Sermon: Pentecost (B) – 24th May 2015

St Alban’s Anglican Church Epping 7am, 8am and 10am

Readings:   Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104: 26-36; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26- 16:15

There are so many ways to approach the Pentecost readings: birth of the church, gifts of the Spirit, the coming of the Comforter. We’ve got tongues of fire, sighs too deep for words and a Guide to the truth. The overarching theme that runs through all these centre on relationship, relationship between God and us and between each one of us.

The Spirit is inclusive; it leaves no one out. The Spirit brings the power of expression, speech, language: it assumes a speaker, a listener. Communication by definition requires more than one. Speech requires breath the gift of life itself from a God who needs a world to fully express the reality of God’s own nature.

Just a sampling of details from these stories illustrates the theme. The people are gathered in one place and a wind from heaven fills the room, leaving no one out. Each person speaks in another language, unknown to the speaker but understandable to other speakers of that language. Again, no one is left out. All hear the same message; namely, God’s deeds of power. God’s power, as the Bible says repeatedly, is not the power of empire. God’s power is in God’s omnipresence and invitation. If the power of empire is domination, income disparity, marginalization, then God’s power is equity, diversity, inclusivity.

The great theme of inclusivity speaks through the diversity of language and geography, child and adult, male and female, slave and free. Pentecost is both a discreet historical event and one that is always everywhere happening. Any person, any assembly, any moment in history, can experience this transformation. It is an ever present invitation.

The Psalm is a beautiful reminder that God permeates and sustains all of creation. In eloquent language, it also reinforces the idea that the Spirit, which filled the disciples on Pentecost, may be experienced in new ways, but is not in itself new. The spirit or breath of God is as ancient as God breathing life into Adam. In the words of the Psalm, all creatures of the earth acknowledge their origin in and dependence upon God: “When you send forth your spirit; they are created”, and “When you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust”. The only appropriate response to this to rejoice and sing praise.

In his letter to the Romans Paul uses the illustration of childbirth first metaphorically, with the Earth and its fruits, by which he invokes in our minds the literal experience of human childbirth. Just as the infant cannot see what is on the other side of its mother’s belly, we cannot see what is on the other side of this life. The Spirit is present on both sides, however, and acts as a midwife, assuring us that even as the mother is present to her child both before and after its birth, God is present for us in this life and in whatever is to come.

God’s incarnation is mutual and unfolding: in every moment God is received or born into us, and we, in turn, are received or reborn into God. The rest really is too deep for words.

For the early church, the Spirit is the assurance not only of God but also of the truth of Jesus’ message and ministry. In a pluralistic world then although an experience of Jesus may be unique to us, the spirit of truth is not limited to one person, in one place, in one time. It moves. It lights on first this person, then that one. The Spirit is inclusive. It speaks in different languages, so that people in the language that they know can understand it. Its message is God’s power, which by virtue of its being God’s is differentiated from worldly power. It is deeply relational, desiring both to be known and to bring people together. It rested, for a time, in Jesus, but did not depart with him. Pentecost is more than the birth of the church; it is the assurance of God’s presence in the world.

The readings, especially the one from Acts, describe the arrival of the Spirit as though it is a new thing. In John, the arrival of the Advocate is contingent on the death of Jesus, further reinforcing the idea of an event occurring consequentially, in time.

One way to approach this is to view the event as a new awareness that burst forth from those gathered that day, an awareness emerging uniquely from their experience of Jesus as the Christ. Moreover, if we take this approach, there is a question embedded in it: what new behaviour emerges from new understanding? What does one do with an experience of the Spirit?

The spirit of God is variously symbolized as water, fire, wind, a dove. Except for the last one, these are things without shape. Water fills and follows the shape of its container. Fire is limited or fed by available fuel. Wind is invisible, seen only in its effects. A dove, from the days of Noah, serves as a messenger signifying a new world, a fresh start. All of these images are evocative ways to understand a God who fills us, whose flame burns as brightly as the fuel of our being provides, who moves in us invisibly, nudging us in different directions, and who calls us to new worlds of understanding and activity. All of these images can be expressed, in their interaction with us, as hope not seen, but they can nevertheless be trusted.

With phrases like inward groaning, sighs too deep for words, and intercession, we are taken from whatever old habits and behaviours we wish to leave behind into the hope of a new day. In a reversal of the Acts text, which is filled with words pouring out the disciples’ mouths in a multiplicity of languages, here we have mute weakness, an uncertain silence that is given into God’s understanding through the mediation of the Spirit. Whether our speech is flowing or frustrated, the part of our being that is always in prayer is carried to God by the Spirit, whether it be vocal prayer, the prayer said in our minds, the unvoiced longing rising from our hearts, the many voices of which we are not conscious but which cry out fluently. A God who searches our hearts and receives the intercessions of the Spirit always hears such prayer.

In the section from the farewell discourse of John’s Gospel, Jesus prepares his disciples for the imminent time when he will be no longer with them. This is a crucial concern for anyone who has spent his or her life as a teacher. Will the teaching perish with the teacher or is there a way keep it alive? Jesus is specific that the disciples will continue his work, but they will not do it alone. The Spirit of God will testify with them. There is a lovely implication that truth is not contingent on one person but the spirit moves through the community, empowering all in their witness.

In specifying that the Advocate cannot come unless Jesus goes away, the writer of John’s Gospel deals explicitly with the issue of transmission of the faith in the physical absence of its founder. It is not so much that the Advocate cannot come while Jesus is still with the disciples, but that the Advocate must come when he is gone to ensure the ongoing experience of Christ and the transforming effect it has on believers. Not only that, but the disciples must carry on the work of Jesus. The new consciousness includes the imperative to act, with the assurance that a divine presence will direct those actions toward justice and truth.

In Acts, what emerges is a respect for diversity and a reaffirmation of inclusivity. Including everyone does not mean we all have to be the same. Part of the wonder contained in the story is the sheer delight in individuality: the way the names of languages, countries and peoples are so specifically listed. It can also be noted that the ancient category of slave and free might be seen through the more contemporary categories of gay and straight, or racial differences. The text can also suggest that in the last days of our old understanding, we behaved in certain way. In the days to come, with our new awareness, we may dream dreams, see visions, of an alternative based on a more conscious effort to live according to Jesus’ teaching.

If we say that Pentecost is the disciples’ experience of a new understanding bursting forth in them in the days following Jesus’ crucifixion, then what was the nature of that understanding? Was it that Jesus was somehow still alive and with them? Was it that they still felt him as close as if he were alive in their being? Was it that everything he taught didn’t suddenly become meaningless, but was in fact something still worth giving one’s life to? Was it that one way to keep Jesus alive to generations who would never meet him physically was to witness to his life and ministry? Was it that one way to talk about all of this was in the imagery of a spirit that fills us, that lights us up, that moves through us, urging us onward, that takes us to new worlds of understanding on the wings of a dove?

If we look carefully into this story, we see something more than tongues of flame lighting upon a group of disciples in a house in Galilee. We hear our own language among those spoken that day. We see tongues of flame above our own heads. We see the reach of the story through time all the way to us. The concern of the disciples was that this remarkable experience is shared, that it continues as a living experience long past the reach of the disciples themselves. Then, when new understanding breaks in on us, it is we who must ask: how shall we then live? How shall we witness? Who are today’s excluded that we must embrace and include? What new dreams shall we dream? To where does the spirit of truth draw us today?

I conclude with this famous Roman Catholic prayer.

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”[1]

 Reverend John Cornish

 

[1] This sermon based upon material written by the Reverend Dr Jeanyne Slettom, found at http://processandfaith.org/resources/lectionary-commentary/yearb

Sermon: The Sixth Sunday of Easter (B) – 10th May 2015

St Alban’s Anglican Church Epping 8am and 10am

Readings:   Acts 10:44-48;  Psalm 98;  1 John 5:1-12;  John 15:9-17

“Love one another, as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Some of Jesus most famous words. I often suggest today’s Gospel passage as a reading for commemorations such as Anzac Day, and but also in a very different context as a possible wedding reading. And today we hear them as our Gospel reading.

And yet when I saw that it was our Gospel reading I was a bit disappointed. Not because I don’t think the words are important, but I wished we could have started the reading at the beginning of the chapter. The extra eight verses would have made for a fairly long Gospel reading, so I understand the decision: but I think those verses at the beginning of John 15 give a background or context that helps us to see more of the significance of these familiar words of Jesus.

Now I guess that some of you are mentally scratching your heads trying to remember what comes at the beginning of John 15, while others are assuming they’re about to be told. And no doubt some of you are quietly congratulating yourselves because you know.

Well, what does Jesus say at the beginning of John 15? “I am the true vine and my father is the vinedresser.” Actually, if we hadn’t celebrated Philip and James last week, we would have heard those first eight verses as our Gospel for that day. Perhaps I would have been thinking at the end of the reading: “No, you can’t stop there – you’ve got to go on!”

Well, here we are. And I guess what I want us to see is that these great words about sacrificial love grow out of this image of Jesus as the true vine. In the Old Testament, the picture of a vine or a vineyard is used as an image to describe God’s people. And what is the purpose of a vine or a vineyard? To produce fruit, fruit that will bring refreshment to people, and of course will provide income to the owner.

And Jesus uses this picture from the Old Testament to describe his relationship with his followers: the removal of branches that bear no fruit, the process of pruning which enables more fruit to be produced, the necessity of branches to be properly attached to the vine if they are to be fruitful.

And out of this picture come those other famous words: “Abide in me”. It is vital for us to stay properly connected to Jesus. Only that way will we bear fruit for Jesus, and demonstrate that we truly are his disciples. It is a powerful image, and it brings us many challenges.

If we are followers of Christ, we need to be connected to Christ. But how do we do that? Jesus doesn’t give a neat and tidy answer, and I think that is actually helpful. We are not just connected to Jesus: we are in relationship with Jesus, we are his family. And how do we develop that relationship, how do we express its reality? If we are loved by Jesus, how do we respond to that love?

Like members of a normal family, we as Christians are not identical: we are different in many ways, and our experiences and our insights will be different. For some Christians, their relationship with Jesus is expressed in prayer or in meditation or the study of scripture or perhaps ecstatic tongues. It may be expressed in the service of others or in miraculous or mystical experiences or in personal devotion or particular types of worship. For most of us, a number of these will be involved as we express our relationship with Jesus.

Jesus is challenging us not to take our relationship with him for granted, but to see it as important, to work at it. And in passing, perhaps we can beware of the temptation to assume that those whose experience is not the same as ours has got it wrong! The important thing is to be serious about staying connected to Jesus, maintaining that relationship with him. And if we do that Jesus says that we will bear fruit for him. But what is this fruit?

Once again, the answer is open. In the rest of scripture, we see that the church bore fruit as it reached out with the Gospel: many turned to Jesus and the church grew. So it is that as we bear witness to God’s love in our actions and words, fruit is developing and growing.

From a different angle, fruit is also written about by the apostle Paul: the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience and those other beautiful specimens of spiritual fruit which adorn the life of people who are clearly connected to Jesus. Christian character then is part of the fruit which Jesus hopes to see in us; and because it is the fruit of the Spirit it will have a lot to do with whether we stay connected to the vine, who is Jesus himself, and who is after all the giver of the Spirit. Ultimately the fruit that Jesus seeks from us is our loving service of God and of each other, and indeed of our neighbour – who of course may be any person to whom we are in a position to show active love.

The close connection between the vinedresser, the vine and the branches can be described in a different way. “As the Father loves me,” says Jesus, “so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” We accept Jesus’ love as we trust in him and his gracious love.

And how do we abide in his love? “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,” says the Saviour. And what is the central commandment? “Love one another as I have loved you.”

As Jesus’ followers, it is quite appropriate to think of ourselves as his servants. But Jesus honours us: he calls us his friends, and the word he uses for friend is a form of an ordinary word for love. We are his beloved friends.

No doubt a number of you are familiar with Downton Abbey. A significant aspect of life at Downton Abbey is the difference between upstairs and downstairs. The family love each other, with the inevitable ups and downs in their relationships to keep the drama going. And the family members generally treat the servants in the right way: but the servants are still servants. And indeed, when servants get too close to the family or even marry into the family, life is difficult. There is a difference.

But though we serve Jesus, the Lord Jesus, Jesus sees us as his friends, beloved friends. For Christianity is not simply a list of rules to be obeyed, or even a way of life: at its heart, it is a relationship – a relationship with Jesus, which puts us in relationship with each other.

What Jesus’ image of the vine does is to show us how these different sides of our lives link up together. We trust in Jesus for forgiveness and life, and become branches on the vine: connected to Jesus, dependent on him for life and for strength to serve. But also connected to each other. We express our response by seeking to obey Jesus’ will, and above all by loving service of others. And these things will not only bring honour to our Saviour and blessing to others: it will encourage us in our faith. Faith, obedience and love.

In the First Letter of John, from which we have been having readings over the past weeks, the writer wants to encourage his readers in their faith, and challenge them to be real about their faith. He picks our three important aspects of the Christian life: guess what they are!

Faith: he wants us to be sure that it is the real thing, and that our faith is centred on Jesus the Saviour. Obedience: if our faith is for real, he says, it will be expressed in a way of life where we seek to genuinely obey and please God. And love: we express our obedience above all in a life characterized by love, and loving actions and relationships. Of course, this is love which doesn’t use and manipulate people, but genuinely seeks their welfare. In 1 John, what sort of life does God seek from us? A life of faith and obedience and love.

And in Jesus’ words from John 15, what does Jesus seek from us? He seeks faith that keeps us connected to him who is the source of our life. He seeks obedience, by which we show that we are truly his people, his friends. And he seeks love: love as we actively seek to care for and reach out to others, both members of the Christian family, as well as others.

Faith, obedience, love: that’s a daunting challenge. And of course we continue to fall short. But in faith, we receive Jesus’ forgiveness, and know that we loves us, he understands us, he forgives, and he encourages us to keep going along the path of faith, obedience and love. He first loved us: what a privilege to be his beloved friends! What a blessing to be part of his family! What a privilege to have him with us and for us as we seek to bear fruit for him! Amen.

Reverend Paul Weaver

Sermon: The Fifth Sunday of Easter (B) – 3rd May 2015

St Alban’s Anglican Church Epping 7am, 8am and 10am

Readings:   Isaiah 30:18-21; Psalm 19:1-6; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8;John 14:6-14

When I was a teenager we used to read the stories of the martyrs, not the ancient church martyrs, rather, the modern ones those who went to remote tribes in South America or Indonesia and who were killed for their faith. We believed there could be no better proof of your faith than to die as a martyr. And then we tried being martyrs amongst our friends and family, forcing them into conversations about their faith and where they thought they would go when they died. In the end, our desire for martyrdom just became another way of being obnoxious. We were trying out our Christian faith but we weren’t doing it in a very Christian way.

Sadly, this simply turns into a perversion of religion and we see that sort of perversion going on all over the world today. It is too tempting to take verses like John 14 verse 6 and use them in ways that were never intended. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me.” This obviously is a very exclusive claim. But it is just too easy to take a verse like that and use it in very unchristian ways.

For example, it can be used as an excuse not to be loving. “Because I know the truth about Jesus I have the right to force my beliefs on anyone else.” “If others don’t believe exactly what I believe then I have the right to exclude them from the church.” People are capable of the most unloving acts when they believe they know it all. Or because Jesus calls himself people have assumed that that means all truth. They think that the only book they need on the shelf is the Bible, because the Bible can tell them everything they need to know in life.

Thus they rule out the vast amount of research and learning that is now available to us. They live in the most appalling ignorance because they will read only one book. This is not a criticism of the Bible, it is a criticism of this awful narrowness that can arise from religious fanaticism. I heard one war correspondent say one of the biggest problems the world faces today is TB. But he didn’t mean the disease. By TB he meant “True Believer”. The True Believer today is the one who reaches for the gun, the one that says its my way or its no way. Surely, Jesus never meant his words to be read like that?

But then I don’t want to go to the other extreme to say all religions are basically the same. Even a superficial reading of them makes it clear that every religion is not the same. Its true that they all have some profound insights, there are things we can learn from each one of them, there is value in studying other religions but that doesn’t mean they are saying the same thing.

So what do we do with this claim that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life? Or to speak more broadly what do we do with the exclusive claims of Jesus? Perhaps, we need to start with the uniqueness of Jesus himself. Jesus never claimed to be a prophet of God, never saw himself as part of Israel’s prophetic movement. Rather, he invented his own language to talk about himself, he is the Son of Man, or in John’s gospel, he is the good Shepherd, or he is the door, or he is the vine or a range of other illustrations. Then there were the unique things that he did. Apart from the miracles it is only Jesus who dies and then rises again on the third day. What we read about Jesus here you don’t read anywhere else, resurrection is not found in any other religion.

In the early church they grappled over the issue of whether Christianity was a branch of Judaism or was it something else, something different. In the end, it was agreed that Christianity sees itself as the fulfilment of the promises found in Judaism while in Judaism they believed those promises were yet to be fulfilled.

Surely, it is a truism to say that most adherents to every religion believe that what they believe is right while everyone else is wrong. But the question is, how will we live with that? And what do we think faith is? For some, faith is little more than a blind acceptance that a particular belief system is absolute truth – the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.

But surely we can to better than that. Interestingly, it is Jesus who provides us with an answer. Philip came to Jesus and asked him to show him the Father. It is an interesting question. What I think Philip means is that he wanted some absolute proof that Jesus really was the Son of God, he wanted absolute proof that Jesus really was the way to God. I think we all crave that sort of certainty from time to time.

One comedian used to say that it would be nice if every now and again God would part the clouds and give us a bit of a wave and say, “Hello, believe in me, I’m God.” That way this whole question might be settled once and for all.

But look and the answer Jesus gave to this question. Firstly, Jesus wondered that it wasn’t enough that he and Philip had just spent three years together. You would think that that length of time spent with Jesus might be enough to convince someone of the true nature of Jesus. Then Jesus suggested that if that wasn’t enough then Philip should consider the teaching that Jesus had given. Jesus claimed his words were not his own. Rather, they had come from the Father. Many people throughout history have been convinced of the claims of Jesus simply by studying the quality of the message Jesus taught. Having read those words they were prepared to commit their lives.

But then Jesus gave Philip another alternate. Philip should consider the miracles Jesus had performed. After all, Philip had been an eye-witness to all these events. He had the evidence, so what decision would he come to about Jesus. I find it fascinating that when Philip raised this question of certainty Jesus did not give him an easy answer. Rather, he gave Philip a list of alternatives. Jesus is showing us that matters of faith are complex, it is not simple, it is not simplistic. Rather, faith will be an issue we wrestle with all our lives. Sometimes some things are helpful, sometimes help comes from a completely different source. But what is important is that we do not give up. As we read elsewhere, those who endure to the end will be saved.

What Jesus gives us is a great hope for the future, a great blessing in his promise to bring us to the Father. In our trusting in his words, we need to do it without arrogance, without intolerance, but in love and compassion as we each persist in the task of working out our own salvation. I love that image of Jesus washing the disciples feet. If, in our life of faith, we move away from such a life of humility, then how can we be sure there is much Christianity in any of us?

Reverend Ross Weaver

Sermon: The Fifth Sunday of Easter (B) – 3rd May 2015

St Aidan’s Anglican Church, West Epping  8.30am

Readings:   Isaiah 30:18-21; Psalm 19:1-6; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; John 14:6-14

 Today is the feast day of two apostles: St.Philip and St.James, and I thought I would begin with a quick quiz about them. You don’t have to write down answers or even call them out. Just see which questions you know the answer to.

Firstly Philip. Which Gospel tells us most about Philip? In the Book of Acts, to whom did Philip speak on a road in the desert?

And then there’s James. What was the name of James’ father, and his brother? Which Gospel tells us most about James? And which book of the New Testament did he write?

I have to confess that these are trick questions. For there are actually three or four James in the New Testament, and there is a similar number of Philips. There is James the son of Zebedee and brother of the apostle John, both of them amongst the closest of Jesus’ apostles. And there is James the brother of Jesus, who became a great leader of the early church in Jerusalem, and was probably the author of the letter of James. And there is James the younger or James the Less, who is referred to in Mark 15 as a son of someone called Mary. This may be the James we are thinking of today. We don’t know for sure.

Apart from that, we just find James’ name in the lists of apostles in Matthew, Mark, Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. This James is almost an anonymous apostle, an also-ran.

In Matthew, Mark and Luke, you would have to say the same for Philip: quite a different person from Philip the deacon in the Acts of the Apostles. This Philip is simply one of the apostles, undistinguished beyond that.

But in the Gospel of John, he turns up on a few occasions.

In Chapter 1, Jesus calls Philip to come and follow him. Philip finds his friend Nathanael and brings him to meet Jesus. Before the feeding of the five thousand in John 6, Philip informs Jesus that six months’ wages would not be sufficient to feed the huge crowd. Jesus however seems to have that under control! In John 11, some Greeks come to Philip asking to see Jesus. Philip checks this out with Andrew, and only then do they take these Gentiles to see the Master.

And then we have our Gospel reading for today, from John 14. Jesus has said those famous words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He goes on to say: “If you know me, you will know my Father also.”

Philip is a bit baffled by this. I think he has worked out that Jesus is saying that God is his Father in a special way. But he still doesn’t get it. “Lord,” he says, “show us the Father, and then it will all make sense to us.”

Jesus is obviously disappointed how spiritually slow Philip and no doubt the others seem to be. “I’ve been with you all this time, and you still don’t really know me! To see me is to see the Father. I am in the Father and the Father is in me. What I say is what the Father says. What I do is what the Father does. To pray to me is to pray to the Father.”

Philip seems to be earnest and devoted, but he also seems not to be quickest on the update amongst the apostles. In fact we would have to say that nothing that we know about Philip and James suggests that they were outstanding apostles. Perhaps we are not surprised that they don’t get their own feast day each: they share this day with each other!

But I’m glad that there are people like Philip and James amongst the apostles. I suspect that most of us are more like Philip and James than Peter or John or the other James! We are ordinary followers of Jesus, not outstanding leaders. We struggle and get it wrong and misunderstand: Jesus often has to be patient with us. But he continues to love us and to stick with us. And let’s remember of course that even the outstanding apostles had feet of clay – we know that.

However, there are also traditions indicating that both Philip and James proved to be faithful and effective witnesses for the risen Jesus. Stories suggest that Philip served in Greece, Syria and Turkey, and was martyred for his faith in Hierapolis, a city near Colossae and Laodicea which we may be familiar with from other parts of the New Testament. Similarly there is a tradition that James served the church in Egypt and was executed in that land for his faith. Each of the apostles had their own stories: some of these we know, and many of them we do not know.

The important thing to keep in mind is that we are all different. Some followers of Christ do great things: they lead great churches, they do outstanding missionary work, they become respected public figures, they achieve great things as they serve people in need. But by definition, most of us are not outstanding. We just trust in Jesus. We seek to follow him in our own circumstances – to help others, and to bear witness to Jesus in our own way. We don’t claim to be particularly special. We don’t try to compete with those who are outstanding. If we’re wise, we are thankful for these people rather than resentful if they attract more attention than we do.

After all, we need to keep a healthy perspective. Our significance, our real value doesn’t depend on how outstanding we are. We all matter. We are all made in God’s image; we all have the Holy Spirit at work in us. We all can serve Jesus in our own way, and Jesus is happy to do his work in the world through us, and people like us. We don’t have to be outstanding before Jesus can use us for his glory, and for the blessing of others.

It is good to give thanks for those of whom we read in the scriptures, and for those who have brought blessing to many as outstanding servants of Christ. As Anglicans, we remember those who are traditionally described as Saints, but we also remember that according to the scriptures, every follower of Christ is a saint – one of God’s special people. We honour the great saints of old, and we appreciate what they did, and we seek to learn from their faithful and effective examples. But we remember that they are only saints, just as we are.

We don’t pray to them, because we can pray freely to God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ his Son. We don’t devote ourselves to them, or put our faith in them, because it is Jesus who is our Saviour, and theirs. They are fellow members of Jesus’ family, but it is Christ whom we trust and serve and follow.

We might learn from them, and obviously do learn from those saints who were authors of the scriptures. But what we learn points us not to them, but to God our Father and Creator, to Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, and to the work of the Holy Spirit, God with us and at work in us day by day.

In our reading from Isaiah, we read of the teacher who will truly show us the way, and call us to walk that way. Ultimately Isaiah points not to himself as God’s messenger, but to Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life, the one who truly reveals God to us.

In our Psalm, we look at the created universe, and especially the heavens and the sun, and acknowledge how they speak to us of God the powerful and wonderful Creator. If we continued through the rest of the Psalm, we would see how the Psalmist points to the law and teaching of Moses, and to the scriptures, as telling us more about God and his purposes for us. And again, ultimately they point us to Jesus, who reveals God to us uniquely in his very being and life.

In our reading from 1 Corinthians, we are reminded of those who were witnesses to the resurrection. Here James is mentioned amongst those who saw the risen Lord, but this is probably James the brother of the Lord – fairly sceptical about Jesus’ claims during his ministry, but convinced by the resurrection that Jesus is indeed Lord.

And then in today’s Gospel, we see Jesus as the one who reveals God to us, and indeed opens up the way to God for us. We have not had the chance to see Jesus face to face, but through the Holy Spirit, we have God’s presence with us always.

Let’s appreciate the apostles, and learn from their example and their message. But let’s focus on Jesus who is truly Lord and Saviour. Let us faithfully respond to his call to trust and follow him. And let us rejoice in hope, looking forward to that day when we too shall see Jesus and his Father face to face, and share fully in the life and love of his eternal kingdom. Amen.

Reverend Paul Weaver