Monthly Archives: May 2023

Letting Go

Talk based on John 17:11-19

I wonder how many of you, if you’ve ever been a parent, or have trained someone in an apprenticeship or simply have given some instructions and then had to leave someone to carry them out without supervision. Then we come a point that we all have to let someone go in order for them to flourish on their own. It can cause much heartache and a lot of prayer that they will remember everything you have taught them.

I can remember both of my girls leaving home and the feeling of helplessness that I wouldn’t be there to step in and protect them if they came up against some adversity, and over the years, like everyone I suspect, from time to time things have not always gone smoothly. but I have prayed to God that he would be there with them, and sure enough whether the outcome was what I would have wanted or not, he seems to have answered my prayers.

Of course, I haven’t had to face those times of feeling powerless to act alone, and reaching out for prayer from others and sharing my concerns has helped me see what is happening a little clearer and gain greater understanding that a mother cannot always make things better with a hug and a magic kiss – although it works with my grandchildren… but that prayer can be the most valuable thing I can do.

In today’s gospel, Jesus’ prayer for his disciples continues from that we heard on Sunday, and like a lot of John’s gospel it is full of theological toing and froing around the topic – but at its heart it is telling us that Jesus will be letting go of his earthly protection of the disciples and it handing them into the care of the Father. He has taught them how to live by God’s Word and has warned them of the dangers they will face as his followers in their lives on earth. He knows that this will set them at odds with a lot of people. He needs them now to take up the reins of his ministry and start to do things for themselves, however hard that might be to start with.

So how good a job did they do on their own?

For nearly 2000 years the Word of God has been lived by millions of people, from that small group of Jews become Christians to worldwide mission and founding principles of many democracies. Not everyone has agreed that it is linked to a higher power than that on earth. Its radical idea of living in a loving community, of showing vulnerability and forgiveness has caused many to decry its power. For the disciples themselves, not many lived to see old age but became matyrs. However, they remained true to their mission and set an example for others to follow. And follow they did, which is probably one of the reasons that we are here today.

How often though do we feel like giving up on this difficult world of ours, so resistant to the gospel and its values; when we look at our divided world, where not even those who believe in Christ are united. Yet Jesus, who is fully aware that we share his same lot of being hated by the world, does not ask the Father to remove us from the world, but to protect us, as we do our best to carry out our mission, and we must continue to pray for healing and the overcoming of division. For the disciples and for us, we shouldn’t ask to be taken out of the world with all its messiness. This is where we belong until the time comes for us to follow Jesus to the place he was going to. We can face all of the risks and the struggle that it sometimes is for survival because we can be assured of God’s protection.

Jesus tell us that we too are being ‘sent’ in his name to continue his mission. Our mission as his followers is in the midst of and in the depths of the world. He wants his love and message inserted in the centre of the world, the city, the neighbourhood. In following him in mission and love, we are ourselves blessed. Jesus’ love for the disciples didn’t fade because he wasn’t with them any longer, it endures eternally. When he asks God to protect and guide them this is a request that includes all those that have come after and are going forward today

The reality of the risen Christ is that, from now on, nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from his love and the same is true for those we love. Parents and guardians spend their best years guiding children in life and in faith. Then there is a gradual letting go as they grow into adulthood.

Like Jesus we should pray for those who move beyond our active care. This morning, at this very moment, my daughter Ruth is in hospital undergoing a planned C-Section operation for the early arrival of my latest grandchild. She is beyond my physical reach, but I am praying for her and the doctors and nurses, for their skills and protection. But most of all I have placed them in God’s hands, because the Father’s arms are a safe place for them and for us.


In-Dwelling of the Trinity

Worship The Holy Spirit by Lance Brown

Talk given on Easter 5 based on John 14:1-14

May I speak and may you hear through the Grace of our Lord; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me’.

We are being taken back to the Last Supper with Jesus still very much alive in the flesh. He has washed his disciples’ feet, foretold his betrayal and revealed it to be Judas Iscariot now in the thralls of Satan, given the remaining disciples a new commandment to love one another and foretold Peter’s denial of ever knowing him, but with a hint that eventually all will be well.

No wonder their hearts are troubled, events are moving so quickly and their emotions are about to be tested to the limit…and they don’t have the gift of hindsight. However, we do.

He tells them that he is going on ahead of them to prepare a place for them all be together again, and that they already know this place. This can be one of the most comforting and hope filled passages that is regularly used in funeral services.

Even so, I’ve often been puzzled, imagining what sort of place it would be. ‘In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places’. The original Greek word μοναί (monai) in the Kings James Bible was translated as mansion meaning dwelling place, from mansio, not as in modern usage a manor-house or palace. But μοναί literally means places to stay, to abide, to dwell, i.e. the rooms within a house.

But do our minds conjure up those pale pink sun-soaked Moorish Mediterranean palaces or the stark white of the infinite Matrix rooms? Or perhaps a replica of our favourite cosy living rooms? Perhaps we’re being too earthbound in our imaginations.

The fact is, unlike the disciples at that point, we do know the way to go; through Jesus himself, ‘ the way, the truth and the life.’ But are we like Thomas and Philip, still in the dark about what is happening? I would say we are – to a greater extent – unsure as to what the literal and physical outcome will actually turn out to be and I can live with that. It’s more about what it means for us here and now.

In fact it might not just be about a physical dwelling but an in-dwelling. Jesus will soon be ascending back to the Father and as yet unknown to the disciples, Pentecost looms, when each will be filled with the Holy Spirit and also those who believe in Jesus.

Immediately after our passage today, Jesus reveals that the Father will send the Holy Spirit ‘in my name’, who will be known to you because he abides in you (another form of the verb meno – to dwell or remain in) and suddenly the close interpersonal relationship of the Holy Trinity suddenly becomes a little clearer.

I say clearer, but as always for John it does become highly metaphorical and he uses the verb meno in many of its forms to mean a spiritual abiding. Perhaps we can think of it like this – if something or someone abides in someone, then that person is motivated by what abides in them and are dependent upon it or them. God the Father is spirit and invisible, yet he has shown himself in various ways, his most authentic presence of himself being in Jesus. ‘If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

We also know that Jesus is his own human person, the son of God; and he is on the same page as the Father in all things, having the same nature of love and outgoing concern, not inward focused and prideful, and he has his own will.

However, all of Jesus’ provisions and needs are from the Father. ‘The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works’. But as John revealed at the very opening of his gospel, Jesus IS the very WORD, the intent, the purpose, the reason, the wisdom of God in the form of flesh.

Providing His spirit at Jesus’ baptism, filling him with this essential connection with the Father, gave Jesus the words, the attitude, the wisdom, the miracles and through consistent prayer, the will to accomplish his mission to get to the cross.

 ‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father’ and ‘If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it’. This is Jesus offering us exactly the same encouragement, support and ability through the provision of the Holy Spirit, as we try to continue his works here on earth.

All comes from God for us, just as it did for Jesus. Jesus had the Father dwelling in him – just as he and God dwell in us through God’s Spirit. We simply have to choose to accept his presence in us and allow our nature to be aligned with His.

Then and only then will we know the way to go