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, Jan 9 2018 10:39AM

My least favourite moment of Christmas is arriving here for this service. I come up early to make sure that the heating is on and everything is ready, and although it's only a little after 10 it's so dark and quiet up here that I feel like I'm the only person in the world. Sometimes it's as if the darkness is closing in on me, but then I find the lights on the path and switch them on, and I get to the church and flick the switches and everything is bright again, everything is better. Many of us feel like that about the dark, and as the dark nights come closing in it's wonderful to see the Christmas lights appearing on the houses, brightening up the winter nights. This year it's been especially wonderful because we have had some lights for our village. Those lights do more than light up a dark place, and give cheer to the commuters coming home from work; they tell a story of a community coming together to make a difference.

Lights are a great symbol for Christmas, because Jesus came from heaven to earth to be our light. The first 5 verses of our gospel reading tell us: " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it."

Darkness can be frightening. We can't see what's in front of us, the dangers that lie ahead like a patch of mud on the path or someone using the cover of darkness to lie in wait. We can have times of darkness in our lives too - the first Christmas without a loved one, uncertainty over a job or pension, a big change in the family. We might even have a sudden realisation of our own mortality. God knows our darkness and so Jesus came to shine his light into this world, into your life and mine. When the light comes, it changes everything. The obstacles and dangers don't go away, but we can see them clearly. If Jesus is our light, he helps us to see things the way he sees them, and he walks the path with us. We don't have to be afraid of the dark any more, not even the darkness of death, because Jesus' light is eternal: "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."

Now there are people who will say that this isn't true. There are always those who are nay sayers. Think about the lights in our village. I've seen the comments on Facebook and heard the mutters of people in the streets that the lights aren't big enough or they're not in the right place or whatever it might be, without appreciating the hard work it took to get where we are. There are always some who take a negative position. It's the same with Christmas. There are those who say that Jesus isn't real and we should celebrate Christmas without him. This isn't as new a stance as people might think. v9-11 of our reading said "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him." Even when Jesus walked the earth there were those who refused to listen to him or believe in him.

Does it matter? Does it matter whether we believe or not? The next verses tell us that it does v12-13 " Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God." This is what Jesus offers. Not just the friend along the way, but full adoption into God's family. What do we have to do to get it? Be good all year, like Santa asks? Is that even possible? A little boy was writing his Christmas letter, but rather than writing to Santa, he decided to cut out the middle man and go straight to Jesus. "Dear Jesus" he wrote "I've been a good boy this year and would appreciate a new bicycle. Your friend Daniel." Now Danny guessed that Jesus knew he hadn't been a good boy so he tore it up and tried again: "Dear Jesus, I've been an OK boy this year and I want a new bicycle. Yours truly, Daniel." Danny knew that this still wasn't true so he tore it up and tried again "Dear Jesus, I've thought about being a good boy so may I have a new bicycle? Daniel" He realised that even this wasn't true so he threw away the letter and ran downstairs to the living room where the Nativity scene was. Reaching into it, he got the figure of Mary and ran back upstairs. He got his pen and began to write again "Jesus, let's face it: I've broken most of the commandments, tore up my sister's doll, and lots more. I'm desperate. I've got your mother Mary. If you ever want to see her again, give me a bike for Christmas. From you know who."

(Richard Leonard 'What are we waiting for? Finding meaning in Advent and Christmas')

Little Danny had got one thing right - he knew he had messed up and had nothing to bargain with Jesus over. Neither have we. To even try is insulting to the loving heart of God. How, then, do we get what Jesus offers, this adoption into his family? We simply receive it. It's a gift. As we trust the giver and believe his promises, we are taken into his family as his precious child. That's why Jesus left the glories of heaven to become a child, so that we can become the children of God. Will you receive him this Christmas?

well, we've reflected on the light of Jesus, and the darkness we often face, and we've also seen that God offers to lift us out of that darkness. I want to finish tonight with the beautiful words of another pastor in his Christmas address:

"There’s a story to be told… the real story tells about a day when our Heavenly Father went looking for a tree. And He chose the best one He could find with just the right shape. And He took that tree and placed it where everyone that passed by could see it. And then He hung the most beautiful Light that Heaven had to offer on that tree. And everyone that passed by gazed in wonder at the Light on the tree. And the story goes… the Light died and the scripture says… once again, darkness covered the land. And then the Father moved His beautiful Light that died into the darkest place possible, a sealed tomb. You can’t get any darker than a sealed tomb. There is absolutely no light and no expectation of light in a sealed tomb. It’s a place of hopelessness. It’s a place of despair and despondency. That’s the way God wanted it. He planned for the Greatest Gift ever given to mankind, the Light of the World, to be positioned in the darkest place that mankind could ever face, death; because . . . three days later… over in the darkness of that tomb, over in the most dire of situations, the most hopeless of circumstances, once again the Light shined in the darkness and the darkness could not stop it. Jesus, the Light of the World opened His eyes up and said… “Grave, where is your victory… Death where is your sting.” And when that Light shined into the darkest of darkness, hope sprang up for every man, woman, boy, and girl in any situation that they might face, because Jesus, the Lamb of God, the Light of the World prevailed against the darkness." (John Petty Sermon Central) May you know the light of Christ this Christmas.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Dec 31 2017 03:02PM

Christmas is a time of surprises. Some are pleasant, others can take a bit of effort to come to terms with. What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever had at Christmas time? For me and the family, Christmas took an unexpected turn of events around the 22nd or 23rd of December a few years ago. Mum discovered that her oven wasn’t working. Getting a new one before Christmas didn’t look very likely. She then dropped the bombshell on me – that means we’ll be roasting the turkey, potatoes, parsnips and stuffing at yours! Not really a problem, because my oven worked fine, but the logistics of carrying said items between two houses wasn’t something any of us was looking forward to. Fortunately, Christmas was saved – a new oven was delivered and installed on Christmas Eve by the angels of next day delivery that are!

That incident pales into insignificance in comparison with the unexpected event in our Bible passage today. Mary received two surprises in quick succession. Firstly, she had an angel appear in her home. Imagine the scene: Mary’s is doing her daily chores – maybe she’s preparing a meal, maybe sweeping the floor. Suddenly, there’s a big, bright, shining angel standing in front of her. We’re told that Mary was ‘greatly troubled’ at the angel’s greeting, which is surely an understatement. However, if that wasn’t enough of a shock, Mary’s second surprise is that she’s going to have a baby, even though she’s a virgin. Yet, despite her initial surprise, Mary demonstrates three characteristics that make her an example for us to follow in terms of welcoming and accepting Jesus into our lives. Firstly, Mary is an ordinary woman for whom God had an extraordinary plan, secondly she doesn’t doubt God’s word, but isn’t afraid to ask questions, finally she is faithful and willing to serve.

Let’s look at Mary as a person. V27 introduces her to us. She is ‘a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.’ This makes Mary a fairly ordinary young woman of her time. She lives in an ordinary town and she lives an ordinary life. She is betrothed to be married, as was the custom for young women, though she isn’t yet living with her husband. We also know that she lives in Nazareth. Nazareth doesn’t seem to be a particularly desirable location. In John 1: 46, we have the words of Nathanael’s response to Phillip’s offer to take him to meet Jesus: ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Yet, Mary’s very ordinary life is about to become dramatically extraordinary. Gabriel’s message to Mary from God is delivered in vv31-33: ‘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.’ God has suddenly, and surprisingly called Mary into his service – and not for any ordinary task. She is to help God fulfil his promises. God promised in 2 Samuel 7 that David’s descendant would rule forever, saying ‘I will be his father, and he shall be my son.’ Luke does not record Mary’s initial reaction to this news but we can imagine that she might well be stunned that she was to have such a great task.

Have you ever heard God calling you to do something extraordinary and wondered ‘why me?’ It may be a task that we imagine is beyond our capabilities; it may be something that takes us massively out of our comfort zone. Maybe it’s something we don’t feel special enough, or important enough to do. Indeed, being called into God’s service can sometimes be a bit like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube: we may know what the end result is going to be but not how we’re going to get there! But why do we question God’s choices? As Mary’s story demonstrates, God has a habit of choosing ordinary people to do his work. In Exodus 4, God has chosen Moses to speak on behalf of the Israelites in Egypt. Moses argues with God, “Please, Lord, I have never been a skilled speaker. Even now, after talking to you, I cannot speak well. I speak slowly and can’t find the best words.” Even after reassurance from God that he will give Moses the right words, Moses still pleads with God, “Please, Lord, send someone else.” When what he calls us to do seems impossible, God asks us to trust him. He will give us everything we need.

Mary demonstrates this trust. She doesn’t doubt God’s word or ask why she has been chosen for such great responsibility. However, she isn’t afraid to ask questions. Mary can’t understand how she’ll be able to have a baby. In v34 she asks the angel: ‘how will this be since I am a virgin?’ It isn’t clear from her question whether Mary is merely curious, or whether she has concerns for her future, as she isn’t married yet. Whichever the case, the angel honours her question, giving her both a practical answer and a reassurance. In v35, Mary receives a practical response from Gabriel, answering her ‘how’ question: ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’ Secondly, Gabriel provides a reassurance that anything is possible with God. In v36, Gabriel tells Mary: ‘Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’ To restate in less angelic words: If God can give an older woman, unable to conceive, a child, then he can also do the same for a virgin, because God always lives up to his promises.

This answer to her question must satisfy Mary as she ends this encounter with Gabriel by demonstrating faithfulness and willingness to serve God. She can have been by no means certain that her pregnancy would be accepted by Joseph or her family. She may have feared for the future, and even for her life – after all, if she was judged to have committed adultery, she would likely have been executed. However, Mary puts her trust in God. Her simple statement of acceptance of God’s call to service in v38 shows wonderful obedience: ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ In doing so, Mary becomes the first human to accept and welcome Jesus into her life. She does so in the full knowledge that her life will never be the same again. Welcoming Jesus into our lives is transformational because he works with us and in us to make us the very best ‘me’ we can be.

The Christmas story reminds us of Jesus’ birth, of his coming into the world to live among us and so Christmas time offers us an opportunity to welcome Jesus into our lives, whether we are doing so for the first time or renewing our welcome. In our Bible passage this morning, we have seen how Mary’s trust in God, her obedience to him and her willingness to enter into his service led her to be the first person to welcome Jesus into her life. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus again this Christmas, and as we hear once again the familiar story, may we also remember the example of obedience and trust demonstrated by Mary and be led by it.

Let us pray

Loving God, thank you for sending your Son Jesus into the world to live among us. Thank you too, that you call people into your service as you did Mary all those years ago. We pray that, like Mary, we may show trust and faithfulness and a willingness to serve. We pray too that we may have open hearts to welcome Jesus into our lives, not just at Christmas time but every day. Amen.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Nov 22 2017 08:16PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By porthkerryandrhoose, Nov 14 2017 04:09PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 26 2017 10:44AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us pray:

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

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