Saturday, 28 May 2011

Sunday 29 May 2011, 6th of Easter, Acts 17:22-31, John 14:15-21, Bruce

Welcome to Athens, the Areopagus – the Hill of Mars, from where you can see the Acropolis and all the temples laid out before you. Paul points over the head of the crowd of listeners and announces that it is all a waste of time. It is as if he had walked into the pulpit of Westminster Abbey and proclaimed that all religion is bunk, or into the Houses of Parliament and said that democracy stinks. It is a challenge and a confrontation.

But they had invited him. Paul has been hurried away from Thessalonica and Berea because his preaching was leading to riots and putting him in danger, so he is parked safely in Athens, waiting for Silas and Timothy. Without his minders, he is soon up to his old tricks, having loud conversations in the synagogues and market places, telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

Athens was well known as a place of philosophical and theological dispute. There were jokes about it, and even Luke writing in Acts seems to expect us to give a wry grin as he refers to it. They were always at it. Some of it was high-minded and serious, and some of it was conducted on the level of Newsnight, the Moral Maze and a Five Live phone in. There were various strands of thought. Epicureans resembled what we later call Deists: yes, there probably are gods, but they are remote and unconcerned with our everyday lives. Stoics, like some other pantheists, thought of God as the inner divine essence within our world. Both can lead to atheism - (God or the gods are so distant that they may as well not exist, or they turn out to be metaphorical projections of our feelings of wonder), or to relativism – (the gods are so far away that all religions are just vague approximations, or they are so present that all religions are different expressions of ‘the divine’). In other words, you can effectively live your lives day by day as if the gods do not exist

One thing all the Greeks agreed on is that the mind and the soul are essential and real; the body and the material world are ephemeral and to be discarded. A by-product of that thought was that it therefore did not matter what you got up to in your body, because ultimately it did not matter. Into the midst of this comes this stranger with his strange message. To talk of the resurrection of the body was novel and to some extent ‘icky’. So Paul finds himself, as it were, with the microphone in his face and his 30 seconds of fame to explain what he is about.

This is possibly the only sermon recorded in Acts addressed to an audience not familiar with the Jewish faith and inheritance. It is Jesus for the Gentiles. Where to start?

Paul begins with their culture. They are seeking after God. Their lives are shaped by the presence and fear of demons, different sorts of gods, who can rule their lives. Everything they do is regulated by religious practices, and there are gods and goddesses for everything. Just in case they have missed one, they have their altar “To the Unknown God” – pointing out their unfilled search to know God. How lucky for you, Paul seems to say, that I am here to fill in this gap and show you the truth.

First, these temples, where you offer up your sacrifices and serve the ‘gods’. Unnecessary. God does not live in houses, and he does not need our service. Rather, he is the one who gives us life and serves us. In another context Paul might have said “In the beginning God created ...” and “consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air”.

Second, you Greeks think yourselves so superior. But God has made us all as one race, with shared concerns and values, and above all that we should seek him and find him. The one thing we all have in common is a sense of incompleteness, a desire to be in some way whole.

Third, this is not an impossible search. God is near to each of us. Paul quotes Aratus, one of their own poets who had written in Athens 300 years before, that “in him we live and move and have our being, we are his offspring”. He might as well have taught them to say “Our Father ...”

I wonder how this was being received. Luke gives us no clue whether people were nodding in agreement, smiling in pleasure, or shaking their heads, perhaps in puzzlement or anger.

Paul ploughs on. This is not just conjecture or theorising. We are not debating this as if it were an economic fallacy or whether such and such a football club is really the greatest. This matters.

The economic decisions you have made to invest gold and silver and labour in these ways need to be rethought, precisely as a result of what you believe about God. Your freedom to make decisions and live your life according to you own lights is only an apparent freedom, because God is going to judge the world. You need to live different lives.

This is good news. There is so much that is wrong in our world. So many war-lords seem to escape for so long, there is so much violence and injustice, the innocent always seem to suffer. The good news is that we do not live in a world governed by the whims of distant unconcerned godlings. Nor do we inhabit a universe of blind chance and coincidence. God is going to put things right, and he will do it when he comes to judge the world by the man he as specially chosen for the task, and he has proved it by raising this man from the dead.

Got him! Paul has said out loud the scandalous, preposterous thing that they have brought him here for. Like a talk show host or interviewer, they have secured the sound bite, and now predictably they can mock him and take his argument to pieces.

Except that there are those, even from within the inner circle, who cannot help themselves responding to the truth. They find their hearts “strangely warmed” within them. They must find out more.

They are on their way to discovering what Jesus promised to all who seek him and find him. Jesus is alive and encounters us today. He promised that he would ask the Father to send the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, his very Presence, so that we might discover that “in him we live and move and have our being”. Jesus said that we would realise that we are in him, and he in us. God is no longer a theory but our own heart’s experience, what one writer described as “the life of God in the souls of men”.

In the next fortnight, as we go through the Ascension and prepare for Pentecost, let us spend time seeking God, asking for his Spirit, rejoicing that Jesus has promised to be with us.

You could start by memorising and repeating these words: “You are in me, and I am in you.”

Discussion Starters

1. What similarities do you see between Paul’s world and our own, and what differences?

2. When faced with those who deny the existence of God, or say that all religions are the same, what reply would you give?

3. “You are in me, and I am in you.” What difference does this make, or could this make, in your life?

Sermon for Sunday 22nd May 2011 – Acts 7: 55-end and John 14: 1-14, Kim

About 400 years, ago, the world of medicine was plunged into controversy by an English physician, William Harvey, who contradicted the establishment by suggesting that blood is pumped from the heart to the lungs, back through the heart and then out via the arteries before returning to the heart through the veins. His theory was spot on, but at the time it aroused many protests from medical, scientific and religious ‘authorities’. At around the same time, Galileo was having his problems because of his hypothesis that the earth orbits the sun rather than vice versa. So shocking was this considered that he was forced to recant and he was put put under house arrest for the remainder of his life. Each of these two men, however, continued with their work, refusing to sacrifice their beliefs despite intolerable pressures to do so.

There are parallels here with the story of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. On trial for his faith, it must have been tempting to tone down his message, even opting for secret discipleship. For he knew well enough the consequences should he refuse to back down. Yet instead he spoke out boldly, conscious that many would take their lead from him. Had he and others like him given in and denied their faith, who can say where the Church would be today – the gospel message could have died an early death back in Jerusalem. Although there have been occasions in recent years where Christians have been killed for their faith, it is unlikely that any of us will ever be called upon to die for our faith but how ready are we to live up to it in a skeptical and sometimes hostile world?

Have you ever been banned from something? Maybe a youth or football club, a pub, shop, Church? I was banned once. It was during the Apartheid era in South Africa. Not only was I banned, I was blacklisted along with others from entering other countries that had disassociated their country from South Africa. I was almost arrested whilst visiting my Uncle and Aunt who lived in Durban because I had walked on a beach that was deserted (it was early in the morning) – and as the signs were in Afrikaans – I did not know I was walking on a beach designated for black men and women and had argued with the Policeman telling me off for doing so by saying that I believe all human beings were equal regardless of their skin colour. I wasn’t arrested and the ban did not prevent me from carrying on my work – as F1 Motor Racing did not get into political matters of other countries, although it did and does have its own politics. It did not stop the F1 Family from entering and building a school in the Red Brick Township outside Kylami despite much opposition from the authorities. But had trouble stirred – who knows what may have happened. Had there been a race in India and we had gone there, we would have been refused entry into that country and not allowed to race. Not quite the same situations as Stephen or William Harvey or Galileo encountered but a small point in that our belief/trust in someone or something can lead us into trouble.

Should we have gone to South Africa in the first place knowing the views of that country’s government and knowing that we could get into trouble there, even arrested? If we had not gone would we have been turning our backs on the very people we, the F1 family, had sought to help through employment and building and giving? We certainly would not have had the experience of seeing happy smiling children spontaneously burst into dance to no music after the opening ceremony. When one of our colleagues, asked ‘where was the music?’ a townswoman turned and said, ‘When God does a miracle the music comes from here – pointed to her forehead’. The experience of being in South Africa brought home to me how easily people close their ears, eyes, their minds, and their hearts to what they would rather not hear, see, think or feel. Don’t think I’m condemning, because I’m not, I am as guilty as any. We all have opinions from which it is hard to shift us, however open we may think ourselves to be. Like those who listened to Stephen as he testified to his faith, we shut out anything that challenges our preconceived ideas, preferring to silence it rather than face its challenge. It may be, of course, that our point of view it right all along; it may equally be that it is wrong or in need of modification. Unless we are willing to listen, we will never know.

In our Gospel reading Jesus has just had the Passover meal with his disciples. He has washed their feet in an act of servanthood. He has foretold his betrayal which Judas will soon perform. He has predicted Peter's denial. He has told them he is leaving. But he adds this word of hope: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you and will come again and take you to myself. So that where I am, you may be also.

Jesus was telling his disciples and indeed us today that if we believe in God and also in Him, if we TRUST in Him, then all will be well, we won’t be alone, for God will send us His companion the Holy Spirit and more importantly, His Spirit will live within us. To help us to spread the Good News, to be the people He has called us to be, to do things and be in situation we would not necessarily put ourselves in, to stand firm, like Stephen, William Harvey and Galileo in the face adversity and even danger. Even more wonderfully, one day we too, like Stephen will be able to see the Glory of God and Jesus standing at His right side.

Stephen, William Harvey, Galileo and the Formula 1 Family stood firm on their belief that what they had said and done was right and true. William and Galileo suffered hardship, Stephen was stoned to death, we may suffer some hardship of some kind for being followers of Christ or we may find ourselves outside our comfort zone, but the hardship will be nothing compared to the suffering Jesus went through on the Cross. One thing is for certain, hardship has a way of getting our attention. Pain slows us down. Very few of us, after facing a trial, come out the same way we entered in. Jesus understood this and attempted to prepare his disciples for the road ahead. If you are suffering some kind of trial or hardship are the moment, remember that just as Jesus prepared the disciples for the time ahead, He will prepare us and be with us throughout, because He loves us and wants us to be with Him in heaven.

‘His Spirit will live within you, and you will do great things in my name, and you may be challenged by others’, said Jesus. ‘Then we’ll all be one, Father, Spirit, Son – together for eternity.’


  1. Have you ever been ridiculed or criticized for your faith/belief in God or something/someone? How did it make you feel? How do you feel about it now?
  2. In the reading of John 14: 1-14, why do you think Jesus’ disciples were confused about where he was going?
  3. In what ways do we see the Father in Jesus?
  4. How does Jesus use thus very brief conversation to prepare his disciples for his departure? Specifically, what kind of hope is he giving them?

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Sunday 15 May, Easter 3, Acts 2:42-47, John 10:1-10, Bruce

If a policeman finds me letting myself into church by the front door, he will probably realise that I am the vicar. If he finds me climbing in through a side window, he will look at me with suspicion. Jesus carries on his fierce debate with the Pharisees from the previous chapter: they claimed to be able to see while refusing to accept Jesus as coming from God. He had come to his own, but they had not received him. Therefore, Jesus says, they are blind to spiritual realities. He continues that they are false shepherds, only out to plunder the very sheep they should be protecting. The test is whether the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. Jesus is the one whom we hear and follow. He is the one who brings us abundant life.

But how is that life to be lived. How are we to encounter the Shepherd?

In this Easter season we remind ourselves that Jesus is risen; he is alive and with us. We can know him. We can learn lessons from the Christians in the earliest days of the church. On the day of Pentecost 3,000 people received the word and were baptised, and were added to the Christian community. How did the apostles handle this situation? How did they act as shepherds to this burgeoning new flock?

The starting point is the people. We are told that they “devoted themselves”, they continued steadfastly in four activities that helped them to live with the risen Christ. These were the Apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, breaking of bread and the prayers. As we saw last week, our hearts burn within us when we encounter Jesus through his word, and we this is reinforced when we break bread in obedience to his command.

Now we take it a step further as we observe how the earliest church operated. They met in the temple and also in their own homes. They met every day. They were open to experience the presence of God in their daily lives, and this filled them with fear or awe – they were not just going through the motions.

They met to hear the Apostles’ teaching. Of course they did, for they had been born again by receiving the word and responding in faith; the obvious way to grow was to continue to be taught the word. How did they do this? There may have been occasions where several hundred or even thousand folk gathered together, but it is much likely that they gathered in smaller groups. Households were larger in their culture than is typical today, with several generations sharing a compound. It is quite likely that the Apostles went around visiting households, but it is also likely that heads of households were gathered together for instruction, and they then went home to share the good news with the members of their extended family. We live this out to some extent when we gather in small groups during the week. We share the word on the Lord’s day and gather in smaller groups to reflect on it together. When we discuss the word we are often amazed at how much we already know; we have been receiving the Apostles’ teaching through private reading of scripture and through hearing it expounded publically. Please pray for those who have a teaching ministry within the church; it is their duty and privilege and charge to so explain and teach the word, that we are each enabled to take part in sharing the Apostles’ teaching when we gather in small groups.

They devoted themselves to the koinonia, the fellowship/ sharing/ communion. They made a real effort to get under each others’ skin, to walk in each others’ moccasin (so to speak). In other words, to live a life in relationship with God requires us to seek to live in community with our brothers and sisters in the fellowship. It is lovely gathering on a Sunday, but hopefully the numbers are such that we have the experience of visiting a small town or village - we sort of know folk, sometimes by name, more by sight, but we do not really ‘know’ them, nor they us. And this is the point. Jesus came that we might have life to the full, and this means to be immersed, baptised, into the Triune God. We are also immersed, baptised, into the lives of all the others whom he has called into the family. This is not always easy or automatic. It was not so in New Testament times; we have the writings of the Apostles to attest to that, and it is not easy now. We live pressured, over-busy lives, and the Lord seems to delight in calling people to follow him who are far from perfect, and whom we often find it difficult to like. When the pressure is on, the temptation is to loyally keep coming on Sundays, but to regard the small group as a bolt-on extra that we can let go. Some groups cannot get together physically each week but stay in touch by text, email, Facebook or Twitter. The writer to the Hebrews warned us not to neglect meeting each other. Or I could tell the joke about the tray. We need to devote ourselves to the fellowship.

They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. They consciously obeyed the command of Jesus to remember him in broken bread and shared wine. In our day we speak of this as holy Communion, or Fellowship, thus emphasising that the shared bread is on one level a parable of our broken, shared lives, and the koinonia that we have just been speaking of. We do this sometimes with the formality of an army mess dinner, and sometimes like a picnic in the park with the children running around. But we do it as they did.

They devoted themselves to the prayers. I am sure they prayed as individuals at home, but they also gathered together for prayer, every day. Jesus said that wherever two or three gathered in his name he would be present.

As they met in their small groups and experienced the presence of the Shepherd among them, and as they shepherded each other, so the presence of Christ leaked out, as it were. He brought about situations where people kept asking what was going on, and the Apostles and others found themselves merely explaining what God was up to, and the church continued to grow.

Discussion Starters

1. The believers felt four things were essential – teaching, fellowship, braking of bread and prayers. Which of these do you find most helpful, and which least?

2. What is the best thing recently that you have read in a book or heard in a talk that you can share, and therefore fining yourself passing on the Apostles’ teaching to others? (NB Not every book or sermon does this! How can we tell?)

3. Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full. What three things can we do at St Michael’s to help others to encounter God and experience life to the full through him.

Friday, 6 May 2011

SERMON 8 MAY 2011. Acts 2: 14a and 36 – 41 Luke 24: 13 – 35 THE ROAD TO EMMAUS. ROBERT.

“They asked each other, ‘were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road, and opened the scriptures to us?’ (Luke 24: 32).

Surely the story of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples on the road to Emmaus is one of the most evocative and moving stories in the Bible. Certainly it is to me. It strikes me as so real that as I listen I feel as if I am there. And what makes it practically jump off the page for me is that it is so much more than just the telling of something that happened all those years ago. It speaks to me afresh every time I hear it or read it and actually touches my life today.

I feel as if the risen Christ has been released from the tomb so that he can walk alongside me as I walk the dusty road of life. The risen Christ walks beside every Christian every day, although mostly we don’t recognise him or realise he is there. But there come those precious moments of recognition which change our lives.

What are our ordinary Christian lives actually like in practice? Perhaps yours are different, but for most people I think we tread life’s road believing we are heading roughly in the right direction. We know what Christian values and principles are and try our best to follow them. A lot of the time we don’t actually do very well, and sometimes we fail spectacularly. We try to pray and read the Bible and come to church and communion, and sometimes we feel enriched and our spiritual lives deepened, but by no means always. Generally, there are not many angels such as those whom some saw at the empty tomb. Not many voices from heaven or blinding revelations. Probably there are actually times when we find ourselves wondering whether it’s all true. And all the time, the resurrection is right there beside us on our path, and we don’t see it.

A modern version of this experience I’m trying to describe has been written in a different way, and has become famous as ‘Footsteps in the sand’. It will almost certainly be known to you, so I won’t re-tell it now, but if you don’t know it, I have placed some copies on the table at the back of Church for you to take.

But I would be surprised if, for most of us, there were not those occasional moments of recognition that make sense of all the rest. Again, it may not be an angel or a voice from heaven, but a moment of recognition when suddenly everything makes sense, falls into place, and we find ourselves saying ‘Yes – it’s really true! Now I know that everything Jesus taught us is true; that goodness, truth and beauty, light and resurrection really are the key to everything else.’ That moment of recognition may not last long, and can disappear as suddenly as it came, and we can’t quite get it back again. But, for that moment, we have seen the heavens open and the fog lifted and we know that – whatever may happen – nothing is ultimately in vain. And as the 14th century anchoress and mystic Lady Julian of Norwich wrote in her Revelations of Divine Love: ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’ (Her feast day, incidentally is actually today, and if you have never read her classic writings called ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ and available in paperback, may I most thoroughly recommend it).

Anthony Bloom, the late – and great - Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop for Europe wrote about his life changing conversion in these words: “While I was reading the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, before I reached the third chapter, I became aware of a presence. I saw nothing. I heard nothing. It was no hallucination. It was a simple certainty that the Lord was standing there and that I was in the presence of him whose life I had begun to read with such revulsion and ill-will. This was my basic and essential meeting with the Lord. Christ was the Risen Christ for me because, if the one who had died nearly two thousand years before was there alive, he was indeed the Risen Christ. I discovered then something absolutely essential to the Christian message – that the resurrection is the only event in the Gospel which belongs to history not only past but also present. Christ rose again, twenty centuries ago, but he is the risen Christ as long as history continues. History I had to believe - the resurrection I knew for a fact ...because it was a direct and personal experience.”

Bruce spoke last week of the importance of reading the Bible, and here’s a powerful illustration of one very important reason why. There come times as we read the scriptures when the Risen Christ stands there beside us, as he did beside those two disciples, and our hearts burn within us as he opens the scriptures to us. Should it be that you have never known the Risen Christ standing alongside you and opening the scriptures to you, then what an amazing reason to ponder the scriptures more often, more prayerfully, more expectantly.

I will tell you about my own essential meeting with the Risen Christ. It was in July 1959 and I was sitting in a Christian conference and the speaker was telling us how we could find a real, living faith. And at the end, he called us to prayer and invited us to follow in our hearts the type of simple prayer you will find in almost any booklet introducing the Christian faith. In the powerful silence before he started, I was totally aware of that presence – of the Risen Christ beside me, more vibrantly real than anything I had ever experienced in my life. And, as I followed the prayer, I knew that my life was changing for ever.

So if you have been told many times that it’s important to pray and make space in your life for quiet meditation, here’s a powerful incentive. The Risen Christ who stands alongside you has the opportunity to make himself known as he did to those two disciples, and turn their sorrow and bewilderment into a joy that would be eternal.

In the case of those disciples, the Risen Christ made himself known in the breaking of bread. Jesus has promised that, whenever two or three are gathered in his name, he is there in the midst. We meet here this morning in his name, and we believe he is indeed here among us, ready to accept our worship, answer our prayers, and reveal himself to us one of us – meeting us at our point of need, whatever that may be for each of us today.

So, we may be certain that, as we come to communion this morning, and receive the bread and the wine, the Risen Christ is there in our midst, ready and longing to bless, to guide, to re-order our lives, and lead us forward into the future with new hope and strength. Whether or not we are physically or mentally conscious of that living presence, he has promised that he is here. We can share with him in prayer our deepest needs, fears and longings. Perhaps as we leave church this morning we will find ourselves saying to each other: ‘Did not our hearts burn within us this morning as we sensed the presence of the living Lord?’

As Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came, ‘Be assured of this; God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ And all those who believed and turned to Christ in faith were filled with the Holy Spirit and recognised the Risen Christ, who came into their lives as Lord and Saviour.

So the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus can be as true and real for each of us today, as it was for them. The Risen Christ walks beside us. He reveals himself as he interprets the scriptures to us as we read. He meets us personally as we pray in quiet and in faith. And he makes himself known in the breaking of bread. Let us ask him to reveal himself to us personally today and meet us at the point of us our deepest need, and we will know in our own experience that Jesus is indeed risen from the dead, and dwells in the lives of all who turn to him in faith.


1. Do you find the idea of the Risen Christ walking beside you helpful in your Christian life and experience? If you have personally experienced Jesus in some such way, can you share it with the group?

2. The sermon focuses on three ways in which we can experience the Risen Christ (a) reading the bible (b) prayer (c) Holy Communion. Which do you personally find most helpful and do you know why?

3. In what other ways and circumstances might we experience Him?

4. How can we best find the necessary space in our lives to be close to the Risen Christ? How will this vary at different stages of our lives?

Sunday 1 May 2011, Acts 2:14a, 22-32, John 20:19-31, Bruce

Several of us went to see a one-man show presenting Matthew’s Gospel recently. It was of the very highest quality, provocative and challenging, but ... Jesus came over as rather ‘shouty’. In the passage before us from John, he certainly chides Thomas, but with kindness and grace and encouragement.

And what is going on for Thomas? Should we read his words as “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were ...” ? Certainly a modern script writer would feel impelled to insert a sub-story of jealousy and rivalry here: “am I not as good as Peter and John and the rest? Why am I being left out?”

Or perhaps we should read it: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were ...” ? In other words, “I demand objective proof for myself, and I am unable or unwilling to accept an account by anyone else.”

Whatever the case, Jesus appears again specially, as it were, for Thomas. He brings the same message of Shalom, Peace that he brought before, and he meets Thomas at the point of his need.

And what is going on for Peter? On the day of Pentecost, we read that Peter stood up, “with the Eleven”, raised his voice and addressed the crowd ... One of the eleven was Thomas. So earlier in the Upper Room, how did it feel for Peter to tell Thomas “We have seen the Lord”, and hear Thomas reply that he did not believe him? Did he want to argue? To shake him? To pray? And yet God is at work, in his own time.

There seems to be a paradigm, an underlying pattern that helps us understand what is going on.

First there is an event. This event is not always seen by everyone, and it is frequently ignored or misinterpreted. Most notably, Jesus is raised from the dead. This is so momentous and far from straightforward that there is confusion and apparent contradiction. Nevertheless an event has taken place that must be responded to. Later on there is another event, as the Holy Spirit falls on the waiting apostles, in a way that is public and audible, and that drives a crowd to seek explanations. It is in response to this that Peter (and the other eleven apostles) must stand up to preach and explain.

The church has a programme of events throughout the year. We hold services every Sunday, and especially at festivals; we run Alpha courses and seek to live the Christian life in the streets and roads where we live. But let us also be expectant and observant: God is at work in our community, but we sometimes miss him, or do not realise what is going on. When you pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done”, you are asking God to do things, in your life, and in the lives of your family, your neighbours, your colleagues and your friends.

We interpret the event in the light of God’s revelation to us. Peter on the day of Pentecost was asked to explain the speaking in tongues and new life in the Spirit. He does this by going to the scriptures, what we call today the Old Testament. He has just had 40 days with Jesus, who I am sure had been explaining how the scriptures referred to him. He may therefore have been guided by Jesus to read the psalms of David as referring to the resurrection, or he may have been prompted by the Holy Spirit on that day. The point is he started from scripture.

When Jesus appears to his disciples in the Upper Room, he does this by revealing himself, the living Word. John adds that his whole purpose in selecting and presenting these stories about Jesus is so that we “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in his name.” Time spent reading the bible is never wasted. Even something that seems obscure or difficult may come gloriously to life under the impulse of the Holy Spirit.

Of course we are aware that many of our friends and acquaintances seem to have no interest in reading the word of God. They may not see any relevance between the written accounts of those living between 2000 bc and 100 AD and our lives today. What our friends want to know is the difference that believing in Jesus makes to us. How we are different because we have encountered him for ourselves. Thus Thomas becomes the only one in scripture who actually uses the words “My Lord and my God” to Jesus. Thus Peter, having gone on about how David had talked about resurrection but was himself mouldering in a grave, and so he must have been talking about someone else – Jesus, points to the clincher as far as he is concerned. He himself has witnessed the resurrected Jesus.

Note how important experience and eye witness accounts are. People today are less interested in objective proofs, and want to know if things work, and what it feels like. So Peter says God has raised Jesus to life, “and we are all witnesses of the fact”. The scriptures that we point to are the written accounts of their life changing events. They are important in and of themselves. Based on those, we also need to be aware of our own experiences of God. To encounter God and Grow in Him .... What stories can you tell of God at work in your life? Are there events, perhaps, that when seen clearly or interpreted properly reveal God’s love and care in the world today?

Look for the work of God in our world today. Look for the presence that builds community and fellowship. Look for the presence that brings joy and peace.