Tag Archives: rules

Spiritual Tagline

The Promise of the Spirit

There are plenty of taglines going about at the moment, so maybe it might be appropriate to have one for the Church. This and other thoughts are explored in this sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter 2020

Reading: John 14:15-21

A recording can be accessed here or the transcript follows below

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

If you love me, you will keep my commandments’.

I suspect all of us have at one point or another walked past a sign on a building or an object that said ‘Wet Paint. Do not touch’? I wonder, were you able to walk straight past it, or were you tempted to touch it a little bit – just to see if…? ‘No harm to try’, we might think, but if your fingertips or your hands came away covered in sticky paint, you would have to live with the consequences for some time and possibly be embarrassed and annoyed with yourself.

For logical reasons, most of us are happy to follow the instruction. We know that paint is a liquid that takes varying degrees of time to dry, we know that paint is very viscous and sticks to anything it comes into contact with, we know how hard it is to remove paint from our hands, our hair, our clothes, so we weigh up the risks and decide it’s better to obey the rules.

So what’s the difference between a rule and a commandment? Everyday life is filled with rules and commandments, none more so than at the moment as we look to find ways to control and eradicate the Coronavirus. The phrase, ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ sounded very much like a commandment (only couched in ‘government guidance only’ speak) and it was fairly easy to understand and obey, with the majority of people complying with the request). Now, as we attempt to restart our economy and everyday lives, we are given a different kind of edict. ‘Stay alert, control the virus, save lives’.

Yes, there are still rules, but how those rules are applied it very much up to our own interpretation and common sense. Now that this is no longer sounding like a commandment, we are given the choice as to how we obey, and some people are finding this hard. Ways are being sought to ‘bend’ or interpret the rules in a way that gives personal advantage. People are asking, ‘Why can’t we just go back to doing exactly what we want to do’? ‘Why are other countries allowed to do certain things that we can’t’? Starting a shift away from the ‘we’ to the ‘me’.

Of course, not all rules make logical sense. We’re still not allowed to meet up with our families from other households, yet we could now be employed by them as cleaners – as long as the vacuum is switched on at all times and the tins of Pledge are weighed before and after visits to check sufficient sprayage has been achieved!

But all of this misses the point. If we are to continue to love and care for our families and friends, for the vulnerable and disadvantaged within the wider community then we need to follow the rules, to obey the commandments.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments’.

There are 281 instances of the word ‘commandment’ in the bible. From the blessing of Abraham in Genesis, ‘Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws’ through the ‘big ten’ commandments given to Moses (twice) in Exodus, the many commandments of what was required of the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness to the promised land given in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, to the rebellious disregard of God’s commandments in Chronicles and Kings.

Finally to Jesus’ reiteration of the value of God’s commandments, before his declaration that there were really just two commandments that mattered and which encompassed all of the others, ‘Love God with everything you’ve got and likewise, love your neighbour as yourself.’ In doing just this we shouldn’t find it that hard to follow the ‘rules’. If Jesus did it, then we should do it; if Jesus said it, then we should say it; if Jesus showed love, then we should show it.

Yet Jesus knew that following these commandments and the rules of everyday living was not going to be easy; but if the disciples and in turn, ourselves were prepared to show that our love for him meant that we were willing to do so, then we would not have to face the inevitable struggles alone. As he prepared to return to be with his Father in heaven, he would send someone in his place. Someone who would be a helper, a comforter, an advocate. This person would be with them forever after and he would reveal the truth about Jesus, and about God to everyone who loves them and wants to know them.

The Spirit of truth, a sounding board when we are trying to work out what we should do or say, a conscience tester when we are indecisive about what the right thing to do is and who acts as a mediator when we find that we have made the wrong decisions and want to ask for forgiveness.; and a confidante when we were are struggling with our faith.

God know what each of us is dealing with in our lives. Whenever we feel confused or alone, we simply have to remember that we have been left the wise and comforting Holy Spirit, the third person of the indivisible Trinity… so clearly illustrated by this passage when Jesus declares, ‘I will not leave you orphaned, I will come to you’.

The Spirit that abides with us and in us just as the Father and the Son do, ‘On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you’. The Spirit that empowers us to respond rightly. As Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch Holocaust survivor puts it, ‘Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments’.

Whether they are rules or commandments, I believe that those rules are there to help us to be the best people we can be and that the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom so that we can stay on the path that God has for us. Maybe by following those rules we will find peace and contentment. But even greater than this, it will be love that will bring us closer to God. It should be our love for him, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that reveals to both us and the world around us the love that he has for all people who are willing to see him and know him. So, let’s all be patient for a little while longer.

Stay true

Reveal God’s Love

Save Lives

Amen

Running The Race

Run in such a way that you may win the prize

Run in such a way that you may win the prize

Sometimes phrases just seem to get stuck in your head for no apparent reason. Over the last few days it has been a quote from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run,
but only one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it.
1 Corinthians 9:24

For those whose know me well, they would agree that I have a very competitive streak – I play to win. Whether it is board games or quizzes I will look for strategies that will give me an advantage; but that doesn’t mean I cheat. On the contrary, I’m the one checking the rules to ensure that we are playing the game fairly. I suspect that can make me a bit of a pain to those who simply want to play the game for a bit of fun and even worse when I come up against another person whose aim is to do exactly the same. Self-control can sometimes go out of the window and the sulks can follow it!

The fact is that I was brought up to make sure that whatever I chose to do, it should be given the same amount of care and attention, so that you always do it to the best of your ability. As my father used to say, ‘If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well

The same should be true of our faith life. Over the last few weeks I have been learning and putting into practice new techniques for Christian meditation. I have been learning to control my breathing so that it falls into rhythm with a prayer mantra – Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus – at the same time trying to lay aside the thoughts that immediately fill your mind and run parallel to the prayer, such as ‘I don’t think I’m doing this right, because I’m thinking about the fact that I’m not doing this right!’. It has got better as I’ve practised more, but the problem is not the technique, it’s the discipline to make sure I do it at least once a day that is the hard part and ultimately the most important.

A person can’t watch the Olympics on television and suddenly get up and run a marathon in record-breaking time – It’s more likely that they’ll break themselves. Athletes require discipline to train their bodies so that they can achieve their personal best. In the same way we have to train our hearts and minds to have the strength and control to stay faithful to our beliefs – whether it’s in prayer, meditation, reading the bible or the way we live our everyday lives according to the rules

Being constant and always striving to do your best is never going to be easy, and there will be days when we just want to collapse in a heap by the side of the road and say ‘I give up,’ but failure is not falling down, but staying down. By keeping the prize in mind and reaching for our goals we can force ourselves to get up and carry on so that we might be the eventual winner of the race we have been set.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27

In the meantime, anyone for a game of Monopoly… but be aware I will be going for hotels on Mayfair and Park Lane!

Competitiveness in a box

Competitiveness in a box