Here’s my sermon on love from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. It’s a wonderful picture of how we should behave, based on God’s love for us, sandwiched between Paul addressing the many issues that the church faced.
In John’s Gospel we get a very different take on the Christmas story. Gone are the historical hooks: the census, the trip to Bethlehem, the wise men and the shepherds. Gone is the picture of Joseph and Mary in the stable. Instead, we are given a broader perspective on proceedings.
First of all, we are told that the subject of this whole episode is, and was, the Word – that which was with God in the absolute beginning. In fact, through this Word the entire universe that we inhabit came into existence.
The coming of this Word into his own creation is remarkable.
We know that Jesus would later announce that he is the light of the world, and that following his light would bring life, but there’s another element that we tend to skip over without recognising it for what it is. The light itself is not what brings life, but it is the life behind it – that self-same Word.
John 1:4 tells us: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
The light that we receive, that we follow, derives from that very life of God himself, through the Word. The I AM is the life behind the light. So, the one through whom everything that was made has been made is the same life that lights that first Christmas, and every Christmas since then. It is the power of that life that ensures to us that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t been able to overcome it. Encapsulated in that fragile package who Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and wise men adored was all the power of the Creator of the universe!
And yet, remarkably, in becoming human, Jesus, the Word, became one of us, and ‘came to his own’. How sad then, that so many of us refuse him, not just at Christmas, but throughout our lives. The fantastic news is that this same Word is returning to his creation, but this time in all the power that we read of here. It’s one thing to reject a poor innocent and fragile baby. It’s another thing entirely to reject the One who is life itself and the source of all that was, all that is, and all that will be.
There’s only one thing we can honestly do: bow our knee to the Creator of the universe, made man for our sake, and worship him as the life who brings us light.
The offer of return is the recurring theme of God’s relationship with his people. The book of Hosea points very clearly to the repeated turning away of God’s people and calls for their repentance. But repentance, in the sense of turning away from our sin is only half of the story. God will revive us, bind us up, and raise us up. But, he does so in order that we might know him. Our goal is a movement towards God, not merely a move away from sin.
Therefore, our souls must say:
“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord. His going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains water the earth.” Hosea 6:3
God seeks those who will seek his face:
“I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.” Hosea 5:15
This isn’t a return to ritual, or a half-hearted compliance. This is a lifelong passionate commitment to knowing God and to being known.
So often we come to God, and yet we daren’t look him in the face – not out of fear, but out of apathy, or self preservation. To look him full in the face is to see him for who he is, and to see us as his creation – his, body, soul, mind and spirit. It is to return all of this to him, freely and unreservedly, no matter the personal cost.
But whatever cost there may be is temporary, for a harvest is appointed when God will restore the fortunes of his people.
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart I will be found by you says the LORD.” Jeremiah 29:13
The story of Saul’s Damascus road conversion stands as a pivotal moment in the beginnings of the the Church. Here are some thoughts on that event.
No, it’s not the name of a Two Ronnies sketch, but the title of a sermon I preached a couple of months ago at Cuckfield Baptist Church.
Particularly for those who are new to the Bible, it can be difficult to understand context, or to see how all the different bits are a whole. This talk gives some pointers to look for while you read.