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, May 22 2018 06:27PM

There's been a lot of talk of promises over the last few days. We've had the royal wedding, of course, with those big marriage promises of lifelong love and faithfulness in sickness and in health. There's also been the announcement of the England squad for the World Cup. With only 2 players over 30 they've been described as "A young squad with plenty of promise". Love them or hate them, we'll be hearing little else between now and whenever they get knocked out of the competition. Perhaps you've had promises made in your family life. Here's one from mine: "I promise I'll tidy my room"! Will the promises be kept? It's one thing to make a promise, quite another to keep it. What do you reckon with the 3 promises I've mentioned? Let's have a show of hands: Harry and Meghan's marriage promises . . . . England football team fulfilling their promise . . . . a teenager tidying their room . . .

No show of hands now, but what about God? Does God keep his promises?

Jesus had made a big promise to his disciples. It's there in Acts chapter 1, if you'd like to turn to it. Jesus' death and resurrection had all taken place, and 40 days later Jesus made an important promise v4 "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit." and v8 "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." A big promise made at a confusing time. But the disciples did as Jesus said - they went back to Jerusalem and stayed there. Obedience is important if we want to see God at work. He told them to stay, and rather than going back to Galilee and picking back up their fishing trade, they stayed. And they prayed. They kept in touch with God. That's so important when we're waiting for God to keep a promise. Waiting is hard and the time can pass by so slowly. The temptation can be there to find a solution ourselves or to listen to other people's opinions, rather than keeping in touch with God, who already knows what he's going to do. The disciples obeyed, and waited and prayed.

And then the day of Pentecost came. Pentecost, the great Jewish Harvest Festival, 50 days after Passover. The believers were still together in Jerusalem, all 120 of them, waiting and praying when suddenly a sound like a mighty wind came down from heaven and filled the whole house. They looked at one another and saw what looked like tongues of fire resting on each of them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak. But they weren't talking about the strange noise or the unusual flames. They were speaking about the wonders of God in different languages! It was amazing! Mostly unschooled men and women speaking about God. Jesus' promise had been kept. The Holy Spirit had come and the believers were God's witnesses to people from all over the world.

The disciples spoke and the people heard. Did you spot the repetition in 2:5-11? They heard this sound, each one heard their own language, each of us hears them in our native language, we hear them. The disciples spoke in the power of the Spirit and the people heard them. But not all of them took it in. In fact, the first reactions were bewilderment, amazement, perplexity . . . even ridicule. These are all responses we might find to God at work today. Don't assume that when someone speaks God's word powerfully everyone will automatically listen and fall down on their knees. Human beings are far too independent and complex and sinful for that. Hearing God's word brings a variety of responses.

Peter wasn't phased. He stood up, with the other apostles beside him and addressed the crowd (v14). But he didn't take them back to Jesus' promise on Ascension Day. Instead he took them back into the Scripture they had then to see the bigger promise. Going back to scripture is vital if we want to see what God has actually promised to do. Many people assume that they can guess what God has promised. "If I were God I would do x, y and z" and then when God doesn't do those things, they are disappointed and may even give up on God altogether. Perhaps you've seen that happen. Maybe you've experienced your own disappointment in God. We need to look and see what God has actually promised to do. Peter went back to Joel chapter 2:28-32. He could have chosen Ezekiel 36 or Jeremiah 31, but the Lord led him to Joel chapter 2. And what does God promise? Acts 2:17 "I will pour out my Spirit". Who's his Spirit for? "I will pour out my Spirit on all people". This is a promise for us too. And in case we're in any doubt, the type of people are listed: sons and daughters, young men, old men, men and women. Young and old, male and female. And what's the purpose of sending the Holy Spirit? Is it to make everyone feel warm and nice? To show people that you are really a Christian? No. It's to prophesy. See visions, dream dreams and prophesy. In Biblical terms prophesy is speaking the word of God. It can include things about the future, but is more commonly putting what God has said about himself, people and the world, out there. This was happening before everyone's eyes on the day of Pentecost. The wider group of disciples numbered about 120 and included specifically men and women (1:14) and we can assume a mix of ages too. The words of Joel were fulfilled, and keep on being fulfilled today in the life of every believer.

But there's another promise too. Did you see it in v21? "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Isn't that a beautiful promise? Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. No exceptions, no exclusions, no ' . . . and if you also do this'. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Saved from what? The answer is in v20 "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord." The Day of the Lord, when Jesus returns to judge the earth. As we call on his name, we are saved and safe to enjoy the wonders of his new world.

So the account of Pentecost shows us that God keeps his promises. As he was faithful then, he is still faithful today. We can trust him. Oh, we must make sure that we know what his promises are, and not mistake our hopes and desires for the promises of God, for that way lies disappointment and disillusionment. But when we've discovered his promises in his word, we find such riches and delight. No more fear, because everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And no more wondering if God is truly there, because his Holy Spirit fills his people, helping us to know his word and speak it. These are promises of God. If you're a Christian here today let these promises encourage you. You have the Holy Spirit, listen to him in your life. Let him enable you to speak God's word to others. Trust him to keep hold of you for eternity. If you've not yet really put your trust in God, let me remind you of the wonderful promise 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' It is a promise for you.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Apr 17 2018 06:17PM

I was really moved this week to watch films of people seeing for the very first time. 2 really stuck in my mind. One was a film of 2 little sisters from India. They’d never been able to see but when some eye doctors from a charity came to their village, they discovered that both their conditions were fixable with a small operation. Cameras were there when the bandages were taken off and their eyes were open. It was beautiful to watch these two little girls gazing around in wonder. The younger of the two couldn't help saying over and over "Mama! I can see!" It was wonderful. A dramatic, life changing moment. The second film was of a man who was colourblind. Now he could see, but everything was monochrome until he was given the latest technology: some glasses which made him see in colour. The look on his face when his children ran up to him was so precious. He took their faces in his hands and gazed into their eyes. It was the first time he had seen their eyes in colour and he couldn't stop looking. It was a dramatic, life changing moment. The man in our gospel account today had also been blind, profoundly blind from birth. His only means of making a living was to beg and he had no hope of his life getting any better, until he met Jesus. We read what happened a few weeks before Easter in John 9:1-7. You might like to turn back to it. We'll start to read from v5. Jesus said "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world. After saying this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. 'Go' he told him, 'wash in the pool of Siloam'. So the man went and washed and came home seeing." This man who had lived all his life in darkness followed Jesus' simple instructions and his eyes were opened. Light flooded his whole being. He could see! It was a dramatic, life changing moment. But, unlike the films I saw, the people around the ex blind man weren't so excited. In the last part of chapter 9 we studied, we saw how the Pharisees questioned him and even his parents seemed unable to show any emotion other than fear of being thrown out of the synagogue. It was all quite underwhelming.

Today we discover what happens next. v24 "A second time they [the Pharisees] summoned the man who had been blind. 'give glory to God by telling the truth', they said. 'We know this man is a sinner.' Talk about a loaded question. It wouldn't be out of place in a modern political interview. I was listening to the Today programme on Friday and one of the presenters (I think it was John Humphrys) asked Diane Abbott the question "Which is the biggest threat to world peace, the USA or Russia?" What a question! She tried to side step it a few times but wasn't allowed to get away with it. Now this man isn't about to get drawn into a political or theological debate either. v25 "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see!" He's not interested in their nit picking. He knows that this morning he couldn't see and now he can. His life has been changed by Jesus. It's not just that his physical eyes have been opened. There's been another change too. His spiritual eyes have been opened.

We can see it as we look over the whole chapter. We see his understanding growing. In v11 Jesus was just 'the man they call Jesus'. By v17 he's 'a prophet'. By v33 he's a visitor from God and by v38 this ex blind beggar is worshipping him. What a change! But that's what God's Holy Spirit does. He opens our eyes so we can see Jesus for who he is. And when we see, we wonder how we ever missed it in the first place. You see, this man's experience is a picture of what Jesus does for every believer. He takes us out of our spiritual blindness by opening our eyes to him. Has this been your experience? When you look back can you remember how things were when you didn't know Jesus? When the things of faith were boring or incomprehensible or meaningless? But how, either in a sudden event or a gentle awakening, it all began to make sense? Wasn't it wonderful? Maybe you're not there yet. Maybe you like the friendship you find in church, or the link to the past, or a framework for your life, but you're not quite sure there's more than that. Why not ask God's Holy Spirit to open your eyes so that you can see Jesus? It's a prayer he loves to answer, and when he does, people describe it like a penny finally dropping or a light being switched on. Dramatic, life changing. You won't understand everything all in one go, but you know Jesus has lit up your life and he'll take it from there.

The second way the man is changed is that he is bold and courageous. The Pharisees had a lot of power. They had the power to have you thrown out of the synagogue. That wasn't like being banned from church - who would care, really? It was like losing all access to society: work, friendships, support. A terrible thing. It's no wonder his parents were afraid. But not this guy. In v26 the Pharisees ask him again how Jesus opened his eyes and he says "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?" The sarcasm is dripping off his words. And even when they hurl insults at him he's able to offer a coherent argument. v30 "You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." It's a very brave answer. In the face of anger he explains simply what Jesus has done for him and the conclusions he has drawn. It can be a frightening thing to speak out about Jesus, even to a friend, much more so in a hostile environment to people who could damage your life. Most of us don't want to do it and quake at the thought of it. But Jesus promises to give us the words. We can trust him. We'll see why in a moment.

But before that let's just switch our gaze to the Pharisees, the ones who claim to have all the knowledge about God. While the ex blind man seems to grow in faith, their eyes are screwed ever more tightly closed. Why isn't Jesus lighting them up? The answer to that question lies ultimately with God (and we know that at least one of them did have their eyes opened eventually), but they deliberately do 2 things to shut him out. To begin with, they have already made their mind up about him. In v16 they conclude "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." and in v24 "We know this man is a sinner". They've already decided. We meet people like this today. People who have decided that Jesus is dangerous and unwanted. They're not interested in finding out what he says or what he stands for. We find them stirring up social media about school assemblies or calling for certain speakers to be banned from universities. In our day, these calls come mostly, but not exclusively, from outside of the church and can become compelling voices in society. Spiritual eyes remain firmly closed. But if we're not careful, we can do it too. We do it when we say 'I think Jesus is like this' and close our minds to anything else. If you find yourself doing this - stop! You could be shutting out the one you claim to love.

Now the Pharisees do a second thing as well - they use their religion as a way of distancing themselves from Jesus v28 "We are disciples of Moses. We know God spoke to Moses." The irony is that if they really read what Moses said, and read what the other prophets and teachers in their scriptures said, they would see that they all point to Jesus. Jesus himself says in John 5:39 "You study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very scriptures that testify about me." But because they've already made up their minds, they don't see it. They see just what they want to see. Friends, there are people out there today who are claiming to speak for Jesus but who disregard anything that doesn't fit with their world view. They will tell you that times have changed, or that we can't trust in the Bible's reliable transmission and instead base a whole argument around 1 quote or two which mysteriously can be trusted. Picking and choosing from God's word says 'I am the one who will decide the truth' rather than seeking the truth in his word. God's light is hidden securely between the closed covers of his word. Any challenge is greeted with aggression. We see it here v34 "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out." To the diseased eye the light is too painful and even the reflection of it in another is too much. This is happening today too, and it is painful, the threat of it a huge worry. But we can take heart. After the man's parents' worst fears happen, and he is thrown out, something wonderful takes place. v35 "Jesus found him." There is our encouragement. Even if the world does its worst, Jesus will seek us out and stand alongside us, drawing us deeper into him. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

So, a dramatic life changing miracle which kept on changing a man's life long after the initial miracle had been completed. Jesus is still in the business of changing lives today as he shines his precious light into the darkness of people's hearts. How has he changed yours? Opposition and rejection followed for this man, and it may well for us too, but our great encouragement is that Jesus will never let us go. When we feel lost he will find us and continue his work in us to the glory of his father.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Mar 28 2018 02:40PM

What’s your experience of being part of a large crowd? Perhaps your feelings and answers depend on the circumstances of being in a crowd. For some, standing elbow to elbow with hundreds or thousands of other people is uncomfortable. However, in leisure activities, such as attending a sports match, live music event, or a theatrical performance where there is a shared experience, being part of a crowd can be exciting. Often in these situations, there’s a collective crowd response – cheering or applauding, or booing the villain of the piece – and this can create a feeling of ‘togetherness’.

I wonder how it felt to be part of the crowd on that first Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem? The story has an element of the ‘flash mob’ about it – where one or two people start an action and gradually others join in. There are some great flash mob videos online – search for the Hallelujah Chorus one in a shopping centre, you’ll get goose bumps watching it! Of course, flash mobs are staged, and those staging them know what’s going on but anyone can join in – even if they’re not exactly sure what’s happening. As Jesus entered Jerusalem and the crowd gathered around him, some of them would have recognised him, maybe they’d seen one of his miracles. Others may have heard his name, having met someone that Jesus had healed. In any case, they were aware that someone special was in their midst. They’re longing for God to do something for his people and they recognise that Jesus might be God’s agent in bringing about some kind of action. So they line his path with clothes and branches, much like important visitors today walk on the red carpet. As they follow Jesus into the city, they sing and call out. However, looking at the collective response of the crowd as Jesus entered Jerusalem, we can see how the crowd didn’t know, or had misunderstood what was going on. We’ll look at the wider significance of the phrases ‘Hosanna’ and ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David’ to see how they are more than merely words of praise.

Firstly, let’s look at v9: ‘Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”’ These words come from Psalm 118 v25 and 26. They are familiar words to the Jewish people of Jesus’ time – a song of praise that they would have sung, as in our passage, at times of pilgrimage such as visiting Jerusalem for Passover. To us, and to the crowd, ‘Hosanna’ is a cry of praise. However, when we look at v25 of the Psalm, we see a different meaning to Hosanna. The words the Psalm uses are ‘Lord, save us’. We have seen in our studies of John’s gospel that the people repeatedly failed to understand who Jesus really was and the same is true here. The crowds see Jesus the miracle worker, God’s messenger and agent of some kind of change. However, by the time Jesus enters Jerusalem he has already explained on three occasions noted in Mark’s gospel what is going to happen. In 10: 33-34, Jesus says: ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’ Yet, it seems that the crowd do not understand that this is what Jesus has come to Jerusalem to do. Indeed, in Luke’s account of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem, this is stated plainly. Luke 19: 41-44 says: ‘ As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.’

If the crowd weren’t expecting a Saviour who was going to die for them, then what kind of Saviour were they expecting? We look at v10 and it starts to become clear what kind of Saviour they thought Jesus was. It says: ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’ The crowd are remembering the days of the kings ruling over Israel and recalling the prophecies God had given the Jewish people that one day a descendant of David will come and will bring about a new kingdom. To them, this means a Jewish king reigning in Jerusalem once again. But, with the Romans ruling in Palestine, this new king would need to be a military leader, who can overthrow the Romans and restore the land to the Jewish people. The prophet Zechariah foretold exactly how Jesus would arrive. Chapter 9 v9-10 say: ‘Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle-bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.’ Yes, Jesus is arriving as king, but not the sort of king the people are expecting. Jesus has come to bring peace, not war. His kingdom won’t just restore Jerusalem to the Jewish nation, but will be a kingdom for every nation.

As we think about how the crowd had misunderstood what Jesus had come to do and failed to recognise who he really was, let’s turn our thoughts to ourselves. We’re not immune to this misunderstanding of God’s purposes, or of failing to recognise Jesus. When we see tragedy on a large scale – natural disaster, an act of terror or severe illness – it’s common to hear people questioning where God is. In the midst of our own troubles, we may sometimes feel completely alone – not seeing or recognising Jesus within us by his Spirit, or beside us in those who offer support and comfort. We may wonder on occasion what God is up to, or we may think we’ve grasped what God wants to do in our lives and start off merrily on our way, only for him to call us back because we’ve taken the wrong path.

Our case isn’t hopeless though, because we live in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We have God’s Spirit living within us too. So, if we can’t see God in a situation, or if we feel alone, he will reveal himself to us. We’ll see him reflected in someone else, or in a word of scripture and his Spirit will strengthen us. And if we misunderstand his plan, or take a wrong path, he will guide us back – sometimes gently, sometimes more firmly. So, we can join in with the joyful singing of the crowds entering Jerusalem, praise God as they did, because we know that in Jesus’ death and resurrection, God’s saving purpose was accomplished and we are set free from the power sin has over us. As we continue in our worship this morning, let us praise God and thank him that he has revealed himself to us in his Son Jesus, and that if we follow him closely, he will reveal his purpose for our lives to us as he has already revealed knowledge of our salvation to us.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Feb 27 2018 11:34AM

What's the darkest dark you've ever experienced? A couple of weeks ago my daughter Naomi went on a school trip to a coal mine as part of their studies on the Industrial Revolution. They experienced the journey down in the cage to the coal face, the cramped corridors of the mine workings and then, for added atmosphere, the lights were switched off. If you've done a similar trip you will know that the darkness is so dark that you can't see anything, not even your hand in front of your face. It's no wonder that some of the young people screamed and grabbed each other for comfort. Total darkness can be a very frightening thing. Chapter 9 of John is all about the contrast between darkness and light, both physical darkness and spiritual darkness which is by far the worse condition.

We ended chapter 8 last week with people clearly in spiritual darkness. Not only had they rejected Jesus' offer of living water and his claim to be the light of the world, but they showed the darkness of their own souls in their drastic actions 8:59 "At this they picked up stones to stone him [Jesus]." As chapter 9 begins, we meet a man who is also in darkness, but this time a physical one. v1 "As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth." Here is someone who has never been able to see. The detail is added so that we understand just how dire this man's condition is. It's not a temporary blindness which someone with some skills with eyes can cure, it's not a psychological blindness brought on by a traumatic event. This is a complete and irretrievable blindness which prompts the reader to ask the question 'Can Jesus do anything about it? Can he heal this man's darkness? And if he can, does it mean he can do something about the other kind of darkness too?'

Before we find out, there is a misconception to clear up. v2 "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" The idea that suffering comes as a punishment is a very pervasive one. It was taught in Jesus' day and it is still very much around today. We see it in the popularity of the Buddhist and Hindu concept of karma: 'karma's gonna get you', and we also see it in the common response to misfortune 'Why me? What did I do to deserve this terrible thing to happen?' It may be a question you have asked yourself when something awful happened to you. But Jesus will not accept that suffering is delivered as a punishment for some sin that someone has done. In Luke's gospel, where the same issue is on everyone's news feeds, he says "those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no!’ (Luke 13:4-5). The whole of the book of Job tackles this very issue and the friends who tried to tell Job his misfortunes were all due to some unconfessed sin were criticised by God (Job 42:7-8). Nevertheless, suffering does come as a consequence of sin. Some can be causally linked, like falling and breaking your leg after drinking 10 cocktails, but most is just a consequence of living in a fallen world and being a part of fallen humanity. But this doesn't mean it is hopeless and meaningless. God can even turn around suffering and use it for his glory. We see a glimpse of this even in the secular world. I wonder if any of you watched our ice dance couple Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland? If you did I'm sure you were as awestruck as me at Penny's story. In 2016 she fell during training and shattered her kneecap in a career ending injury. But she was determined not to give up and after 2 operations, intensive physio and a lot of hard work she was able to skate in the Winter Olympics. Her story lifts the spirit and will no doubt inspire other people not to give up. That's the secular world. How inspiring again is seeing the faith of Christian believer remain strong through terrible suffering. I've been blessed to walk alongside many Christians in their last weeks and months, as they dealt with a variety of terminal conditions, and they've all been inspiring in their own way, but none more so than a young woman called Ngose. She was a 30 something mother of 4, her youngest child being only 2 when she was diagnosed with cancer. It was advanced and there was no cure. I used to visit her every week. And every week she would insist on praying for me. I'd object and tell her that I needed to pray for her and she'd say "I am happy, I'm going to the Lord. You need strength to go and tell others about him." The way she died was such a witness to Jesus' power over death. I'll never forget it. In his book 'The Problem of Pain" C S Lewis writes this about pain: "Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” God can even use pain and suffering to bring us back to him.

So what will Jesus do with this man's suffering v3 "this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him". In his case, healing is God's plan. v6-7 "After saying this he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. 'Go' he told him, 'wash in the Pool of Siloam' (this means 'sent'). So the man went and washed and went home seeing." It was an amazing and complete miracle. We need to remember this in the midst of all the discussion which will follow. Jesus made a man who had never seen in his life, see again. It's something no doctor could do, no well meaning friend. It was a healing from God. And it had far reaching consequences. For as well as being a kindness towards this one individual, it is a sign of Jesus' mission v5 "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Jesus is the one who brings light into dark places. Nothing is too dark for Jesus, no problem too dire, no situation too intractable. Jesus is the light of the world. His light shines in the deepest darkness. He can even shine in yours.

The difference Jesus makes in this man's life is so striking that the man changes almost beyond recognition. From the beggar by the roadside to a confident member of society, walking with his head up, not afraid to express his opinion. His neighbours and those who walked past him every day are confused v8 "His neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked 'Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?' Some claimed that he was. Others said 'No, he only looks like him.' But he himself insisted 'I am the man'. He's been changed by Jesus. But the change has only just begun. When Jesus touches our lives, he doesn't do everything in one go. We're not suddenly zapped into perfect followers, much as society might assume that we are, and much as we would wish to be ourselves. Once Jesus opens our eyes to him, lifts us out of the darkness into his light, we have a lifetime of getting to know him and being shaped into his likeness, and the job will only be completed once we are actually in heaven. It's worth remembering that. It might help us to be kinder on one another and on ourselves, as well as turning our hearts back to Jesus in prayer.

As we finish our section of John this morning, we leave the man healed but not yet knowing really who Jesus is or where he has gone. That will change as we see what happens next. But for that you'll have to wait until next week!

So, we've seen today that Jesus not only claims to be the light of the world, he is really the one who can bring his light into the darkest places. Do you trust him enough to let him shine his light into yours?

By porthkerryandrhoose, Feb 27 2018 11:33AM

Have you been enjoying the Winter Olympics? I certainly have. I was trying to write this sermon while the women's curling was on in the background. It wasn't easy! One of the things I especially like is watching sports I don't normally follow. Sometimes they are so unfamiliar that I have to look them up to understand what is actually going on. It always helps, though, when there is an expert on hand to explain: someone who actually is a snowboarder or curler or whatever. They know the skills and strategies needed firsthand and can give authoritative information.

There can be few topics on which authoritative information is more needed than the question of what makes someone a Christian. It's a vital question because our whole eternal future depends on it. Fortunately for us we do have an expert on hand: Jesus. In our reading from John today Jesus takes us to the heart of what makes someone a Christian as well as tackling some common objections.

We left Jesus 2 weeks ago at the end of the Festival of Tabernacles. He had declared himself as the one who gives living water and as the light of the world; everything the festival was pointing towards. But the people's reaction was mixed. Some were confused, some were antagonistic, others believed him. It's to this third group of people that today's teaching is directed v31 "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Just assenting to Jesus' words wasn't the same as being a disciple. Just following Jesus for a bit amidst the hype and excitement of a festival wasn't being a disciple either. A real disciple is someone who holds to Jesus' teaching. Someone who keeps on going with it when the excitement has faded and reality has set in. This is exactly the same today. We've all known people who have been very keen. Perhaps they start coming to church and say all the right things. They might even join a study group or volunteer on a rota. But after a while they start missing a few weeks and before long you don't see them anymore. Being a Christian isn't just about how you start, it's about how you finish. Keeping going with Jesus, holding to his teaching. That is what makes you a disciple.

And, being a disciple, Jesus says, opens the door to knowing the truth. Truth has had somewhat of a resurgence lately. After years of being told that we can each have our own truth, we are suddenly very concerned about fake news. We've realised that there is objective truth and it does matter. We want to know if there is climate change so we can do something about it. We want to know what plastics are doing to the oceans so we can make changes. We want to know if certain foods are really killing us so we can avoid them. We don't want to be fed lies any more. So what is the truth we need to know as Christians, as disciples? The truth is that we need to be set free. For some people that will seem like a strange concept. We are free, aren't we? We live in a free country, we can make our own choices. For others, freedom might seem like a distant dream, as their lives are controlled by debt or addiction or fear. But Jesus says none of us is free v34 "Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin." Since 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' this means all of us. We are slaves to the very things we think will save us: money, success, relationships, entertainment, alcohol, whatever it may be. But being a slave means there is nothing at the end. No inheritance, no permanent place, just death. There is only one way to be free v36 "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." Jesus sets us free. In him we are free to know God, to live for him, to know the wonderful freedom of being his. His truth sets us free because he is the truth. John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life". It is so simple and so beautiful. Jesus the truth who sets us free, we just need to hold on to him and his teaching. How do you respond?

The response from Jesus' listeners is very similar to responses we might hear today. The first one is in v33-41 "We are Abrahams' descendents . . . Abraham is our father." It's the argument from religion. Because we belong to a particular group, because we have been circumcised and follow the religious laws we are OK. In our own context people might say 'We belong to a Christian country, I've been Christened, my family goes back years in the churchyard, so I am a Christian.' This is backed up by popularisation of the idea that baptism is all that is needed to be a Christian. This is especially so in the Anglican church here in Wales, where letters from the Bench of Bishops have stated "that all the baptised by virtue of their baptism alone are full members of the body of Christ." But Jesus says it's not about what family we are from or what has been done to us as a part of our religion. The true children of Abraham were people after Abraham's heart. v39 "If you were Abraham's children, you would do what Abraham did." What was it that made Abraham distinctive? Genesis 15:6 "Abraham believed the Lord and he credited to him as righteousness". It was his faith and trust in God which made him God's person. It was the same in Jesus' day and it's still true today.

The next objection comes in v41-47 "The only father we have is God himself." This might be called the argument from creation. The logic runs that since each person is made in the image of God, each person is therefore a true child of God who will inherit all that is his in due course. This is a very common argument today, but Jesus will have none of it. v42 "If God were your father, you would love me, for I have come here from God." He says that those who are true children of God show it in how they respond to him, Jesus. That is the defining factor. Made in the image of God we are, but the image is marred through the sin which separates us. Only Jesus can reconcile us to God. If we don't love Jesus, we are still outside the family, a slave not a son. v47 continues the theme "Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

The people are floored. They can't find any other arguments, so they do what many people do when they are losing an argument: they make a personal attack v48 "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon possessed?" There wasn't really a worse insult to make then. It was about as low as you could go. But even in the face of all that Jesus carries on with his offer of life. v51 "Very truly i tell you (That serious phrase again) whoever obeys my word will never see death." and he goes on to show that he is not only in a different league to Abraham - pre eminent - but he was also there before Abraham - pre existent. In fact he is none other than 'I am', God himself. It's a stunning revelation. And the response? v59 "At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds." They try to silence Jesus by killing him. Many people try to silence Jesus today by discrediting the very words which lead us to him. 'You can't believe that'; 'The church wrote the Bible, the church can re-write the Bible' and so forth. But just as Jesus' eventual death couldn't silence him, neither will his critics today, even the most dangerous critics who claim to be his followers. "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures for ever." (Isaiah 40:8).

So a stark passage for us this morning, but a very encouraging one. The way to be a disciple, to be one of Jesus' own people is simply to hold on to him, to keep going with him, to not give up on him. Many people will come along and try to discredit him, some even from within the church, but we are not to be upset by it, as religious leaders made the same objections to Jesus himself, to his face even. We are to keep on holding on, trusting in Jesus, the way the truth and the life.

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