Saturday, 29 May 2010

TRINITY SUNDAY 30 May 2010 Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15, Bruce

When a child is born, so begins a process of growth, exploration and maturation. In some ways we wish we could equip our little ones instantly to face all that life will throw at them.

Sometimes when a politician is asked about something difficult, he or she will reply “Ah, let’s not get too theological”. He means by this that it is a matter that is complex, difficult, and of limited relevance to everyday life: it does not really matter. On Trinity Sunday, this day named in honour of a doctrine about God, we may also be tempted to avoid the depths of theology. Some of the theories you hear expounded about God are impenetrable – you wonder if they miss the point. Can’t we keep it simple?

But life is not simple. Any child born into our world faces dangers and difficulties. Population growth, climate change, pollution, economic uncertainty, all of these are real, and who can guess the future? Wars and rumours of wars abound, and many talk of a deep malaise within our Western, secular society. Looking within ourselves, many of us will tell stories of doubt, uncertainty, regrets: we aspire to be good and to live good lives, but the more we discuss and theorise about these things, the more unsure we are about what is truly good, and the more certain we can become that we are imperfect and inadequate to live well.

We may think that these are modern preoccupations, but humankind has always felt ‘up against it’. The most successful species on the planet to date has always felt threatened and insecure.

The early Christian leader Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome a considered account of who God is, and how we can know about him and know and understand his unimaginable love for us. In the first four chapters he spells out how every human needs to know God’s forgiveness, and how we can receive that forgiveness simply by trusting in the work of Jesus on the cross. He traces the story from Adam and Eve, through Abraham to us. It is a beautiful concept, explained with passion and fire.

It also seems too theoretical again. So now he changes gear, with some amazing, mind-blowing statements:

We have peace with God. It is a fact that many in this world do not know peace within themselves. God would like to share with each of us his eirene, his shalom, a sense of wellbeing and wholeness, at one with ourselves and with the wider world. This comes ultimately from a living response of faith, trusting that God is on our side and loves us, and seeking to follow him. God wants you to know his peace now, in your present life.

We rejoice in the hope of the Glory of God. We pray ‘Our Father, who art in heaven ...’ God’s ultimate desire for each of us who believe in him is that we might be with him and live with him in glory. One of our images of God is of light: he shines out to each one of us, seeking to penetrate every shadow. And ...

We rejoice in our sufferings! In, not because of ... Some people struggle to trust in God, because they see so much suffering, and have experienced so much. Others imagine that once they trust, once they become part of God’s family, all their problems and trials will mysteriously fade away. Jesus, however, knew many problems and difficulties, ultimately being betrayed, tried unjustly, and put cruelly to death. A couple who truly love each other are pushed together by difficulties: each of us who have come to trust in Jesus find that the harder it gets, the more we rely on him. It leads us to ...

Perseverance. Jesus famously told a story about a farmer who sowed seed in various kinds of soil. Some fell on shallow soil and sprouted quickly, only to die away as the fierce sun cooked it’s shallow roots; let us not be those who find the Christian message attractive, but find that somehow it is unable to sustain us when we face real trials (as we most certainly shall). This world is full of many things to distress us and try us: Jesus said that we should pray that we do not come to the time of trial. We do not rejoice because of them, but we see that God sustains us and carries us, and how these things bring about ...

Character. As we go through the ups and downs of life, we find ourselves being changed so that we are more like Jesus. What seem to be mere theories and good intentions about God become reality through a process of laughter and tears. Wishful thinking and idealism are good, but they become grounded and effective as we look out for and experience God at work in our lives and the world around us. This gives us ...

Hope. When the Bible talks of Hope, it does not mean wishful thinking (will it be fine for our BBQ? I hope so). The true meaning is the same as that we referred to above, the Hope of Glory. God has promised it to all who believe. Is God a liar? Of course not. We receive this as an article of faith, and then we experience this as we see him at work in the changing scenes of our lives, over weeks, months and years of trusting him.

Ultimately, everything in the life of the believer points back to Jesus. He has asked the Father to give us a Gift: the Holy Spirit, who poured the Love of God into our hearts.

Some people start with the evidence, the solid intellectual case for believing in God as he has been revealed to Christians, and from there journey to a meeting, an encounter that warms their heart. Others start from an awareness of his love and grace, and then puzzle out later how these things can be true. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he develops arguments and then returns to them like a composer writing a piece of music. He returns to the themes of the Spirit, love and trust, suffering and glory in chapter 8 and in chapter 12 shows how we continue to be transformed into the image of Jesus.

Jesus knows that we will take time to assimilate all this. In John’s gospel he is recorded as saying that we will experience the partnership of the Spirit to help us understand all about the Father and the Son. For a brief and accurate summary of the doctrine of the Trinity, see the film Nuns on the Run. To know God in his three-fold richness, trust his Son and open yourself to the work of his Spirit.

Discussion Starters

1. Which images or metaphors for the Trinity do you find helpful or unhelpful, and why? (Clover leaf, egg, shamrock, grandparent/parent/child, steam/water/ice? What others do you know?)

2. If Relationship is at the heart of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), what does this say to your understanding of how we relate to God and to each other?

3. What have been the ways that you have encountered the divine thus far? The Bible? Experience of meeting and being with Christians? Times of joy (thankfulness)? Times of sorrow (grief, comfort)? Something else?

Pentecost Sunday 23 May 2010 Dialogue Sermon by Eva-Maria

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, two thousand years ago the friends of Jesus received the Holy Spirit and the story of the church started. That is why we celebrate at Pentecost the birth of the church.

In the beginning they were a small group but soon they were all over the known world. Two names are specially associated with this development, St Paul and St Peter. These men laid the foundation in the name of the Lord, and that is why we are here together as a Christian community. Obviously St Paul and St Peter had many people who worked with them. Their names are not so well known, but today we will get a visit from one of them; here name is Priscilla. She leads together with her husband Aquila a Christian community.

1. Greetings Priscilla, you are very welcome to be with us today. You have come to us from the Mediterranean Sea, from the Roman Empire. It is nearly 2,000 years since the time that you lived here on earth.

2. Two thousand years? Hasn’t Jesus returned yet? I am surprised that you are still here. In our time we thought Jesus would come during our lifetime, or at least shortly after, to bring in a new world. That is why we worked so hard to convince so many to believe. Two thousand years ....

1. Yes, Priscilla, it is two thousand years later, and there is much about you early Christians that we do not know. How did you live your lives? I want to ask you some things. You and your husband Aquila found your way to the Christian faith through St Paul? Is this true?

2. Through St Paul? What an idea! No. St Paul was a good friend of ours, but when we met him we were already members of the Christian community.

1. But how did you get in contact with the community?

2. My husband and I lived in Rome. We had a business making tents. I was a Jew, but it was not unusual to leave our homeland to earn money in a foreign country. At home in Israel there were hard times, and in Rome we found a good life and a community of Jews to live amongst. We enjoyed our life in Rome and felt settled.

1. So how did it happen that you heard about Jesus in Rome, of all places?

2. I think you never forget your homeland; you always long for it. Therefore the intention of exiles is always to visit home at least once, to see Jerusalem. We saved all our money, and picked the right moment to close our business and to go to Jerusalem. There we saw how the Holy Spirit filled all the people and suddenly we were one community, a Christian community.

1. You are talking about the miracle of Pentecost. Did you really see how the Spirit came upon the people on the first time?

2. What do you mean, the first time? You must have totally misunderstood. Our ancestors in the faith were anointed with the Holy Spirit.

1. With the Holy Spirit?

2. Our ancestors felt that they were in contact with God. Our Hebrew word for Spirit is Ruach and it also means breath; for us it is a feminine word. I notice that in your language the word Spirit seems to be masculine. I wonder if this is significant. In our Jewish tradition we say somebody is full of the Ruach, the Spirit of God. This person seems to be like a red hot oven, full of shining, radiating love. Like Miriam as she sang the song of freedom as they were led by the Spirit of God out of Egypt. It is like a fire that helps you to discover your talents, talents that you never imagined that you have. And then you have to tell everybody your experience. Do you know that we have in our tradition the prophecy of Joel, that Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost:

28 "And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.

29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

This is exactly what I, Priscilla, felt on that day in Jerusalem, and I knew that this was the time that our hopes would all be fulfilled.

1. And then you went back to Rome?

2. Yes, and on the way home we could talk of nothing else. We founded with others the first Christian community in Rome. All went well at first, but we soon realised that we were making enemies amongst our Jewish compatriots who did not believe in Jesus. In addition the Romans were suspicious, so we had to leave Rome. We went to Greece. We started afresh in Corinth.

1. And there your husband opened your house for Christian meetings?

2. Not just my husband Aquila! We opened our house.

1. Oh, you helped your husband?

2. Don’t be silly. We helped each other. We organised, we evangelised, we taught our neighbours, families and friends about Jesus.

1. You did this together, both men and women?

2. Yes, we did it together. It did not seem to matter who preached the sermon, who led the singing, or anything else. It was just like the time described by the prophet Joel that Peter quoted.

28 "And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.

1. But who was in charge?

2. What do you mean in charge? We each had our own specific roles and tasks, but it never occurred to any of us that some were more important than others, at least not at the beginning (Paul had to write some stern letters later!). I notice among you that some people seem to consider themselves to be important, and others that they have nothing worthwhile to contribute. I wish you could find that freedom and exhilaration that we had in our day when we were first filled with God’s Holy Spirit.

1. Priscilla, on behalf of everyone here, thank you for your visit and for sharing your love for God and experience of the Spirit with us.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Sunday 16 May 2010, Luke 24:24-53, Bruce

Now you see him, now you don’t; a work in progress.

Not an end but a beginning. Luke’s gospel opens with Zechariah in the temple and closes with the followers of Jesus praising God in the temple. The Holy Spirit overshadows Elizabeth and Mary and comes down on Jesus at his baptism; the disciples are told to wait until they are clothed with power from on high. Jesus opens the minds of his disciples to understand that all that they have taken part in and witnessed is in direct connection to and succession to the story of their people stretching back to David, to Abraham, to Adam, to God. The death and resurrection of Jesus, and the repentance and forgiveness that he brings are for people of all races and times; this we have seen in the past and this we will see in the future (read the book of Acts!).

And what is our part in all this?

He was with us. We had the scriptures, but closed minds. We need understanding. We need to repent and be forgiven. We need to receive the witness and pass it on. What will it take for us to move from knowing about Jesus to experiencing his life and love for ourselves? This would truly be to encounter God and grow in him.

We need to be clothed in power from on high. This is to be filled, immersed, drenched in God the Holy Spirit. This is what John the Baptiser said that Jesus would do. This is what Jesus promised when he talked of sending another Comforter or Helper, just like himself, even the Spirit of Truth, who would remain with us forever.

Jesus tells them that they must go back to the city and wait. How hard this is. How we like our planning meetings and our filofaxes, and our working parties; we just want to get on with it! Ultimately, this is a reminder that it is not just up to us. It is good to wait. We have no control. We depend absolutely upon God and his power.

It is also a reminder that God has a mission to all the world, starting at Jerusalem. It is his mission. It may look improbable or even impossible to us, and he has involved us in it! But he has promised to clothe us with power. We see this played out as ordinary people share the good news of Jesus, and ‘turn the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6). God calls us to share in his mission here in Camberley. This is primarily by living lives that witness to our immediate neighbours that Jesus is alive and loves them; what an impossibility that the 28,500 people in Camberley today not in church could become worshippers! Or that we might provide a building for worship, fellowship and service, in today’s economic climate. We depend upon God’s power to do all this.

The last thing that Jesus did while on earth was to bless his disciples, and while doing this, he was ‘parted from them’. He was lifted up and a cloud received him (Acts 1:9).

We are left in suspense. What will happen next? The disciples obediently return to Jerusalem, filled with joy, and they spend their time in the temple praising God and waiting to be filled with the Spirit. What will we do?

Discussion Starters:

1. How do we respond to the teaching by Jesus that the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) point to him?

2. How do we understand the mission of God? What is our part in it?

3. How would St Michael’s be different if we were all ‘clothed with power from on high’? How would this affect Camberley?

Come, Holy Spirit, our souls inspire
and lighten with eternal fire.
Implant in us your grace from above.
Enter our minds and hearts with love.


Acts 16: 9 – 15 John 14: 23 – 29

In this wonderful Easter season, we are thinking about how we relate to Jesus now he has risen from the dead. In this Gospel passage from John 14, Jesus tells us three ways in which we can know him now, in our own lives and church community: - 1. through loving obedience; 2. through the Holy Spirit; and 3. through the experience of Christ’s peace.

1. Loving Obedience. In English, as you will have heard from this pulpit on many occasions, that the word ‘love’ is a very slippery word. ‘I love strawberries’ – ‘I make love’ – and ‘I love you’ - all mean very different things, and indeed in the Greek in which the New Testament is written, those three meanings are expressed with different words which makes everything much clearer.. But there is another Greek word in the New Testament which has a very special meaning for Christians. If I say the Greek word ‘Agape’ I think that, by now, most (if not all) of you will be saying to yourselves ‘Ah Yes! That word is becoming part of my Christian vocabulary!’ It means the sort of ‘love’ that Christians are supposed to exercise.

I was thinking of it recently in connection with our Golden Wedding, because the wedding service gives it clear expression. It is a full commitment that goes far beyond emotion. It is love ‘for better, for worse; for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law...’ Nowadays we talk about unconditional love. That fully committed, self-giving of oneself in love is what ‘Agape’ means, and this is the word which Jesus uses in verse 23. “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come and make our home with him’”.

Let me give a further illustration of how this unconditional love works in practice. In various contexts, most of you will have heard me talk before about two kinds of love which you observe in family life. In one, it is made clear to a child that love has to be earned. If you are a good boy or girl, and do what you are told, then I will love you. My love is provisional, and may be withdrawn if you do not do what I say, behave in the way I wish, or become the sort of person I expect. This is always a potential disaster, as the child grows up feeling that they must always strive for love, and it produces a driven life and (somewhere deep within their psyche) they will unconsciously go on trying to please their parents until the end of their life.

The other kind of love you see in families and other relationships is ‘Agape’ love. It is unconditional and does not depend on how the child responds. If the child behaves badly, of course there will be a cloud hanging over the relationship and there is a problem which must be resolved. But the love remains. And the child grows up knowing deep inside that he or she is loved – not for what they do or say, or become – but because of who they are. They are the children of the parents, and the love that emanates from the parents will never waver, whatever happens. If that unconditional love is present, the child grows up with proper self-esteem and confidence, and will please his parents out of love, and not simply because he is commanded to do the right thing.

It is this family setting which is in Jesus’ mind in these verses 23,24. Look at this word translated here ‘obey’ – in Greek ‘Tereo’. It’s primary meaning is not to do with military or parental commands – ‘Do this – or else!’ It is a natural obedience which happens in any loving relationship – and which indeed proves that love exists. I love you and I want to please you, and so it is natural for me to do what you wish. It’s not hard – it’s a pleasure, even if it puts me to a lot of trouble. In the Alternative Service Book , there was a lovely phrase in the Communion Service when we used to say that to fulfil the Lord’s command is ‘our duty and our joy’. That’s it exactly.

And so Jesus is not saying here, ‘Unless you do exactly what I command, I won’t love you!’. He is saying that – in his risen presence with us (individually and together) – his love fills our hearts, and (if we have really glimpsed what that love means), our natural response is to want to please him and do what he wishes.

And within that loving family home, we dwell with God the Father and our risen Lord, where it is our joy to please each other with blessings and willing obedience. The risen Lord blesses us with his presence and unconditional love, and we respond with a wholly natural, happy obedience.

And, of course, conversely, in v 24, if that joyful obedience is not present, it proves that we have not caught the vision of the risen Lord who pours his love into our hearts. We may have read the words, but we have not understood the true meaning of love.

In all the talk of a multi-cultural society and all the rest, there simply is no other religion on earth which comes within a thousand miles of this intimate relationship of self-giving personal love, which we find expressed here. It is very precious, and we really need to let it sink into our innermost being, as we think about the living, risen Lord who is here in our midst now, as we meet to worship and to pray. So we know the risen Christ through our personal, loving/obedient relationship.

2. The Holy Spirit. And into that loving family relationship, there comes the Holy Spirit who joins the family party (so to speak) to help us in our relationship with the risen Jesus. Jesus wants us to know, and take to heart, everything he taught his disciples and followers, so that we can learn and put them into practice now – 2000 years later. How does this happen? The answer is that, if we read the Gospels regularly, carefully and prayerfully, the Holy Spirit will bring to our memory those teachings which the Lord wants us to have in the forefront of our minds.

The teachings of Jesus in the Gospels will be generally familiar to you. You will have read them in your Bibles, and heard them read in Church – although I suspect that there is actually a lot which you have never noticed. When we study a Gospel in a group, so often we come across a passage, and people are totally astonished! ‘Did Jesus really say that?’ Shock, horror! Or perhaps the opposite – ‘”How absolutely wonderful – I had never noticed that before!”

But however familiar we are with the Gospels, we need the Holy Spirit every day of our lives to draw alongside us, and remind us of words we already know, or point us to passages we didn’t know existed. And when that happens, the scriptures open up in an entirely new way. They become alive! They become relevant! They jump off the page! They speak to the situation we are currently facing, whether good or bad, and we hear Jesus speaking personally to us as he did to those disciples in his lifetime.

So we relate to the risen Jesus, firstly, by living day by day in a relationship of love, whereby he lives to bless and guide our lives, and we respond in loving obedience. And secondly, we relate to the risen Jesus through the Holy Spirit, who brings the written words of Jesus in the Gospels to life, just as of he is speaking to us personally.

3. The Experience of Christ’s peace. The third way in which we find in this Gospel passage that we relate to the risen Jesus, is through his personal gift of peace which we can experience in good times and in bad. And it’s a quality of peace which can come from no other source.

And we are not speaking here just about an inner tranquillity – although that is of inestimable price, especially in times of trouble. We are talking about peace within the Church. When we exchange the Peace in this service, are we gifting to one another that special peace that comes from the risen Christ? Or are we just going through a formality? If we are truly exchanging the peace which the risen Christ gives, then we experience his true presence here in our midst.

I usually read verse 27 at funeral services because it obviously has a special relevance. I also read the opening verses of this chapter (John 14) where Jesus says in verse 2: ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms....I am going there to prepare a place for you.’

I want to end by getting you to notice those two verses in this chapter. In verse 2, Jesus says he is going back to the Father in order to prepare a ‘home’ for us. In verse 23, Jesus says that the Father and he will come and make their home with us here. (The Greek word is ‘mone’ and these are the only two times that precise word appears in the New Testament).

What a privilege and what a promise we have here to reflect on in this Easter season. God the Father and the risen Jesus will come and make their home with us here - in the fellowship of the Church and in our hearts. And when we die, the risen Jesus (whose ascension we celebrate on Thursday), we know that Jesus has gone ahead of us to prepare our final home in heaven. Our true home is where that special love is. No wonder St Paul writes in that famous chapter that Agape love is the greatest of all, and lasts for ever.

Discussion Topics
1. Consider the meaning of ‘loving obedience’ in family life and in the life of the Church

2. How can we make the teaching of Jesus come alive for us and relevant to our lives today, as it did for the disciples who first heard it?

3. How can we make that special peace which Christ promises become real for us in our personal lives and in our Church?

4. Sadly the word ‘home’ has very unhappy connotations for many people who have grown up in dysfunctional and sometimes abusive families. Consider ways in which this passage might be interpreted to help them understand it, especially through the fellowship of the Church.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Talk for Sunday 2 May 2010 – John 13:31-35 (Reading from The Message), Kim

This reading comes after Jesus has washed his disciples’ feet and Judas has left the room and Jesus breaks the silence by saying, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

But what’s so new about that? What is this “new” commandment Jesus talks about? What’s so new about love? “Just as I have loved you,” Jesus says, “you also should love one another. Just as I have loved you.”

Forgive me for reducing this to a comic strip, but I think it makes the point. It’s a Peanuts strip,

Lucy: “You know what I don't understand? I don't understand love!”

Charlie Brown: “Who does?”

Lucy: “Explain love to me, Charlie Brown.”

Charlie Brown: “You can’t explain love. I can recommend a book or a poem or a painting, but I can’t explain love.”

Lucy: “Well, try, Charlie Brown, try.”

Charlie Brown: “Well, let’s say I see this beautiful, cute little girl walk by.”

Lucy interrupts –– “Why does she have to be cute? Huh? Why can’t someone fall in love with someone with freckles and a big nose? Explain that!”

Charlie Brown: “Well, maybe you are right. Let’s just say I see this girl walk by with this great big nose.... “

Lucy shouts: “I didn’t say GREAT BIG NOSE.”

Hanging his head, which he often did when he dealt with Lucy,

Charlie Brown: “Not only can you not explain love –– you can’t even talk about it.”

Maybe so. Maybe you can’t talk about love. But that didn’t stop the Apostle Paul, did it? He described how Jesus modelled for his disciples the kind of love he wanted them to have for one another.

‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God as something to be grasped (or held onto), but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death –– even death on a cross ‘(Philippians 2:5-8).

“Just as I have loved you,” Jesus says, “you also should love one another.” Just as I have loved you,” Then, he goes out and shows them what kind of love he means by yielding his life on a cross.

But does this really happen in life? Sometimes it does, but we only have to look around our towns, country, the World, maybe even in our families to see that it doesn’t.

Let’s take a half hearted look at what can happen on a regular basis.

Act 2

Girl 1 Let’s watch Lizzie McGuire.

Girl 2 Boring.

Girl 1 No, it’s not. It’s cool.

Girl 2 It’s boring. You should let what’s his name Pick. He is your guest.

Boy Ok, I really want to watch Wrestling Mania.

Girl 2 Boring

Girl 1 Well, what do you want to watch?

Girl 2 Saddle Club, of course.

Girl 1 No way! That’s dumb. I’m picking because I’m the oldest. And I pick Lizzie.

Girl 2 No, I’m picking because I’m the youngest and I say Saddle Club.

Boy Well, I’m the guest, and it’s polite to let the guests choose, and I really, really want to watch Wrestling Mania.

Girl 2 Saddle Club!

Girl 1 Wrestling Mania!

Narrator Time out, time out! Ok, this is sounding ugly, don’t you think? Or does it sound all too familiar?

You know, in situations like this, we often forget something very important. We often forget

about…! The kind of love you show to someone who won’t let you watch your favourite TV show, for example.

But there are other examples where we find it difficult to show Christian love – what about a person who has hurt us, the drunk slumped on the pavement, the smelly tramp, the beggar, the neighbour next door because they………! The teenager group that hangs out on the street corner, the foreigner, the bully at school, our brothers and sisters, sharing our things, putting God first.

I can hear the words – Love my enemies, the bully at school, disregard my comfort zone, Love as God loves us! What’s that? That’s too hard? That’s impossible? It seems impossible sometimes, doesn’t it? But, as Christians, we have someone who will help us to love others. The Holy Spirit – praying for His help when we find it hard to love as Jesus did. Look at what happens when we ask Jesus for help?

Act 3

Girl 1 Let’s watch Lizzie McGuire.

Girl 2 It’s not my favourite show, but I’ll watch it with you if you want. My favourite show is Saddle Club.

Girl 1 That show is ok but too posh for me. (Laughs). Thanks for watching my show this time. Next time we’ll watch what you want.

Girl 2 Ok. Hey, ….. – do you want to watch TV with us?

Boy Sure. Next week come over to my house and we can watch Wrestling Mania.

Girl 1 & 2 OK!

That sounds so simple, but in reality we know it’s not but Jesus has COMMANDED us to do so and I believe that if everyone really loved the person sitting next to them – the problems they may encounter would not feel so acute – why because they would have someone to share that burden/problem with – AND who knows YOU may even be able to sort it out, but you wouldn’t have been able to if you didn’t know about it because they couldn’t share their situation with you because they didn’t know you cared.

We may not be able to change our family, community, town, the Worlds injustices and unfairness, greed, poverty overnight but we can make a start; Street Angels, an example, and slowly erode away the decay of our worlds. But if we consider what Jesus has done for Us, you and me – we should be spurred on to reach out in love to others.

Real life story………..

So the next time you wonder if you have it in you to love as Jesus loved, consider what he did for you. It is little enough that we respond to this by loving one another. Don’t you think?


Lord, may we love as Jesus loves us. It is as simple as that... and as hard. But find us faithful in trying to do it. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sermon, Commitment Sunday, 25 April 2010, John 10:22-30, Bruce

The big question: are you the Christ?

· Takes placed at the Feast of Dedication, Hannukah, when we remember deliverance from the oppressors

· Jesus faces opposition, not from all Jews, but from the leaders and rulers, both Roman and Jewish

· We pray ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’; this was the job of the Christ, the Messiah.

· How can any man make this claim without revealing himself as a blasphemer or charlatan?

The big answer: my sheep listen to my voice

· Jesus does not answer directly (as usual) but reflects the question back

· All of the miracles (signs), and the teachings have been pointing to him; have they not been listening?

· The major theological point is in verse 27 “my sheep hear my voice”.

· To be a Christian, a “Christ In One”, is to know him, to recognise him, to react to him.

· “The challenge for most mainline Christians is not following Jesus. We've been taught pretty well about that. The challenge for us is recognizing Jesus' voice.” (David Ewart)

· How can we learn to listen?

o Scripture

o Prayer

o Silence

o Fellowship

o Experience

The big promise: doubly safe!

· Sheep were in constant danger of being rustled, ‘snatched’

· What are the ‘snatchers’ in our lives?

o Christianity as a lifestyle choice?

o Discouragement?

o Tiredness?

o Busyness?

o Persecution?

o Feelings of unworthiness?

· Jesus is our Good Shepherd, he will protect us with his rod and his staff

· We recognise him as the one who gives us eternal life: we ‘hear his voice’

· We recognise him as being ‘one with the Father’, who hold us in his hand

· One God, we are doubly safe

Commitment Sunday

· Not because we are worthy or good enough , but because the Shepherd has called us and we have heard him

· We are members of the family, fellow learners, and sharers in service

· If we are all sheep, then we also all share in the shepherding. What does this mean to you? How can we help you with this?

Questions for Discussion Starters

1. What does it mean to you, to speak of listening to the voice of Jesus? What help would you like with this?

2. If we use the image of a flock of sheep, where are you? (At the foot of the shepherd? Against the wall of the fold? At the door looking out? At the door looking in? Lost, out on the moor? Something else?)

3. Are you in danger of being snatched? What would you like prayer for?

4. If we are all sheep, we share in shepherding each other. What does this mean to you? How can we help you with this?


(The fifth question is for you to ask. Please come back to me if you wish! Bruce)

Sermon for Sunday 18 April 2010 – John 21: 1-19, Kim

Our readings today are very much about vision, of seeing the Lord. Saul sees Jesus on the Damascus road, and in Damascus, Ananias also sees the Lord, and the Gospel turns to seven of the disciples seeing the risen Lord. It is wonderful to have a vision but with all visions comes responsibility; at the very least vision needs our attention and usually obedience to the call. See how both Saul and Ananias are asked to do something. Like Isaiah (Isaiah 6) Ananias says ‘Here I am.’ The Lord says to Ananias, ‘Get up and go.’ But It is also very much about Jesus as a friend – a friend of sinners.

Life has a habit of repeating itself. Things that we thought had passed have a habit of returning. We think we are making progress then, suddenly we find ourselves back where we started. A bit like a game of snakes and ladders: sometimes you are climbing ahead and suddenly you drop back almost to the beginning.

It was like this for the disciples. They had left all to follow Jesus: they left fishing, the tax office and the field to share with him. Then it came to a sudden end with the crucifixion. They were knocked right back. The risen Lord made their spirits soar and they were full of new hope. But how would they make their living now? Perhaps it was due to boredom that Peter led the fishermen went back to Galilee. Peter and six others decided to go fishing. They toiled all night and caught nothing. They may as well have stayed at home. As in all of life, when things go wrong, they go wrong in all sorts of directions. They could not even catch fish. There was a feeling that they had been here before.

Just as the new day dawned, Jesus stood on the shore. They did not recognise him at first. He directed their net throwing and they caught so many fish that they could not haul them all in. It was then that John realised who it was and said to Peter, ‘it is the Lord.’ Peter’s reaction was instantaneous. ‘Splash!’ Peter who had only been wearing a loincloth as he fished, put on his tunic before he jumped into the sea – odd to put clothes on to jump into the water. Perhaps it can only be understood if you know that the Jews said a man had to be properly dressed to come and worship.

Jesus is not a ghost, not just a vision; he is real and he is solid. He has lit a fire and prepared food for them. He shared bread and fish with them. Now, come the challenges of the story. ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ We do not know if Jesus was talking about the catch of fish or about the other disciples. More likely it was about the promise that Peter did not keep, for three times Peter had denied knowing Jesus. Now three times Jesus asks Peter about loving him. Each time when Peter says, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you’, Jesus asks him to care for his lambs and sheep. Peter was given his task, his mission to be a pastor, to be a co-shepherd with the Good Shepherd. Here we see someone who boasted he would never forsake the Lord, who flees after Jesus’ arrest as did the others, takes the low road and denies he even knowing the Lord Jesus, being given the call to be a responsible Shepherd. True friend of sinner/the fallen.

Peter backslid and we do from time to time. Instead of staying close to the Lord as we should, we begin to follow Him from far off. It may begin as simply missing a few services here and there. Or we stop praying like we should, the Bible isn’t opened and read as frequently as it ought to be. Wherever and however it begins, it will lead as to the same backslidden and cold place. We will find ourselves as Peter did in the wrong place, and this is dangerous. (Just ask David – 2 Sam 11:1-17).The Bible tells us that Peter went out and ‘wept bitterly’. Peter was miserable. He had wronged the Lord, he had violated something very precious and sacred. And the same happens to us when we decide to walk away from the will of God. We will soon realise that sin brings with it pain, suffering and misery. Gone will be the peace of God and the sense of his presence, His power, fellowship, peace and joy in the soul that is worth more than anything is robbed from us and we are left utterly miserable.

Peter failed big! But we are guilty of denying the Lord also. We have, and will continue to make wrong choices; it’s in our nature too. We can guard against it by putting ourselves right with God and being obedient to his will. But Jesus is a Friend of the (sinner) fallen and this is a side of Jesus I have become very familiar with over the last thirty years. There have been many occasions when I had to come to the Lord confessing my sins, failures and asking for forgiveness and restoration and each time I have found him to be a faithful friend to me and all those who have fallen by the wayside. Jesus welcomes, forgave, forgives and will continue too and restores. But in the forgiveness comes humility and obedience not just to return to old ways but a surrendered life, an obedience to do God’s will- whatever that might be.

After the resurrection, Peter must have assumed that his ministry was over. He had denied the Lord and so he decided to return to the old way of life, to fish. But the Lord, Friend to the Fallen, had forgiven Peter and called him to come and be a fisher of men!

After the resurrection of past mistakes we may have assumed that our work is over. BUT The Risen Lord brings forgiveness; love restores broken relationships. Peter is affirmed and then is able to affirm his task. If we are to be disciples, we have to listen to, receive forgiveness and restoration and follow the Master. (John 21:19).


  • Life can be like a game of snakes and ladders. Be willing to share any times when you have been up the ladder or down the snake. How did it feel? What did you do?
  • What does the future hold for you? Does it hold misery and difficulty or does it hold joy, peace, blessing?
  • Do you feel stuck – can’t move forwards or sideways? Do you know why you are stuck? (i.e. Sin, past reaction by someone/something that has put you off all together). If you are stuck, do you want to move? If yes, will you do something about it? If able to, be willing to share with others and ask them to pray with and for you.
  • Sometimes we find it hard to let go of the past, or a person or an event. It has been with us for a long time, it’s like having a ball and chain. We can’t get very far dragging or carrying burdens or heavy loads. Why not take the weigh off now? Why not allow the Lord to use His keys and open the lock of the chain and set you on your way?
  • Has the Lord called you to something specific? Are you doing it? Not sure how to go about it? Share your thoughts and allow others to help you.