Tag Archives: New Life

The Light Shines In The Darkness

Sermon preached on the Second Sunday Before Lent based on the following passages – John 1:1-14 and Colossians 1:15-20

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

In the beginning was the Word… perhaps one of the most evocative starts to a gospel or indeed any scripture, where we are presented by a mystery. Of course, one would expect nothing less of John and whilst all four gospels can be said to be biographies of Jesus, as the former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple once said, ‘the Synoptic Gospels [i.e. Matthew, Mark and Luke] are like photo albums, whilst John’s gospel is like a portrait’, and a portrait is something we can spend many hours standing in front of to try and gauge what the artist is trying to tell us.

In the beginning was the Word… John’s opening sentence echoes the opening words of the book of Genesis which firmly places the Word in creation, communicating God’s will and evidence that it is eternal and has always been at work throughout.

With its capital ‘W’ we can see that it is a title not a noun or a verb, and John identifies the Word as God in the person of Jesus; and although the term Word or the Greek Logos is not retained as a title in John’s Gospel beyond the prologue, the whole gospel presses the basic claim that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit together are one God. Here is God present to his people and knowable to his people in self-revelation and redemption.

Accordingly, Jesus is the source of life and light for all people everywhere; but what of that light? God had sent an advance messenger in John the Baptist to provide testimony as to the true light. A light that will enlighten, educate and clarify God’s purpose in wanting to redeem all who will believe in him. A light that will dispel the darkness and evil that shrouds the world in so many places.

Certainly, over the last year we have seen a lot of darkness in the world; darkness that is more like an invisible fog that clings to bodies and minds. Yet the one thing that has kept many people going is a sense of faith that there is hope for the future. In amongst all that darkness a small flicker of hope has burned steadily, ‘and the darkness did not overcome it’.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it
John 1:5

And today, more than ever that small flame is burning even more brightly as we appear to be at a turning point in the Coronavirus pandemic, with the vaccine programme rollout and lockdown measures reducing the rate of infection. Yet, we can’t reduce God’s role to that of a single unextinguishable tealight!

However, the light is indeed eternal, and as mentioned, is a light that will enlighten people everywhere. It is a spiritual light, that awakens a response to the person of Jesus, but it is also a light that kindles in our heart and minds the knowledge and skills needed to bring light to others. 

In flashes of inspiration or eureka moments – from Archimedes in his bath; Newton under his apple tree and the scientists at AstraZeneca in their test tubes, to the light that shines out from people’s eyes in simple acts of kindness and love done purely for the benefit of others.

There is nothing that can stop this light from shining and yet people still choose, just as Jesus’ own people did, to turn away, to shield their eyes and fail to recognise God even when he walks among them.

And walk among them he did, which was quite extraordinary, that the Word of God, the agent of creation, should choose to become ‘flesh’, to become a human being, taking on our nature, with all its wayward appetites and frailties. But just like then, his death could not extinguish the light, and those who believe in him, whether then or now, all creatures of the original creation find themselves transformed through his blood on the cross into a new spiritual creation, as children of God, in which the light of Christ resides.

This then is the light that we all have within us as followers of Christ. Even so, for many people there have been times when the surrounding darkness has threatened to overwhelm us, unable to fully imagine the number of deaths related to the Coronavirus, the mental anguish of being parted from loved ones, the exhaustion, the rules, the sheer inescapable nature of the way we are having to live our lives; it all takes its toll.

Yet, the light still shines deep within us. slow and steady – we just have to allow it push away some of that darkness, to hand over our worries and concerns to God, to let him reveal the signs of hope and new life for each of us, just as he revealed his glory in the life of Jesus.

A ‘glory’ not as a radiant vision or dazzling light but in his sacrificial love for the world that revealed his true worth. Centuries before, Moses realised that God ‘is compassionate and gracious… abounding in love and faithfulness’ but it is God’s Son who is ‘full of grace and truth’. And it is through this Grace that the invisible God is never truly hidden but is always revealed in the perfect light of his son, Jesus Christ, the light for and of the whole world, now and forever. Amen

Seeds of New Life

Seeds and Bread

Seeds and Bread

Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, 
it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit’
John 12:24

 On Monday in Holy Week our church holds an informal communion and this year we were reminded of the seeds of hope and the bread of life through the beautiful liturgy of Dorothy McRae-McMahon from her book Liturgies for the Journey of Life published by SPCK

This simple and reflective service allowed us space to offer our prayers where we believed we saw the signs of the seeds of new life, however small, by placing the single seeds we had been given at the beginning of the service onto Christ’s table, where seeds are turned into bread, as we named the sign we saw and the hope we have

Also to quietly listen to Psalm 42:1-9 and to hear the Gospel through a meditative reading I had prepared based on John 12:1-11.

 Seeds of New Life

It seems incredible that we’re all here together again. It fact it is far beyond incredible and yet I must somehow believe it. Look at them all – relaxing and enjoying the meal that Martha has prepared for us. My wonderful, hardworking sister Martha – not at all as bossy as she appears but kind-hearted and generous, and so very grateful to the man who is our guest of honour this evening.

An honoured guest indeed, and yet he has become one of the family, certainly no airs and graces, just a gentle and humble presence. As I catch his eye, he smiles at me, a look of genuine love – and yet just a few weeks ago it could have been so very different.

Silence

Then I was aware that my illness had taken such a grip on me that my family was beyond hope, and yet they still had faith that he would come. They had tried to hide their tears from me, but I still heard them sobbing as the night passed and I felt myself slipping away to death and to nothingness. ..

… That was until I heard his voice, telling me to come out; but out from where? Everything seemed muffled until I realised that my whole body had been wrapped in cloths for my grave, yet the insistence in his voice gave me a sense of urgency and so I stumbled into the bright light before falling at his feet.

As I said, beyond belief… and yet I do believe.

Silence

Many of his travelling companions are with him tonight. They’ve stopped here in Bethany on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. I can hear Peter, with his loud, gruff voice cheerfully retelling stories of what they’ve been up to since we last met, and Thomas – careful, thoughtful Thomas – listening intently, and occasionally interjecting to correct some small inaccuracy of what Peter is saying, which Peter takes in good humour.

On the other side of the room, I can see Judas, looking as if he’s brooding about something. I often wonder what it was that Jesus saw in him when he called him to be one of the disciples. They say he’s good at making the small amount of money they have stretch just that little bit further, although they often seem short of cash. Still God provides for them somehow.

Silence

And at least we’ve been able to provide some warm food and plenty to drink; and Martha hasn’t had to scold Mary too much to get her to help get things ready. I can see Mary now, sitting right in amongst those nearest to him. She been so excited since she knew he was coming, full of smiles as if keeping a secret but trying not to let it burst out.

Suddenly it’s as if the room has been transported to the middle of Solomon’s garden of delights; the air heavy with a strong fragrance, familiar and yet unfamiliar. Of course… it’s nard, that purest of perfumes and also one of the most expensive. That must have been what Mary was hiding and it must have cost her a great deal, at least 300 denarii – a most precious gift indeed.

Silence

A gift that she has broken open and is now using to anoint his feet; an act of pure devotion, yet one which I can see is making her sorrowful as tears roll down her cheeks and fall on his feet, and which she wipes away with her beautiful long hair, her own glory.

The smell has obviously reached Judas’ nostrils as well, and he seems incensed, querulously asking why so much money has been wasted; that she would have been better of giving it to help the poor or maybe he wanted it in the common purse for another purpose. My dear friend was having none of it, rebuking Judas and pointing out that regrettably there would always be poor people among us, and what she has done was simply what she would do on the day of this burial. Instead we should be more worried that we might not always have him.

Silence

I wonder what he means. Perhaps he’ll soon be moving on again. Things have undoubtedly become a little more difficult. Ever since he miraculously restored me to life I have noticed that people are very confused, several of them shy away, ducking into doorways and crossing over when I walk along the streets. Still more though want to see for themselves and vast crowds of people are starting to visit our village. They too are discovering how incredible the things that he does are. It’s certainly rattling the chief priests; they don’t like to see their authority threatened.

Perhaps it’s best then that he goes away, and Mary can save the rest of the perfume till much later… Cheer up Judas, your teacher knows what he’s doing.