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20 June 2021 @ BBP – “Who is this?”

READINGS: Psalm 107:23-30; Mark 4:35-41

MESSAGE

On 3 December 1976 I was with a group of school friends in a cottage on the coast for a weekend celebrating the end of school. It was a lovely summer’s evening, and we went to bed safe and sound that night. At some time that evening looking over the calm ocean I felt led to pray for someone out at sea.

The next morning the paper was delivered, and we read the shocking headlines that a huge storm further down the coast – in an area appropriately termed the wild coast – had caused the sinking of a number of yachts. A friend from school was lost that night. The night I was let to pray. My friend Marc and the Captain of the vessel, Cloud Nine, drowned.

Some 15 years later in 1991, my wife and young son together with a friend went to see a vessel set sail called the Oceanos at our local harbour. A friend’s family had been on the vessel, and we remarked that it would be good to go on some kind of cruise. On the 3rd of August that year the Oceanos set sail from East London up the wild coast towards Durban. The ship headed into a 40-knot wind and 30-foot swells. The storm got worse so that waiters could not carry food without dropping it and things began to slide off tables. A series of freak waves it the ship and a plating of a pipe burst open and began filling a compartment with water. At 9.30pm an explosion was heard, and the ship lost power. It began to list badly.

Passengers went to the bridge and the crew were nowhere to be seen. The ships entertainer called Moss Hills used the radio phone to broadcast a mayday call and another ship responded. Sixteen helicopters were dispatched, and all the passengers taken off the ship, assisted by lifeboats from another vessel. The captain had abandoned ship and left the passengers to sort themselves out.

Mar 4:36  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. Mar 4:37  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Mar 4:38  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

We’ve been through some pretty big storms in our lifetimes.

Not just physical storms, but also emotional, political, international and personal storms.

  • The yacht Cloud Nine went down with her captain.
  • The Oceanos’ captain got off the vessel before most of the crew and passengers.
  • Jesus in this storm is asleep in the stern of the boat – on a cushion. The detail is intriguing.

I love Jesus’ response in this account in Mark 4:

Mar 4:39  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

  • The disciples didn’t cope well with the storm.
  • They didn’t cope well with the sleeping Jesus either.

Jesus deals with the storm, then he deals with the disciples equally firmly:

  • Mar 4:39  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”
  • Mar 4:40  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

I wonder what he would say to us in our storms?

  • I know this for certain.
  • He’s not asleep.

People have two favourite Psalms. Psalm 23 and Psalm 121. Psalm 121 helps us here:

Psa 121:1  A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? Psa 121:2  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psa 121:3  He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; Psa 121:4  indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

God is not asleep on the job.

  • And God doesn’t abandoned ship. Psalm 23 helps us here too:

Psa 23:4  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

Fear not – God says to his people in scripture. The Lord will be with you. So too Jesus – I will be with you always.

  • We need to trust him too. He still says: “don’t be afraid!”

Year’s back we used to teach our children a song about storms that went like this: When its stormy…. I am weak but God is strong, he rows my boat when things go wrong….

We do need to trust God completely.

But there is a deeper question here.

  • It’s all about context.
  • There were fishermen on those boats. They knew storms.
  • This was no ordinary storm.

The passage ends in verse 41:

Mar 4:41  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!

They were still working things out. (We know who Jesus was and is.)

The context is the rest of Mark’s gospel.

Jesus says to them

  • (4:40):“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
  • Mar 4:41  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!

Literally – “they feared a great fear”. About what? The storm? Yes, but probably also about the fact that this teacher rebuked a storm in the same way as he rebuked demons – like the very first act of power in Mark 1.

Unfortunately the NIV is too fuzzy here. The ESV captures it better:

Mar 1:23  And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, Mar 1:24  “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Mar 1:25  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”

Mar 4:39  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 

Mar 4:41  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

In Mark 1 the response of people to the exorcism is this:

Mar 1:27  And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 

When he exorcises the storm, look at the response:

Mar 4:41  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The context of Mark means that all of this is a revelation – even if it is a slow realization – of Jesus as something else altogether.

Go back to Mark 3 – remember last week the different groups:

  • His family- he’s out of his mind.
  • The scribes – he’s demon possessed and he’s doing this by the power of Satan – that he was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. The prince of demons.
  • The people – the great crowd following them – he tells them that they would be his mother and brothers – if they did the will of God – which means listen to his words and act on them

The context of Mark has to include this verse:
Mar 3:27  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. 

Who is this? That rebukes demons and storms?

This is Jesus –  the only one who can bind the strong man and plunder his house. Who can restrain his works and set the captives free.

1 John 3:8 supports this where John says: For this purpose Christ/the son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the evil one/devil.”

The storm – like the evil spirits he castes out – are powers which are agents of death and destruction. They work against human flourishing and wholeness. They destroy life.

Just look ahead to the next chapter – to Mark 5. This time it’s a man in the country of the Gerasenes with an evil spirit  – and where does he live? In the tombs. In a cemetery. He’s brought back to life too.

And the woman with the issue of blood that bound her for 12 years is set free. All she has to do is touch is cloak. And what does Jesus say to her: Mar 5:34  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

 And then Jairus’ daughter is raised from the dead. It’s a great passage: They bring a message of death:

Mar 5:35  While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”

Look at Jesus’ response:

Mar 5:36  Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

  • To Jairus: Don’t be afraid. Just believe!
  • To the jittery nervous wreck (fearing a great fear )disciples in the storm from hell: Mar 4:40  “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
  • To his little flock here. To you and me and our families and concerns. To us and our worries about this community and town and beyond:

Don’t be afraid. Just believe.

The strong man has been bound and his goods plundered.

When we eat this bread and drink this cup that’s what we area declaring!

  • Death is defeated.
  • Light has come to dispel the darkness.
  • Life is ours.

That’s who this man is who calms the storm.

Amen.

12 April 2020: day 18 of lock down and Easter Sunday – hearing the voice of Jesus in the dead-ends of our lives.

Readings: Matthew 18:1-10; John 20:11-18

 

 

 

 

15 March 2020 Message – Living Water

Readings:  Exodus 17:1-7; John 4:5-10; 39-42

MESSAGE – where is your bucket?

If Nicodemus struggled to understand the new birth, even though he was a teacher and trained in his faith, its not surprising that a Samaritan woman with a fairly muddled life couldn’t get around Jesus’ offer of living water.

Jesus starts the conversation by asking for a drink at this well.

The woman is perplexed, to say the least.

Joh 4:9  The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Joh 4:10  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Joh 4:11  “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?

  • Where’s your bucket?
  • How do you get this water out of a deep well?
  • But she is keen at least – even if to save on the daily chore.

Joh 4:15  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus must have been an interesting person to have a casual conversation with. He always managed to take people in another direction.

If you don’t know the story, well Jesus reply is certainly not what she would have expected. He gives her a curious instruction.

Joh 4:16  He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” Joh 4:17  “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. Joh 4:18  The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” Joh 4:19  “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.

You’d think this woman was a contemporary Christian. When it gets personal, talk theology. Have a debate. She avoids the discussion about here failed love life or relationships.

Aa a Samaritan she would have been familiar with the differences between her people and the Jewish religious traditions. They had their own Bible in their script. Their own temple. And they didn’t get on.

Which makes the whole encounter quite unique. In addition as we see when the disciples come back from their shopping trip, they are surprised to find him talking to a woman. It just wasn’t done.

It’s to this woman – who comes alone at the heat of the day – probably avoiding the critical eyes of others because of her failures – to who Jesus reveals the most profound truths. Especially this statement: Joh 4:24  God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

She responds with some insight here: Joh 4:25  The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Joh 4:26 

But Jesus responds: “I who speak to you am he.” What an amazing revelation.

The disciples come back from the shops at this point. The woman is so challenged and perplexed by this that she leaves here water jar and goes back to her people. We read on: Joh 4:28  Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, Joh 4:29  “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”

The result is startling in the next verse: Joh 4:30  They came out of the town and made their way toward him. A whole entourage of Samaritans come out to meet this man.

There’s another message within this passage that follows as we see the conversation between Jesus as his disciples. This time it’s about food. Listen to this: Joh 4:31  Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” Joh 4:32  But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Joh 4:33  Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” Joh 4:34  “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

Like the new birth –  the water in the well – the food – another teaching session flows out of this about their work reaping the harvest. And again – it’s not about agriculture, but about reaching people.

I love the outcome of this story: Joh 4:39  Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” Joh 4:40  So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.

She models our responsibility doesn’ t she –  tell people about Jesus – and let them come and see. These Samaritans persuade Jesus to stay for couple of days. And despite the fact his was  just a stop over, he agrees.

It ends really well: Joh 4:41  And because of his words many more became believers. Joh 4:42  They said to the woman, “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 Savior of the world.”

Isn’t that our desire too? To help people get to that point?

We can do it.

If we share our story about how Jesus has touched our lives. “Come and see” remains a key part of the Christian’s witness in the world.

Amen.

 

Easter Sunday Message – 21 April 2019: Their words seemed like rubbish…

Readings: Acts 10:34-43; Luke 24:1-12

Key verse: Luk 24:11  “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (NIV)

“καὶ ἐφάνησαν ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν ὡσεὶ λῆρος τὰ ῥήματα αὐτῶν, καὶ ἠπίστουν αὐταῖς.” (GNT – TR)

“…but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (ESV)

MESSAGE:

I wonder if you’ve ever been “dissed”? It’s an interesting word. It means to be treated with disrespect. I discovered it to be a popular word when working with teenagers. It’s crept into the English language since the 1980s – through hip hop music I am told. Back in the 1920s it meant you were disconnected – like a telephone not working. Something loose in the head. Either way it isn’t a very nice thing – to be disrespected – or dismissed. Or disempowered.

An amazing thing happens in this story of the life of Jesus – through his teachings, death and especially his resurrection. The people who were usually disempowered at the time were taken seriously – lifted above their status in life. Galatians 3:28 sums it up well:

Gal 3:26  You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, Gal 3:27  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:29  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

So – there are women in the group from the beginning. They would have been “dissed” by people in those days:

  • Disempowered mainly,
  • Dismissed if they had an opinion.
  • Discarded in divorce if a man got bored with them.

But they are there in Jesus’ team. From early on.

And on Easter Sunday in Luke’s account they are the first witnesses.

The “dissing” continues sadly. Even though there are at least three women named as witnesses.

The translators are kind to us – keeping things polite. In the NIV we read: Luk 24:11  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Nonsense.

The word is LEYROS. It’s used once only in the New Testament. Here.

It’s translated as an idle tale, nonsense, foolishness, and a fairy tale. Its deeper meaning is more crass. Vulgar. “What a load of…”

And that’s the response you get today to when you tell people that a dead man got up again.

Telling the Christian story today in this generation will get you “dissed” too.

People will think you’re nuts. Loony. Weird. Strange. Daft.

But that is okay.

  • Seeing the impossible.
  • Believing the unlikely.
  • Having hope for the hopeless.
  • Courage in the face of death because you know that it’s not the last word – well let them think you’re mad.

It’s a mad but glad tale – that someone who was dead was raised up

  • That he appeared in locked rooms
  • That he cooked a barbeque of fish for them on the beach
  • That he restored a man who denied him three times and gave him an amazing and exciting job to do
  • That he showed up over 40 days to people – up to 500 at one time, meaning they weren’t all hallucinating
  • That he sent them with a message of good news to the world
  • That he promised never to leave them
  • That they were to wait to for the gift of His Spirit – who would empower them to do the work given

Other writers help us to make sense of the story. Luke records the words of Peter in Acts 10:

Act 10:39  “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, Act 10:40  but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. Act 10:41  He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. Act 10:42  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. Act 10:43  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Those who dismiss this story and your testimony of your love for Christ – this risen saviour – will discover that he is judge and the end of all things.

This resurrection account is central in the story of the New testament and the Christian life through the centuries – we speak to, worship, praise, and hear from this Jesus.

Paul writing to the Corinthians prioritises it like this writing to the Corinthians: 1 Co 15:3  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:4  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

And later he says:1Co 15:42  So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 1Co 15:43  it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 1Co 15:44  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

What great news is this for us.

Death is not particularly attractive. We grow cold and begin to decompose quite quickly. Like Lazarus who had been dead four days, well quoting the King James Bible, – in John 11:39, one of those words only used once – the phrase is “he stinketh”

Being raised imperishable, in glory, in power as a spiritual body sounds wonderful.

Going back to Luke 24 – where the women are dismissed, Peter seems to have some redeeming factors. Luk 24:12  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

He went to look – and gave it some thought. The penny drops eventually. And Jesus appears to him with three questions about his love – as he restores his failed life – because he had dissed Jesus three times – disowned him. He does it over breakfast – that restorative chat.

Hopefully people today will investigate this amazing story as well. If you haven’t figured it out yet – I encourage you to have a closer look. You should while you can – it’s to late when you die and people will say of you if you hang around too long –  “he stinketh’.

Today is a good day to investigate this empty tomb, and to put your faith in Christ the risen Lord. Because the witness of those women was not an idle tale, but a brand new truth to change the world. Death was defeated!

Scripture often says this: now is the hour of salvation. Put your trust in  him today. It won’t only guarantee a new resurrection body in the future. It will mean a real relationship with the risen Jesus today. A friend and Saviour, a guide and provider for you to depend on.

Amen

 

Sermon, 5 June 2016 – resurrection; then, and now, and then….

READINGS: 1 Kings 17:17-24; Luke 7:11-17

SERMON  

Last week it was the faith of the centurion we looked at – his faith led to the healing of his servant.

The very next story in Luke – and there is no faith to be seen.

  • It’s a funeral.
  • It’s grim.
  • There’s a widow and her only son has died.

The dead guy can’t have faith – and there is no expectation of faith at a funeral. Just pain and sorrow – deep grief.

The people around would have known about Elijah raising a widow’s son. Once word got out they would have joined the dots – here was another prophet empowered by God.

But put yourself in the story.

This is 5 miles away from Nazareth. 25 miles away from Capernaum where we were last week. Quite  a long walk really.

The death would have been very recent. They buried their dead within 24 hours. Not like our week’s mourning at most here. Or the Swedish custom of a couple of weeks between death and the funeral.

So the grief is still raw – this is a child – an only son of a widow – it’s a disaster from an economic survival point of view.

The professional mourners would have been there. Wailing.

Don’t think that’s a bizarre custom either. They cried loudly so that the real mourners would not be the centre of attention as they genuinely wept.

It was all healthy but raw.

And along comes this prophet like Elijah. Except things are different. Elijah knew the family and he was known to them. In this account Jesus didn’t.

  • Uninvited.
  • A stranger who walks in.
  • A crowd following him intersects with the funeral crowd.
  • Imagine someone doing that at a funeral you’re at. Unusual to say the least.

He touches the funeral bier. The coffin – which would have been an open kind of frame. It certainly brought the procession to a halt.

The key line is verse 13: Luk 7:13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

What a strange thing to say. Of course she would be crying. Grief specialists would say to her: “let it out dear. It’s okay to cry!”

  • It comes from compassion. In fact, a better translation is probably this:

13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” (NRSV)

  • It also comes from hope – and knowledge of what was possible.

He knew he could reverse this. He knew his ultimate destiny. He knew that resurrection would ultimately change the way we see the world.

I remember Nicky Gumbel talking about how interesting a person Jesus would have been to have around.

  • At a wedding.
  • At a picnic.
  • When out fishing.
  • During a storm at sea.
  • At a funeral.

The text is very matter of fact. Remember also that only Luke tells us this story. It’s not in the other gospel accounts. Listen again:

Luk 7:14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”
Luk 7:15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Luk 7:16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”
Luk 7:17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

WHAT ABOUT US

What do you make of this?

At a factual and historical level, it’s Jesus showing his hand to the crowds. The word certainly would have got out, as was the case with the raising of Lazarus. In Lazarus’ case it was a nail in his own coffin as his enemies were provoked to plot his death.

There are two points to take home today really.

1. COMPASSION

For us today it is a reminder of His compassion – shown in so many other gospel accounts.

  • The hungry – he had compassion on them and fed them.
  • The sick – he healed them.
  • Blind beggars who called out to him – in compassion he healed them.
  • And two great stories in the bible – the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal son – are both about compassionate people – the Samaritan and the Father in the stories.

It has to speak to us about compassion – we at least have to be like that – from deep within. The word itself – compassion – in the original New Testament Language encompassed the bowels, heart, lungs, liver or kidneys – all seen in those days as the seat of human emotion.

It gets us here (point to gut).

Are we really compassionate? the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, said this: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

Not a bad motto. To live by – not just to have on the wall or on your facebook page.

2. WOULD THAT JESUS SHOW UP IN ALL KINDS OF PLACES.

I bet no one afterwards at the funeral tea was resentful that this strange rabbi gate-crashed their ceremony.

“Who’s that bloke ‘ey stopping the procession?”

I’ve been watching too much British television I think.

Jesus is really keen to walk into the lives of our families and friends – he brings a whole new perspective on our sickness, pain, griefs and our dying. And our living!

And he really wants to walk into our mess too.

It’s ultimately about resurrection. Not about disembodied souls going to heaven. But about a whole new life at the end of it all.

And the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead – the Holy Spirit – is at work in us. (Romans 8:11).

That resurrection life begins now – we are made alive spiritually. He still breaks through into our messy world by His Holy Spirit.

Nicky Gumble tells the great story about a man who got really carried away in a very dull staid church. He was lifting his hands and shouting “hallelujah”- whereupon the Church warden came up to him at tapped him on the shoulder saying “we don’t do that here!” The man said excitedly – “but I’ve found religion”. The warden replied – “you didn’t get it here”.

If Jesus can walk into a funeral procession and turn things around, he can surely walk into our situations and change things too – bring new life and hope.

Next week when our guests are here there will be opportunities for us to receive prayer and really hear from the Lord. I encourage you to bring a friend along.

God still shows up in our lives. He changes us to make us compassionate.

He fills us with hope too – which is an infectious and helpful force in a pretty hopeless world. In fact, hope is the basis for our witnessing. Peter writes this:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

Hopeful people are joyful! Happy! There would nothing gloomy at that moment when the dead boy was returned to his mother alive and well.

Amen.

Sunday sermon 23 December – Life and Light

Reading  –  John 1:1-14

1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

1:2  He was with God in the beginning.

1:3  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

1:4  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

1:5  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

1:6  There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.

1:7  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.

1:8  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

1:9  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

1:10  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.

1:11  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

1:12  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

1:13  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

1:14  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Reflection (Following the Nine Lessons and Carols today)

So we’ve heard the story. How people turned from God and the world went haywire. Wrong. Bad. How God called a man called Abraham to be his man and how he had a plan. How God planned to rescue the world and foretold of the coming of a child. How the baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  How heaven opened – through messages, angels and dreams – and God got the attention of shepherds and stargazers. How King Herod was rattled by this coming King – whom the three magi came to worship and give gifts to. It’s a broad sweep of God’s story of his dealings with people.

And finally we heard this amazing passage from John called the prologue to John’s Gospel.

Both St Augustine and the great preacher Chrysostom are reported as having said: “It is beyond the power of man to speak as John does in his prologue.” John Calvin also wrote of this passage – the prologue or beginning of John’s Gospel, “… it says much more than our minds can take in.” So we look at this passage with some trepidation today.

The story of the Incarnate Word is presented  in simple and powerful phrases—” The light shines in the darkness,” “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us ,” “full of grace and truth,” “We have seen his glory”,  and most significantly: some “did not receive Him,” but others were “born of God.”

John explains that this is all about the WORD of God. Who is this Word of God? No we are not referring to the Bible here, but to Jesus. How Jesus was God – creating all things with God – and how he came bring two things really:

  1. Light
  2. Life

The opposites are

  1. Darkness
  2. Death

The coming of Jesus is all about counteracting darkness and death with light and life. About the antidote.

And the choice is simple.

  • Walk in the light!
  • Choose life!

At one level people don’t get it. John writes:

John 1:5  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (NIV84)

They could not see it! The also could not recognize him – perhaps because they were looking for the wrong thing. Although this verse can also be translated like this:

(NIV)  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it, which is encouraging when the darkness of evil and sin seems to have an upper hand!

Sadly many rejected what God did. Listen again to verses 10 and 11:

John 1:10  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  John 1:11  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

ON THE PLUS SIDE LISTEN TO THIS

John 1:12  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—John 1:13  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The new family of God begins through faith in Jesus

  • Believing in Him
  • Receiving Him

There is no better time than this time – Christmas – to welcome Jesus into our lives.

“No room in the inn” is not the best response.

“Come Lord – and live in us” – is better.

In me. I receive you and I believe you are who you claim to be. The one though whom we become children of God – born of the spirit – born of God!

Jesus came to introduce us to God again! To help us begin again.

And to bring us into His family! Are you part of the family? Would you like to be?

Someone once said “the benefits are out of this world”. They are also right now!

Amen.