THE PARISH OF

PORTHKERRY

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Sermons Blog

Welcome to our "Sermon" blog

 

You need never miss another sermon again, as every week they will be uploaded on to this Blog page.

 

And even if you do not regularly attend either of our Churches; in St Peter's Rhoose, or St Curig's Porthkerry, on this page you will find out what we learn each week: About the meaning of our bible readings, how we can better understand them, and how we can live our lives closer to God.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Nov 22 2017 08:16PM

This week our youngest daughter became a teenager, meaning that I live in a house with not one but 2 teenage girls. There is plenty of advice out there for parents of teenagers. Take this one 'when your children are teenagers it's important to own a dog, so that someone in the house is happy to see you'. Or this one: 'If you ever want to call a family meeting, turn off the wifi router and wait in the room in which it's located". This one is a bit thought provoking: 'Do you remember when you became a parent and you thought you were going to be the perfect parent to the perfect baby? And then you had that baby and realised you knew nothing? That is exactly what raising teenagers is like. Except that teenagers point out to you the fact that you know nothing." But this is my favourite: 'Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years.'


There's lots of advice out there on parenting or any other area of life we might struggle with. And if we don't seek out advice, you can guarantee that someone will want to give it to us, whether we like it or not. If you don't believe me, why not drop into the next conversation you have a bad back or difficulty sleeping. I guarantee that you will have more pieces of conflicting advice than you ever dreamed possible.


But, good advice isn't necessarily God advice. And that's our first point this morning.

Even Jesus wasn't immune to the advice givers, and that's the backdrop to our reading from John today. v3 "Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ If you've been around for the last few sermons on John, you will remember that things hadn't been going so well for Jesus. After miraculously feeding the 5000, first the crowds, then the Jewish leaders and finally Jesus' own disciples grumbled and left him, leaving only the 12 as faithful followers (though, of course, even one of those had other plans). Jesus' popularity was at an all time low and so his brothers, who themselves didn't believe in him yet, suggested he go to Judea for the Festival of Tabernacles and drum up support for himself there. On the surface it seems like sensible advice. Jesus can work miracles, so if this crowd doesn't like him, try the miracles somewhere else. The festival of Tabernacles would seem like just the time. It was a joyful occasion where people gathered to remember their time in the wilderness, living in tents, and when they looked forward to the fulfilling of all God's promises. Jesus could burst onto the scene, magic up some bread, heal a few people and his popularity would be restored. Great! It had to have been a little tempting to Jesus. After all, when the devil came to tempt him, one of those temptations was to seek recognition and glory by leaping off the temple and being caught by angels. But this advice was only good advice, not God advice. Jesus knew it and turned it down. I wonder how often do we? When faced with good advice from our family or friends or colleagues, how often do we check if it's God's advice before following it? It can be very easy to get sucked into the same way of thinking as the world around us, even though the advice could be based on an ideology which conflicts with Christianity. Do we wait for karma to get someone, for example? Or is reflexology really the solution to anxiety? Listening to other people's experiences is great, and often we need advice and help. But listen prayerfully so you can discern what is God's advice in the midst of it all. Jesus was able to know the difference because he knew how his mission would roll out, that the point he was working to was his death on the cross, and courting fame wasn't a part of that. The cross was the most important thing and it would happen at the right time.


That takes us to the second point: God's timing is what matters, not ours. v6 "Jesus told them, ‘My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not[b] going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.’ 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee." Jesus knew that his appearance in a flourish at the start of the feast wouldn't result in more followers, but in his death. The clue was there at the start of the chapter, v1 "He did not want[a] to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him". His death would happen, but at the appointed time and in the right way. Jesus knew what lay ahead of him, and how important it was, not just for him but for every man, woman and child. The cross, where he would die to pay for the sins of the world, was his target and destination and it would happen at the proper time.


We can sometimes struggle with God's timing. We pray for something and it seems like God isn't answering. To our minds things are so clear: God needs to do things in this way to solve this particular problem, and when he doesn't we get disillusioned. The older version of the NIV had Jesus' brothers saying "You ought to leave Galilee and go to Judea". Do we say "Jesus you ought to be doing this or that"? I find myself falling into it on occasion: "I've worked hard and tried to follow you. This church should be growing", or "This person is lovely and would be a great addition to church, why are you not converting them?", or "My friend has suffered so much this year, why would you give her more trouble?" Those are all understandable sentiments, but they show a 'Jesus, you ought to . . . ' attitude. It's also there in the wider church where decisions are made as to what God is like and how he views certain activities. We might hear things like "If Jesus were here today, he would promote this, or he'd approve of that." and what he has actually said is disregarded. A 'Jesus you ought to' attitude to faith is very dangerous because it places us in the position of thinking that we know what is best. But we don't. When God answers our prayers he can see the ramifications of those answers way into the future along with all the people they affect. And we can't. We're only human. Jesus' brothers, however well intentioned they were, couldn't possibly see that God's plan would be the cross, nor the impact it would have. They could just see their little bit. Jesus would go up to the feast, but in his way, at the time appointed by God.


There's a third thing to note in these verses. v7 "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil." The world is naturally in opposition to Jesus. Jesus' brothers would have no problem going up to the festival because they were like everyone else. Nothing to cause offence, just people in the crowd. And that's usually the easy place to be; just one of the crowd. Most people gravitate in that direction. A famous experiment was done in 1962 on 'Candid Camera' where people were primed to enter a lift and then turn to face the back. Everyone who got into the lift also followed suit even though there was no reason to. There have been many experiments carried out since which show that in the main, people will conform to the group think. Jesus didn't conform to the group think of the day, but instead he challenged it and he was hated because of it. The issues in society might have changed over the centuries, but the state of the human heart hasn't. So don't be surprised if the Jesus you love is hated and ridiculed by others. It happened when Jesus walked the earth, should we expect any different today?


So, we've had a change of festival from Passover to Tabernacles, and the significance of that will become apparent as we journey further into the gospel. But what is constant is the growing opposition to Jesus. In his conversation with his brothers this morning we've seen that good advice isn't always God advice, that God's timing is what matters, not ours and that the world is naturally in opposition to Jesus. May God help us to discern his will and his timings in our lives that we might follow him courageously no matter what the world might say.



By porthkerryandrhoose, Nov 14 2017 04:09PM

I was at a confirmation a few years ago where archbishop Barry was presiding and preaching. In his sermon he declared "The essence of Christianity is this: that we do good and help other people." Was he right? While doing good and helping other people should be part and parcel of the everyday life of every Christian, is it the essence of Christianity? Is this the heart of what we believe? For many people, this is their perception of Christianity. It's about doing good and being nice and not offending anyone. The church is there for hand holding in times of disaster, to give a framework for marking solemn events and once a year as a backdrop for some feel good carol singing. There's nothing wrong in any of those things, and it's encouraging that people do still turn to the church, but what is our actual message? It's all there in John chapter 6, and it's not comfortable reading if all we think Jesus is is a warm comfort blanket, for he makes some startling claims. As we look at the last section of the chapter we will see the necessity of Jesus' death, the uniqueness of Jesus' status and the blessing of God's grace.


Let's begin with the necessity of Jesus' death. That's v60-61. It doesn't start well "On hearing it, many of his disciples said 'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" What exactly was the 'hard teaching'? We need to look back to the previous verses, which Rhiannon took us through so well a fortnight ago. A great summary verse is v51 "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." Jesus was saying that the way to live forever was to eat him. If you look at this at face value, it is no wonder that people found the teaching hard. It smacks of cannibalism, which is quite clearly abhorrent. But, dig a little deeper, and things become clearer. The discussion, and the amazing miracle of the feeding of the 5000 which preceded it, took place at Passover. Passover was the time when the Jews remembered how God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt. If you know your Bible history, you will remember that God sent 10 plagues on Egypt. The first 9 plagues mostly only affected the Egyptians, but the last one, the death of the firstborn would fall on every household in the land. It was a final and terrible judgement of God on the sin of Egypt. Of course, the Hebrews were sinners too, as we all are, and that's why the judgement would fall on them as well. The only way to turn it away was to kill a lamb as a substitute and place its blood on the doorposts and lintels of their homes. In a very real sense, the lamb died in the place of the firstborn, so he could live and not die. The family were then instructed to eat the lamb. Jesus was saying that a penalty of eternal death is waiting and the way to turn back the judgement of God and enter eternal life, is by eating a second and more important Passover lamb, himself. His blood would turn away the wrath of God, once and for all. Just as the Hebrew people had to participate in the Passover meal by eating in the way God had set out, so do we have to participate. How do we do that, since we are not going to roast and eat Jesus? We have to believe in him. Jesus uses the idea of eating as a metaphor for believing. Look at v40 "everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life". Jesus was asking the Jews to believe in him as the new Passover lamb, the one whose sacrifice would turn away the wrath of God and give them life forever. The only one. The only way. Keeping the religious laws, making sacrifices, being good people was not enough. Eternal life was only available through Jesus' death. It was an exclusive claim. And it still is an exclusive claim. Only Jesus can turn back the judgement of God. We don't much like exclusive claims today. They are not popular. We like to think that God is a cuddly grandpa benignly smiling down at us and that most people, apart from the murders and paedophiles and rapists, will be OK. Especially the nice people, who try and do good. But Jesus says no. Eat me and live. Believe in me and have eternal life. We'll see it spelled out even more clearly in chapter 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". It is an exclusive claim. And people don't want to hear it. This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?


Jesus responds to the question in v61 onwards. We might imagine he would say something like "Well, I know I said those words, but don't worry too much about them. I was being dramatic. Carry on as you were. Be nice to each other and it will all be OK." But that's not what Jesus says. He adds to the necessity of his death, the uniqueness of his status. And that's our second point: the uniqueness of Jesus' status. v61 "Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?" and in case people might think he was being dramatic for effect v63 "the words I have spoken to you - they are full of the Spirit and life." Jesus' sacrificial death is the way to eternal life because Jesus is like no one else. He came down from heaven and he will return there. He isn't just a teacher with some wise words. He is God himself. That's how he can make such unique claims. And we can't just pass them off because his words are full of God's spirit and life.


The reaction to his words is striking. v66 "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." Notice this isn't the Jewish leaders getting grumpy now. It's Jesus' disciples who are leaving him because they don't like the words he is saying. Friends, we mustn't be surprised when churchgoing people, even church leaders, deny the teaching of Jesus. We mustn't be disappointed when people start to show an interest in Jesus and then fall by the wayside. It happened was Jesus was physically there, teaching them in person. We often think, 'Oh if Jesus could just be there to explain this, everyone would believe'. No they wouldn't! At this point in his ministry nearly everyone left Jesus. Can you hear the sorrow in Jesus' voice in v67 "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the 12.' It looked like even the closest disciples would go. But Peter has grasped what Jesus is saying v68 "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the holy one of God." If they leave, who else could give them life? What future would there be? I have to say, I have reached this point once or twice in my life. When things have been tough and church life has been difficult I've thought 'why don't I just give up and live life like everyone else?' and the reason I've never been able to go through it is knowing that no-one else can offer eternal life. No one else can be with me and help me and carry me through. No-one but Jesus.


How was Peter able to make such a statement? It has to be only by God's grace. God is the one who opens the eyes of the blind. In Mark's gospel when Peter suddenly understands, the incident is paired with the account of a blind man being given sight. God in his grace opens blind eyes and softens hard hearts v65 "no-one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them." Unbelief isn't a shock to Jesus. He knows the state of our hearts and he also knows the changes his Spirit can make. So don't give up. Don't be tempted to change the gospel message to make it more palatable to people. While the numbers in the pews might go up (and there's no evidence that they will, by the way), the numbers in heaven won't go up. What we need to do is to pray; pray that God will open blind eyes and soften heard hearts, that others might see the truth which is so precious to us - Jesus our passover lamb who died so we can have life.


A four-year-old boy was at the doctor for a checkup. As the doctor looked in his ears he asked, “Do you think I’ll find Big Bird in here? The boy was silent. Next, the doctor took a tongue depressor and looked down his throat asking the little boy as he did, “Do you think I’ll find Cookie Monster down there?” Again, the boy said nothing. Then, the doctor placed a stethoscope to the boy’s chest and said, “Do you think I will hear Barney in your heart?” The boy looked up and said, “Oh, no! Jesus is in my heart. Barney is on my socks.” May Jesus be in your hearts and mine, that we might know his words and find in him eternal life.



By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 26 2017 10:44AM

Many foods have been found to have ‘special’ or medicinal qualities that we’re told will benefit our health if we eat them. Some of the more common superfoods include: blueberries, which are high in antioxidants and vitamins, oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, and beetroot, which is a good source of iron. Traditional cures for illnesses include drinking a honey and lemon mixture to treat a cold, eating or drinking ginger to combat sickness or peppermint to ease indigestion. Then of course, we have the greatest superfood of all – because as we all know, chocolate cures all problems!


Our reading last week ended with Jesus’ extraordinary statement about the special qualities of the living bread. It’s in v51: ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’ Today, as we approach the end of chapter 6 we hear the end of Jesus’ teaching about bread, in which he reveals that he alone can give eternal life. In looking at this short passage, firstly we are reminded of the time of year this incident took place – right back in v4 John tells us that ‘The Jewish Passover Festival was near.’ The approaching Passover festival had prompted some of Jesus’ followers to seek to hasten God’s rescue of his people by making Jesus king. However, by the end of this passage, Jesus has revealed the nature of the rescue God has planned and provided a new interpretation of the Passover sacrifice. Secondly, Jesus sets out what participation is required from his followers – and consequently from us – to receive eternal life.


Let’s begin by returning to John’s reference to Passover. We remember from v14-15 that the people in the crowd that Jesus fed with bread and fish recognised him as the Prophet sent by God and wanted to make him king but that the rescue they had in mind was for Jesus to overthrow the Roman empire. This caused Jesus to remove himself from the crowd. Now in the synagogue, the Jewish religious leaders are not just grumbling about what Jesus has to say, they’re arguing sharply, as John describes in v52: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ ‘How’ questions like this often form the basis of doubt or unbelief and in the case of the Jewish leaders, an inability to understand what Jesus is saying. Jesus replies to their questions by emphasising that his death is necessary to obtain eternal life. In v53, ‘Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’ In v58, Jesus reminds them of the Israelites in the desert: ‘Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live for ever.’ It is not enough to be one of God’s people – that is, to be Jewish – rather, what is needed is to depend on the death of Jesus.


At Passover time, Jewish people would be remembering how God rescued them from Egypt. Exodus 12: 1-13 details how the Israelites are to prepare to leave Egypt. God was going to send his tenth and final plague on Egypt, in which the first-born male of every family and every animal would be killed. The Israelites were to kill a lamb and eat it and keep the blood to paint around the doors to their houses. When God’s angel passed over, Israelite children would be spared. The annual killing and eating of the Passover lamb reminded the Jews of their rescue from Egypt. So, hearing Jesus speak of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, may remind the Jews of the lamb that was sacrificed as a substitute for the first sons of Israel. In making this Passover reference to flesh and blood, Jesus is positioning himself as the sacrificial lamb, whose death will bring about the rescue God has planned – rescue from the punishment of sin.


Having established this new interpretation of the Passover sacrifice, with himself as the sacrifice made for the people, Jesus goes on to outline what is required for his followers, and for us to receive eternal life. In vv54-56, Jesus says: ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.’ There are two important points here: firstly the message of v54, no one is excluded. Jesus says ‘Whoever eats and drinks’, which echoes the statement in v51 of Jesus giving his flesh ‘for the life of the world.’ Secondly, the promise of v56, where Jesus offers the closest personal relationship with those who eat and drink – that he will live within them. As we saw earlier, eternal life cannot be achieved through material food and drink – the manna in the desert – and v55 confirms this. In order to really share in the life of God, eternally, we need the real food and real drink that Jesus offers through his death.


Of course, this raises questions as to what Jesus means by ‘eating’ or ‘feeding on’ his flesh. The literal idea of eating and drinking human flesh and blood is repulsive; yet we do symbolically eat and drink when we share bread and wine at the Eucharist. However, throughout chapter 6, John has developed a use of ‘eating’ as a metaphor for ‘believing’. In v35: ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ In v40: ‘For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.’ And v47: ‘Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.’ It is the act of believing in the saving death of Jesus, not the act of eating that brings eternal life. So, why do we eat and drink bread and wine? Firstly, because Jesus established the principle of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, with his words, ‘Do this to remember me.’ Secondly, we turn to some eminent historical Christians: St Augustine and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Augustine presents the Eucharist as a memory that Jesus was sacrificed for us. Cranmer affirms that Jesus is spiritually present in the bread and wine – and so in us when we share it.


In this passage, Jesus dispels thoughts his followers had of making him king by force. Many of us, at one time or another will have imposed our own agendas onto Jesus, turning him into a Messiah for the current political situation, or the Saviour of modern society. We may have reduced him to a generous gift giver who will meet all our needs. We forget at these times that our sins separate us from God and that what we really need is a divine rescue, in remembering that Jesus made himself the Passover lamb, sacrificed to release us from the punishment of sin. And so, I encourage you, as you receive your Communion this morning, to affirm for the first time, or to re-affirm your belief in the saving death of Jesus and to open yourself to his presence dwelling in you.


Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for the words we have heard today, for your offer of eternal life to all who believe in you. Thank you for offering yourself as a sacrifice for the world. We’re sorry for the times when we, like your followers, try to make you king by force or push our own agendas on you. Help us to remember that we need your saving love in our lives and open our hearts to receive you, today and every day. Amen.



By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 19 2017 08:56AM

Some people just love to grumble and complain. A week last Wednesday I shared some grumbles with the Wednesday congregation. They were in the form of comments left at an American Wilderness area. See what you think: Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.

Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the areas of these pests.

A small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed?

Escalators would help on steep uphill sections.

A MacDonald’s would be nice at the end of the trail.

Am I the only one who thinks that they were missing the point of being in a wilderness? When we were on our cruise I was astonished to hear people complaining. We spent most of our time marvelling at the delicious food and the wonderful scenery and the complete luxury we found ourselves in. We were like kids in a sweet shop. But we heard others: the scones were too small, the wine wasn't right, the waiter was taking too long. It seemed to me that while they were grumbling they were missing out on everything else. That's what happens when we grumble: we miss out on the wonder right under our nose. In our section of John today we find another group of people grumbling and missing out on 3 vitally important things. Let's look at John 6:41-51 together.


Just a brief reminder of the background. Jesus had fed the 5000+ crowd with just 5 loaves and 2 fish, leaving 12 baskets of leftovers. The crowd wanted to make him king so he slipped away into the mountains, only returning that night, walking across the sea of Galilee to his disciples who had already set off in their boat. Jesus took them to Capernaum, where the crowd caught up with them the next day. It was the perfect opportunity for Jesus to teach the people, and we're told in v59 that he did his teaching in the synagogue. Those who have travelled to Capernaum will know that the synagogue, whose 1st century foundations are clearly visible even today, is in clear sight of the shoreline, only a very short walk away, so it makes sense that this conversation happened there. But this little note from John also gives us a clue as to who Jesus was talking to. John calls the people 'the Jews' rather than 'the crowd' as we saw earlier, so we can assume that these are the religious Jews (because of course, everyone would have been a Jew, including Jesus himself). These religious Jews were grumbling. As we look at their grumbles, we will see 3 important things they were missing. The first one is in v41-42 "They said 'Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose Father and mother we know? How can he now say 'I came down from heaven'" In their grumbling they were missing out on who Jesus actually is. That's our first point.


In their grumbling they were missing out on who Jesus actually is. To really understand what was going on, we need to look back to what Jesus had already said. Look back with me at v38-40 " For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.’ These are wonderful words and such a precious promise. Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise them up at the last day. It was reminiscent of the time God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole so that everyone who looked at it was saved from the deadly plague of snakes God had sent. It didn't matter who the people were, from the greatest to the least, all they had to do was look at the bronze snake and they were cured. And why had God sent the snakes? Because the people were grumbling! Grumbling brought a severe penalty, but God also provided a way of salvation. Look at the snake and you'll be saved. Here the way of salvation is 'look at Jesus and believe in him and you will be saved', whoever you are. But we're not looking up at Jesus if our heads are down and we're grumbling. The religious Jews were following the pattern of their ancestors, and rather than seeing the offer of life Jesus made, all they could see was Jesus the carpenter's boy. To them the message of salvation was a nonsense because they thought Jesus was just an ordinary working class man. In their grumbling they missed out on who Jesus is: God's son and their saviour.


They also missed out on what God was teaching them. That's our second point. In their grumbling, they missed out on what God was teaching them. This is v43-47. Jesus told them that God was taking the initiative. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them." and how does he draw them? v45 "It is written in the prophets 'They will all be taught by God'. It was one of the great promises made through the prophet Isaiah. Here was Jesus - God - teaching them. There were the scriptures - God's word - open and available to them for centuries. Taking time to listen to God draws us to him. v45 "Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me." But as my teaching friends know, you can be the best teacher in the world, but if the pupils aren't listening they are not going to learn. The religious Jews weren't willing to listen, either to Jesus or to their scriptures. They were too busy grumbling. And they missed out on the gracious offer of Jesus v47 "Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life."


This leads us on to the third thing the religious Jews missed out on: eternal life. Our third point In their grumbling the religious Jews missed out on eternal life. v48 "I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever." There's a deep irony here. In spite of eating the bread Jesus had given them in the wilderness, these grumblers were obsessed with the bread Moses had given the people centuries before. But they had forgotten some key points: it wasn't Moses who gave them the bread, but God. And it was at God's initiative, after the people were grumbling. Plus, the bread only kept them alive for one day. Each day, apart from the day before the Sabbath, the people were to collect just enough for that day. Any they had left over went bad. Here Jesus was saying 'look at me, eat of me' and you will live forever. I am in a different league. In fact this whole chain of events worked together to show that Jesus was the fulfilment of everything that went before: the bread in the wilderness, the walking on the water as if it were dry ground, and as we will see next week, the sacrificial lamb who dies in the place of the people. It was all there, for those who would listen and learn. But the grumbling got in the way.


What gets in the way for you? Are your eyes cast down so you're not looking up at Jesus and seeing the one who has the power to help you? Do your own ideas and opinions stop you from listening to Jesus? Are you a grumbler who struggles to find the good in any situation? Take heart! Jesus hasn't given up on you. It was people just like you, and worse, that he was speaking to in today's reading, and he still offered them eternal life. Even if we come kicking and screaming, and that's the sense of the word 'draws' in the phrase in v44 "No-one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them." Even if we come with a struggle, Jesus will welcome us. "Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise them up at the last day." Don't let anything get in the way of responding to Jesus.



By porthkerryandrhoose, Sep 28 2017 11:17AM

Things don't always go as you would expect them to. I was reading this article in the Express online from July 10th:

"It must have seemed like such a good idea at the time. Last November Dafydd Davies asked his friend Dylan Lewis to be best man at his upcoming wedding. One of Dylan’s tasks was to arrange the stag party. He chose the pleasant city of Hamburg in Germany – not too wild, not too staid – just a couple of hours away and with plenty of beer.

What he did not realise was that other people were choosing Hamburg as a location for that couple of days too – among them Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and other members of the G20 summit. When the 23-strong party flew into Helmut Schmidt airport, President Trump was landing in Air Force One nearby. After arriving at the Hotel, the boys – dressed as beret-toting onion sellers, a saucy maid and a packet of French Fries as a nod to the groom’s gallic family history – noticed a heavy police presence. They were in the centre of the planned protest march called, “Welcome To Hell”.

But the Welsh are made of stern stuff: as up to a 100,000 anti-capitalist protesters rioted and the police called in reinforcements, the boys just got on with celebrating. “So far today, we’ve seen 50 or 60 police vans with sirens going past when we were having breakfast, plus around five of these tank-like things with water cannons,” said Adrian Harvey one of the stags."

More delicate souls might have been put off, but not Welsh lads on a stag do! Still, it was far from what they had expected, and fortunately for them, and for the bride to be, no doubt, they stayed safe. Now, in spite of the bravado, it can't have been a comfortable experience. There had to have been moments when they wondered what they had got themselves caught up in. Perhaps you can think of times when you've expected things to turn out one way but the reality was quite different.


There's something of that in our gospel reading for today. It's a little while since we were looking at John's gospel together, so I'll remind you of what happened last time (It was Rhiannon preaching and her excellent sermon can be found on our sermon blog, if you, like me were away and missed it). The disciples had had an amazing day. Jesus had been teaching them on a mountainside, when thousands of people joined them. They had come a long way, and so Jesus fed them, using only 5 loaves and 2 fish. There was so much food, that 12 baskets of leftovers were collected afterwards. It was the most wonderful miracle, so reminiscent of the time when God had fed his people in the wilderness with bread from heaven, manna. That was the message the people should have received - here is Jesus, God with you, God about to rescue you. But the deeper message was missed, and the people just wanted him to look after their social, economic and national needs, and so v14 & 15 "After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say 'Surely this is the prophet who is to come into the world. Jesus, knowing they intended to make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself."


And that's where our reading continues this morning. The crowd has dissipated, the disciples are alone, and it's getting dark. Not really how the disciples imagined the day to end, I don't suppose. We're going to look at what happened in 3 sections: the Confusion of the disciples, the Comforting words of Jesus and the Constant purpose of God.


The Confusion of the Disciples

What had begun as a wonderful day, listening to Jesus' teaching and seeing him perform an amazing miracle, ended in confusion and fear. Jesus had walked off, they'd gone to their boat to sail for Capernaum, but Jesus hadn't come back, the sun had set and the wind had picked up. Then through the dark and the spray a ghost was heading towards them. They were terrified. How could such a good day have gone so wrong? We can ask that question when things go wrong for us. Sometimes we can be happily going along in life, our relationship with God growing, our quiet times enjoyable and interesting, our prayer life fruitful, when all of a sudden something goes wrong. A phonecall with bad news, the unexpected meeting at work, the illness which strikes out of the blue. We're left thinking 'How has this happened? Why has this happened?' The 19th Century bishop of Liverpool, J C Ryle, has some words of wisdom for us, written in his commentary on this passage: "Trial, we must distinctly understand, is part of the diet which all true Christians must expect. It is one of the means by which their grace is proved, and by which they find out what there is in themselves. Winter as well as summer, cold as well as heat, clouds as well as sunshine - are all necessary to bring the fruit of the Spirit to ripeness and maturity. We do not naturally like this. We would rather cross the lake with calm weather and favourable winds, with Christ always by our side and the sun shining down on our faces. But it may not be. It is not in this way that God's children are made 'partakers of his holiness' (Hebrews 12:10). Abraham, and Jacob, and Moses, and David, and Job were all men of many trials. Let us be content to walk in their footsteps, and to drink of their cup. In our darkest hours we may seem to be left - but we are never really alone." Wise words.


And they leads us on to the second point: the Comforting words of Jesus. What the disciples took to be a ghost was none other than Jesus himself, walking on the water. But they didn't recognise him until he spoke v20 "It is I; don't be afraid." Comforting words, spoken by a loved one can help us through the greatest of trials. Even calm words issued by a stranger can help. On our cruise in the summer, as the waves reached 10 metres in height, our captain Uge gave his usual midday address: "Today the winds are storm force 10, waves between 8 and 10 metres. It is OK." His calm nature was most reassuring! And there's no doubt that Jesus' words also had an effect. We're told that the disciples were willing then to take him into the boat, and in another act of Jesus' power over nature, they arrived straight away at Capernaum. But there's more here than just the comforting sound of Jesus' voice and his encouragement for them not to be afraid. The first 3 words 'It is I', seem so insignificant in English, but that's because the translation masks what Jesus was really saying. His exact words were 'I am' - the same words God spoke out of the burning bush to Moses, the very name of God. Just as he had given the people bread from heaven, and had shown them by his actions that he was God, now he was putting it into words. The disciples would be safe because God was with them. Whatever happened.


Everything was back on track again. They were in Capernaum, ready for Jesus to explain the miracle of the loaves and fishes. We see the Constant purpose of God. Our third point. In John's gospel, John is always careful to record the explanations of the miracles. If you remember back to John's reasons for writing, stated in John 20:30-31, you see Jesus' purpose for his ministry too "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name". It had to have been tempting for Jesus to give into the crowd and let them make him king, just as they wanted to in v15. After all, ruling in an earthly way was one of the temptations the devil threw at him just as he was starting out. But diverting his ministry to a social and political one, however much he loved the people and the nation, was not what he had come to do. He had come to give eternal life, and that would only be possible through his death on the cross. He had to keep on teaching the people who he was and what he had come to do, because that was the way to help them in a permanent way. Eradicating poverty, overthrowing the wicked Romans would have been amazing, but the people would still have died eventually. And if he hadn't been their sacrifice, how could they ever be reunited with their father in heaven? Their bellies might be full in this world but their souls would never make it to heaven. Jesus had to keep on with the constant purpose of God, to save his people, however difficult it would be. And praise God that he did.


So we're seen this morning the confusion of the disciples, confusion that we often feel when trouble strikes, yet in the confusion we heard the comforting words that Jesus-God-was with them. He's with each of us who calls on his name. And finally we saw the constant purpose of God, in spite of great temptation facing Jesus, to bring his people to be with him in eternity through the death and resurrection of Jesus. May we place our trust in this Jesus and receive life in his name.



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