Tag: Lent 4A

A Communal Love

Sermon: RENEW Mission Life: Where Love Comes to Life

Sermon Four: …COMES TO LIFE

Small Worship, Sunday March 22, 2020. 

Colossians 3.1-11

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

I was glad to hear the Prime Minister name the selfishness apparent in the hoarding at supermarkets across the country in his speech during this week. I hope people stop that. It reminded me of that self-orientation living inside all of us, even those of us already made new by the Spirit by water and Word.

We too struggle daily with this self-orientation. As Luther rightly put it, we tend to ‘curve in on ourselves’ and that causes no end of relationship breakdown, unfairness and pain.

Even our longing for love and belonging can be very self-centred. “All I need is for someone to love me!” is a selfish cry too! It’s still “all about me”; very individually centred.

We in the West have been steeped in this individualistic kind of way of life. We tend to transfer this individualism into our hearing of God’s Word. We often hear that being a Christian person is all about “Jesus and Me” way more than “Jesus and US”.

But even in our self-orientated individualistic world, we recognise that love still counts. We somehow know that love is more valuable than anything else. We look for love. We long for that sense of belonging that makes us matter. We ache for true, faithful, irreversible affection. Just put your attention on the world of the Arts!

God says that he IS love; agape; self-giving, self-sacrificing love. It is the fullest love and it is communal by nature. God’s love is never just for him and never all about me. Only. It is always for me and others around me. God’s love is communal because God is communal in nature.

The great jewel at the centre of Christian faith is this: God is Community; perfect community; Three Persons in One Person.

God’s Communal Love

The Father loves the Son, the Spirit loves the Father; the Father gives honour to the Son, the Son glorifies the Father; the Spirit glorifies the Father and the Son…and so on. You get the picture and can see that that’s the way it is.

In other words, the love of God is not an abstract idea. It is personal, divine communal self-giving, self-sacrificing love.

But how do we know this communal love? How do we experience it? How does it comes to us and make love a reality among us and in God’s world?

Gods Open Circle

God loves in every possible way. He creates (he enters into relationships outside of himself), he sustains (he commits himself to that set of relationships eternally), in his Son, Jesus, he redeems (he opens himself to the pain of rejection, entering into death itself to redeem the creation he’s brought into being).

And he glorifies. Not just redeems us then leaves us to our own social distancing and self isolation! He glorifies. He brings us into the divine family. He adopts us his own kids in baptism and places us in his holy community of self-giving, self-sacrificing love. He makes us his family. He unites us with Jesus.

He gives his life for living today, no matter the virus, the threat the size of the group. He bestows his Spirit on us, and in us, to call him “Abba, Father”. He spreads his table before us in the presence of all enemies of love in love (Psalm 23).

Look at that set place and know it is your place in the church with Jesus!

God’s love comes to life in communities

God’s love comes to life in communities. God’s love produces new expressions of human fellowship. It breaks down dividing walls, drowning old hostilities under the flood of his grace.

This is not just some future ‘heavenly’ thing. This is for now. What I’m describing is the very thing that marked the New Testament churches. They needed a new vocabulary to describe the love they experienced (agape) and a new way of expressing their self-emptied devotion to one another (koinonia).

That’s why the gospel was—and is—so radical. It made previously divided and often hostile groups into one. Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, male and female; “here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11).

When Paul speaks like this he’s not describing what might be one day. He’s giving voice to what the gospel actually did. It created a community that had never existed before. Christians had a new citizenship, a new family. And the whole of the New Testament is devoted to proclaiming and sharing this this miracle of love. That’s what Paul is so red-hot in his opposition to any form of so-called ‘gospel’ which would undermine it. Just read Galatians, for example!

Because that community had God’s communal love coming to life in people, it was very open to the outsider. No closed club, but a flowing embrace of grace.

Yes. To be like this is risky. As we said, to love it to risk. But would we rather be totally alone, totally disconnected without any love? That would kill us. That would be ‘hell’.

Better to be involved in God’s love coming to life in our deadness, God’s belonging creating new community in our social distancing, God’s mission to love our enemies that breaks down our hoarding. That is what the world needs. It is what I need. It is what you need.

Friends, as you spend time alone or in smaller groups in these days, trust that the loving Spirit is at work among us. His ways are not our ways. This testing time is also his growing time.

The love of God never leaves you where you were, or where you are! He is moving you along the journey into his communal life. Hed is opening us to life you or we never imagined.

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

 

Better Together Under the Cross – Now I See

Sermon, Lent 4A, Sunday March 26, 2017, St Petri

John 9:1-42

 41 Jesus said…., ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

Life has its tough things and easy things and everything in between. We need good sight to navigate this journey – as individual Christians, as families serving the Lord, as a local community of Christians with resources to use well, the future to plan for under God, the mission to bear witness to his grace here in our place.

How shall we see? What helps people see Him? How can I see him and his presence in my day? Who should I consult, ask, rely on to see?

Today we will hear that we don’t see as much as we think; that we are more blind than we think, even as Christians – or we can be.

We will hear that the greatest blindness is not admitting that you are blind; that the best seeing is acknowledging that you are blind to him.

 

I wish I could see more of God at work in you and in my own self. What will give me eyes to truly see him and what he is doing day-to-day? We have the answer here – but because of our human brokenness, it is hard to see. Unless we know we are blind, we will never see.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.

His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. Jesus spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

As usual, people around Jesus get to see and hear things that challenge them. Today they get to see the Light of the World at work – what that looks  like in real life.

On this particular day, different people discover how good their eyesight is.

The disciples: They get a lesson about their blindness when it comes to dealing with sickness and disability.

The unnamed blind man: He gets a lesson about who it is that gives light and life and how he can live life truly seeing.

The religious people: They get a lesson about what they can actually see, and they don’t like it at all.

It is best to place yourself among these. you, like me, are probably in all three.

 

The disciples:

They and Jesus come across one of the many blind people who are reduced to begging to keep alive.

Their response to this obvious suffering is a question – a very obvious question for people of the day – based on a very common belief of the day. “Who sinned? This guy or his parents?

The belief is that God punishes people for sin in one way or another; and ‘special sin’ gets ‘special punishment’.

His disability must be a result of his parents’ sin. They must have done something really bad to deserve this bad suffering. So, the belief was that anyone who has a child with any disability is being punished for a bad decision, a bad motive, a bad life.

This belief is still quite common. Just think of the belief in reincarnation. Or, listen to what people often say, ” What have I done to deserve this?”, and, ” She must have done something really bad to suffer like that”.

Same belief as Jesus’ disciples here: Suffering is punishment for wrong. God or fate or “Mother Nature” pay us back for our wrongs.

Thank God today that Jesus respond with, “Not him or his parents”. Suffering is not payback from God and neither is disability. Jesus removes this false and destructive, heartless and damaging belief from our sight. Jesus gives such hope when he days that disability and sickness are places where God heals and restores in his way – short or long, but always love.

The unnamed blind man.

Jesus directs this blind man to receive some spit and sand on his blind eyes and then get himself on over to the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem where he is to wash it off. And the guy responds. He does what he is directed to do in good faith and probably quiet desperation. The blind man can now see something. Not everything, but something. And people at the pool are watching…. “Who did this for you?”, they ask.

 ‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.’

This causes a stir. That is the point of the miracles. They point to the Words that are around them and man who says the words.

Some of the people want to hear what the experts say about this, after all, it is the Sabbath Day and this kind of thing is expressly forbidden by them. Plus, the experts in God hold themselves up as the experts on seeing. This should be fun to see!

15 The Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. ‘He put mud on my eyes,’ the man replied, ‘and I washed, and now I see.’

16 Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man (Jesus) is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’

But others asked, ‘How can a sinner perform such signs?’ So they were divided.

The man replied, ‘He is a prophet.’

The legal eagles go to work. “Who did this and how? The man just tells what happens. He just names Jesus, “a man”. He has no idea who Jesus is. But he does know he can now see something.

The Pharisees have a big problem. How can a man who is not able to see God; Jesus, whom they name “sinner”; a lawbreaker; breaking the Sabbath law to do it even, do this work that only God could do (give sight to a blind man)? Like Nicodemus, and the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus does not fit into their well-defined categories of who can see and who can’t!

 18 They still did not believe. They sent for the man’s parents. 19 ‘Is this your son?’ they asked. ‘Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?’

20 ‘We know he is our son,’ the parents answered, ‘and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age…” 

 Well, in the style of Mr Trump, they say. “this is ‘fake news’. They get his parents in and grill them. They also have no idea what happened and who ‘the man’ is. But that say that this is our boy and he can now see. No joy for the seeing but frustrated law keepers!

They are persistent! You have to be if you are going to base your identity and your status on what you can do to earn God’s favour to avoid his punishment. It is a never-ending job that will eventually sap you of all joy.

They drag the man back in.

But now there is a change. The man who can see gains some confidence and courage from the challenge to his integrity. His sight is being tested and it is not all bad.

  26 Then they asked him, ‘What did he do to you?

27 He answered, ‘I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, ‘You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses!

30 The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.

34 To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out.

Ah. So the people who pride themselves on being all seeing, “disciples of Moses” very, very good, clean living and so, closer to God because of their good behaviour, are challenged to see that they can’t see; their blindness is not admitting that they are blind!

That is the greatest blindness isn’t it? Not seeing that you can’t see? never admitting that you could be wrong; never acknowledging that you have blind spots; pretending that you can see when you can’t? deceiving yourself that you are not a sinner in need of grace; or a blind person needing Jesus’ touch of new sight?

Like us, the religious good people don’t like hearing that they don’t know, they can’t see; that they are not as good as they think.

They attack. Now who is paying back who?

34 To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out.”

“How dare they tell me who has been successful in life tell me that I need to work on my skills or learn something more, or understand something more!” How dare those younger people, older people, disabled people, sinful people, different people, leader people challenge the great ME!”

Spiritual blindness is pretending that you can see God yourself; without him giving you his sight, from within your own insight.

But what will help us truly see? Here’s the clincher.

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’

36 ‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’

 41 Jesus said to the Pharisees in earshot, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

After this man who was once blind is finally thrown out of the church, Jesus finds the guy in the crowd again. There is more sight – a spiritual sight; a 20/20 inner sight to be recovered now. And this changes everything.

“Do you believe”, asks the only One who truly sees everything about us.

“Tell me who he is and I will”, says the man.

“I am the Light you are beginning to see”, says the only One who truly sees.

Now something even more extraordinary than a person receiving sight happens.

For a Jewish man of any station in life to kneel before another Jewish man, and for that Jewish man to let this person kneel before him is remarkable. Jews don’t bow down to any other person or image of a thing because of their understanding of the first and greatest commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me”.

But the man, who can now not only physically see, but who now who truly knows his blindness spiritually, does this very thing right there at Jesus’ feet – he ‘worships’ – either flat on his face on the ground literally at Jesus’ feet or kneeling the same.

It has all been to get the man to this point. Us too. To worship Jesus is the relationship that gives us true sight. He is the light we need above all other light and he gives us sight beyond just mere sight.

Friend, if we really want to see God at work, then kneeling before Jesus in overwhelming adoration and joy at what he has done and is doing for you is where we get our true spiritual eyes.

Kneeling? It is the sign of humility and vulnerability before a God who has our life and death, our acceptance and condemnation in his hands alone.

Friend, Jesus says to you today, ‘If you are blind, you are not be guilty of sin; but in as much as you claim you can see, your guilt remains’.

Lord, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, I was blind but now I see” – thanks to your wonderful acceptance and healing in the baptising of me.

We throw ourselves at his feet – and we truly see all that is needed for this life we are called by him to live.

You want to see? Worship Jesus.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Read the Account quite slowly out loud, pausing to identify questions you have or share what you picture/understand as you go…. Share your questions and pictures….

 

I suggested that lesson were learn this day by three people/groups of people;

The disciples, the Man born blind and the Pharisees.

 

What beliefs did each group/person display?

Disciples

 

Blind man

 

Pharisees

 

What challenge did Jesus bring to them

Disciples

 

Blind man

 

Pharisees.

 

Who do you identify with most strong and why

Disciples

 

Blind Man

 

Pharisees

 

I suggested that people still believe that suffering, and especially disability is somehow punishment for wrong. When you think about the people you know, would you agree with this or are there other things people believe about why suffering happens?

 

I suggested that the whole point of this account is to show us what Jesus, the light of the world does and says to us in real life. He is the new place of worship and worshipping him gives us true sight.

 

What do you make of the statement from Jesus;

 

‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

 

 

Who do you know who claims to see and who do you know who claims that they cannot see and what the difference you see in these people?

 

Pray….

Jesus, light of the world, shine on us so that we see you today in everything.

Amen