Sermons Blog

Welcome to our "Sermon" blog


You need never miss another sermon again, as every week they will be uploaded on to this Blog page.


And even if you do not regularly attend either of our Churches; in St Peter's Rhoose, or St Curig's Porthkerry, on this page you will find out what we learn each week: About the meaning of our bible readings, how we can better understand them, and how we can live our lives closer to God.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Jan 11 2019 09:10AM

When you think about it, we are doing a very strange thing tonight. It's nearly midnight and here we are sitting in church. We don't do that any other night of the year, and yet here we are. Why? Perhaps it's the sense that tonight is somehow different. It feels magical, special, like we're on the cusp of a time when anything is possible. There's peace, wonder, expectation. We've heard anew the beautiful story of a baby born against all the odds, shining angels singing heavenly songs and surprised shepherds leaving their flocks to go and gaze on this wonderful child. It's a perfect picture.

But before we know it, tomorrow will come, and it's likely that it will bring broken toys, crying children, unwanted presents, family arguments. If not in your household, then certainly in others. Domestic violence rises, loneliness increases and those in the depths of poverty feel their deprivation like never before. And what relevance will tonight's story have then? None at all, if all we see is the school nativity picture perfect scene. But thankfully there's a whole lot more going on than that.

I wonder if you've seen the latest Banksy image, painted on a garage in Port Talbot? I was especially interested in it because I served the first 3 years of my ministry in Port Talbot and have fond memories of the place and its people. It's painted on two sides of the corner point of the garage. If you look at it from one side you can see a little child with a sledge, joy on his face, opening his mouth to taste the snowflakes falling all around him. A picture perfect Christmas scene. But when you turn the corner and look at the other side, you quickly realise that it's not snow falling on the child, but ash from a bin that's been set alight. It's a profound dose of reality, which has a far wider impact than the pretty Christmas scene could ever do. But you wouldn't see it unless you looked around the corner.

That's exactly what we need to do with the Christmas story, if its message is to have an impact in the harsh reality of life. We need to look around the corner, look behind the tinsel and cute children to find a message so profound it can change the way we see everything.

Let's start with the manger. Picture the brown wooden box with its bright yellow straw, and lying on top of it, wrapped in brilliant white cloths is a chubby, pink, bright eyed baby. That's the picture, isn't it? But turn the corner and you see the reason why he was there, rather than in a cot in Nazareth. The land was ruled by the occupying powers of the Romans, who governed with the heavy hands of military force. People were not free. When the command came for everyone to register at the town of their birth, they had no choice but to drop everything and go. Joseph was a carpenter, running his own business, but he had to down tools and make the 100 mile journey to Bethlehem. It was a long way, no wonder he took his wife with him. After all, the scandal surrounding her pregnancy left her vulnerable, he had to keep an eye on her. But once they got to Bethlehem, the place was in chaos. People everywhere. It was only a small town. It couldn't cope with the influx of people, and who would want these two, if they had heard the rumours? It was a frightening, confusing and very dark time. But this is where God chose to be born. He didn't go to the best hospital with the finest midwives and a block on the press. He chose to be born into the chaos of ordinary life. And that tells us something very profound, when our lives seem anything but picture book perfect. God came into the real world, and he still operates in the real world today.

What about the visitors to the manger? We heard about the shepherds in our reading, hearing the heavenly host and rushing to see the baby. The image most of us have of the shepherds is of men in stripy dresses with fluffy white sheep under their arms, smiling at the holy infant. But if we look around the corner, we discover that shepherds weren't such cuddly visitors. In first century Judea shepherds were the lowest of the low. They lived outside of the regular communities, they didn't have time to go to the temple or synagogue and they eked out a living on the hillsides, staying in the natural caves. If a shepherd came near to you, you would keep a tight hold of your purse. They are not the people you would want near your new baby. Yet God welcomed them. In fact he did more than that. He invited them in. It wasn't that they just turned up and he didn't want to send them away. He sent angels to tell them to go to Bethlehem and see the special baby. You see God isn't just for the respectable people. When as an adult Jesus was challenged about why he spent time with the tax collectors and sinners he said "It's not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick". He didn't come for those who think their lives are all sorted out, but for those who know they need him. Your complicated life and the things you might have done don't put Jesus off. He came to earth for you.

What about the other visitors? We didn't read about them tonight, but we know they came. The exotic visitors from the east with their slightly perplexing presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They add colour and mystery to our nativity scene. But look around the corner and you will find a far more sinister backdrop. For while these important men were willing to travel for months to see Jesus, there was another king, much closer to hand, whose motives were far less honourable. His name was Herod and in his book there was only space for one king and it was him. In an attempt to get rid of Jesus he had all the Jewish baby boys slaughtered in a hideous act of genocide. The pain he caused is unimaginable. But his presence in the story is a reminder that not everyone welcomed Jesus back then, and not everyone welcomes him now. Many prefer to be the king in their own lives and so reject Jesus' rule. His presence prompts us to ask ourselves the question, do I accept Jesus as king over me? Or would I rather he stay rosy cheeked in the manger.

The final part of the Christmas picture we're going to look at is the name given to this miracle baby. Or rather the names. We have a fascination with baby names. Go on the internet and you will find all sorts of articles about which baby names will be popular next year and which names are totally out of fashion. We know names are important. None more so than the names given to this baby. His given name 'Jesus' means God saves and that would be the work he came to do, dying on the cross for the sin of the world. Another name is Immanuel. It means 'God is with us'. As we look around the corner of the nativity picture, we discover a God who is with us, who came to earth, to our messy, chaotic lives to live among us. He didn't hide himself away in palaces and meet only the most respectable of society. He invited the lowest of the low alongside the rich and powerful into his family. He invites you. And that's the difference tonight can make tomorrow and in the middle of January and when you are struggling and life is hard. Jesus was born and lived and died for you. He can be with you by his Spirit when you place your trust in him. He isn't just a part of the mirage of Christmas, gone even before the year turns. He is real, and you can know him yourself and find in him hope that doesn't fail, strength for the hard times and lasting joy in knowing that your future is safe in him.

So don't just see the cute nativity picture of Jesus this Christmas. Look around the corner and see the God who came to this messy world for you and for me.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Jan 11 2019 09:09AM

January is a very dark month, isn't it. The lights have come down, the festivities are over but the days are still short. As we look at the news we see darkness too. More young men stabbed, people missing from their homes and war and violence around the world. Darkness. This has been written about society: "No-one calls for justice; no once pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil . . . They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths . . . We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows." It could be describing our society, couldn't it? But it was written over two and a half millennia ago, in the chapter of Isaiah directly before the one we read.

It's probably helpful to remind ourselves of the structure of the book of Isaiah. The first part, up to chapter 39, is mostly about how God wants his people and the nations around them to live, their abject failure to do it and the punishment to come: exile. Chapters 40-55 are far more positive. They speak of God's redemption, and a future of hope. But by chapter 56 it's clear that all won't be peaceful and happy and perfect once the exile is over. In fact the same problems will be there. It raises the question: how can the problem of humanity be solved? Who can turn things around? In 59:15 and 16 things have reached rock bottom: "The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no-one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene." So what did he do? Another exile? Another flood? No. The end of v16 "So his own arm achieved salvation for him and his own righteousness sustained him." God would right the wrongs. v20 "The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those who repent of their sins, declares the Lord." It's a great Messianic promise. And by the beginning of our chapter, 60:1, we see the promise coming to life. As we follow the chapter through (and we'll need to look at the whole chapter, so it might be an idea to have it open in front of you) we'll learn 3 important things: Get up - God is here; God's answer is bigger than your imagination; and God will change the world. Let's look at it together.

Get up! God is here! That's literally what v1 means "Arise, shine, for your light has come." God is here. He was there then, in the darkness of post exilic Jerusalem and he is here now in the darkness of our world. We can shine because God is our light. That's a wonderful reminder, isn't it? When the world seems dark, when the things human beings inflict on one another are cruel and hateful, we can stand up and shine because God is here. v2 "See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over your". The darkness is no match for the light. Now we can't read those words without thinking of the words at the start of John's gospel "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 all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." While God's presence was with his people anyway, God was looking to a further horizon, to his redeemer, the light. It's written in that prophetic perfect again, the way God talks about things still in the future as already having happened, because it's so certain that they will. Jesus the redeemer was on his way. But there's a surprise coming. It's our second point:

God's answer is bigger than your imagination. v3 "Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn." Suddenly it's not just about God's people, Zion, it's about the whole world. As his people shine with the light of God's presence, it attracts the attention of the nations. Light is attractive isn't it? It's not just moths that gather around a flame, we are attracted to light. It's why we light up our homes and ooh and ahh over the New Year fireworks. Light is attractive, and all the more so when it's God's light, the light of the world. The first fulfilment of this promise came on the first Epiphany which we celebrate today. v6 says "All from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense" and the magi did come with their gifts. But they were only the forerunners. The different places God names shows that he's talking about people from every direction. The wealth of the seas would come from the north and the west; Midian and Ephah and Sheba were in the south and the east; the islands of v9 could mean the outer reaches of the known world, like us, and Tarshish is thought to be in Spain. God's saying people will come from everywhere, bringing with them their wealth. Why? v6 & 7 "proclaiming the praise of the Lord . . . they will be accepted as offerings on my altar and I will adorn my glorious temple." It's in worship. People will literally come and lay down their splendour before God, knowing that no earthly possessions can surpass knowing the salvation of the God of light.

When you put this promise into its Biblical context, you can see how it's always been part of God's plan. In Genesis 12 God promised to bless the whole earth through Abraham. Jesus himself said in Matthew 8:11 " I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." The Magi were the symbolic first, but they were followed by many more. As the book of Acts unfolds, we see people coming from 'Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth', until now there are millions upon millions of Christians around the globe. We can often feel gloomy in this country as we see churches struggle to maintain their numbers, competing against Sunday sport or even just pyjama days. But in other parts of the world the church is expanding rapidly. Recently, in Indonesia, pastor Billy saw his church grow from 400 to over 6000 in just 4 years. In Iran the house churches are growing and producing new house churches every week. In Africa the number of Christians has risen by 51% in the time I have been ordained. That is dramatic growth. God's promise is being fulfilled and it is a source of joy! As we think of all these brothers and sisters being added to God's kingdom daily, we get a taste of how it will be when every knee will bow. Oh how we need to ask for forgiveness for thinking God's promises are only about us and our church, God's promises are far bigger than we could ever imagine.

And they are bigger still. Point 3: God will change the world. To see how, we need to go to the end of the chapter, to v17-22. Here we are presented with a further horizon to God's promise. From the end of v17 "I will make peace your governor and well-being your ruler. No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light and your God will be your glory." This is the time when darkness will be truly vanquished and God's rule will be over the heavens and the earth. It's the same promise we see in the picture of the new heaven and the new earth when Jesus returns in Revelation 22:5 "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever." This world of pain and suffering and darkness is temporary. One day we will see God's light shining over all the world.

So in this dark January, in this dark world there is much reason for hope. God is here and his light is shining in the darkness, we just need to, in the words of v4 "Lift up our eyes and look about us", look to Jesus the light of the world. And God's answer to the dark is even bigger than our imagination. It's not just about us in our small corner, but the whole world. His light is shining, and the church is growing in places we've never even heard of. Then one day God will change the world, as his light shines unfettered when Jesus returns. So often our eyes are cast down and we can only see a small circle of light around our feet, if we can see any at all. Lift up your eyes and see the wonderful light of the Lord Almighty shining brightly, as you look forward to the day when the already conquered darkness will be cast away forever.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Dec 10 2018 04:29PM

I’m going to start with an excerpt this morning from the 2001 film A Knight’s Tale, based on the poetic tale of the same name by Geoffrey Chaucer. In this clip, Chaucer himself, in the role of herald, presents this dramatic introduction of his knight at an important jousting tournament. You can view the clip here:

If you had to perform an introduction, how would you do it? You might say ‘I’d like you to meet [name]. He/she is a [job title] or he/she likes [item].’ You might relay some important information about the person, or something that they have in common with the person you’re introducing them to. Of course, you also might be introducing someone for a specific purpose – Mary has come to audit the financial records; or Peter’s an inspector and he’d like to observe your class.

In our gospel passage this morning, Luke makes two introductions. First, he makes an historical introduction. He places John the Baptist’s ministry in a specific timeframe by naming the rulers of both the immediate and surrounding areas. This combination of political leaders dates the beginning of John’s ministry to AD 28 or 29. This historical context is helpful to our understanding of John the Baptist as a real person in history, not a mythical character. However, this isn’t the most important introduction that Luke makes. His second introduction tells us John’s purpose – why he was in that place at that particular time. Indeed, John’s purpose had been set out hundreds of years before; the words Luke uses in his introduction are not his own. They come from the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 40. We’re going to look at what Luke says about John’s purpose and also explore Isaiah’s prophecy relating to John.

Firstly, what does Luke say about John’s purpose? In vv 2 and 3 we’re told ‘the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.’ John had been put by God in the country around the Jordan to call people to repent. The Jewish concept of repentance that John was preaching involved turning back to God with a contrite heart and there are echoes of this ‘turning’ throughout the Old Testament. In 1 Kings 8, Solomon prays that God will forgive his people ‘if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors and say, “We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly”’ And in Psalm 78, the writer laments the inconstancy in the Israelites’ relationship with God: ‘Whenever God slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again. They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.’ We can see from these verses, and others like them that repentance or turning was a frequent act. God’s people frequently needed to turn back to God with a penitent heart, admitting that the things they had done had displeased him and offering their praise and thanksgiving for the mercy he showed them.

As well as preaching repentance, John offered baptism, a symbolic washing, associated with the forgiveness of sins. However, this was not a baptism like the baptism of the Christian church. Christian baptism anoints believers with the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised. John’s baptism was to help people prepare through repentance and symbolic washing for God’s salvation through Jesus. A person baptised by John was declaring themselves to be open to God and to following his ways.

And it is because of this preparation that Luke quotes from Isaiah 40 in the remainder of our passage this morning. The Isaiah passage is known as a pattern prophecy, speaking into many periods of history at the same time. These verses launch the second section of the book of Isaiah, which talks about how God will save Israel. As a contemporary message, the text spoke of delivering the people from exile. Luke, however, demonstrates that the pattern of saving is beginning again with John the Baptist. Earlier in his gospel, Luke likens John to Elijah. In chapter 1: 16-17 he says: ‘He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ In quoting from Isaiah now, Luke is showing how John the Baptist is fulfilling this prophecy. The call of the prophet is in vv4-6: “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.” The prophet is calling for creation to level the path for God to arrive. We might say that John’s fulfilment of the prophecy is in removing moral obstacles to God’s arrival. When John is call people to repentance he is clearing the way morally for Jesus to come and bring about God’s salvation. As we have seen in our study of John’s gospel, John does not bring God’s kingdom – he isn’t the Messiah himself. Rather, John announces God’s kingdom and points the way to Jesus, the true Messiah.

As I mentioned before, pattern prophecies relate to more than one time. I wonder whether the pattern of Isaiah’s prophecy, quoted by Luke in our passage this morning, has begun again? We live in times, yet again, when many people have turned away from God, or do not know him at all. Many have not heard the good news of Jesus, or do not want to hear it. As Christians, we are all called to be like John the Baptist, to prepare the way for Jesus today. In the approach to Christmas, this may be something that is particularly on your mind as you consider asking family, friends or neighbours to a service in church this month. I’m going to leave you with a recent blog from the Good Book Company, which talks about this very thing. You can read it here:

By porthkerryandrhoose, Nov 20 2018 10:12AM

November is Will Aid month. If you've not heard of it, it's an initiative by a large number of solicitors to encourage people to write wills by not taking a fee, but instead taking a donation for a charity of the will writer's choice. I think it's a wonderful idea, as writing a will is so important, yet many of us put it off. We don't want to think about death, or perhaps we're afraid about how much it will cost or we just never quite get round to doing it. Darren and I made our wills in Will Aid month a number of years ago, and we were really pleased that our money went to Christian Aid. We were sorting things out for our own future and helping others in the process. So I commend it to you. Google Will Aid, or speak to me afterwards and I can point you in the right direction.

As far as we know, Jesus didn't write a will. I'm not sure there were even such things in the first century. Nevertheless, today's passage of John is a bit like a will. Jesus was telling his disciples what he was leaving them when he had gone.

If you've been following John with us, you will know that Jesus was getting very close to the time of his crucifixion. He'd had the last supper with his disciples and was now teaching them everything they would need to know to cope when he had gone. He would be back, but in the mean time they needed to know how to live effectively as his people, and how to cope without him physically there. Much of what he told them is relevant to us too, who still have to live without him physically alongside. So let's look at what Jesus was leaving his disciples. In our verses he mentions 2 things: the Holy Spirit and Peace. Let's look at them in turn.

v26 "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." He promises the Holy Spirit. This isn't the first mention of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also promises him in v16 and 17 and we need to glance back to those verses to really understand his importance. Jesus said "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever." Jesus was going away and the disciples couldn't go with him, but he promised 'another advocate'. The word 'advocate' here doesn't really get to the heart of what Jesus was saying. The word in the Greek is paraclete, which means 'one who draws alongside', someone who is with you, fighting in your corner, speaking when you feel weak, keeping you strong against the enemy. Jesus had been doing these things for the disciples and when he had gone there would be another one just like him to be with them, the Holy Spirit. It's vital that we get this straight in our minds. The Holy Spirit isn't a force within us, like in Star Wars, he is a person like Jesus who draws alongside of us. Another Jesus. Not in a human incarnation, not to die in our place, that's the role of Jesus the Son, but to be with us in a very special way, to teach, to lead, to challenge, to comfort, to speak when we cannot. The Holy Spirit, God's gift every Christian.

For the apostles, the Holy Spirit also had a very specific role. v26 "the Advocate . . will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." Once Jesus had died and rose again and ascended, the apostles would need to be able to remember accurately the things Jesus had said and done. 3 of them would write, or be instrumental in writing, 3 of the gospels and all of them would have a teaching ministry. While Jesus was with them, they were often confused, or only partially understood things, so they would need help from God. And the Holy spirit did just what Jesus had promised. We see it right back in John 2:22 "After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken." The Holy Spirit had reminded them. That can give us great confidence as we read our New Testaments. What we have isn't just the memoirs of some of Jesus' disciples, but an accurate account put together with the help of the Holy Spirit. We can trust what we read. How important is that for us to remember, especially in this day and age when the Bible is being sidelined, not just by secular authorities, but often by the church leadership too. God's Holy Spirit was the teacher of the apostles and their memory prompt for all that happened.

Of course, the Holy Spirit teaches us too. Not in the same way, as we weren't around when Jesus walked the earth. The apostles had a very privileged and special role in recording everything and passing it on. But the Holy Spirit is the one who makes the apostles' teaching clear to us. That's why I always pray before I read the Bible and before I preach. God's Holy Spirit can make clear to us the things our sinful human hearts would miss or block out. If you're struggling when you're reading the Bible, stop and pray and ask for God's help. It's a prayer he delights to answer.

So Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. He also promises peace. v27 "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid." We have to be careful with what we mean here. Jesus promises peace, but a different sort of peace from the one the world offers. In the first century, the peace people were familiar with was the Pax Romana, the peace that the Roman Empire brought. But it was a peace enforced by the boots of the Roman Legions. The peace we celebrated last week was one which followed massive bloodshed and only lasted a short while. We send in peacekeeping troops to war torn areas. Jesus says his peace is different. We might also think of peace as an esoteric calm, something we might get if we meditate on a beach or in a forest. This isn't what Jesus is meaning either. The peace he gives is the peace won at the cross. Peace between us and God. The barrier of sin broken forever. A true relationship with God. And then, because of that, peace between one another as brothers and sisters. The world can't do either of these things authentically. But Jesus did it at the cross. That's why we don't need to be troubled or afraid. If we trust in Jesus, God is truly our Father, we are truly his precious children, bought at a price by Jesus and we have the Holy Spirit alongside to help and guide us.

What a wonderful last will and testament to us from Jesus! And it's even better, because unlike anyone else who writes a will, he's coming back. (v28). We are doubly beneficiaries.

The last few verses of our passage are almost a footnote. Those who are eagle eyed will have spotted the topping and tailing by John of v1 and v27 "Do not let your hearts be troubled" and "Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." It shows that the verses in between are a whole piece. There are just a few points Jesus adds on. As he looks forward to the next few days, he sees not the agony in store for him, but the impact on the disciples. Though he's told them over and over that he's going to be killed, he knows they haven't got it yet and they'll be upset, even thinking the devil has won and there's no hope. So he adds some more words of encouragement. v28 "If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." He doesn't mean that the Trinity isn't true and there's a hierarchy in the godhead, he means that in his incarnated form he is weaker and he is limited. As Paul puts it in Philippians 2:7 'he made himself nothing'. The disciples should be pleased that he will be away from all the restrictions of being human as well as being God, if they love him. How plain that will be when he hangs on the cross. The weakness of Jesus in that moment will be so great it will look like evil has won and God is dead. Except he isn't and the devil hasn't won. Jesus is showing ultimate obedience to the plan of God. Phil 2:8 "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross." Obedience to God, being modelled for them, who are also called to be obedient to God, just as we are. It will be hard for Jesus, so hard, but for the ultimate benefit of each and every one of us who believes.

So, words of farewell from Jesus, and two great things left to his people: the Holy Spirit and Peace. May we be encouraged, that just like the first disciples we haven't been left as orphans by Jesus, but have another one just like him with us day by day, and the peace of reconciliation with God and one another.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 29 2018 12:56PM

Have you ever visited a really grand house? Maybe a National Trust or other heritage property. Have you marvelled at its magnificence but ultimately gone away thinking ‘It’s not a place for the likes of me’? Over the course of years of family holidays, I’ve visited many grand houses and felt exactly like that – they were beautiful, but not a place for me. Then three summers ago, we were staying in Devon. We’d seen a leaflet for Coleton Fishacre, the home of the D’Oyly Carte family who produced many of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas and decided to visit. It’s an impressive building with large rooms and beautiful décor; yet walking through the rooms, I didn’t feel out of place. I could look around and imagine myself living there. It felt like a place for the likes of me.

Our passage of John’s gospel today follows on from t Jesus’ revelation that Peter would deny knowing Jesus and being his disciple. They have also heard that Judas will betray Jesus. Peter is undoubtedly shocked and disturbed by this. The other disciples too would have been shaken by these revelations. When this is added to the dawning realisation that Jesus is leaving them, that he is facing death, it is small wonder that the disciples are troubled. So, as he continues to prepare his disciples for his imminent arrest and death, Jesus offers reassurance to his troubled disciples. He tells them that their faith will be rewarded with a place in God’s house; he offers them a new intimate relationship with God as their Father through himself; and he promises them that works they do in his name will glorify God.

Firstly, Jesus tells his disciples that their faith will be rewarded with a place in God’s house. In vv1 and 2 he says: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’ These words of Jesus may be familiar to us as words of reassurance used in a funeral service, offering comfort that a loved one is now at their eternal rest with God. However, here, Jesus is reassuring his disciples about his own death, as we see in v3: ‘And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’ The disciples, in choosing to follow Jesus, have already placed their trust in him. With the hour of his death approaching, Jesus now wants them to remember their trust in him and hold on to it because of what his death will accomplish. Jesus’ death will make it possible for his disciples to be where he is – with God. And it is their faith in Jesus and their recognition of him as the Saviour, the Messiah that will secure their place. Jesus is speaking collectively to his disciples – there is a place for all believers. However, we are individuals, unique and precious to God and Jesus is promising we will have our own place with the Father and that he has prepared it for us. Our uniqueness is set out both in the prophecy of Isaiah 43:1 ‘But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’ and in John 10:3 ‘To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.’

Do you need to hear the words of reassurance that Jesus offers his disciples here? Do you feel as Peter did, that you’ve let Jesus down? Take heart from Jesus’ words today: your faith in him as your Saviour has secured you your place in the Father’s house and at the appointed time, Jesus himself will come and take you to be with him.

Secondly, Jesus offers his troubled disciples a new intimate relationship with God as their Father through himself. Through Thomas’s question in v5, Jesus has realised that the disciples haven’t understood his teaching about himself. Thomas says: ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus takes Thomas’s question and uses it to frame his answer. In vv7 and 8, Jesus answers: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know the Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ John’s gospel has spoken extensively of Jesus coming from the Father, revealing God, bringing new life and then returning to the Father. Now, the focus has shifted to Jesus’ role of leading people to the Father. For us to approach God as Father requires Jesus’ mediation. We cannot come to God on our own merit – our fallen state, our sin which displeases him prevents this. Acts of repentance and worship are not enough for us to be right with God to approach him. God will judge the sin of humanity. However, Jesus offers us a new way. His death takes away our sins. He sacrificed his life so that we could have ours. With Jesus, and in Jesus, we can come to God not just to worship him as God, but as our Father who loves us and wants us to be with him. More than that, God is no longer some distant being. The disciples can know him and have seen him because they have seen Jesus. We can know him because he sent his Spirit to live within us.

But despite Jesus’ words, the disciples still don’t seem to have grasped what Jesus is saying about his divine nature. In v8 Philip says: ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ You can hear Jesus’ disappointment in their lack of understanding in his answer in vv9and 10: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me?’ Jesus is God’s agent – ‘anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’. We can write to our MP, or to the Queen and get a reply from one of their staff, their agents, but the response comes as from the person we have written to. It carries the same weight and authority. And so it is with Jesus. If we have seen him, we have seen the Father; if he speaks, it is as if God has spoken. But Jesus is not just God’s agent, he is also God and there is a mutual indwelling – ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’. More than representing God, Jesus presents him. Jesus is God on earth. Jesus doesn’t say that he is the Father but that he is one with the Father. In John 10:30, Jesus says ‘I and the Father are one.’ We can remember too, John’s words in the opening verse of his gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Jesus asks his disciples to believe this, to trust his word that he and the Father dwell in each other, or if necessary, believe based on the evidence of his miracles, which show that the Father is in him and working through him.

Then, Jesus goes on to promise that the works the disciples will do will glorify God. In vv12 and 13 he says: ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’ Jesus doesn’t want us to have an inactive faith, a merely intellectual or emotional response. He wants us to respond with our whole being, to share, through our salvation in God’s own life, which is an active life. How can our works be greater than those of Jesus? After all, he raised Lazarus from the dead. Look again at Jesus’ words – ‘they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.’ Once Jesus has returned to the Father, he will send the Spirit, who will accomplish a union with God with us. Our works will be greater because they will show the reality of a God who is one with his people, of a shared life with God, which has been made possible by Jesus’ completion of his work in his death, resurrection and ascension. And Jesus promises that he will do whatever we ask in his name. This shouldn’t merely be a formulaic ending to our prayers. Rather that we should pray in keeping with Jesus’ character. His concerns should be our concerns. We should pray in union with him. Through being in union with him, we take up his agenda, which is, in all things, that the Father may be glorified. What we ask for in Jesus’ name must be to the glory of God. It must be what Jesus wants, not what we want. When we pray and work like this, Jesus’ promise to do as we ask advances God’s purposes in us, in the church and in the world.

Let us pray

Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for your words of reassurance to your disciples. We thank you that we too, can be comforted by your words that you have gone to prepare a place for us in your Father’s house. Thank you for the new relationship you have made possible for us to have with God as our Father. Help us to stay close to you so that we do not try to approach God on our own merit. And help us to remember that we are one with you and the Father because your Spirit lives within us. Teach us your concerns for the world so that when we pray, and when we do your works, we do it always for God’s glory. Thank you Lord Jesus. Amen.

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