It’s difficult isn’t it, because either
may be appropriate. God promises to help us, but he also tells us to act to help
ourselves.

In the case of Ahaz, God decides to help him out. He sends Isaiah to speak to
him and say “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart
because of these two smouldering stubs of firewood.”
Ahaz could relax in the
face of this threat, because God was with him. This was God’s city and he
wasn’t going to let these almost burnt out enemies take it captive. In fact he
tells him that Israel will be gone within 65 years. That’s what happens when
you play politics with a greater military power. But in the meantime Ahaz
should trust in the Lord and ask for his help.

That sounds good doesn’t it? What is there to worry about? Just get down on
your knees and pray. God has already sent his prophet to assure him of his
help. He tells him to ask for a sign. That’s what Gideon did when he wasn’t
sure. And God gave him a sign – twice. It’s OK to ask for a sign. God
understands our lack of confidence at times like this.

But did you see how Ahaz responds? He doesn’t want to put the Lord to the
test! God has gone out of his way to help his people and their king doesn’t
want to bother God. Perhaps he thinks this is a trap that Isaiah is setting for
him. Or perhaps he’s just too scared to step out of his comfort zone and trust
God rather than his own political maneuvering.

Well, Isaiah isn’t going to let him get away with that. He may be the king but
this is God’s city, God’s people. So he gives him a sign anyway. He speaks a
word of prophecy: “A young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and
shall name him Immanuel.”
The naming of a child is a common technique in
the prophets to bring a message to God’s people. Hosea uses it to warn them
of God’s judgement, then to promise his restoration. Here the child is to be
named Immanuel, that is, “God is with us”, to assure them that God is ready to
stand with them against their enemies. And if God is with us who can stand
against us.

In the end the words Isaiah spoke came true. Both Israel and Syria were taken
over by Assyria. Even Jerusalem was threatened, but it wasn’t defeated
because God protected them. That would happen later.

But of course the history of Israel isn’t actually our focus today. Today we’re
interested in the way that prophecy had its outworking in the birth of Jesus.
As
we read in the passage from Matthew 1, Matthew identifies this child with that
prophecy of Isaiah 7: “They shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, ’God is
with us.’”

So what does it mean that with Jesus birth God is with us? Is this just to do
with the incarnation. God has come in human form to live among us? Here is a
child who is both human and divine at the same time? Well that’s certainly
true. This is a unique event in human history. The word of God has become
flesh and dwelt among us. But it’s clearly more than that. Matthew certainly
thinks so. He tells us that this child is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
A lot
of water has passed under the bridge since Isaiah’s day. Jerusalem is no
longer under attack from Syria, now it’s in the hands of the Romans. So things
are even worse than they were then. If ever the people needed to know that
God was with them, it was now.
And they needed to know not just that he was
with them but that he’d protect them, save them.

Here’s the interesting bit though. In Isaiah’s day the prophecy meant that God
would save Jerusalem from it’s enemies who were camped outside the gates.
But this saviour who appears in Bethlehem isn’t coming to save the nation or
the city from its enemies.
In fact in a mere 70 years time Jerusalem would be
destroyed and the Jews driven out of it almost for good. He’s coming to save
his people from their sins. The angel gives him the name Jesus for that
reason.

Can you see what the name Immanuel has to do with that?

This child, as God with us, is a sign that the separation we experience from
God is coming to an end
. What separates us from God? It’s our sin isn’t it?
Jesus has come to deal with our sin; to save us from it and to enable us to be
restored to full communion with God. God is with us, not to make us feel safer,
but because he’s about to save us from the reality of the judgement we
deserve.
God is with us in a new way, a way that allows us to be with God.

It’s a complex idea isn’t it? Jesus is both a sign of God’s protection and the
means of that protection. Jesus both assures us that God is fulfilling his
promise to restore the creation and is the means by which God brings about
that restoration.

And what about right now? We look back on the events of the first century and
we know them well. We know that God has brought about the salvation he
promised in this young child. We know Jesus grew up and chose 12 disciples
and in the end was killed but then rose again. And that might be all we get out
of a passage like this. But that would be to miss, again, the deeper
significance of this name, Immanuel. Because this baby Jesus continues to be
a sign for us, doesn’t he? He continues to act as a reminder, as a token of
God’s ongoing love and protection.
When we look back to the birth of Jesus,
and to his death and resurrection, we’re reminded again and again and again,
that God is mighty to save.

We read about Ahaz hearing about the alliance of Syria and Israel and being
afraid that they might come and defeat him and it all seems such a long time
ago. But really, his situation isn’t that much different from what many of us
experience from time to time. There are times when it seems like everything is
stacked against us; when it feels like the weight of the world is on us. And as
Christians we often feel like we’re on our own; pitted against forces beyond
our ability to resist, let alone overcome. Each year around this time we see the
forces of political correctness trying to limit the celebration of Christ’s birth
and turn it into the holiday season instead. In various places Nativity scenes
are banned, as are Christmas carols; carols by candlelight is turned into a
festival of popular culture. Santa Clause is the focus of Christmas celebrations
rather than Jesus, and I could go on.

Of course most people would wonder what’s the issue. It’s only us, a small
minority of the population, who actually care. The rest of the world couldn’t
care less. We’re just a small part of an increasingly secular world.

But here’s the good news of Christmas. We’re not alone. We’re not facing
insurmountable opposition. God is with us. He came in the form of the baby
Jesus. He lived as one of us. He died and rose again. And in his last few hours
with the disciples before his death he promised them this:
“I will ask the
Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him
nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in
you. 18’I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.’”

Then before he ascended to the Father he gave this promise: “Remember, I am
with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus is still with us. His Holy Spirit dwells within each and every
Christian. He is with us so we need never be afraid.

Paul puts it like this in Rom 8: “What then are we to say about these things? If
God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but
gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”
God promises to remain with us. He’s given up his only Son for us. What more
could we ask for that he wouldn’t give if that’s the level of his generosity
towards us?

So let me encourage you today to have confidence, not in your own ability to
overcome those who oppose the gospel, but in the God who sent his only Son
as both a sign of his love for us and as the means by which that love could
bring about its purpose for his people. Have confidence in the God who
continues to be with us through all the trials of lif
e.

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Have Yourself a Mary Christmas

LUKE 1;26-38

There are three 3 lessons we can learn from the life of Mary,
the mother of Jesus Christ, which are found in Luke 1:26-38.

  • NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, THE LORD CAN USE YOU. (v.
    26-27)
    Do you remember the last time you filled out a job application?
    You have to give them all your vital statistics, summarize your
    background, your education, your experience. Many of them
    now ask that all important question: what is it that makes you
    uniquely qualified for this position? How do you answer that
    question without coming off as a snob? Employers assume
    your availability, but what they really want to discover is your
    liabilities (things that would make you unsuited for the job)
    and your usability- what skills, talents will help you do the job.
    But God doesn’t operate this way. Mary teaches us God is not
    as interested as your abilities as He is in your availability. No
    matter who you are, God can use you. Vs. 26-27. Look at Mary
    – she was an ordinary girl with some serious liabilities:
    • She was young. Mary was pledged to be married. At that
    time, it was customary for girls to be engaged at 12-13 years
    of age (around the time of reaching puberty). One reason was
    to ensure girls maintained their virginity until marriage. It’s
    very possible that Mary could have been as young as 12-13, or
    as old as 16 when Gabriel visited her. You and I might think
    this girl is too young for God to use her, but apparently God
    didn’t think so. But also
    She was poor. We read Luke 2:22-24 that Mary and Joseph
    took baby Jesus to the temple to be circumcised. They were
    required to bring one of two offerings: either a lamb for a burnt
    offering and a dove or a pigeon for a sin offering.
    If a lamb was too expensive, the parents could bring a second
    dove or pigeon instead. Mary and Joseph brought the two
    doves, because they couldn’t afford a lamb. You and I might
    have thought this family is too poor to provide for Jesus but
    apparently God didn’t think so. Mary was young, and poor, but
    also
    She was from Nazareth. Apparently, Mary was a young girl
    from the wrong side of the tracks. Nazareth was a town with a
    bad reputation. Remember what Nathanael said when He
    learned Jesus from Nazareth?
    John 1:46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good
    come out of Nazareth?” …

    You and I might have thought No way. No telling what this girl
    grew up seeing and hearing and doing in a bad town like that.
    Apparently, God didn’t take this into consideration in choosing
    Mary to be mother to His Son.
    Mary was young, poor, and from Nazareth—all characteristics
    make her seem unusable by God. But God chose Mary for one
    of the most important jobs He ever asked anyone to do.
    Through God’s choice of Mary, He teaches us: no matter who
    you are, the Lord can use you.

    You might think you are too young, that you don’t have enough
    money or talent for God to use you. You might think your
    background or past mistakes might make it impossible for God
    to use you. Don’t limit God. He can use you if you trust Him.
    Out of all the queens, princesses, daughters of the wealthy
    and influential, God chose a poor teenager from a town with a
    bad reputation to be the mother of Jesus. She had two vital
    characteristics God looks for: humility and faith. She knew she
    wasn’t worthy of the honour God offered her. Yet she still
    believed God could use her, if she trusted Him. Do you believe
    God can use you? Or do you think you’re too small—too young,
    too poor, too weak to be used by Him?

    If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never
    been in bed with a mosquito.
    Do you think you are useless to God? Think again. God is
    searching for humble people to take part in His amazing plans.
    Will you be one of those people in 2022?
    Mary teaches us no
    matter who you are, God can use you. She also teaches us
  • NO MATTER WHAT PROBLEMS YOU FACE, THE LORD IS
    WITH YOU. (v. 28-33)

    There are some things you just don’t want to go through alone;
    Christmas, for instance. I don’t know of anybody who likes to
    spend Christmas all by themselves. I’m sure there are some,
    but most of us want to be share the celebration with people
    near and dear to us. Let’s pray that we will be free to do
    But we don’t like to go through trouble alone, either. If we get
    sick with nobody to sit up with us or comfort us, we’ll probably
    be more miserable. When we lose our job, or our spouse or our
    child, we need somebody with us to help you make it through.
    Of course, the One Person we need more than anybody else
    when we face problems is the Lord. Mary teaches us that no
    matter what problems we face, the Lord is with us.
    The angel says in vs. 30, “Do not be afraid.” But we wouldn’t
    blame Mary if she were afraid. Imagine the fears she might
    experience as a result of her pregnancy:

    Possible divorce by Joseph. Joseph at first assumes that
    Mary has been unfaithful to him. What else would he have
    thought? He decided to divorce her (which, according to their
    law, was necessary to end the engagement) before he was
    told in a dream that Mary’s baby was, in fact, conceived by the
    Holy Spirit.
    But right now, Mary doesn’t know how all of that will work out.
    But she does know God will be with her, whatever Joseph
    does.
    • Possible rejection by her family. Did Mary’s family believe her
    story that the baby growing inside her was the Son of God?
    Would you believe that if your daughter told you that story? We
    are never told anything about Mary’s parents’ reaction to her
    pregnancy. But it’s very possible that they didn’t believe her
    story. But Mary believes God is with her, no matter how her
    parents may react.
    • Certain rejection by her community Imagine the gossip that
    must have circulated Nazareth. The people have Nazareth
    would have accused her of adultery—a sin that was not looked
    on lightly as it is today. It’s likely that Mary was shunned by
    those who had once been her friends. But Mary believes God is
    with her, even if her friends abandon her.
    Possible death by stoning
    According to the law, this was the penalty for adultery. By
    New Testament times stoning was rare, but it was still a
    possibility.
    The message from the angel totally changed Mary’s life. She
    was getting ready to be married and live a normal life. But now
    her life would be anything but normal. How could she be calm
    and courageous as she faced all of the problems that her
    pregnancy might cause? She would cling to the words the
    angel spoke in vs. 28: “The Lord is with you.” The Lord would
    be with her. He would help her. He would give her the strength
    and courage to face anything.
    The same Lord makes that same promise to you and to me.
    Psalm 118:6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can
    man do to me?
    Hebrews 13:5 …For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you
    nor forsake you.”

    Mary’s story teaches us that no matter what problems you and I
    face, the Lord is with us.. Mary faced the possibility of
    rejection from Joseph, her family, and her community and even
    the possibility of being stoned, but she knew that the Lord
    would never abandon her.
    One of the titles given to Jesus was “Immanuel,” which means
    “God with us.” One of the great themes of the Old Testament is
    the concept of God living with His people. Jesus is our
    Immanuel. He is “God with us.”

    Human life was meant to be dramatic. We are meant to be
    God-inhabited
    . Our religion is not organized around keeping
    God at a distance. It allows us to go see him when we want. If
    we really want God to be with us, then our lives will be
    different from ordinary human life – we will be peculiar people!

    We are meant to be God-inhabited. Jesus came to make God’s
    presence a conscious, living reality in our lives. Whatever
    problems you are facing right now–whatever worries and fears
    are harassing your heart–don’t let them discourage you. No
    matter what your problems, the Lord is with you. Bring those
    problems to Him and trust Him to work them out, and He will,
    just as surely as He worked them all out for Mary.
    Two lessons from Mary: no matter who you are, God can use
    you. No matter what problems you face, God is with you. Look
    at one more:
  • NO MATTER WHAT HE PROMISES, THE LORD CAN DO IT. (v.
    34-38)

    A little boy asked his mother where he came from, and also
    where she had come from as a baby. His mother gave him a
    tall tale about a beautiful white-feathered bird. The boy ran
    into the next room and asked his grandmother the same
    question and received a variation on the bird story. He then
    scampered outside to his playmate with the comment, “You
    know, there hasn’t been a normal birth in our family for three
    generations.”
    The Bible records several instances where there was not a
    “normal birth.” God sent a son to Abraham and Sarah long after
    they thought having a baby was possible. In Judges 13, an
    angel of the Lord told Manoah and his barren wife, Hannah,
    twould have a special son they would name Samson. John the
    Baptist’s mother, Elizabeth, was in her sixties or seventies
    when she gave birth to the prophet. But none of those special
    births was as amazing as the birth of Jesus Christ. His birth
    was a virgin birth conceived by the miraculous work of the
    Holy Spirit.
    Now that sounds even more abnormal today than possibly it
    did then. But look at Mary’s reaction in vs. 38 (read.) Even
    though the angel’s news was unbelievable, she believed it.
    Mary didn’t understand it, but she also didn’t doubt it. She
    believed that no matter what He has promised, the Lord CAN
    DO IT.
    Jesus’ miraculous conception remains impossible to
    understand by human reason alone.
    God chose not to explain
    the details of it to us. The real issue is not whether a virgin
    can conceive; the real issue is whether anything is impossible
    for God.

    Mary knew that a virgin birth is impossible, but she also
    believed that “nothing is impossible with God.” And if he
    considered it necessary for the salvation of mankind, then she
    was obedient to God’s will. Whatever God promises, He
    delivers.
    No matter what He promises, He will do it.
    What promises of God are you tempted to doubt? You’re
    reading the Bible one day, and your eyes light on one of the
    promises of God.
    John 11:26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never
    die.
    Do you believe this?”
    1 John 5:14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him,
    that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
    John 10:10 …I have come that they may have life, and that
    they may have it more abundantly.

    Do you ever read promises like these and say, “Yeah, right.
    Like that’s gonna happen. Not for me, not now, not after all I’ve
    been through.”
    But those promises are made by God. It doesn’t
    matter how impossible they seem—there is nothing, nothing
    nothing impossible with God.
    Whatever He promises, He
    always does, without fail. What you have to do is what Mary
    did believe and obediently say, “Let it be to me according to
    Your Word, O Lord.”
    Little faith will bring your soul to heaven, but great faith will
    bring heaven to your soul.—Anonymous
  • ‘That’s the way it worked for Mary. That’s the way it can work
    for you, if you will believe
  • So Mary can teach you and I:
    No matter who you are, the Lord can use you.
    No matter what problems you face, the Lord is with you.
    No matter what He has promised, the Lord can do it.
  • Won’t you take these truths to heart this Christmas? Won’t you
    take them with you as you walk into 2022, into your home,
    your school, your work, and live
    out a Mary Christmas in your life.
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The Kingship of Christ- Matthew 25:31-46

A Passport authenticates my citizenship of the United Kingdom. I need it if I am to enter another Kingdom. It tells officials in that Kingdom who I am so that they can check if there is any reason why i should not be allowed to enter and to put their stamp of approval on it. In another sense, since I am a Human Being, I am a citizen of the world.

Sunday November 21st was called stir up Sunday. Traditionally the last Sunday before Advent and also known as Christ the King Sunday.

Although celebrated a couple of weeks ago, as it is Advent and we joyfully wait to celebrate the arrival of Jesus among us I want to say something about the Kingdom of which Jesus is King, the King himself and the implications, as outlined in Matthew 25, for the citizens of this Kingdom.

The Kingdom

Jesus sits at the right hand of God and rules over all creation. His Kingdom is, therefore, not only the whole earth and everything that is in it but all the Universe with billions of suns [stars] in each of billions of galaxies.

Our Lord Jesus Christ made the Kingdom of God His primary teaching focus. He is, of course, the door to His Kingdom, as well as the foundation and the capstone. His Kingdom was and is His Central message. If you research and compile all the major teachings of Jesus you will see clearly that His foremost concern was for His disciples to know as much as possible about His Kingdom.

For example, in the Lord’s Prayer, the concern after honour to His Holy Father was, “Thy Kingdom Come.” Jesus is born as God’s son in absolute oneness with His eternal, loving, holy and almighty Father. His primary concern is for the Kingdom of God to be fully established to give great and worthy honour to His heavenly Father.

This suggests that there is a parallel spiritual kingdom which is eternal. The Kingdom is now, real and physical, as well as spiritual and eternal: a Kingdom of Honour and righteousness.

The Gospels describe Jesus as proclaiming the Kingdom as something that is both “at hand” and a future reality [Mark 1:15]. Jesus Christ, through His incarnation, death, resurrection and exultation, has ushered in the messianic age so that the Kingdom of God, in both its material and spiritual dimensions, may be understood to be present in an incipient fashion, while at the same time awaiting consummation in the future age following the second coming.

The cross can be seen as a singularity bringing together not only the spiritual and physical creation but the past, present and future work of God in His Kingdom.

The present aspect of the Kingdom refers to the changed state of heart or mind [metanoia] within Christians [read Luke 17:21]. Jesus emphasises the spiritual nature of His Kingdom by saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within [or among] you.” The reported activity of Jesus in healing diseases, driving out demons, teaching a new ethic for living, and offering a new hope in God to the poor, is understood to be a demonstration of that Kingdom in action in the here and now. The King, as Jesus Christ, has already come in disguise and in humility and through his Holy Spirit wants to exercise His kingship over each and everyone of us.

The Kingdom of God is within the heart of every believer. Is Jesus sitting on the throne of your heart? There is a sense in which the Kingdom of God is not yet complete. There is yet to come a time when God’s perfect will be done on earth. Because God loves us He cannot force us to do His will; but there will come a time when we will all choose to do that. This will be a time when Jesus will return in Glory [v.31]. This return will be sudden, without warning and decisive.

The King Himself

I remember sleeping out in the open in the African bush and waking up in the middle of the night staring up at the night sky. Wow! What a vast array of stars! I realised I was just a spec. upon a spec. of a vast Universe of over 2 trillion galaxies!! I was reminded of Paul’s writing in Collossians 1: 16-17. ‘For by Him all things were created: things in Heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Jesus is therefore first and foremost our creator King, we owe our very existence to him as creator and sustainer of the universe and our own humanity. He made the things that we can see and the things we can’t see (scientists are more and more making visible what was previously invisible to us- however, a vast proportion of the universe exists but may always remain invisible and a mystery to us). He is ruler and creator of kings, kingdoms, rulers and authorities. Everything has been created through him and will ultimately be for his glory.

It is little wonder then that Paul reminds us in Phil.2:9-11 quoting Isa. 52:13, ‘Therefore God exulted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’

Jesus, as God of an infinite as well as a finite universe has so many characteristics that his Kingship is almost indefinable. How do you picture Jesus? As the Good Shepherd? As a friend of children? As one who loves unconditionally? As one who stills the storm? The one who heals? The teacher?

He is all these things and more but the passage from Matthew 25 brings us face to face with Jesus the judge. We don’t often picture Jesus as the Judge. Maybe we are reluctant to speak of Jesus this way because Jesus as judge is connected with the Last Judgement: and the last judgement is something that many in our present time find incomprehensible or offensive. That some would find themselves cast into hell seems inconsistent with a loving God. So what does the passage form Matthew tell us about our

Citizenship in God’s Earthly Kingdom

It tells us, as we wait at the Customs Gate of the eternal kingdom that judgement awaits everyone, there will be no exceptions, no favourites, no excuses. It tells us that we are accountable. That Jesus will look into our passport and check us against his list in the book of life. I am free to live my life as I please, but in the end I shall have to give account to the one who gave me my life – Jesus the King. And he will decide whether I wil be allowed to reside in his restored and renewed eternal kingdom.

It tells us that we are not all going in the same direction though by different roads, as many like to believe in this pluralistic age. We will not all end up in the same place. We may not have the right visa in our passport. It is possible to be utterly lost, and Jesus warns us of that possibility here.

It tells us that there will be great surprises on that day. Many who are confident of their condition will be undone and many rate themselves very lowly and unworthy will be surprised at their reception.

It tells us that the heart of Christnity is the relationship with Jesus Himself which shows itself in loving, sacrificial care of others, in particular the poor and needy.

It tells us that people who have never heard the Good News will be judged by their response to what light they had, and in particular to their response to suffering humanity.

Our challenge is to mould our lives according to the Kingdom values upon which Jesus will judge us, and these values are all motivated by self-less love of Jesus and our neighbour spelt out Matth25:35-40. If we live by these values, prompted by love, then as we stand before the judgement seat of the king we will see our name indelibly printed across our passport image and He will see Himself sitting on the throne of our hearts and we will hear the words, “We done my good and faithful servant; come share in my glory.”

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No Theology Without Ecology.

Hosea 4:1-4; Romans 8: 18-25

As we, the UK, are about to host Climate Change Conference I am motivated to write a post raising this and related issues from a Christian perspective.  The crisis the world faces, not just in Climate Change but also in Global Ecology is the result of the impact of humanity, especially in the West, and a free market which relies on continuous and infinite economic growth. Simple arithmetic tells us that this is ultimately unsustainable. Ecosystems are being damaged by greedy comfort seeking capitalism resulting in damaging climate change and tragic loss of biodiversity, which in turn ultimately impacts the global economy.

Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation reports that: Ecological Debt Day is happening earlier year on year. In 2021 it was July 29th. Sometimes called overshoot day, it marks the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year.  After that date until the end of the year humanity is living ecologically beyond its means.

Economy, therefore, needs to be considered as a subsidiary of Ecology; not the other way around. We need to explore alternative ways of doing business with minimal damage to the environment and global ecosystems if we are to avoid global catastrophe.

What as Christians should be our response to this?

There are two world views concerning our relationship with the natural world.

The anthropocentric view  says that the world is here for human use and enjoyment. Sustainability is simply our responsibility to provide enough for our fellow humans and for future human generations.

Christianity has often been seen as supporting this position.

But this kind of anthropocentrism owes more to Greek philosophy and renaissance humanism than to biblical traditions. For we understand that the world is ultimately for God, not for human beings. Psalm 24 states: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” Paul in Colossians 1.17 goes further in saying all things were created “by and for” Jesus Christ.

The anthropocentric view is ultimately fundamentally flawed, because:

It sees humans as above or separate from the rest of the biosphere. It places too much faith in human endeavour to find solutions to the crises we cause.  It leads directly to technocentrism – faith in the ingenuity of humanity, in the progress of science and its practical applications.

And because people who are comfortable don’t want to change!

The ecocentric view sees  humans as simply one part of an interdependent biosphere, with no greater rights than any other part. We sustain for the greater good.

The ecocentric view is profoundly attractive to post modern people, disillusioned with ‘progress’ and the empty benefits of materialism. Christianity has more in common with the eco-centric view than is often realised. Humans are part of the eco-system rather than above it, interdependent rather than independent. Genesis 2 speaks of Adam being made from adamah – the dust or soil. The majority of the Old Testament is about the inter-relationship of people and place – chosen people and promised land. The biblical narrative shows that there is, ultimately, no theology without ecology!

In practical terms, the problem with an eco-centric view of sustainability is that it quickly leads to ethical dilemmas over interventions. If humans are merely one amongst millions of species, with no inherent distinct value or role, what right have we to intervene in natural systems? This dilemma is seen particularly in the conservation world.

John Stott elegantly encapsulates the flaws respectively of the eco- and anthropocentric positions in saying: We must not treat nature obsequiously as if it were god, nor behave towards it arrogantly as if we were god. [From an address: “Caring For God’s World-the Biblical Imperative for Conservation”]

There is, however, a third model of understanding of sustainability based on biblical principles.

This is:

The theocentric view  which sees the world – human and non- human – as deriving its value from being created and sustained by God.

There are three principles upon which this understanding is built.

The first principle is simply that, ultimately sustainability is not entirely dependent on humanity, because God is both Creator and Sustainer.

The world’s faiths, despite there being varied creation myths, unite in seeing the earth as more than a product of random chance.

Judaeo-Christian Theology is not anthropo-, eco- bio- or geo- centric, but theocentric. It begins neither with human rights and responsibilities, nor with intrinsic natural values but with God.   In biblical terms, sustainability must begin with God both as Creator and also crucially as sustainer. God is the one by whom all things are made, and who holds all things together –  in whom all things live and move and have their being.

This is both disturbing and comforting. It is disturbing, because humans dislike admitting their cosmic insignificance. We are not masters nor sustainers of the Universe. It is comforting because the track record of human beings is so poor. It challenges both anthropo- and ecocentrism. In a time of environmental despair, Christian theology offers much needed hope in the promise that ultimately God is committed to sustaining and renewing the earth.

From this understanding of God’s creating and sustaining love, flow several key ethical imperatives, two of which are:

  1. If the earth is God’s not ours and, if God retains oversight and involvement, then attitudes of respect and even reverence towards natural systems ensue.

Every part of creation should be respected as having intrinsic value, because it is fashioned by the creator of all. This is critical in our thinking about sustainability – without belief in a Creator, it is very  difficult to find value in living or inanimate things apart from their instrumental value to human beings. True value lies not in measurable monetary wealth, or in usefulness to human beings, but is intrinsic in being created by God. Thus every object and every creature must be respected, not simply as resources, but as unique repositories of God’s wisdom.

  • Belief in God’s sustaining involvement also leads to an ethical attitude of restraint.

We should exercise great caution in our intervention in natural systems, respecting the natural wisdom of the Creator, and observing the ability of nature to adapt to changing circumstance without human interference.

So, the first principle of a Christian theology of sustainability is that God is Creator and sustainer. At this point some, including Christians, may argue: “If  God is the sustainer, does that not let human beings off the hook? Does it not encourage the idea that if God is in charge, we can do what we like – exploit, destroy, live unsustainably – knowing that God will sort it all out in the end?”

Good question – poor theology! Because:

The second Principle is that of Biblical covenantal stewardship.

Biblical stewardship understands that the earth is God’s, not ours – removing any ‘rights’ to use its resources without constraint. It also contains the vital notions of responsibility and accountability – stewards have to answer to the owner. Biblical stewardship is a contractual and binding agreement between God, people and the land. The creation covenant of Genesis 9, with the sign of the rainbow, conveys God’s commitment to the whole earth and every living creature within it – a commitment not to destroy the earth again, no matter how bad things get, and thus a commitment to sustaining creation.

The human responsibility to rule over creation, given in Genesis 1:26-28, belongs within this covenantal context. The world is God’s – by creation, ownership and sustenance. Humans are given the sacred trust of being God’s stewards – or tenant trustees. Summarised in Genesis 2:15, the invitation to ‘work and take care of the garden’ [‘to work the ground and keep it in order’ The Message] is at the heart of the practical Christian understanding of sustainable stewardship.  

It is about restraint and respect, never taking from natural systems beyond their capacity to renew and replace. There should never be an unsustainable ecological debt day. It is about conservation, seeking to maximise fruitfulness – both in terms of yield and biodiversity, always in such a way as to leave enough for other species and for future generations.

Covenantal stewardship implies responsibility and delegated rule.

The Old Testament can be seen primarily as a story of the three way relationship between people, God and the land – or natural environment. One of many examples of this comes in Deuteronomy 22: 6-7, where the people of Israel are told what to do if they find a ground nesting bird in the field. They are permitted to eat the eggs or chicks, but commanded to leave the mother bird – so she may of course nest again. It is a brilliantly simple example of sustainable use of the natural world.

Alongside the pillar of covenantal stewardship – with the power and responsibility that it gives to human beings, is the

Third Principle – which can be described as the creation – fall – redemption  paradigm.

The concept of sustainability has arisen at a time when the world is under great threat from human carelessness and abuse. As Hosea 4: 13, implies we have lost our way with God, there is much unrepented sin. And because of all this, the very land itself weeps and all within it is grief stricken.

At its simplest an analysis of both the human condition and the state of the planet can be summarised in three short statements –

  1. God made a good world, therefore, the world is worth sustaining – it has value and goodness.
  2. Human moral failure (sin) causes a breakdown in relationships between God, people and all creation, therefore, humanity has spoiled its good home, threatening our very future.
  3. God in Christ provides hope for humanity and for the whole material creation, therefore, it is worth doing something about this – a sustainable future is achievable.

How can we put right what has gone wrong – with ourselves and the world around us? Christianity’s radical claim – and that which differentiates it from other world faiths – is that we cannot do this ourselves – no amount of rebuilding can ever put Humpty Dumpty together again. We are thrown instead on the mercy of God, a God who in Christ enters the created material world and through His death and resurrection enables all that is broken to be restored

In the first 9 chapters of Genesis – a world that God declares good, a perfect garden inhabited by innocent people are all spoiled through human selfishness. The result is a breakdown in relationships between God, people and planet – the earth itself is cursed in Genesis 3 as a

result. However, the Noahic story of  Genesis 6-9 brings God’s rescue and restoration not just of people but of every living creature upon the earth. Similarly in the New Testament, the death and resurrection of Christ are also clearly put within a cosmic context of reconciliation and restoration. Passages such as we have read in Romans 8 and also from Colossians 1 amply demonstrate this.

The ethical and practical implications of all this for our thinking on sustainability are immense.

We live at a time of crisis in the global environmental movement.

It is more than anything a crisis of hope.

Sustainability is dependent on HOPE. Without it, there is no point in struggling to sustain the unsustainable. The Christian message of a world redeemed by God in Christ, offers a hope that is wider than human activity, but also compels humans, especially Christians, to respond in hopeful action.

Because of Christ we have hope for the world, and can live and act hopefully.

Today’s global environmental crisis is caused by one species – Homo sapiens. People are the problem, but they also – under God – hold the key to the solution. A theocentric view of sustainability is characterised by a humble acceptance of the human privilege and duty to act as caretakers of God’s world. With Christian hope, we can humbly and confidently take on this mandate. We trust not in ourselves, but in God for the ultimate future, and we must work now to live in the light of that future and act to create signs that point to it.

Let us, therefore, adopt an attitude of repentance for the damage done to the earth and seek reconciliation with nature, with our fellow human beings and with God.

Let us repent of our complacency and work towards becoming the greenest and most conservation minded people on the planet; and be an example to others in the actions we take towards that end.

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All For One And One For All

Math. 28:16-20; John 14

Who remembers the story of the Four Muskateers? How many of you can remember the underlying rule which bound the four together?

On Trinity Sunday, 30th May, we meditate on and celebrate God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and the relationship between them which is “All for One and One for All

As part of the Great Commission Jesus instructs his disciples to baptise in the name of the Trinity. How can one God be three persons? Most of us find such concepts hard to fathom. God is so large that many aspects of his character are beyond even our imagining and we can only grasp a little understanding. One day of course when we are with God we will know in full. God, however, does reveal something of himself in scripture. So let us examine this concept and what it means for us as Christians.

Many times in scripture we are taught about the Trinity, even though the word Trinity never appears there are references to Father, Son and Holy Spirit as v.19 of Matt. 28. Jesus had just beaten death and He was now passing on the information that the Father and the Spirit are equally God as well. It seems that he is telling us that there are three Gods. It is on this point that Muslims insist that we are polytheistic rather than monotheistic and this is an obstacle in their conversion to Christianity. But let us look at other Scripture that seems to tell us that this is not the case. James states in 2:19 “You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder.” It would appear that James is telling us that it is pretty common knowledge that there is only one God. That God is a family is a scriptural idea[ see Rom.8:11; 1Cor.12:4-6; 2Cor.13:14; Gal.4:6; Ephes.4:4-6; 2Thes.2:13] Jesus spoke a good deal about the Father, but not so much about the Holy Spirit, which is an Old Testament expression, but He did link himself with the two.John 14. Here clearer than perhaps anywhere else in the Bible we have the Trinitarian message and the role of each member of that Trinity. Jesus said “No one comes to the Father, except through me, for I am in the Father and the Father is in me. The words I speak, and the miracles I perform, are not just my own but rather it is the father living in me that is doing the work.” John 14: Jesus also tells his disciples that he will ask the Father to send the spirit of truth and goes on to say that the Holy Spirit will live in them (us) and that he (Jesus) will not leave them orphans – he will come to them (v.18), presumably via the Holy Spirit who dwells in Him and also in them (us). And the spirit is mentioned in connection with Jesus’s own baptism [Matt.3:16].

How can this be? How can Father, Son and Holy Spirit all be God and there still only be one God?

Perhaps, a non-scriptural way of illustrating the Trinity is by using the analogy of water. Water can exist as liquid, as a solid in the form of ice or as a gas in the form of steam. All are the same substance, H20, with similar properties but nevertheless also distinctly different properties characteristic of the different phases. They also perform different functions; ice to cool, for example, and steam to drive turbines to give us electricity and water as liquid making up 80+ % of the substance of all life. We could say three phases but one substance; all different, yet all the same.

Although the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most fundamental beliefs of the Christian church I am not going to go into the history of the revelation of a triune God or to engage with anti-Trinitarian groups. But I am going to attempt to demonstrate that the concept of the Trinity is scriptural, natural, and necessary to the life and faith of the believer. The doctrine makes a significant contribution to the way we understand our relationships with one another and the God whom we seek to serve.

One of the first things we can say about the Trinity is that it is a relationship that demonstrates an inherent perfect unity in diversity. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are co-equal different expressions of the same God specialising in different functions in God’s economy of creation and redemption. God the Father is primarily concerned with creation but Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also concerned; Jesus is mainly concerned with redemption but God the Father and the Holy Spirit are also involved and the Holy Spirit is mainly concerned with sanctification but God and Jesus are also involved.

St. Patrick explained the Trinity using a three leafed clover. There is one clover with three separate leaves making it up. Let me coin a word: symtheistic, to describe the relationships in the Trinity and this can be explained by an analogy with lichens. These plants are made up of two organisms, a fungus and a unicellular alga, which are interdependent on one another and perform essential functions for the whole organism, which takes on a morphology determined by the union. Each symbiont is unable to lead a separate existence long term and yet has separate and identifiable DNA.

Each member of the Trinity act in harmony with one another; there are no separate agendas. For example the Father sends the son (Jn.3:16) and draws attention to Him (Mtt.17:5), the Son is obedient to the will of the Father (Jn.17:4), and seeks to glorify Him in Himself (Jn.13:31-32) and both the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit (Jn.14:26, 15:26) who glorifies the Son (Jn:16:14). This unity with equality was recognised by Augustine when he said: “There is so great an equality in that Trinity, that not only the Father is not greater than the Son, as regards divinity, but neither are the Father and the Son greater than the Holy Spirit.” The whole is in each and each is in the whole.

The mathematical expression 1x1x1 = 1. Is a metaphorical expression of the concept of the Trinity

One for All and All for One.

The unity, equality and harmony that is evident in the Trinity should be reflected in the life of the Christian and the Church. But such harmony is not natural to the nature of man and can only be obtained through fellowship with God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit(1Jn1:3, 2Cor13:14). Paul recognises how the three persons of the Godhead are operative in unifying the many diverse gifts and activities of those in the body of the church (1Cor12:12-14).

This unity that God desires in the functioning of his church is a reflection of the perfect unity that exists in Himself.

The doctrine of the Trinity is also significant for us as Christians in the union that we experience in Christ. To be in union with Christ means that all things can be done in Him (Phil.4:13), and a godly life can be lived (2Tim.3:12), with the result of bearing much fruit (Jn15:5). Not only is the believer in Christ, but Christ is also in him or her (Gal2:20). This union that Christians have in Christ also brings union with the other persons of the Trinity. Christ told his disciples that both He and the Father will dwell in them (Jn14:23); and also the Holy Spirit (Jn14:16-17). All three persons are active in our Christian experience of God, yet it is not three separate experiences but one.We as believers are in relationship with the Father as Creator & Sovereign, with the Son as saviour and redeemer; and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit in regeneration, knowing Him as comforter advocate and sanctifier.

Union with Christ, therefore, also includes union with the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Through this union we enter into the most intimate place of relationship with the triune God; being raised up to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus(Eph2:6), having our sinful lives hidden with Christ in God (Col3:3).

Probably the clearest area where the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is significant for living the Christian life is in the whole area of worship. From NT times, believers worshiped the Father, in the Spirit, through Christ (Eph2:18; 5:18-20) and sometimes worshiped Christ directly (Mtt14:33;28:9,17. Jn9:38), because they recognised Him as fully God. Although the early church also recognised the Holy Spirit as being God (Acts5:3-4), the explicit worship of the Spirit appears to have developed at a later period. However, there exists such a harmony in the triune God that to worship one is to worship Father, Son & Spirit together. For God to be truly present by the Holy Spirit in our lives the whole activity of God must be active. St. Ambrose discerned this about Christian worship when he wrote “ …by unity of power, Christ is jointly worshiped in the Father when God the Father is worshiped. In likemanner then, by unity of the same power the Spirit is jointly worshiped in God, when God is worshiped in the Spirit.”

One for All and All for One.

In connection with worship, prayer also has a distinctly Trinitarian mould. Luke records a prayer of Jesus to the Father, and specifically mentions that He was full of joy through the Holy Spirit (Lk10.21). Before his matyrdom, Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, saw the glory of God and prayed to the Lord Jesus. Jude (20-21) encourages us to pray in the Holy Spirit, keep ourselves in the love of God and hope in the mercy of Christ.

It could be said that just as there can be no genuine reality of prayer apart from the mediation and union that we have in Christ, neither can there be any true Christian prayer apart from the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in our Christian lives.

Much more could of course be said on the subject of the Trinity but I hope that I have in some small way shown that it is only through the actions of every person of the Trinity that we are able to live out life of faith at all.This is evident in every area; from the fellowship that is enjoyed in the Church, to God’s complete work within us as individuals, and the devotional life that we seek to live in Christ. In fact through the work of the Triune God in our lives, we should seek to live.

One for All and All for One.

Amen.

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Pentecost can be summed up in one word—Change!

Acts 2:1-21
It seems generally true that people are always looking to improve, to change their lives for the
better. Isn’t that why people go to school, to conferences and seminars? Isn’t that why people
go to counselors and psychologists? I recently read of an increase in people, including men,
paying large sums of money to have facial injections botox that will take away wrinkles for
awhile. People who have botox are hoping that it will make them look better. But people often
do want to be changed for the better.

What is it about yourself that you would like to change? Is it the way you look? Is it your
confidence?Is it your life-style? If you could change one thing about yourself what would it
be?

God is interested in change.

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. It used to be called Whit Sunday and fell on a Bank Holiday
weekend, now replaced by the Spring Bank holiday on the last weekend of May. Pentecost is
a time when we meditate on and give thanks for the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples
and some would say marks the birthday of the church. We also reflect on the work of the Holy
Spirit though the ups and downs and changes our own lives.

Two major changes took place at Pentecost.

  1. The disciples themselves were changed.
    Although the disciples believed in Jesus as their Saviour they were still confused about all
    kinds of things. As a result they were timid and weren’t confident in sharing the Gospel with
    others because they didn’t fully understand it. But then Pentecost came as they were all
    together in that upper room and the Holy spirit came like a rushing wind settling on the
    disciples like tongues of fire and filling them in such a way that they began to speak in foreign
    languages they had not known before. They began to preach the gospel with confidence and
    boldness in languages that the multinational crowd could understand. The disciples were
    dramatically changed:
    no longer were they timid; they understood the plan of salvation
    completely. Peter a rough and ready fisherman who a few weeks earlier had been running
    scared now gave a beautiful sermon that God and the Holy Spirit inspired him to preach
  1. 3000 peoples lives were saved.
    After Peter preached the sermon 3000 people came to faith and were baptised. We don’t know
    much about these people. Pentecost was an agricultural festival and people from all over the
    Roman empire and all walks of life were in Jerusalem at this time. 3000 of this crowd,who
    were not Christians, were changed that day.
    Their whole way of looking at God, at themselves,
    at the world, at eternal life – everything had changed. The Holy spirit was the one who
    converted those 3000 people that day. Now these people knew how to get to heaven. Now they
    knew that they were at peace with God. Now they knew that Jesus was their Saviour

Do you know how to get to heaven? Or even believe Heaven exists? Are you at peace with
God? Or even know God exists? Do you really know Jesus Christ as your saviour? If not God
is interested,
through the Holy Spirit, in changing you.

But how? On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came directly to those disciples. Today he could do
that for you especially if you do not yet know him; but in the Bible, he tells us that he also
works in a different way. To many of us he comes through the reading and exposition of the
Word, through praise and through prayer and through our earnest desire to receive and open
our hearts to him as God’s gift to us. If you do not know him, but seek him, it is vital that you
explore God’s word in the Bible. As you spend more time with God and his word the Holy
Spirit will reveal his reality for you. If you allow him he will dwell more and more in you he
will change you; turning you more and more into the person God meant you to be. As you
surrender to God’s will for you and empowered by the Holy Spirit you become more certain
of eternity, you become more at peace with God, resting in Him, trusting in Him, in the
certain knowledge that Jesus Christ has guaranteed for you an eternal life with Him.

May the holy Spirit start or continue to work in you, and me, changing you and me and
fanning into flame the fire that is in each one of us. May the God of hope fill us with all joy
and peace as we trust in him, so we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit

Spirit of the living God, who dwells within us; who is holy, who is good: come now, and fill the
hearts of your faithful people, and those who seek you, and kindle within them the fire of your
love: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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Group Study on Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians

Hi This is an open invitation to anyone in the world who is interested or just curious you to join a a group study on Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians which is starting on Zoom next Tuesday evening and will be led by myself but overseen by the Rev. Chris Simmons, Founder of the Brighton Vineyard Church.

See details below: Paul spent only 3 weeks in planting the church in Thessalonica. This was because this short time he was so successful that the Jews were enraged and sought to take his life so that he had to be smuggled out of the town. Paul knew, for reasons that will become evident in the study, that the establishment of Christianity in Thessalonica was crucial to the establishment of Christianity as a world religion. Paul is worried that three weeks may not be enough to do this. But his prayers were answered. Hence his letters. Come and join the group to explore and unpack these letters that resonate with us today. 10 weekly sessions starting Tuesday April 20th 7-9pm. You will be required to engage for 5 days each week with a short but substantive study of a section with reflective questions for self-examination from the book: ‘Letters to the Thessalonians’ by Matt O’Reilly [ISBN 978-1-62824-745-9]. Which you will need to purchase. Available from Book Depository.

We then gather on the Tuesday for group discussion.

All are welcome. There is no entry fee just register by texting +44 07999 289261.

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