The Holy Spirit, Jesus’s Legacy

A sermon on Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Birthday of the Church. (Scripture for the day: Genesis 11:1-9; John 14:8-17, (25-27); and Romans 8:14-17).

Jesus’ Legacy: the Holy Spirit.

  • Not just a Birthday, but Our anniversary – a time for reflection and thinking ahead.
  • When we reflect we often think of our legacy – what have we achieved, what have we left behind us?
  • The Holy Spirit is Jesus ‘legacy’ (legacy = bequest, inheritance, gift, donation).

The Holy Spirit is… 

Who is this person we’ve inherited?  What are they like?  What do they do?

  • Holy – set aside for God’s purpose or work.
  • Of Truth – leads people to the truth about God and who Jesus is.
  • Reminder – of Jesus (person), actions, teaching and message.
  • Peaceful – allows us to rest in intimacy with God, rather than fear.
  • Counsellor – helps and advises us, especially to obey God because we love Jesus.
  • Advocate – our defender when accused (Satan = ‘accuser’).
  • Comforter – someone we can turn to for reassurance in trouble.
  • Adopter – lets us know that we are adopted, and receive God’s inheritance (legacy).
  • Has personality – not a characterless, distant force, but a person we can know.
  • Dynamic – changing and responsive to our situation; active in God’s plans.
  • Guide – leads us to do new things, meet new people and see new places.

Our Legacy 

In around 25 years’ time I will be retiring (I hope) and looking back upon a life of…What will I have achieved?  Where will I have fallen short?  [“because …”]

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  Teddy Roosevelt, 23rd Apr 1910.

In 25 years’, what will our Church look like?  Many congregations will have died our entirely; their buildings will no longer be holy.  Yate and Staple Hill are larger and have families with children, so they should still be here.  We will endure; but, given what we know about the Holy Spirit, is that enough? 

We Chose to Celebrate

A sermon about chosing, based on Jeremiah 31:7-14 and several New Testament passages.

Introduction

People who don’t know God sometimes say that they can’t believe in Him because of all the bad things in the world (e.g. David Attenborough and the eyeball-burrowing worm; he choses not to consider the logical opposite, which is that good things in the world suggest that there is a God.)

Jeremiah 31 – Meaning at the Time

But God never promised us a perfect world, a world free from suffering and the effects of sin.  Notice what Jeremiah says:

“For the Lord will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.”  (Jer 31:11)

God promises to ransom/redeem Jacob, His people in exile, from a stronger people, either the Assyrians or Babylonians; note that this is a concrete promise referring to real events, not some vague nicety.  However, God does not promise to make ‘us’ stronger than ‘them’, but merely to rescue us.  The stronger peoples, who do not know God, will remain.  We should not, therefore, expect a perfect world.  John points out that many Jews failed to recognise Jesus as Messiah, and Jesus himself tells us that poverty[1] and war[2] will always be with us.   Not everyone will know God.  Life is not fair. 

Meaning for Today

This unfairness also raises questions amongst people.  Some ask what have Christians done to deserve this favour?  Why, in this age, which worships individual choice and equality[3], is this salvation not equally available to all?  John’s Gospel tells us that it does not depend on inherited rights, but on recognising Jesus: “… his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him … he gave the right to become children of God …” (John 1:11b-12).  Anyone can be saved if they receive Jesus. 

Some Christians want to make the world perfect in their own strength, in their own understanding.  Perhaps the evangelical want to see everyone accept Jesus as Lord.  Perhaps the legalists want to see all Christians obey God’s will perfectly.  Perhaps the liberals want to see all social ills and injustices wiped out.  Perhaps the ‘Universalists’ would like all to be saved regardless of their belief in Jesus.  All of these groups will be disappointed – none of them will be able to celebrate victory.  As nice as these ideas sound, they are not real, and they are not part of God’s plan.

The response that is required of us at Christmas is to celebrate being part of God’s chosen people.  We recognised God in Jesus and believe in who He is.  For that reason alone we are saved, we have bought in to God’s plan to save humanity, which he formulated before he formed the universe itself.  With a free ticket we have won the lottery, a prize of undeserved holiness and blamelessness, adoption and inheritance, lavish grace, redemption and forgiveness.  We have even been briefed on God’s secret plan to eliminate poverty, war, sin and unbelief by bringing all things under Christ at the end of time[4]

Conclusion

Today, therefore, the people of God are not to waste time waiting for a perfect world that we can’t make, or questioning God’s wisdom in granting salvation as He chooses.  Today, we are to celebrate what we already have, the salvation and hope of Jesus, the promised Messiah.  We really are different from other people, only because we recognise Jesus for what He really is – God and man.  We chose to accept Jesus as Lord and so to become the Chosen people of God.  Happy Christmas!


[1] Matthew 26:11 “The poor you will always have … ”

[2] Matthew 24:6 “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars … [in the end times]”

[3] To the point where it damages society!

[4] Ephesians 1:3-14.

A God of Love Who Judges

A God of love who Judges – Sermon on John 15:1-8 (Easter 5, Year B)

John 15:1-8

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  John 15:1-8 [NIV]

A God of Love Who Judges

One of the other readings for today is 1John 4:7-21 on the theme ‘God is love’.  It’s a very popular reading with a nice cosy message.  The Gospel reading, quoting Jesus directly, is much more challenging.  Jesus says that we can be fruitful if we stay connected to Him, but he says that without Him we can do NOTHING, and will be fit only for burning.  Many struggle with this teaching.  How can a God of love reject, judge and punish people, they ask?

First…

…we must remember that such questions are self-centred.  God loves all people and wishes all to be saved, yet we know that many others are suffering because of our wealth.  Surely God will be angry with those who oppress and exploit the people He loves?  We can argue that it’s not our fault, but that doesn’t change the reality.

Second…

…I’m not sure that God does reject anyone.  Abraham said “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” when God was considering destroying Sodom [Gen 18:25].  God has sent Jesus to enable all to be saved, but will all accept Jesus?

Remember the ABC of becoming a Christian, a follower of Jesus?

  • Admit your sin – many say and will say “I don’t need forgiveness, I’ve done nothing wrong”.
  • Believe in Christ – many reject Jesus as not the only way to God, not the Christ; they see Jesus as just a good man or a prophet or they don’t think him important.
    • I have little fear for the devout of other faiths; I think that someone who has sincerely sought God will have no trouble recognising the Christ.
    • I do worry that those who have ignored God all their lives will not be able to change their habits, that they won’t be able to look past themselves.
  • Commit your life to Him – many refuse to commit or surrender to Christ.  In the West, people see their own individuality as paramount and they will not give up control to anyone, will not be in debt to anyone (except those we exploit, of course!) and want to stay in control of their ‘own’ lives.

Third…

…let us be reassured of God’s mercy to us.  None of us is in God’s presence because we deserve to be, or because of our own righteousness.  We are ‘clean’ because the word from Jesus has made us so, and that word is ‘forgiveness’.

Conclusion 

We can trust in Jesus our saviour and Lord.  I have no need to say more.  I have no time to say any more as we need to thank God and lift so many in need to him.  Amen

Maturity in Christ: Commitment not Consumption

Maturity in Christ: Commitment not Consumption … a Sermon on John 6:24-35 (Year B, Ordinary 18 / Proper 13)

Aim: To hear what Christ has to say to hungry people.

Introduction

Our Western society consumes 80% of the world’s resources, even though we are only 20% of its population.  We often define themselves by what they do.  We are identified, labelled – and valued – by and for our contribution to consumption: where we are in the supply chain.

Nowadays we don’t just consume material things.  We want to choose a ‘spirituality’ that suits us; we want “our rights”.  Even Jesus says come and consume me for lasting satisfaction!  So why aren’t consumers queuing up to get a piece of Jesus?

The Bread of Life

We heard a conversation between Jesus and the people.  Jesus is none too impressed with their attitude and is very rude to them (v26).  Jesus then challenges them, because v29 really means ‘you must stake everything on me’; however, the crowd dither and ask for another sign (Jesus has just fed them miraculously), justifying their demand with the story of the Manna.  Jesus replies that the significance of the Manna is not the miracle itself but that it is a sign pointing to God’s offer of eternal bread from heaven right now! (v32-3).  Then Jesus declares “it’s me!  I AM the bread of life.”

But Jesus is not offering an instant consumer product:

  • Bread comes from wheat, but we can’t eat wheat. It has to be harvested, threshed, milled, mixed into dough and baked.  By the end, the wheat has changed out of all recognition.
  • It’s the same for Jesus. We can’t eat raw Jesus, the Word who was in the beginning.  He had to be born, grow & learn; he had to teach, lead, heal, preach, provoke, be arrested, put on trial, be tortured, die and rise again.

Conclusion.

Jesus is not a popular consumer product – he requires commitment: not popular – even among believers; in Jesus’ time ‘many disciples desert[ed] Jesus’ (vv 60-70).  Jesus is not bread for a day, but for life, which is sometimes painful: we don’t always get our ‘rights’ or what we want.  But we have what we need: Christ, His Grace, His Gifts and each other.

[Let us share the peace.]