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, 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.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 29 2018 12:50PM

I have an admission to make: I can’t abide anyone touching my feet! They’re extremely sensitive to touch. As a child, I would wriggle so much when having my toenails cut that Mum would have to clamp my foot firmly in one hand to hold it still before she could start using the scissors. I’m no better as an adult either. Some people think it the height of luxury to visit a salon for a foot massage or pedicure, or even to put their feet into a tank full of little fish to have the dead skin cells nibbled away. In any of those cases, I can think of nothing worse! And so, as I prepared to speak to you this morning, I found myself wondering how I would have reacted to Jesus touching my feet and washing them. Would I have wriggled? Probably. Would our Lord have to have taken my foot firmly rather than gently? Almost certainly. Would I have wanted to miss out on his gesture of love and service? Definitely not.

We’re over halfway through our study of John’s gospel now. Today’s passage marks a turning point in John’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry and his purpose in coming to live among us. Everything that he has narrated so far has occurred in the public sphere: the miracles, the teaching, the celebration of religious festivals, were all part of Jesus’ public ministry. From this passage until his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus is only in the company of his disciples and he will teach them in greater detail about why he must suffer and die and rise again. In our passage today, we see three reasons why Jesus washed his disciples’ feet: to show them the full extent of his love for them; to demonstrate the deepest level of willing and voluntary humility and service as an example that he commands them to follow; and to explain the act as significant of spiritual washing.

Firstly, Jesus wanted to demonstrate his love for his disciples. At the end of v1, John tells us: ‘Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.’ This is sometimes written as ‘he showed them the full extent of his love’. The disciples, as Jesus’ immediate followers, were ‘his own’ in the world. He had called them into fellowship with him, taught them, loved them. Now, in washing their feet, Jesus is showing his disciples the full extent of his love. Some scholars call it an acted parable. Jesus taught in parables to explain God’s kingdom and this acted parable of humble, even humiliating, service directs us to the humble, humiliating nature of what is to follow – Jesus’ crucifixion. Indeed, in the chapters that follow, as Jesus teaches his disciples, he tells them in 15:13: ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ That is the full extent of Jesus’ love for his disciples and for the whole world – that he was willing to suffer and die on the cross to save us.

Secondly, in washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus demonstrated the deepest level of willing and voluntary humility and service. Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, took on the humblest task. V3 tells us the full extent of Jesus’ power: ‘Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God’. Jesus’ divine nature means that he has power over all things, that he rules over heaven and earth. He was with God in the beginning and God sent him into the world as the Chosen one, the Messiah. Now, after his death and resurrection, he would be returning to God. He willingly cast that glory aside to come to earth, fully human, to lie among us. Jesus demonstrated true humility and selflessness in washing his disciples’ feet. In the social circles of that time, it was the job of the lowest servant or slave in the household to wash the feet of his master’s guests on arrival after they’d walked the dusty roads. Here, we see Jesus taking on this role for his dinner guests. He dresses like a servant or slave in order to complete his task, as we see in v4: ‘so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.’ How surprised would you be if your host stripped down to his or her vest and offered to wash your feet? We know that the disciples were surprised. In v6, Peter, as he often does in the gospel accounts, voices how he (and no doubt others) are feeling: ‘Lord are you going to wash my feet?’ This is society turned on its head! Masters don’t serve their servants, teachers don’t serve their disciples.

Once he has finished his task, Jesus then goes on to instruct the disciples. In v14 and 15 he says: ‘Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.’ Jesus has demonstrated completely selfless love, humbling himself from his position as Teacher and Lord to serve his disciples. He now tells them that they should do the same. Like Jesus, we should not allow our position in society, or our pride, stand in the way of us serving others in love.

Finally, we see in his conversation with Peter, how Jesus explains his washing of feet as a spiritual washing. We’ve already heard Peter’s surprise at Jesus washing feet. Indeed, as we see in v8, at first, Peter refuses to have his feet washed: ‘No, said Peter, you shall never wash my feet.’ He can’t understand what Jesus is doing, or why he’s doing it. Jesus is insistent though: ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is symbolic of the spiritual washing we receive from Jesus – washing away our sins. If Peter wants, if we want to be a part of Jesus, then we have to let him wash us clean. So Peter says: ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.’ If Jesus is saying that Peter needs to be washed clean, then Peter wants more than his feet washed. Jesus says that this isn’t necessary. In v10 he says: ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.’

Jesus washes us clean when we come to faith in him – when we believe that his death and resurrection takes away our sin. This washing is symbolised at our baptism, when our sins are washed away. At that point, we are clean. But it is in our nature that we keep doing things that mar our relationship with God and each other. And this is what the washing of feet symbolises. We need to regularly turn to God and seek forgiveness of our daily sins. We have had our bath – been washed wholly clean, we just need to symbolically wash away the dirt of the day from our feet by seeking God’s forgiveness.

So, in this passage of John’s gospel, we have seen Jesus reveal the full extent of his love for his disciples and the world. Not only does he demonstrate the deepest and humblest level of service, which surprises his disciples, but this action is a form of parable that points to his humble and humiliating death. Moreover, as with many of Jesus’ actions, he uses this act of foot washing to set an example, which he commands his disciples to follow. As Jesus humbly served his disciples, so are we to serve others. We also see the symbolism behind the washing of feet. If we want to be a part of Jesus then we have to let him wash us clean. Baptism makes us wholly clean but we need to keep ourselves clean by asking God for forgiveness for our everyday sins. If we follow our Lord’s example of service and heed his teaching about our spiritual washing, then as Jesus says in v17: ’Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’

By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 23 2018 10:16AM

When I was a child, some of my favourite books were the Mr Men. I read and re-read them, and as an adult read them to my children too. One of the ones which made me chuckle was Mr Topsy-Turvy. Let me remind you how the story starts "Mr Topsy Turvy was a funny sort of a fellow. Everything about him was either upside down, or inside out or back to front - topsy turvy in fact. . . . You ought to see his house. The front door is upside down to start with. And the curtains hang upside down at the windows. . . All very extraordinary!" He appears in town one day, falling out of the wrong side on a train onto the railway tracks, and goes on to cause havoc, misdirecting taxi drivers, confusing shop assistants, making people fall all over one another on the escalators, and turning all the art work in the gallery upside down. I used to imagine what the world would be like if it was run by Mr Topsy Turvy. It would be very strange indeed. We're used to things the way they are. That's why it can sometimes be hard to get our heads around Jesus' kingdom, because in lots of ways it is topsy turvy. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, and so on. Today in our passage from John we have another example. As we study it together, we'll see that what appears weak is strong and what appears strong is weak.

Let's look at it together.

What appears weak is strong v31-32. The atmosphere in the room was tense. Jesus had just announced that one of his closest friends was going to betray him, and Judas, after receiving a piece of bread given to him by Jesus, got up and left the room to set the betrayal in motion. Ominously, John comments 'And it was night'. Within a few short hours it would be night across the whole land, in the middle of the day, as Jesus hung on the cross, naked and in pain, dying because of the betrayal of a friend, the hatred of the religious leaders and the ruthless indifference of the Roman authorities. You couldn't get a greater picture of weakness. Yet, as Judas leaves, Jesus says v31 "Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself and will glorify him at once." For Jesus the cross isn't a moment of weakness and failure, but the greatest moment of God's glory, greater even than turning water into wine, or making the blind see or even raising Lazarus to life again. I can do no better than explain it in the words of the great 19th century bishop, J C Ryle "The crucifixion brought glory to the Father. It glorified his wisdom, faithfulness, holiness and love. It showed him wise, in providing a plan whereby he could be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly - it showed him faithful in keeping his promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head - it showed him holy, in requiring his law's demands to be satisfied by our great substitute - it showed him loving, in providing such a mediator, such a redeemer, such a friend for sinful man as his co-eternal Son. The crucifixion brought glory to the Son. It glorified his compassion, his patience, his power. It showed him most compassionate, in dying for us, suffering in our stead, allowing himself to be counted sin and a curse for us, and buying his redemption with the price of his own blood. - It showed him most patient, in not dying the common death of most men, but in willingly submitting to such pains and unknown agonies as no mind can conceive, when with a word he could have summoned his Father's angels and been set free. - It showed him most powerful, in bearing the weight of all the transgressions of the world, and vanquishing Satan, and despoiling him of his prey." That's the cross. What appeared to be the most terrible moment of weakness was actually God's most wonderful moment of glory. Never lose sight of the cross. Without it we have no salvation, no future, no friendship with God. With it, we have all the glories of heaven, bought for us by Jesus. What appears weak is strong.

But what appears strong is also weak. v33, 36-38

Jesus said to his remaining disciples v33 "My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come." Simon Peter, always the one straight in the action asked "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied "Where I am going you cannot follow now, but you will follow later." Peter asked "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Peter, so full of love for his master and confident that he would always be there for him. So strong, as a few hours later he draws his sword and cuts off the high priest's servant's ear as Jesus is arrested. Peter can't imagine that there could be a time when he would let his master down. We can feel like this sometimes too, that our faith is Jesus is strong, and our pedigree is good. Nothing could tear us from Jesus. If we were in North Korea, we'd be holding silent services in defiance of the regime, willing to go to prison for Jesus. But the lesson of Judas from last time should start those alarm bells ringing. Maybe we could fall. But we've not been distracted by money or ambition or secret sins, we'll be OK, surely. Hear Jesus' words to Peter 'Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times!'. It came true. When challenged Peter did disown Jesus, and it wasn't a burly guard with a sword bearing down on him, or the priest of his childhood threatening damnation. It was a servant girl. The least threatening of all people, and Peter's confidence was shattered. "You aren't one of this man's disciples too, are you?" "I am not" Peter replied (18:17). His strong faith turned out to be weak. It's a warning to us.

Just as with Judas, there are clues for us. Did you notice the verses we haven't mentioned yet? In between Jesus saying 'where I am going you cannot come' and Peter asking 'Lord, where are you going?' Jesus says these words v34 "A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Big, significant words, yet Peter passed right over them. He'd stopped listening to Jesus. When we stop listening to Jesus, though our faith can look strong on the outside, it's being eaten away inside by our own pride and self sufficiency. Listening to Jesus is vital. Look what Jesus was telling them. When he was going, they had a special command: to love one another. It wasn't completely new, the command to love goes back to Leviticus 19:18, but the big difference was to love as Jesus loved. That sacrificial love shown in perfection on the cross. Peter didn't listen, and so he wasn't able to love in the way Jesus called him to. Are we people who listen to Jesus? Or do we get so caught up in our own concerns that we don't take the time to read his word and reflect on it, living instead by a combination of half remembered teachings of Jesus mixed up with the philosophy of society? Jesus knew that by living lives that truly put others first, his disciples and those who followed after them, would be able to have a huge impact on the world around them, showing everyone the topsy turvy nature of God's kingdom, pointing straight to the cross. It would take the coming of the Holy Spirit to help them to do it, but when they did, God's influence would begin to change the world.

The funniest thing about Mr Topsy Turvy is that when he leaves, everyone in the town begins to talk topsy turvy. Though he'd gone back to where he came from, his impact remained. Jesus was preparing to leave, but the impact of his topsy turvy kingdom would remain through the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples. That same spirit lives in those of us who believe, and God wants us to show what his kingdom is like by living lives that are different from the lives of everyone else. As we show love and forgiveness and self sacrifice to one another in our Christian community we show Jesus' glorious topsy turvy kingdom to those around us and point them to him. So may God help us to keep listening to Jesus and keep living for him so that all might meet him at the cross and have their lives turned upside down.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 23 2018 10:16AM

I have in my hand a lovely packet of seeds. The seeds are lovely. I think I'll put them on the mantelpiece in the living room where I can admire them and show them off. A bit mad? But now imagine that I'm a farmer. How long would it take me to go out of business if all I did was put my seeds on a shelf? It doesn't matter how pretty they are, in order for me to get a crop, those seeds need to be planted. They need to die - to be broken open by the new shoot coming through so that the plant can grow. And out of that dead seed comes new life . This was the very picture Jesus had in mind when he was speaking to his disciples in today's gospel reading.

Let's have a look at it. The context, if you remember, is the feast of Passover, and Jesus and his disciples had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate, along with many other people. But it was to be no ordinary Passover. Instead of mingling with the crowds, Jesus had entered Jerusalem on a donkey to cries of Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! The people had waved their palm branches and welcomed him - here was their messiah, come to free them! Surely this Passover they wouldn't just be celebrating freedom from slavery in Egypt, but also freedom from the Roman tyranny.

But in the excitement they had missed the real story behind the drama. Jesus was their king, but he was a king on a donkey. He wasn't coming to sweep away the Romans and set up his own government in Jerusalem. His victory would be won, not through weapons but by love, arms stretched out on the cross. But not even the disciples understood (v16).

The crucial moment for Jesus came when some Greeks wanted to see him. They were clearly God fearing Greeks; they had come for the Passover, and they no doubt had heard all about Jesus' miracles and teaching, not least his raising of Lazarus from the dead. We know from v17 that the people who had been at Lazarus' tomb had been going round spreading the word. Whatever their motivation, their intentions were clear "Sir, we would like to see Jesus". It was quite a request. Everyone knew that Jewish rabbis didn't associate with Gentiles, however godfearing they might be. Perhaps that's why they went to Philip as he had a Greek name. Philip wasn't sure what to do, so he went to Andrew and together they went to speak to Jesus. They couldn't have anticipated his response. For Jesus, the Gentiles coming and wanting to see him was the confirmation that that he needed. v23 "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified"

In his next few words we learn that glory comes through sacrifice and what's true for the master is also true for the servant.

Glory comes through sacrifice. v24 "I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." The seed has to die to give life to the plant which can then go on and produce more seeds. Jesus was saying that he would have to die to give life to the people. It must have been wonderful to have heard Jesus teach and to have seen his miracles. I expect all of us, at some time or another, have wished that Jesus hadn't died - we want to see him. We want film footage of him that we could watch over and over again, we want to queue up for tickets for his world tour and have a signed photo on our mantelpiece. We want to put him on the shelf to admire. But if that was what Jesus had allowed to happen, our sins would be unforgiven, the devil would be in control and the only future we would have would be the grave. The beautiful seed needed to die to give us life. That sacrifice would bring glory to God by the fruit it would produce - billions of people cleansed and made new, presented as spotless to the Father. Glory through sacrifice.

This isn't a very popular doctrine today. The Jesus who cared for the poor, we like him. We can strive to be like him. The Jesus who challenged injustice and uncaring legalism. We like him too. He captures the spirit of the age. But the Jesus who died? It seems confusing, unnecessary, brutal. We want to push it to one side and focus on the 'good' things. Yet that's not how Jesus saw it. v27 "Now my soul is troubled, and what should I say? 'Father save me from this hour?' No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Though it was an incredibly difficult thing to contemplate, let alone go through with, Jesus knew that his death was the reason he had come to earth. The other things were important, but without his death, he knew there could be no new life. In response to his cry, God answered "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." God's own voice verifying the words of Jesus for the benefit of the crowd. We simply cannot escape the importance of Jesus' death in God's plan for the world. v31 "Now is the time for judgement on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." For Jesus, glory comes through sacrifice.

Just as this is true for Jesus, so it is also true for his followers.

v25 "Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My father will honour the one who serves me." What's true for the Master is also true for the servant.

Going back to my seeds, I can't both keep them exactly as they are, and plant them. Neither can we expect to stay exactly as we are, if we want to be followers of Jesus. It is very popular today to focus on how much Jesus loves us just as we are, but to forget that in his love he doesn't want to keep us as we are. If we have decided 'This is who I am, this is the lifestyle I have chosen, this is the amount of wealth I'd like, and nothing is going to get in the way of that' then whatever church we go to, whatever hymns we sing, we cannot be classed as Jesus' servant, because we are not serving him, we are serving ourself. Our life is far more important than his. But 'Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.' says Jesus. Being a servant or a follower of Jesus means taking our life and saying 'it's yours Jesus'. As he put us first, so we put him first. This can be costly.

We've seen it through history. Think of Christians like Tyndale who died because he wouldn't give up on his God given vision of having the Bible in English for all to read. Or Cranmer who died because of his brave stance in reforming the church and gave us the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 articles which still underpin our Anglican doctrine and practice today. These are people who knew what it meant to follow their Master and give their lives over to his purpose. Think about the many nameless Christians today in Syria and Iraq and Pakistan and North Korea and NE Nigeria and so many places around the world who have said to God - you gave me my life. I won't keep it as an ornament to be treasured. I give it back to you. I will live for you and I will die for you if that's what's needed. And many of them have died.

But it's not just about living in extreme situations for Jesus or doing great things. It's also about ordinary Christians living their ordinary lives for Jesus. If we are living lives as Jesus' servants that means making hard choices about the work we do, the conversations we have, the causes we champion, the way we spend our time, the priorities we have for ourselves and our families. What's true for the Master must be true for the servant as well.

Does it really matter? Can't we just live our lives the way we want, and then when we've enjoyed our lives, get a bit more committed then? Jesus had a warning for his listeners v35 "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light so that you may become children of light." For the people then, Jesus' time on earth was limited, but for all of us, the time to respond is not open ended. We don't know when Jesus will return or when we will be called to meet him. You might have 60 years or not even 60 minutes. While you delay, you run the risk of darkness overtaking you. But if you believe in the light, if you walk with Jesus as your master, then the joys are astounding. You become a child of light forever. Eternity with the one who loves you.

So here's the challenge. Have you truly grasped why he came to earth? Not to show us God is real, nor to do amazing miracles or to right the wrongs of society, but to die. The Son of God dead and buried in the ground. His life so that you can have life. That's why he came. Not my interpretation, but his own words. And if you've grasped it, what are you going to do with it? Hold on to the seed of your life and polish and display it? Or plant it with Jesus who will raise it up with him.

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