THE PARISH OF

PORTHKERRY

   RHOOSE

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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, Jul 4 2017 11:02AM

News travels quickly today. An accident happens on Port Rd and the warnings are all over social media straight away, so you can avoid the area. A lost dog, cat or child and the photographs are out there so we can start looking. Good news travels quickly too: the birth of a baby is announced on social media so friends all round the world can share the joy of the new arrival, even relatively trivial good news is shared with wild abandon, from the tasty meal in the restaurant to a new washing line which has managed to stay up.


Our reading starts with a woman who had some really good news to share. It's been a few weeks since we met her on our journey through John's gospel, but a quick glance to the earlier verses of chapter 4 will remind you. She is a nameless Samaritan woman, with a somewhat chequered past, who Jesus met at a well. And in spite of her gender (women were 2nd class citizens then), and in spite of her nationality (Samaritans were the big enemies of the Jews), and in spite of her questionable morality (adulterers could be stoned to death), Jesus offered her living water. Living water was a promise made by God, to his people the Jews, way back in Isaiah. But Jesus offers it to her. She is an immediate living illustration of Jesus' famous words in 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". You couldn't get much more 'whoever' than her. As their conversation twists and turns through religious controversy and her many men, her realisation of who Jesus is grows, until in v25 & 26 he answers her statement directly "I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes he will explain everything to us" then Jesus declared 'I, the one speaking to you - I am he'. This is the most amazing news! Jew and Samaritan alike had been waiting for God's anointed king to come for so long. For the Jews the silence had been 400 years, for the Samaritans it was even longer. Yet here he is! She has got to go and tell people.


That's where our reading starts. The disciples have come back from buying lunch, surprised to find Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman, and she dashes off to tell the good news. Another of John's contrasts is set up ready for us. Look how keen she is to go and tell v28 "Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people 'Come see a man who told me everything I have ever done. Could this be the Messiah?' A friend of mine has just got tickets to meet William Shatner, the great Captain Kirk. He is so excited that he's been posting pictures of the great man on Facebook and counting down days until he meets him. This woman has left one of the most precious and essential for life things she owns, her water jar, to go and tell the people she was previously avoiding, the good news. Her testimony isn't great: 'he told me everything I've ever done', no sign of the clever theological debates she was trying to draw Jesus into earlier, yet the impact is huge v30 "They came out of the town and made their way towards him." and John gives it the same weighting as John the Baptist's testimony, as he uses the same word to describe it. Why does her simple 'come and see' testimony have such an impact? Is it maybe because Jesus has already started to change her? We can see a change, can't we? From the woman on her own at the well at midday, friendless and alone to the one dashing to tell everyone who she has met. There is no substitute for just sharing with joy what the Lord has done, and when that's coupled with a change by the Holy Spirit, that testimony is powerful. By the end of our reading, many of those Samaritan villagers have come to faith in Jesus v39 "Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony." and their faith has been cemented by actually listening to Jesus themselves v42 "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world." The Saviour of the world, not just of one group of people.


We have the same saviour and the same good news. Why do we find it so difficult to share, as individuals and as a church as a whole? Why are we quicker to put our cooked breakfast or our new washing line on Facebook, than we are that answered prayer, or that touch of God's grace (and I do include myself in this)? We can find some answers to that question in the way the disciples handle the situation with the Samaritan woman. And remember that John has deliberately laid them out as contrasting, just as Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman were contrasted, to show us an important truth.


To begin with, the disciples are too conventional. Traditionally a Jewish man would not speak to a Samaritan woman, and so when Jesus breaks with tradition to share the good news with her, they are surprised. We don't do things that way. Are we too conventional in our Britishness? Do we still have in our minds the idea that it's somehow not proper to 'do God' in public? Are we too conventional in the way we do things, imagining that because we love to sing worship songs/have a Green Book eucharist, that that's what everyone out there must want? And if they don't, then maybe Jesus isn't for them anyway. Are we too conventional, like the disciples?


Or are we too distracted? The disciples had gone off on a quest to buy food. It was a good quest, their teacher Jesus had flopped down wearily by a well after a morning's walking and they knew that food would revive him. But very quickly Jesus' lunch distracts them from the real purpose of being in Samaria. v31-33 are almost comical "His disciples urged him 'Rabbi, eat something'. But he said to them 'I have food to eat that you know nothing about'. Then his disciples said to each other 'Could someone have brought him food?' Feeding Jesus is undoubtedly a good thing. But the disciples' fixation on it has stopped them from noticing the abandoned water jar, or the excited woman running off into the town. Do we get distracted from our true purpose by other things, even if the things which distract us are good things? I don't doubt that we do. Both as individuals and as a church. There's always so much to do, always so much need. But what use is a beautiful church if its empty? What value a magazine worthy home if we miss out on a mansion in heaven? What purpose a memorable day trip if our children journey to adulthood without the Lord? Are we distracted from the real need?


Finally the disciples were blind to what was in front of them. v35 "Don't you have a saying 'It's still four months until harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." Like many people I have a vegbox delivered each week. It's great, fresh organic, mostly British food. And it comes each week with a letter from the farmer. Sometimes it's a rant about pesticides or advice on trying a new vegetable. A week or two ago it was his musings about the hot weather. Intense heat was doing many of the crops no good at all, and so he had to get up and get his workers in in the early morning to harvest the basil and spinach and so forth before it spoiled. Much of it was ready for harvest far sooner than it normally would be. Now imagine if he was complacent. ;The basil won't be ready for a fortnight. I'll pop over to check my farm in France. It would have ruined. He had to be alert, looking for the crop to be ready for harvest. The disciples had missed the harvest that was in front of them. They thought the good news was just for the Jews, but there were thousands of Samaritans who were ready to respond to the gospel. Who are we missing? Are we looking at one field and seeing a few scrabbly stumps, when there is whole other field just waiting to be harvested? Perhaps people we had never considered before? We need to ask the Lord to open our eyes.


So, a contrast today between the most unlikely convert turned evangelist and the conventional, distracted, blind disciples fussing over Jesus' lunch. Let's hear the force of the words of this passage for us in the church today and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to see where the harvest fields are ripe and to work with God in his harvest.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Jun 12 2017 11:31AM

This image is called ‘Lux Aeterna’ or The Eternal Light. It was painted by Mary Fleeson, who lives and works on Lindisfarne – Holy Island – off the Northumberland coast. Mary’s paintings are all very colourful and are inspired by the ancient texts produced by monks on Holy Island in the 7th Century, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells.


Of her painting, Mary says: ‘This is based on an album called Lux Aeterna by David Fitzgerald. I drew together elements from David’s inspirations with themes from some of the tracks, such as ‘Christchild’, ‘Golgotha’ and ‘Resurrection’. The Trinity is expressed in the embracing figure of God the Father behind the cross, the dove of the Spirit and the representations of Jesus as a babe in the womb and ascending to His Father.’


With that in mind, we’re going to use some of the images contained within the painting to help us think about the Trinity. As Christians, we believe in one God but we believe that he has revealed himself to us in three forms – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is different but the same. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Spirit or the Father, and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son; but they are all the one God. Each person has a role to play but also doesn’t work separately from the other.


Does that sound complicated? That’s because it is! Over the last 2000 years many people have tried to explain the Trinity but we still only have limited understanding of it. Melanie and I are going to share our understanding of the Trinity with you this morning. Firstly, using the ‘Eternal Light’ picture, we’re going to look at the 3 persons of the Trinity separately.


God the Father


The clearest image of God the Father in the picture is the embracing figure – with arms held open – behind the cross. God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. Thousands of years ago, he made a covenant – a promise – with a man called Abraham.


Genesis 17: 3-8 Abram fell face down, and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.’


God called himself our God and us his people. That’s a special relationship. Jesus showed us how special God wants that relationship to be when he told the story of the Lost Son in Luke’s gospel. We’ve heard the story many times – the man with two sons and the younger son asks his father for his share of the inheritance ‘now’. Then he goes away and spends it all. He ends up working for a farmer looking after pigs and not having anything to eat because there’s a famine in the land. One day, things are so bad for him, he decides to go home – his life would be better even as a servant in his father’s house than it is at the moment. But through the father in the story, Jesus shows us the enormous size of God’s love – even for a son who wasted away the family money and was doing a dirty, horrible job.


Luke 15: 20-24 ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him. ‘The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” ‘But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.


When the father (that’s God) saw his son coming home he ran towards him, welcomed him and loved him. He celebrated the son coming home. He didn’t take him back as a servant or a worker but brought him right back into the heart of the family. Through this story, Jesus is telling us that that’s how much God loves us – he wants to bring us into the heart of his family.


God the Son


We can see three images for God the Son – Jesus – in the picture. Firstly, at the foot of the cross, there’s an image of a baby in the womb. This image reminds us that God wants to be in a relationship with us so much that he came to live among us as a human.


Luke 1: 28-33 The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’


Jesus didn’t just come to live among us. God’s plan was much bigger than that. The image of the cross shows us God’s plan. Although God wants to be in relationship with us, there are too many barriers in the way. We keep on turning away from God and doing things that make him unhappy. That’s sin. God wanted to deal with our sin so that we could be free to have that special relationship with him. And so Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment for our sins from us. Then on Easter day, Jesus rose from the dead to show us that death is not the end – for him, or for us. When we die, we can be with God forever.


John 3: 16-17 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.


After he had risen from the dead, Jesus ascended to heaven and returned to God the Father. This is the third image of Jesus that we see in the picture – the figure in the yellow section is Jesus ascending into heaven. But, he promised that one day he would return and that until then we wouldn’t be alone. God would send a gift – God the Holy Spirit – to give us strength and courage to tell other people about Jesus.


Acts 1: 4-9 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptised with[b] the Holy Spirit.’ Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But 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.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.


God the Holy Spirit


A common image of God the Holy Spirit is a dove – when Jesus was baptised by John, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove – a visible sign from God that Jesus was chosen by God. The image of the dove can be seen across the centre of our picture. When we receive the Holy Spirit at our baptism, this is a sign that we too have been chosen by God. We have been commanded by Jesus to tell the whole world the good news about him and he promised the Holy Spirit to help us. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians explains what that help will be.


1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.


So, just as God made each one of us different, so the Holy Spirit gives us different gifts – different strengths for our work of witness. We may be doing different things, but we’re all working towards the same goal and for the same God.


In summary, we have God the Father, who loves us and created us to be in relationship with him; God the Son, who makes that relationship possible through his birth, death and resurrection and who commands us to go and tell the world about him; and God the Holy Spirit, who live among and within us and equips us with everything we need to go out and tell others about Jesus.



By porthkerryandrhoose, Jun 12 2017 11:17AM

Have you ever been excited waiting for something? Have you been restless with anticipation the night before a birthday, Christmas or a holiday? If it hasn’t happened to you recently, can you remember a time when you were? Anyone with any involvement with children will be familiar with high levels of excitement. Christmas Eve, the night before a birthday or a holiday and most children are like bottles of pop that have been shaken up – bubbling, full of energy and liable to explode if the pressure is released!


I imagine the days in between the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost felt similar for the disciples. Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus commanded his disciples to wait. In Acts 1: 4-5 we’re told ‘On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘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.’ They knew that Jesus was going to send the Holy Spirit, but not when or how. And so this morning, we’re going to look at two things. Firstly, how the disciples knew that they had received the Holy Spirit and secondly, how this outpouring of God’s Spirit was different from in the past.


Let’s begin with the disciples’ experience that first Pentecost. Acts 1 tells us that the disciples had returned to Jerusalem and stayed together. Furthermore, they were preparing themselves for the Holy Spirit. Verse 14 says: ‘They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.’ Then the day of Pentecost came. Pentecost, also known as ‘The Feast of the First Fruits’ is a significant Jewish festival, connected with Passover. It celebrated the first produce of the Promised Land, as commanded in Deuteronomy 26: 1-2, 11: ‘When you have entered the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land that the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. […] Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.’ So then, our Christian Pentecost festival is also connected with Easter. Easter commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus and Pentecost the firstfruits of the blessings of salvation for those who believe in Jesus. The day of Pentecost was a most appropriate time for the Holy Spirit to arrive. How did the disciples know that they had received the Holy Spirit? Verses 2-3 of the account tell us: ‘Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.’ These were visible and audible signs of the Holy Spirit and their divine nature would have been clear to the disciples. The Hebrew scriptures contained similar visible and audible signs when God revealed himself to his people: loud noises, as described in Exodus 19: 16: ‘On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.’

and rushing wind, as described in Ezekiel 37: 9 ‘Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.”’ John the Baptist, too, had described baptism with the Holy Spirit in Luke 3: 16 ‘John answered them all, ‘I baptise you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’ When Jesus promised the Holy Spirit in Acts 1: 8, he also described what would happen: ‘But 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.’ So, the disciples were aware, from the events surrounding them and the connection with events in Hebrew scripture that this was indeed God revealing himself to them all – that Jesus had sent the Spirit as he had promised. They were filled with God’s Spirit. The result of this was that the disciples were equipped with inspired speech for public ministry, as we see in v 6: ‘When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.’


Can we be filled with the Holy Spirit too? Will we have the same experience as the disciples? How can we prepare for God to fill us with the Spirit? Firstly, we can be filled with the Spirit too. As we’ll explore later, God’s Spirit is promised for all his people – in v 17: ‘’In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.’ Secondly, our experience is not likely to be exactly the same as the disciples’. The external signs of wind and flame experienced by them were possibly symbols for them to recognise that the Spirit had arrived and not something we should expect to see again. The internal filling with the Spirit will be the same. Thirdly, we can prepare in the same way the disciples did – by joining together in prayer and waiting expectantly. If God has sent his Spirit before, he can and will do so again.


So, what was different about this occasion of God sending his Spirit to the disciples than previously? In Old Testament times, God chose individuals – kings or prophets – to receive his Spirit. The first book of Samuel tells of how God sent his Spirit on Israel’s king in 10: 9-10 ‘As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying.’, but also took it away in 16: 14 ‘Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil[a] spirit from the LORD tormented him.’ Ezekiel too, was anointed with God’s Spirit in 11: 5 ’ Then the Spirit of the LORD came on me, and he told me to say: ‘This is what the LORD says: that is what you are saying, you leaders in Israel, but I know what is going through your mind.’ On the day of Pentecost however, God didn’t choose an individual disciple; everyone in that one place received the Spirit. As we see in vv 3-4: ‘The saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Nor does our reading specify that it was only the disciples that received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, so we have no reason not to believe that the women present and Jesus’ mother and brothers weren’t also filled with the Spirit. In the second part of today’s reading, Peter explains the full significance of this outpouring of God’s Spirit. This is the fulfilment of God’s promise, as foretold by the prophet Joel. Again, we turn to vv 17-18: ‘’In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’ God’s Spirit does not discriminate over sex, age or social position; the Spirit is given to all equally. The great gift of the Spirit described here is the empowering of people to prophesy. The book of Acts contains many examples of this prophecy: Acts 9: 10 ‘In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered.’ Acts 18: 9 ‘One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.’ Acts 15: 32 ‘Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.’ . As Joel and the Old Testament prophets made God’s will known, so now Christians are enabled by the Spirit to make God known through Jesus. Peter continues with the words of Joel, pointing to the signs on earth and in heaven that will herald the day of the Lord. V 19 speaks of ‘blood and fire and billows of smoke.’ And in v 20 ‘the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.’ From this prophecy of Joel, we should know that judgement must come on the day of the Lord. But Peter ends his quote from Joel with hope in v 21: ‘And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ In the remaining verses of Chapter 2, Peter goes on to explain how people can be saved through repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus.


Do you feel a sense of doom looking at the world around you? Are you concerned about the rapid social change, moral decay, environmental crisis and economic and political problems around us? Let us be comforted. God is always at work because we live in the time of the Spirit’s life-giving presence. We see examples of this in the darkest times, as we did in the news stories from Manchester two weeks ago: the taxi drivers giving rides home without charge; the woman gathering children separated from their parents to safety in a hotel; the many citizens who opened up their homes, offering a bed or access to a phone or wifi; the homeless man who held a dying woman so that she wouldn’t be alone. These are the signs of God at work. We too, can know God at work in us and through us when we are filled with his Holy Spirit. Are you ready, this Pentecost, to accept God’s gift of his Holy Spirit to fill you?


Let us pray

Generous God, we thank you for that first day of Pentecost – the birth of the Church. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to the disciples and equipping them for their ministry. Their witness and teaching has passed on through 2000 years of history and thousands of miles to reach us today. We pray that now, we too, may be ready to go out into the world and tell of the good news of salvation through your Son Jesus. So we ask that you send your Holy Spirit again to fill each person here. Equip each one of us with the gifts and strength we need to do your work in the world. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.




By porthkerryandrhoose, May 31 2017 08:30PM

Do you have box sets at home or use Netflix or Amazon Prime Video? Do you follow long-term drama serials on TV? If so, you may have noticed that many episodes start with a catch-up clip before the opening credits. My favourite drama series is the West Wing – yes, I own the box set, and yes, some of the discs have started to wear out! Many of the episodes begin with ‘previously on the West Wing…’ followed by a montage of scenes from previous episodes, or occasionally previous series. Sometimes, this is a just a chance to catch up if an episode has been missed – remember the series was broadcast before the days of TV on demand. But occasionally, scenes were replayed because they had a bearing on the episode that was to follow. Something that occurred in previous episodes was about to develop further.


Today’s section from John’s gospel has a flavour of the catch-up or recap about it. Some of the things he relates have been said before. However, the repetition is not merely a restatement in case his readers missed the point or failed to understand, the testimony given is going to be developed and there are new revelations about Jesus. Firstly, we have an incident among John the Baptist and his disciples which leads John to repeat his ‘I am not’ statement from chapter one. We also hear from John the Baptist, in his description of his own role in relation to Jesus, a model for Christian discipleship. Finally, we are given a glimpse of the Trinitarian nature of God as John affirms Jesus’ authority and demonstrates interaction between Father, Son and Spirit.


Let’s begin by looking at the incident between John the Baptist and his disciples, as described in verses 25-28. John’s disciples have been arguing with someone about ceremonial washing. From the nature of their complaint to John, it is quite likely that the person they were arguing with is a follower of Jesus. What is the nature of their complaint? V 26 tells us: ‘They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan – the one you testified about – look, he is baptising, and everyone is going to him.”’ There may be a certain amount of envy on the part of the disciples – that Jesus is becoming more popular than their own teacher John. However, they have also failed to accept or misunderstood John’s testimony about Jesus. They acknowledge that John told them about Jesus but haven’t grasped what John said about him. So John puts them right and reminds them of his first testimony. In v 27, John tells his disciples ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.’ If Jesus is gaining followers – more followers than John as his disciples complain – then it is God’s will that it is so. John reminds his disciples (v 28) ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ He himself is not God’s chosen one but he has been sent by God as a witness to the one who is – Jesus.


Have you failed to accept some of the things you’ve been taught about Jesus? Are there things you’ve misunderstood? How do handle that sort of situation? John’s disciples were envious of Jesus’ popularity and complained to John about it. However, John doesn’t reject their questioning. He answers their questions and teaches them further, as we will see. If you are seeking understanding or struggling to accept something, it’s good to ask questions. Go back to your preacher for clarification; read the Bible passage again for fresh understanding; or ask a faithful friend with a good grasp of Scripture to help. Don’t complain like John’s disciples, but don’t leave your questions unanswered!


Next, we look at John’s description of his role in relation to Jesus and how it models Christian discipleship for us. He uses the analogy of the bridegroom and the friend attending him. In the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom, so the analogy is not unfamiliar now – though it may have been to John’s disciples. In John’s analogy too, Jesus is the bridegroom and John the friend who attends him. Just as the friend is a witness of the bridegroom’s marriage, so John the Baptist is now a witness of Jesus’ ministry. In v 29 John says ‘The friend attends the bridegroom and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.’ This may be another message for John’s disciples – that he is happy with Jesus’ success in ministry and in proclaiming the kingdom of God, and so should they be. In v 30 John goes on to say, ‘He must become greater; I must become less.’ John continued to fulfil God’s will for his life by testifying about Jesus after Jesus began his ministry but he continues to demonstrate the humility we first saw in chapter 1. John’s joy is not in a job well done of proclaiming the arrival of Jesus but in seeing Jesus proclaim God’s kingdom and in recognising that God has revealed himself to humanity in Jesus. This is a model of true discipleship for us.


Do you have the humility of John the Baptist? Can you see yourself purely as a messenger for God? Can you simply take joy in God’s revelation of himself in Jesus? These are indeed things to strive for, as all too often we feel the glory and pride of a job well done. We run the risk of elevating ourselves – or being elevated by others – to a status we don’t deserve and can’t maintain. In doing so, we mask the light of Christ and put God’s glory in the shade. If we are to gain the humility of John the Baptist then perhaps we should seek to emulate him in word and action. In word, we should give glory to God as John did: ‘He must become greater; I must become less.’ In action, too, we should seek to give glory to God rather than ourselves, so that all our actions point towards Jesus. We won’t always get it right but humility also comes from the ability to admit that we’ve got things wrong – and trying again.


Finally, we see John affirm the authority of Jesus and give a glimpse of the Trinitarian nature of God. This may be John the Baptist continuing to teach his disciples, or it may be John the Evangelist summarising this chapter. Either way, Jesus’ authority is affirmed through a comparison to John the Baptist in v 31: ‘The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who is from heaven is above all.’ There are echoes here of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in vv 12-13 ‘I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man.’ Now John tells us that ‘as one from the earth’ John the Baptist testifies to the things of God that God has revealed to him but Jesus, ‘the one who comes from heaven’ speaks of heavenly things – he speaks directly of the God who is behind the activity on earth. Furthermore, John says that to hear Jesus is to hear God. He says in vv 33-35 ‘Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.’ Jesus is not simply voicing a message from a distant God, he is God’s Son. Through these verses, we also see the interaction and relationship of God in Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus has not just received God’s message, but also God’s Spirit – and ‘without limit’. Jesus also has the Father’s love and God ‘has placed everything in his hands.’ In these verses, we are reminded that heaven has been opened at the baptism of Jesus. The Son and the Spirit have both descended from heaven to earth, sent by the Father, who is the source of all things and who has given all things to the Son. That Jesus has received the Spirit without limit shows that he has full authority from God. It is with this authority that God’s gift of eternal life is offered, as in vv16-17 and here in v 36: ‘whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.’


Are you ready to accept God’s gift of eternal life? Have you already accepted it? It doesn’t require any grand gestures on our part and there’s no criteria to meet. We can come as we are because God asks us simply to believe in his Son. In a few moments, we’ll have an opportunity to declare our belief in God’s three-fold nature – whether for the first time, or as a reaffirmation. Will you take that step today?


Let us pray

Loving Father God, thank you for calling John the Baptist to prepare the way for your Son Jesus. Thank you for his witness and his example of discipleship. We’re sorry for the times when, like John’s disciples, we fail to accept or understand who Jesus is and the message of love and salvation that he brings and for when we fail to show true humility as John did. Give us the courage to ask questions to help us in our faith and help us to make Jesus greater and ourselves less in our words and actions. Strengthen our faith in your Son through your Spirit so that we may always be assured of your gift of eternal life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



By porthkerryandrhoose, May 31 2017 09:16AM

Manchester is a place close to my heart. It is the city where I grew up, it's where I went to my first pop concert and it's where 3 of my dearest friends still live with their families. My best friend Lisa has a 13 year old daughter whose favourite singer is Ariane Grande. For an hour or so on Tuesday morning I didn't know whether they were alive or dead. When I finally heard that they didn't go to the concert on this occasion there was no real sense of relief from the worry, as I knew that other children and their parents were there and their lives would be changed beyond measure.


It is very timely then, that today marks the first day of a prayer initiative coming out of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic church and endorsed by our own Welsh bishops, called Thy Kingdom Come. It is a phrase that many of us would have prayed many thousands of times over the years, coming as it does, near the start of the Lord's prayer. It's a prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they were confused about how to pray. Luke 11:2 "Jesus said to the disciples, 'when you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.' Praying for the coming of the kingdom of God was right at the top of Jesus' priorities when it came to prayer, coming only just below praising the holiness of God.


Why do you think that was? We're not given the reasoning behind it, but surely it's because the world that we live in can be a very difficult place. It's a place where men do strap bombs on themselves and then walk to a place where thousands of women and children are gathered before blowing themselves up. It's a place where parents punch and shake their babies so much that they die, and then try to cover up their cruelty by pretending the baby has died on a bus. It's a place where an uncle can kill his daughter and refuse to tell her grieving parents where he has buried her, even after he is imprisoned for her murder. Jesus knew that living in this world was tough. He said "In this world you will have trouble" and he faced that trouble head on as he was beaten and nailed to a cross. This is the world that we live in. But Jesus said 'Pray Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.' God has promised to bring his kingdom to earth when he makes all things new, and we are to pray for that day.


As we pray, there are 2 pitfalls we must avoid. The first is assuming that God's kingdom will come just by him tidying up a few things here on this earth. If we're honest, that's what we want God to do. To fix this broken planet. It's what the disciples wanted too. In the account of Jesus' ascension in Acts 1 they asked 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?'. They thought God's kingdom would come on earth if Jesus dealt with the Romans who were terrorising them. Do we think God's kingdom would come on earth if only he got rid of all the terrorists and 'bad' people? Jesus said that wasn't the way it would be Acts 1:7 "It is not for you to know the times or dates the father has set by his own authority." It wasn't yet time for God's kingdom to come in all its fulness, and it hasn't been the time yet. But that doesn't mean that we don't see glimpses of God's kingdom breaking through as we pray. In the midst of the terrible tragedy there were also stories of great bravery and kindness. The homeless man who held a woman as she died, the Muslim and Sikh taxi drivers who spent the night driving people to safety, the woman who gathered up scattered children and led them to a local hotel. They are just tiny glimpses of what God's kingdom will look like when it comes. And as we pray 'thy kingdom come', we look out for these glimpses of God's kingdom in our own lives. God isn't a distant deity cruelly holding back his power while he waits for the right time to show it. He is our loving heavenly father who hears the prayers of his children.


The other pitfall to avoid is losing hope. It can seem such a distant dream, that Jesus will return and make all things new. It has been almost 2000 years since he left. But Ascension Day is the reminder that it will happen. In Acts 1:11 the angels say "Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven". In his old age, Peter reflected on the promise saying "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance". The delay isn't a cruel disinterest, but a patient kindness, waiting for people to turn back to him. Don't give up hope, the Ascension is the promise of the return.


So let me encourage you over the next 10 days to spend just 10 minutes each day praying. Many of you will have had these little leaflets on Sunday, and I have more here. The idea is that you find a quiet place and time where you can sit and be still. You read the Bible verse for the day off the card and reflect on it, asking yourself the question which is written next to it. Then you pray the special 10 day prayer followed by the Lord's Prayer. Pray and watch to see what God will do, in your heart and in the world around.


I'll pray the 10 day prayer now: Father God, your Son taught us to pray for the coming of your Kingdom. teach us how you are leading us, strengthen us for bold service, unite us in love for your Son and the world. Amen.



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