Sunday, 12 February 2012

In the Beginning

Sermon Notes for Sunday 12 February at St Giles

Gospel John 1.1-14

When the Gospel is announced the reader says

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

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.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Why is John 1 popping up here? To reflect after Christmas and Epiphany? Paired with Colossians 1. Deliberate focus on nature and origin of Christ.

- all things created by him and for him
- he is before all things
- God was please to have all his fullness dwell in Christ

John says much the same
- through him all things were made
- in him was light and life

Jesus is WORD
- Jesus became flesh and blood as the Word
- confusion about meaning of Logos
- John draws on language closely associated with figure of Wisdom

Jesus is Wisdom (Gk Sophia)
- Wisdom of Solomon speaks to God of Wisdom -
“She knows your works and was present when you made the world”
- She helped create the world
- She delights in the human race
- continually tries to impart to us knowledge
- rejected because fools hate knowledge
John says the Word “pitched his tent” among us
- roots wisdom to the earth
- you choose carefully where to pitch a tent

Heady Stuff
Opening of John - compare infancy narratives in Luke, or Mark who dives straight in, or Matthew who starts with genealogy and Wise Men
- need be careful about language we use about Jesus. Almost like a brother. We speak of a man alongside us. In some churches they sing songs of love. Familiar.
- ineffable, God himself, Creator

Yet Jesus very embodiment of God’s grace
- gives us confidence to call on him
- took on human form
- only through him can we get to know God, who is unknowable
- only through him can we recognise ourselves as children of a beloved God
- through him we receive new identity; hew humanity; new life; new opportunity; new beginning.
- all through the Word

Like a hymn
packed with meaning and metaphor
- testimony to light and life coming into the world
- like poetry, not doctrine
- we can contemplate quietly the profound mystery of incarnation as we read

All sermons need a response
What is yours? What is mine?
John’s gospel makes clear what response the author desires:
The Purpose of this book
27 Then he said to Thomas, Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.

28 Thomas said to him, My Lord and my God!

29 Then Jesus told him, Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20

Believe – Son of God – have life

Written to persuade. Not just relate. Not just narrate. Not a history. Not balanced. Agenda not hidden.

That we should Believe
Verb, not noun
- verb is a doing word
- used 98 times in John
- never a noun

Light and Darkness
- we are offered abundant life
- language of light and dark harks back to Genesis
- all come from God – man and woman from dust
- God pitches his tent – fixed to ground – stuff of Earth = Stuff of God – not separate or different in kind

What’s the reason for all this?
John 10 - 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Sheep and shepherd – far removed in a way from the ineffable creator Jesus – but proof of his absolute involvement, incarnate in the stuff of Earth.

So what is our response?
- only you can say
- but this is what my response might include:
1. That in hearing John 1 I might accept life – that I might believe in Him, the incarnate Son, and that in believing I might have life abundantly through God’s Grace
2. That I may become a witness to the Light, as John Baptizer
3. That I may bring the good news to the oppressed
4. That I may shine the light of God’s presence into the darker places of our broken humanity.

Like John the Baptist, whose message was less important than who he was, all we have to do is say ‘Look.’
John pointed. ‘Look’ he said ‘here is the Lamb of God.

So, in our lives, more than in our words, we can live abundantly in the light of Christ, pointing to him in what we say and do. That is to live life abundantly.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

A Foreign Woman

Thursday 9 February Midweek Communion at St Giles

Gospel Mark 7

When the Gospel is announced the reader says

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

The Faith of a Syro-Phoenician Woman

24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.

25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet.

26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

27 First let the children eat all they want, he told her, for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs.

28 Yes, Lord, she replied, but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.

29 Then he told her, For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.

30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


The Syro-Phoenician woman approaches Jesus as he travelled in the vicinity of Tyre. In the earlier part of Chapter 7 Jesus has been debating with the Pharisees about what is clean and what is unclean. The argument starts when the disciples eat without ritually washing their hands. Jesus argues that nothing is unclean, only the evil thoughts inside a person.

The woman has many reasons why she should not approach Jesus. Why he should spurn and reject her. She’s the wrong gender. Her race counts against her, and she follows the wrong religion. On top of that, she has a daughter who is demon possessed.

That makes 5 excuses why she should not come to Jesus, but her courage and her desire to help her daughter are too strong.

If Jesus has immediately healed the girl, this meeting between Jesus and a Gentile woman would only serve to underline his acceptance and welcome for all people, regardless of their race, gender or religion. Many preachers will wish this was what happened, but no. Jesus likens the woman and her race to dogs.

Subsequently Jesus softens his attitude towards her. The woman’s courage and faith won him over. How can we explain what was in his mind?

Maybe Jesus, fully man as well as fully God, was growing in understanding of his true mission. At first, he seems to have been clear he was sent only to the Jews. Later on – and this meeting with the Syro-Phoenician woman may be pivotal – Jesus widens his remit to include non-Jews too.

If Jesus had wanted to avoid all contact with Gentiles, he would not have travelled to Tyre. If he was not fully man as well as divine, he would not have been able to learn and develop his understanding, as we do. It may be he needed contact with this woman in order for this to take place. This learning process.

This healing story, and parables such as the Unjust Judge illustrate the power of persistent prayer. If the woman had held back, there would have been no story. If Jesus had not goaded her, he would not have developed his understanding and been able to bring her, a foreigner, the good news of salvation that comes with healing.

Instead, there is her story, and with it yours and mine. Jesus stands at our door, with full power to heal, if we approach with courage, compassion and perseverance, praising God for his salvation, offered to us and to all people and not just to his chosen race.