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, 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.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Sep 9 2017 08:26PM

Have you ever hosted a meal or a party for a large group of people? How many people? What did you need? Fortunately, the most I’ve ever cooked for is six but I imagine that on a larger scale you would need to consider your venue – can you accommodate a large group of people? You might also give some thought to your menu – as well as your cooking ability. Perhaps you’d also think about entertainment, especially for a party. In every case though, you’d want to know in advance how many people were coming – or at least have a good estimate. Imagine then the panic in the disciples’ minds when they realise that the crowds of 5000 men (plus, presumably some women and children), who have followed them around the shore of the Sea of Galilee to listen to Jesus, are hungry and need something to eat!

Our study of the previous chapters of John has revealed Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, as the giver of eternal life and as the Judge of humankind. In this chapter, John reveals Jesus as the Rescuer of and provider for God’s people. John presents two pieces of evidence for this revelation: the nature of the miracle itself in the provision of food and the timing of the miracle just before Passover. However, John also shows the reactions of the people around Jesus in this passage in Jesus testing the faith of his disciples now that he has revealed his identity to them and in the crowd’s wrong motives for following Jesus.

Firstly let’s look at the miracle itself. Jesus has crossed the Sea of Galilee with his disciples and a huge crowd has followed him because they’ve seen his miracles. Jesus saw the crowd coming towards him and knew that they would be hungry. Though he asks his disciples where they can find food, we’re told in v5-6 that Jesus already knows what he is going to do: ‘When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming towards him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.’ Bible scholars have drawn parallels between this passage of John’s gospel and another time when God provided food for his people. This passage can be found in chapter 16 of the book of Exodus. The Israelites are in the desert following their rescue from slavery in Egypt and they are hungry and can’t find food. In v4 God tells Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.’ In the same way in our passage from John’s gospel, Jesus is going to provide food for hungry people. However, in contrast to God providing manna in the desert, where he provided enough for each day, Jesus’ provision echoes the wedding at Cana as he demonstrates God’s generosity again in providing in abundance. At the wedding, 12 huge water jars were filled with wine – and the best wine. Here, on the shore of Galilee, Jesus provides food for 5000 men (plus women and children) and we’re told there were leftovers! In verses 12-13 we hear: ‘When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.’ In both this passage and the passage from Exodus, we see God providing for his people so that they trust in him. Sometimes God asks his people to prove their trust in him by testing them.

Jesus tested his disciples in this passage. We heard in v6 that Jesus tested Philip by asking him where they could buy food for so many people. Jesus wanted to know whether Philip trusted him. Philip had seen Jesus perform miraculous signs at the wedding in Cana and in healing the sick. He should have been able to say to Jesus ‘You know, Lord’, or even ‘You can provide for them, Lord.’ He hasn’t remembered his words to Nathanael in 1: 45 ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’, or has failed to grasp their full significance. In any case, rather than recognising that Jesus can solve the problem they’re faced with, Philip is concerned with how much it will cost – half a year’s wages, as we hear in v7. Again, we look back to Exodus 16 and see a parallel test for God’s people. The second half of v4 says: ‘In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.’ You may be familiar with the rest of the passage – when the Israelites follow God’s instructions, they have enough food; when they gather too much to try and keep some for the next day, it turns maggoty and mouldy overnight. God wants his people to trust in him and him alone – not in their own efforts. If we are tested by God, let us remember this. Belief in Jesus and trust in God is not protection from all that the world can throw at us, but God has promised his people that he will care for them. God wants us to trust this promise and may test us if we become too self-reliant. Let us not forget to say ‘You, Lord, can provide.’

Let’s look now at the timing of the miracle. In v4 John tells us that ‘The Jewish Passover Festival was near.’ This is not the first reference that John makes to the feast of Passover – the first is in Chapter 2 when Jesus clears the temple – and the significance of these repeated references should not be lost. Under Roman occupation, Passover would have taken on additional significance for the Jews: surely the God who rescued them from slavery in Egypt would rescue them again from the Romans. In chapter 2, Jesus had hinted at another significance to the Passover feast when he said in v19 ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. We know from John’s narrative, that those in the temple did not understand what Jesus meant and that it was only after Jesus was raised from the dead that his disciples realised that by ‘temple’, Jesus meant his body. By now though, in chapter 6, many people have begun to follow Jesus for his miracles and his teaching. As we see in v14, they even recognise him as the Prophet – the one identified by Moses as the leader for God’s people. There must have been a great sense of anticipation that the time of their rescue was near. The time was indeed near. During a future Passover festival, Jesus would be crucified, would die and would rise again to rescue people from their separation from God caused by sin. However, v15 reveals that the people had their own ideas about how God’s rescue would take place. ‘Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.’ They believed that Jesus would overthrow their Roman occupiers and reign as their king.

Have you ever misunderstood God’s purposes? Have you mistaken God’s purposes for your own? It’s so easily done isn’t it? The crowds following Jesus because they had seen his miracles and heard his teaching wanted Jesus to defeat the Romans and become King. They recognised that Jesus was sent by God but projected their own desires on to Jesus, believing that what they wanted was God’s will – after all, God had rescued them from oppression before. They had a blinkered view of Jesus, having seen what they wanted to see and heard what they wanted to hear – rather than what Jesus had actually said. Jesus had in fact made God’s purpose in sending him to live among us quite clear. We’ve referred to the passage several times already in our study of John’s gospel and, yet again today, it’s relevant. John 3:16-17 reveals God’s purpose in sending Jesus: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’ This was the message that the crowds had missed from Jesus and it is as true today as it was then. God still loves his world and there are many people living in it who have not yet received God’s gift of eternal life. If we have received the gift of eternal life from God by believing in his Son, this should surely be our purpose too: to proclaim God’s saving love to those in our lives who don’t already know it.

So we’ve seen today that God sometimes tests his people to see if they trust him and believe in his promise to care for them. If, as in Exodus we follow God’s instructions, or as in John we simply recognise that God will provide for us, then we pass the test. But we must be careful not to be self-reliant or fail to recognise that God can give us what we need. We’ve also seen how Jesus continued to reveal his purpose for coming to earth – to rescue God’s people – through the Passover timing of this miraculous sign but that the crowd wanted a different kind of rescue. Let us remember that God’s purpose is to give his people eternal life and save them from punishment from sin and let us not shy away from sharing this with others.

Let us pray

Loving God, we thank you that you are a God who provides all our needs and that you are generous in your gifts to us. We know you want us to trust in you and believe in your promise to care for us. We’re sorry for the times we rely on our own efforts, or fail to see that you can provide. Help us to recognise this both in good times and difficult times. Make us always ready, too, to share the good news of your saving love with others, so that more people will declare belief in Jesus and receive your gift of eternal life. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Aug 3 2017 09:08AM

I have recently got into watching the Netflix series The Crown, a series which follows our Queen from the last years of her father's life right through the twists and turns of her reign in the second half of the 20th century. In one of the early episodes, while the queen and Prince Philip were in Kenya, one of the cars they were travelling in convoy with broke down. Lots of men huddled around the open bonnet trying to figure it out. They were scratching their heads and pouring water randomly into the engine, while the Queen sat in the car in front. After some time she could take it no longer and she got out of her car, shooed the men away and looked in at the engine. "It has simply overheated. Leave it and wait a little while and it will work again just fine." They looked at her gobsmacked until she said "Simple mechanics. I learned during the war." It wasn't the last time people would underestimate her abilities.

In our reading from John today we see people underestimating Jesus' abilities too, with much more far reaching consequences. Let's look at it.

If you were here last week, you will recall that Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. He was sitting by the pool of Bethesda, but each time the waters were stirred up, indicating a healing might be possible, other people got in before him. When Jesus saw him, he told him to get up, take up his mat and walk. And the man did and he was completely healed. It was a wonderful miracle, showing both the power and the compassion of Jesus. But not everyone was impressed. You see, the healing took place on the Sabbath and this got the Jewish leaders really mad. Jesus' defence didn't help much v17 "My father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working." They knew straight away that Jesus wasn't talking about Joseph making a few chairs on the Sabbath, instead he was talking about God the Father. In case we're a bit slow on the uptake, John helpfully adds an author's note v18 "For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God." If he was just an ordinary man, then those would be blasphemous claims. But in our little section of the event today we'll discover who Jesus is, what he came to do and the difference it makes to us right now.

Jesus answers the accusation by stating clearly that he is God's son and the perfect revelation of God. v19 "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." God the Father and God the Son are so perfectly linked that Jesus always does what the Father wants. Jesus sees what the Father does in heaven and he does it on earth. The only difference is location. So his claim to equality with God isn't a blasphemous one. It's the truth. And we need to grasp this. Jesus isn't a good man or a great teacher or a kind miracle worker. He was and is God. Does that not shape the way we think of him and relate to him?

Jesus didn't come to earth just to swan around doing good here and there. God the Father has given some specific tasks for Jesus to do v21-22 "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son." There are 2 primary tasks listed here: giving life and being the judge of all. These are no small things. Scientists are still trying to create life, as they have been for years, and although they can now clone living creatures, and grow body parts and insert a sperm into an egg artificially, they can't actually make life. They need something to begin with. God speaks and life is made. In the news a couple of weeks ago was the story of a man whose heart had stopped for 40 minutes yet by the efforts of paramedics and doctors he made a full recovery. It's so rare it made it to the news. In John chapter 11 we'll see Jesus calling to Lazarus who had been dead for 4 days, in a hot climate, to come out of the tomb and he comes out, alive again. Jesus gives life.

But he also judges. There are many in the church today who will tell you that there will be no judgement, that these ideas are primitive and outdated, that because God loves each of us, everyone will get to live in peace with him forever. That is not what Jesus believed and it's not what he taught. v24-30 state clearly that there will be a day of judgement and on that day some people will go on to live while others will be condemned. We need to know this so that we can be prepared. God has given us a warning.

One of the significant events of the 20th century covered in the series The Crown is the great smog of December 1952. The episode begins with a meteorologist taking readings, and the readings are so shocking that she rushes off to tell her superior. He reads them and rushes off to his superior who takes it to his and so on, until the head of the Met Office decides they must tell the Prime Minister. A weather system is coming which will trap all of the smoke and emissions from powerstations and hold it close to the ground where it will poison people. A letter gets sent to the PM straight away. But when he reads it, he dismisses it "It's only weather. It comes. It goes." No amount of pleading from anyone will change his mind. The smog comes and people die in their thousands. The cry goes up "Why hasn't someone warned us this would happen?" The truth is that the warning was there but no one listened to it. This is so often the case, all the more so when it comes to God's warning.

So what are we to do? v24 "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged because he has crossed over from death to life." We are to hear Jesus' word and believe it. Remember a fortnight ago, we learned that faith is taking Jesus at his word? Here he's saying that again and showing us that that faith has massive consequences. As we believe in Jesus now, we have already passed over from death to life. When judgement day comes we will be safe because we have already moved into Jesus' realm of life and light.

v28-30 reiterate this, with more detail, and we must be careful how we understand them "A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out." Notice that this is everybody. Not just the Christians or those who believe it will happen. Even the most devout atheist will hear the voice of Jesus and be unable to resist doing what he says. And there will be a judgement: v29 "those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned." But how do we know if we'll be OK? Does God have a set of scales to weigh the good out against the bad? This is what most people believe and hope. They hope that they will have just about scraped through, that their good intentions and lack of major evils will tip the balance in their favour. We need to understand what Jesus is actually saying here. What does he consider doing evil? We need to look back to 3:18 to see where condemnation falls "whoever does not believe [in God's son] stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." That's the ultimate evil - it's not believing in Jesus because it cuts off the source of forgiveness. What's doing good? 6:28 The crowd asks Jesus "What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." So judgement isn't based on a moral assessment but on a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus, our advocate who speaks for us; Jesus our saviour who took the penalty of our sins for us.

So, a really important piece of teaching from Jesus today. We've been reminded of who he is: the Son of God, equal to God, carrying out His perfect will; we've seen 2 of the tasks God sent him to perform; to give life and to judge; and we've seen that a response is needed from us in the here and now to guarantee what will happen to us on the day of Jesus' return. Will you hear the warning of Jesus and respond, or will you push it away as unimportant, to be dealt with another day? If Jesus is just a teacher from 2000 years ago it won't really matter what we do. But if he is the Son of God with the power of life and death in his hands, we push him away at our peril.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Jul 18 2017 09:33AM

Anyone here enjoy watching magicians? I'm not beyond trying a little bit of simple magic myself - later on today I'll be sharing a card trick with the children in Messy Church. One of the most famous magicians today is Dynamo. He's pulled off some amazing illusions including levitating off the Shard and walking on the surface of the Thames, as well as doing tricks you can see close up. His latest tour is called 'Seeing is believing'. It's a phrase we use often 'I'll believe it when I see it'. But does seeing always mean believing? Is seeing amazing things necessary to have faith?

Those of you who have been following our series looking at John's gospel will remember that we have been looking at a very famous verse from John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Over the last 2 sermons we've seen that 'whoever believes' really does mean 'whoever', as we met a woman from the wrong part of town with the wrong theology and the wrong lifestyle, yet Jesus offered her life and she believed. Today we're going to explore the next bit of 'whoever believes', as we answer the question 'what does it mean to believe?' Can something look like faith but not actually be faith? As we move on to today's verses from John we'll discover 2 types of faith: faith in miracles and faith in the one who is able to do miracles. Only one type of faith is saving faith.

Faith in miracles v43-45.

Jesus has spent 2 days with the Samaritans, talking to them and sharing the good news with them, and now he returns to Galilee. His reception is a very warm one v45 "When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover festival, for they also had been there." It all looks very positive. We know from 2:23 that while Jesus was at the Passover celebrations he'd been doing all kinds of miracles and people believed in him. Fantastic! But there's a warning note. In 4:44 John adds an aside "Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country." So even this warm welcome isn't honouring Jesus, why? The answer is back in 2:24 "But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person." The miracles might have impressed the people, the people might even have believed in him as a miracle doer, but their hearts haven't been changed. The miracles, though genuine, have made no more difference to them than going to see a magician perform. They have faith, but only in the miracles.

Where is your faith? Is it in the things God provides? The good health, the happy relationships, the loving family, the good job? Do you need these things as proof that God is real and that he loves you? What happens when they are taken away? I have met many people who have lost their faith when things have stopped going well for them or their family. It's tragic, but it begs the question 'was their faith in the things God gives them or in the God who is the giver?' It's an important question for us to ask ourselves too, because faith in the things God gives is not the faith which leads to eternal life.

The miracles, however, are signs or pointers to who Jesus really is, and they can be a way in for some people. This seems to be the case for our royal official. Let's look at him in our second point: faith in the one who is able to do miracles v46-53. At a first glance this man seems just like all the others. He wants Jesus because he can heal his son, and Jesus' reaction to his request seems to confirm this v48 "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe." But there is more going on here. First of all, this man has travelled a long way to see Jesus. Capernaum is 18 miles away from Cana, which in the days before mechanised transport would have been at least a day's travel. He's determined. And he's not easily discouraged. Jesus' response to his request could be taken as a 'no' - no I'm not going to do any more signs. Jesus does sometimes say 'no' to us. Have you realised that? When we ask Jesus for something, he is at perfect liberty to say no, even when we're asking for something good and not selfish. Jesus can say no. He's the Lord. He decides. Yet how often do we behave like teenagers whose parents have said they can't go out when he does say no. I hate you. I'm not believing in you any more. Jesus can say no.

But this official is determined v49 "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus still says no, he's not going to Capernaum, but he does make a promise v50 "Go, your son will live." And here's the key verse "The man took Jesus at his word and departed". The man takes Jesus at his word. This is faith: taking Jesus at his word. Taking him at his word even when your whole world is falling in. Taking him at his word when there's no back up plan. Taking him at his word when everyone else thinks something different. The man doesn't question Jesus any more, he just sets off. And as he's on his way home his servants meet him with some wonderful news: his son is alive. As he questions them further he discovers that his boy got better at the exact time Jesus had said he would live. It's a wonderful miracle and the second sign that John records to show us who Jesus is.

Do you have a faith which takes Jesus at his word? Most of the promises Jesus makes to us in his word are ones for which we can have little proof, other than the fact Jesus has made them. He doesn't promise us health, wealth and happiness, things we can measure. He doesn't promise that everything will always go our way. He doesn't promise us signs and wonders to persuade us he's there. But he does promise us eternal life. He does promise that our sins can be forgiven, that we can have a new start with him. He does promise that he will never leave us nor forsake us. Will you take him at his word?

The royal official did and he saw his son healed. His faith had an impact on the whole family v53 "So he and his whole household believed". Don't ever underestimate the impact your faith can have on others, and don't give up when they seem untouched. Keep on taking Jesus at his word. [This is especially relevant for those who have come today with Ethan and Dylan. The way you think about Jesus, the way you speak about him, the priority you give to him will have a huge impact on how the faith of these boys grows. They have made a great start here, but they have some challenging years ahead as they move up through childhood into their teenage years. What you model for them is really important. If you're sitting there thinking I don't know what I believe, then remember that we're here to help you. Have a chat with me after the service. Don't put it off - it's really important.]

So, where is your faith? Is it in the things God has given you, or is it in the Lord who gives? The words of Jesus from near the end of the gospel are just as relevant here as they are after the resurrection 20:29, Jesus' words to Thomas "Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." True faith takes Jesus at his word.

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