May 2nd   May 9th 

Sunday 16th May 2021​

Link to video sermon address:

https://youtu.be/UD2NBl5idt0
 

The Talking Hands: Ascension Sunday

At times I can be SO unobservant -

...I have seemingly blanked friends or close acquaintances in shops or on the street -

 

Not because of some offence I’ve carried,

...or petty revenge I’m wreaking,

…...but because I can be so dull with distraction 

 

Distracted by my own inner dialogue,

...distracted by my own daydreams and idle musings

 

I can also be unobservant when it comes to looking for things -

..,whether a clean pair of pants,

…...or the corkscrew for a bottle of wine

 

Poor old Emma -

...when I throw up with arms in frustrated defeat,

…..she graciously steps in and usually finds the missing item within moments!

……...LIKE A MAGICIAN PRODUCING ENDLESS RIBBONS OUT OF THEIR SLEEVES

 

The only time I Buck this life trend -

...and become genuinely observant,

…...is when I put my professional head on and conduct an assessment in my psychiatric role. 

 

I won’t make any claims of greatness -

...but as any mental health professional will tell you,

 

If you only LISTEN to what comes out of somebody’s mouth,

... you won’t learn the full story. 

 

The classic things to observe include 

 

Eyes contact (or lack of)

Facial and mouth expressions

Tone and rate of voice

Legs - crossed (at the knees or perhaps the ankles), wide apart, knees together, feet tucked under the sitter, jiggling or whether pointed to the assessor, or perhaps the door. 

Posture - there’s a myriad of possibilities here,

Clothing - not just what but how it’s worn,

Even accessories such as the defensive handbag barrier sat protectively on the knees

 

But one of my favourite are hands -

Sometimes I think they are almost as eloquent as words -

 

And perhaps more honest as their communication is less conscious. 

 

  • They can clenched in agitated fists

  • Or twitchy and anxious

  • They can unconsciously covering the speaker's mouth as though to express fear or shame at what they’re saying

  • Or tucked under armpits as part of a defensive arm cross

  • Or reaching over to pat my arm or hand constantly in a confident, perhaps overfamiliar or disinhibited way

  • Or holding onto the table edge as though to steady and provide an emotional anchor

  • Or pointing to intimidate or try to establish authority

 

....sometimes hands can even unveil the lie beneath the words -

 

Once a lady told me that she had managed to put her sisters mistreatment of her into the past -

Forgive her

While at the same time seeming to simulate an unconscious neck wringing gesture with her hands

 

Or the chap who told me that he trusted his wife implicitly,

even as he obsessively twisted the wedding band on his finger 

 

Of course -

There’s every chance that I  have been reading too much into it,

….so I try to take each interpersonal interpretation with a humble pinch of salt

 

YOU CANT READ TOO MUCH I TO A SINGLE GESTURE OR MANNERISM-

But taken as a whole across an interview they can be really revealing

 

Interestingly,

watching YouTube videos of myself post editing in these COVID times has been both revealing and a bit excruciating!

 

I have realised just how much I use my hands -

IT MUST BE SO DISTRACTING FOR YOU!

 

SO -

Hands are important communicators -

..,,HANDS MATTER. 

 

and it’s hands that I want to focus on today in our ascension text,

…..where Jesus leaves his disciples,

………….. and goes back to his father. 

 

JESUS HAD BUSY HANDS

 

  • his hands cured the sick, 

  • They expelled demons, 

  • These hands performed miracles, 

  • They touched the untouchable (whether prostitutes or lepers or the lady with the flow of blood ) thus imparting acceptance  

  • and most expressively of all -   These hands allowed themselves to be nailed to the cross in love

  • The same nail marks that were shown to the disciples after his resurrection to help them believe. 

 

Today we will focus on Jesus’ hands on the day of His ascension,

 

The whole text is Luke 24:44-53 - we’ll read it in its entirety in church and you may want to press pause and read it all for yourself now,

...but I’m going to read vs : 50-53.

 

HANDS THAT BLESS

 

One of the things that strikes me about the description of this text b4 Jesus went back to his father

(And the general setting)

... is it’s beautiful normality

 

To my mind,

... some of the most beautiful things in existence are ‘normal’

 

And perhaps we miss their significance = because we are always looking for the extraordinary 

 

In this text, 

nothing extraordinary happened in terms of miracles. 

 

It was a calm scene: 

there was no fire or chariots of fire. 

 

It was a majestic scene: 

there were no angels or anything to steal the splendor of the scene. 

 

= There was only the power of God,

…….. acting with simplicity.

 

Jesus’ Hands rose to bless -

HIS HANDS LITERALLY DID THE TALKING

 

Before ascending to heaven,

….. Jesus blessed his disciples.

 

That blessing was given with authority.

 

 He blessed them, 

….while the Father welcomed him, 

…………..receiving him into heaven.

 

When I was 9 - 

before I had even thought about faith or what it might mean for me,

 

= I had a vision of Jesus’ hands raised high above my school assembly hall stage -

...BECKONING

 

I’ve had nothing like it since -

But it was so vivid that I can see those hands as clearly now as I could then. 

 

I sincerely believe these were the hands that were raised in blessing,

...2000 years ago in our text. 

 

And it’s helped me see the truth that those same hands continue to bless his children today -

 

HANDS THAT WERE PIERCED

 

Hands can tell a story through their markings -

Tell story of chap who met prince Charles and how Charles ‘tough, calloused working hands’ helped disabuse him of notion that the prince was ‘ soft and pampered’

 

Jesus hands - and their mark,

...told their own story 

= carpenters tough hands

= a martyrs pierced hands

 

While blessing his disciples, 

...Jesus was close to them. 

 

We can imagine that they saw the holes, 

….the marks of the nails in Jesus’ hands. 

 

There was no doubt?,

….. that those hands were Jesus’ hands.

 

When the disciples saw Jesus’ pierced hands, .

..they realized that the blessing that they received on that moment -

 

= had been bought by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. 

 

His crucifixion,

... bought continuous blessing for all redeemed.

 

HANDS THAT ARE AVAILABLE IN THE EVERYDAY

 

What place did Jesus choose to be the place of his ascension? 

 

  • He didn’t choose Bethlehem where angels sang praises.

 

  • He didn’t choose the Calvary where open graves and split rocks proclaimed his divinity. 

 

  • And He didn’t choose the transfiguration mountain where his glory was revealed to the disciples. 

 

  • But he chose Bethany, a humble village.

 

Bethany represents the everyday -

OUR everyday. 

 

Bethany was as grand and glorious a setting as say Johnston, or Neyland, or Sageston …

 

After blessing them Jesus stood back, 

….Then he joined his father. 

 

HANDS THAT LOVE

…… US

 

Picture his hands in your mind eyes -

...a carpenter's hand,

…….a fathers Hands

…………….Gods hands

 

  • These were the same hands that grasped Peter when he sank in the waves in the Sea of Galilee. 

 

  • These were the same hands that doubting Thomas was invited to look at and touch - 

            ...helping him to believe and say "My Lord and my God". 

 

  • These were the same hands that the disciples saw for the last time raised in a farewell blessing.

 

Only after ten days,

….. did the disciples understand the fullness of the blessing given by Jesus in his ascension.

 

I think Peter at the Pentecost, 

…..must have preached that first Holy Spirit inspired sermon,

 

= with that last vision of Christ’s raised hands when he said: 

 

"This man (Jesus), was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you with the help of the wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead because it was impossible for death to keep its hold of him." 

 

Those hands knock on the door of your heart today. 

 

Those hands have deep marks of love. 

 

CONCLUSION

 

Don’t waste this opportunity. 

 

Today Jesus wants to use His hands to bless you, 

to change your character, 

to carry your yoke. 

 

He wants to take away this burden you’ve been carrying for so long, 

he wants to renew your strength, 

he wants to transform your sadness in happiness; 

 

he wants to transform your depression in joy,

….. and your lack of faith in hope.

 

Those hands that were raised in our text are reaching out for you now -

...will you take hold of them?

Sunday 9th May 2021​

Link to video sermon address:

https://youtu.be/sAZt9rtmLKo
 

 The Storm: yr b, proper 7.  

 Mark 4: 35 – 41

(mention = one of most spiritually significant miracles) 

 

Psalm 107: 1-3, 23-32.   

 

31 years ago years old, I found myself standing on the edge of an old, tatty quay – waiting for a boat to arrive –   

 

The Quay was on a small Island in the South Pacific, And it was part of a bigger group called the Solomons.   

 

The boat that I and 15 other young people were waiting for would offer passage across to an even smaller Island, Called Simbo.   An Island that hadn’t seen a white face since the New Zealand army had installed stand-pipes 10 years before.   

 

My peers and I were full of excited expectation – We had been preparing for this trip for over a year now,   

..a trip that would see us construct a much needed, If rather modest – 

COMMUNITY CENTRE for the Islanders. 

 

And after numerous plane, bus and boat trips, Journey's end was just one more boat ride away.   

 

The boat – A rather grand name for what looked like a rather tatty oversized canoe,   Eventually arrived, And out popped a wiry islander with a big wild bush of incongruously ginger hair,

 ..and the widest/whitest smile I had ever seen.   

 

He was speaking animatedly in fast paced-pigeon English, And greeting each one of us in turn as BRUUUUVER..or ..SISTEEEEER!! 

 

He sounds made up I know –

 ..he looked like a walking/talking stereotype..   But I promise you he was for real!

 

 …and we all just charmed us all immediately = He was fun incarnate.   

So we all spilled into the boat, And he fired up the little outboard engine – and off we went.  

 

I hadn’t realised this at the time, But this Island hop would be quite different from the others we had taken so far….   

 

Simbo is at the edge of the Solomon’s, And as such the crossing is not sheltered by other Islands.. 

= for the 1st time we would actually be in open ocean.   

 

Although it was a nice day – and conditions were good (not like the storm in our MARK passage), …it felt really rough in our little boat. 

 

They may have seemed tame to a proper sized craft, But at our level they looked and felt HUGE.  

 

The boat rode up and down these large choppy waves – 

..and the boat man seemed to position the boat at just the right angle to ride them safely…  

 

But he didn’t inspire great confidence –

 …his extrovert charisma had seemed charming when we 1st met him,   Now it seemed terrifying as he kept turning around and chattering to us – ..hardly seeming to pay attention to the job at hand..   

 

We were all aware that we were in open sea – Not a good place to overturn if he hit one of those waves from the side…

 (and if that little outboard engine cut – ..what then?? – there was only one oar, and that wouldn’t suffice). 

 

We loved his character when he arrived – ..he was the man from Simbo = it’s all we needed to know…   

 

But his character and origin was an irrelevance now –

 …all we cared about was his boatmanship = could we trust him?   

 

I remember that crossing well, 

..and it’s come to mind before when I have read Marks passage…

 (and although the disciples found themselves in a PROPER storm) 

 

…I’ve still found myself wondering whether the disciples had similar things going on in their minds – 

as I and my unseasoned travelling friends did on that day…

 

  Jesus had impressed his disciples when he 1st met them – 

..and he had been impressing them ever since…   

 

They knew he was from God, and that was enough for them….   

 

We know from the Gospel accounts that they still had confusion at this point over his EXACT credentials: 

..was he a prophet? – the new Elijah?? 

..was he a military saviour like Moses and Joshua?, 

sent to deliver his people from the Roman occupying army… 

..or was he more than this……?   

 

These questions as to his specific role and credentials, 

= weren’t so important when they were following him around, 

___watching him perform great healings and say terrifically wise stuff.   

 

He was great – that was enough..  

But now things were getting a bit tense – life-threatening, 

…and Jesus didn’t seem to be doing much about it 

(he was throwing up a few Z’s in the back of the boat)..   

 

To give this scene a bit of context, The sea of galilee is notorious for its sudden/vicious storms – In-experienced sailors tend to avoid this bit of water.  

 

In the modern day – There are disclaimers in the car parks near the western shore,

 ..warning people that the car parks can get unexpectedly swamped if sudden storms blow up,

 

So – from the disciples perspective – 

in the middle of one of these nasty surprises, ….the question of WHO Jesus exactly was, 

..had suddenly become an awful lot more important to them….

 (there was a lot riding on it – their lives were riding on it!).   

 

Our Simbo Islander was great – 

..but his ability to steer a safe course across a small stretch of ocean – In a pathetically small boat, Was the only thing that interested us about him during that voyage. 

 

Peter and his friends had followed Jesus literally into the eye of a storm – 

..sure he was great – 

he healed lots of people, 

But could he save them from a storm?   

 

We sense their panic in the narrative that follows

..and we can see that all that went before in their relationship with Jesus had ceased to be of significance now…  

 “Teacher! – we’re going down, don’t you care!!”   Vs 39; “He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace! Be Still! – then the wind ceased, And there was a dead calm.”   

 

Jews – generally speaking, Didn’t like the sea very much.   Apart from fishermen (who didn’t go too far from shore),

 ..the Jews tended to leave sea-faring to their neighbours the Phoenicians.  

 

When I looked more deeply into Jewish symbolism during my previous studies,

 ..I was surprised to see just how ingrained their dislike and distrust of all things nautical really were.   

 

They used images of the sea to depict BAD things…   

Some suggest that their dislike is rooted in the creation dialogue,

 ..which speaks of God’s NEW WORLD emerging from the sea..   

 

The Psalms – including 107, which I read earlier, ..speak several times of God who rules the raging seas..   

 

For the ancient Jew’s, 

..the sea represented chaos, disorder and death = and they believed it contained monsters, Such as Leviathan, who embodied destruction.

 

They firmly believed that God – AND GOD ALONE, 

..was capable of taming this dark, destructive power.   And so this miracle we witness today – JESUS ORDERING THE SEA TO BE QUIET, 

 

..is like a huge concrete block of TRUTH smashing into the disciples awareness..   

 

They had literally seen Jesus doing something God alone could do- (more so than previous miracles)

 ..Prophets had healed before Jesus, 

…Moses had invoked God’s authority over the waters, when they parted, 

….but Jesus had spoken directly to the sea…   

 

He hadn’t prayed, 

..and he didn’t raise a staff given him directly for this purpose…

 

He had just told it to ‘shut up and be still!’  

The disciples couldn’t fail to notice this specifically GOD-LIKE expression of power: 

..it spoke more than WORDS could convey..   

 

WE can claim to be all kinds of things – Put me in a smart pilots uniform and cap, and let me walk purposefully towards a plane..  

 …and most strangers will assume that I can fly a plane.   

 

But of course the proof’s in the pudding – (and as far as planes are concerned – You wouldn’t want to taste my pudding!) 

 

..my SIMBO boat man couldn’t have looked less like a competent boat man, 

…but he got us back and forth across that sliver of ocean time and again in our 4 month stay.   

 

And the disciples were confronted with a staggering display of authority on that stormy day– 

An authority that expressed his power to save.  

 

Jesus adopted the title ‘SON OF MAN’ – Perhaps the disciples saw parallels with Daniels chapter 7, 

..where in his vision - ‘one like the son of man’, = put’s to flight the sea monsters.   

 

This theme of salvation – as witnessed on one level in our passage today, Caused TOM WRIGHT, the author and biblical scholar…   

To comment that the experience on the boat, was like a foreshadow of the saving act that was to come for the disciples…  

 

he wrote; ‘Here is Jesus, not now asleep on a pillow in the boat – But slumped on a cross.

We hear his voice: ‘why are you afraid? Don’t you believe?’ 

..and on the 3rd day the storm is still, the tomb is empty, 

…and great fear comes upon them all. ‘who then IS this?’   

 

It’s no surprise then that the miracle we have read about today is not just one more among many amazing others that Jesus did –

 ..but it’s actually one of the most significant…

 

It would have struck a chord with Marks 1st century readers – 

..those 1st followers of this new movement –   THE WAY, as it was 1st called, 

…or Christianity as it would later be titled.   

 

Using our nautical metaphor; 

..those 1st believers left the perceived safety of their former lives, 

…and risked everything by climbing aboard the GOOD SHIP ‘JESUS’   

Jesus wasn’t just the ship,

 ..he was piloting the vessel….  

 

 ..and now the journey was starting to get pretty rough – 

..they had been dispersed, disparaged – and at times violently persecuted,   

their faith in their vessel and pilot was sorely tried

..doubts crashing down upon their heads like waves…   

 

Reading Marks account, 

..they would have identified in a very personal/powerful way, 

..with that collection of frightened men on the sea of Galilee.  

 

Don’t we relate to those frightened men from time to time?   

Don’t we find life a bit rough from time to time – ..intimidated by circumstances – 

…. soaked by doubts and bereft of peace? 

 

 We call out to Jesus in prayer, Like those disciples in the storm – 

But it can be so hard to trust/to believe…. 

 

I for one confess that my trust has all but been washed overboard on occasions…  

 And what does Mark say to us modern, sophisticated, sceptical 21st century Christians? Maybe it’s this;   

If you don’t trust him or believe that he’s in control, 

..go to the back of the boat; -        

WAKE HIM UP in a manner of speaking

 …pray to him in your fear,

anger or distrust…   

 

But we mustn’t be surprised when he turns round towards us –

 ..as the STORM subsides in the background,

 = and ask;

 ‘when are you going to start REALLY believing in me’

 

Amen

Sunday 2nd May 2021

Link to video sermon address:

https://youtu.be/17ZxnkLUTlY

Sunday Reflection - The Vine: Pruning and Relating -

5th Sunday in Easter, 2021

INTRO -

 

Famous vine text -

 

In it we’ll be exploring the idea that the vine is a metaphor for having a relationship with God. 

 

Calling ourselves Christians -

 going to church,

… using religious jargon 

IS NOT PROOF OF HAVING A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

 

the ONLY PROOF - is bearing fruit,

 

And that fruit is called LOVE,

 and not just the easy to love ones. 

 

**read text - John 15:1-8

 

We all have people we struggle to tolerate -

 

They may well be perfectly nice and decent,

.. and well liked by everybody else,

 

 but for some reason the chemistry doesn’t work...

 

I was reflecting a while back,

.. on why I used to find a particular fellow Christian so difficult to tolerate -

 

They were kind, generous and friendly-

 

If you needed a hand they’d be the first to volunteer

 

 so why did I find that I was constantly trying to hide my low level irritation towards them?

 

And then the Penny dropped -

…. they were so ‘preachy’ 

 

I’m a person of faith,

 and a preacher to boot

 

= so it probably makes me the world's biggest hypocrite!

 

But I’m not a huge fan of ‘religious jargon’ - 

why not use ‘every day’ words that say the same thing

 

 and I hate having someone’s viewpoint shoved down my throat uninvited (however well intended)

 

I knows Gods with me all the time -

 and I try to be open to his presence,

 

  • But I don’t need to drop spiritual sounding words into every sentence

  • Or loudly mutter ‘praise god’ after every sip of good coffee

  • Or constantly crow bar an overt spiritual truth into every single conversation - 

 

It feels forced rather than natural -

 frankly it’s not normal!

 

It’s like the street preachers who used to turn up outside Leicester bus station when I was courting Emma -

 

I’d Be waiting for the bus to take me back to Northampton,

 when some nervous looking chap would  suddenly walk up to the que,

take out a huge Bible 

 and start reading random out of contact texts at us in old King James speech at top speed,

 

Before slamming it shut again,

…. and shuffling away -

……..JOB DONE. 

 

Except - what job?

 what did it achieve?

 

Thank God 

JESUS didn’t preach like that

 

 - verbal preachy explosions - OUT OF THE BLUE, 

……..OUT OF CONTEXT!!

 

He wasn’t an irrelevant religious weirdo who put everyone off  -

 

rather he connected with his listeners

he used their language and everyday stories they could relate to

 he was sensitive to the situation and the audience

 everything he said had proper context and relevance

 

The gospels are full of miracles/teachings/parables - 

 

IF YOU READ THEN FROM START TO FINISH

 

it would sound as if 

…………he never paused for breath once in his 3 year ministry!

……………..spontaneously erupting into SERMONS and HEALING EXPRESSIONS 

 

  • EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY WAKING HOUR

       (on the loo, washing the dishes, hoeing the veg patch)

 

BUT IN REALITY

I’m sure if his mum asked him pass the salt at dinner,

he didn’t automatically launch EVERY TIME  into something like:

 

“Why ask for mere table salt dear woman  when I could give you the salt of the holy spirit that season the human heart and soul”

 

He may have said something similar to the woman at the well in Samaria once -

but that was in the context of a WIDER CONVERSATION

 

I’m SURE he didn’t do this EVERY TIME he came to a well -

 

= I should imagine that on every other occasion he ….

………………….. DREW WATER and HAD A DRINK (shock!!)

 

JESUS WAS PROFOUND -

….but he wasn’t an irrelevant religious weirdo (he wouldn’t have been invited to so many parties if he was!)

 

************

 

The GOSPEL READINGS are CONDENSED (like a tin of Campbell's mushroom soup) -

….an intense ‘overview’.

……..collected from his 3 YEAR MINISTRY

 

But unlike the man READING RANDOM BIBLE TEACHINGS in Leicester bus station -

 

JESUS SPOKE in  CONTEXT AND with RELEVANCE

…………His teaching didn’t just POP OUT from a vacuum

 

And so when he DID speak = it made sense

 

He used everyday REFERENCES,

….to explain idea’s that may have been hard to grasp otherwise

 

= and this is what we are witnessing in today's text…

 

Jesus and his disciples,

had just left the place they had been together (the upper room) 

 

They are walking towards the GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE

 

My BIBLE ATLAS tell me,

that they would have had to have walked by the TEMPLE to get there

 

One of the most PROMINENT decorative ornaments on the temple is (quote):

“A golden vine with a cluster of grapes on it as large as a man”

 

JESUS was chatting to the disciples as they walked -

HIGHLY LIKELY he is talking about importance of them having a CLOSE RELATIONSHIP,

…….with HIM/GOD 

= if they are to survive the trials to come

 

And then as they look at the TEMPLE GOLDEN VINE ORNAMENT -

 

Typical of Jesus -

he uses it as an OBJECT ILLUSTRATION to explain the theological concept of 

RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

 

= TO MAKE HIS TEACHING EASIER TO GRASP

 

AND IN THE PROCESS HE COINS THE TERM - ‘the true vine’

“I am the true vine”

 

In the OT,

….the VINE was an important image 

…….. = DESCRIBED ISRAEL

 

‘The vine that YAHWEH loved and nurtured’

 

= but that vine had become rotten and corrupt

 

  • In NT JESUS replaces the VINE,

…………….and in this analogy - WE become the branches attached to the VINE (Jesus)

 

= (nutshell)

...no longer attached to a DODGY, ELITIST, SELF-SERVING religious system

…….. -> but DIRECTLY TO GOD HIMSELF

 

*********

 

Growing up in rainy/cool BRITAIN -

I haven’t encountered many vines or vineyards

 

And being a TOWNIE by birth,

…..and I don’t have much HORTICULTURAL EXPERIENCE either

 

But EVEN I can deduce that the PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY,

….for the TENDER OF THE VINEYARD,

 

= must be ensuring that each vine bears plenty of FRUIT

 

Even MY limited gardening experience,

….tells me that PRUNING (getting rid of the unproductive dead wood)

 

= is an important part of this process

 

And coming back to the vine as a SPIRITUAL CONCEPT -

….JESUS saw more than his fair share of RELIGIOUS DEADWOOD on it.

 

As is GENERALLY the case in the gospels (and unlike many Christians today)

….JESUS isn’t taking POTSHOTS at non-believers

 

He’s speaking to RELIGIOUS FOLK (hypocrites who should know better)

 

= ‘to the SELF-RIGHTEOUS believers - wobbling on their pretentious pedestals,

…….JESUS HAS THIS WARNING:

‘The dead wood is cut off and chucked out’

 

‘Legalists       - unloving       - cold-hearted       - unforgiving       - judgemental - 

….the kind of folks = ‘who don’t practice what they preach’

 

As Jesus says in MATTHEW -

 

some people will say to me LORD LORD -

……= but I won’t recognize them,

…………and I’ll say -’ GET AWAY FROM ME’

 

IF they were properly attached to his VINE -

they would be FULL OF HIS LOVE

Q……..but how can they be if all they express lacks love?

 

So - SIMPLY = VINE IS A METAPHOR FOR RELATIONSHIP 

 

IM married to Emma -

I CALL HER ‘my wife’

 

But that TAG (wife) -

...is meaningless unless i LOVE and SHARE MY LIFE with her (= just a word)

 

JESUS is clear that it is exactly the same for people who call themselves ‘CHRISTIANS’

 

= going to CHURCH --  doing CHURCHY stuff --  .>USING RELIGIOUS JARGON

………….ISN’T PROOF OF RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS

 

BUT DISPLAYING LOVE IN A MEANINGFUL WAY - ‘CHRIST LIKE WAY’ = IS

 

************

 

I used to have a popular tree in my FRONT GARDEN

 

THERE was a RENT in it’s trunk > it allowed decay to enter over time

 

It bore fewer and fewer leaves -

….EACH YEAR

 

Until I finally got my act together -

...now it’s just a stump. 

 

Perhaps this is an appropriate metaphor,

...for our own SPIRITUAL LIVES…

 

We can leave RENTS untended -

...OPPORTUNITIES for DECAY to gradually take hold over time

 

Untended:

Selfishness --- grudges --- bitterness --- jealousy --- hate…

 

Combine any of those issues,

...with a REFUSAL TO ADMIT THAT IT IS OUR PROBLEM

………(a problem that needs addressing)

 

= and we become vulnerable

…..it becomes an issue that can block the flow of life

 

There’s a perennial debate in theology -

R WE BORN GOOD or EVIL - 

>>> locked onto an inevitable path??

 

There may be the ODD PERSON that's ‘wired wrong’ -

…..but for most of us don’t we DEVELOP OVER TIME?

 

Each CHOICE/ATTITUDE/RESPONSE >>> 

Hardening --- or  --- softening OUR HEARTS

Growing         or       strangling  US SPIRITUALLY

 

Making us more or less - LOVING..

 

And it’s the VINE,

….that feeds and nurtures us -

…….that makes it possible TO FORGIVE AS WE HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN for instance

 

  • Or put aside the grudge

  • Or refuse to have the last word for the sake of harmony

  • Or refuse to strike back

  • Or put aside your preference as you put somebody else 1st

 

Perhaps the PRUNING metaphor can also apply to those bits of us,

……. that JESUS lops off over time

(a bit of deadwood selfishness here     --  

   a bit of vindictiveness there)

 

Please don’t mistake this for some kind of VICTORIAN PURITANICAL > ‘joyless doctrine’,

….rather it’s being sensitive to what Jesus wants us to do in love at different times

 

HIS CRITERIA for PRUNING - wasn’t = LOP OFF THE FUN BITS

 

HIS CRITERIA for PRUNING is simply = 

WHAT NEEDS TO COME OFF TO MAKE THE BRANCH MORE FRUITFUL?

 

SO -

2 words come to mind when we think of the vine -

  1. Pruning

  2. (much nicer word) - Abiding - or relating

 

**********

 

A while back I  found myself overwhelmed with a head full of to dos -

MINISTRY, NURSING and DOMESTIC to do’s

 

Bizarrely I had both my personal and NHS laptops open on my desk,

... and a pad of paper with one of my beloved lists

 

My head felt full,

... and I sensed the physical signs of stress that assail me at times like this 

 

But like the fool I am -

INSTEAD OF DOING ONE JOB AT A TIME

 

I tried to make some headway through sheer effort -

 

...I launched into a series of phone calls, 

emails, 

scribbled notes on sermon ideas pad,

made a few random statements on my dictaphone, 

while leafing through one of my commentaries …..and glancing at the bible text -

 

By lunch time = My HURRIED FRENZY of EFFORT - had produced very little indeed

 

And then the IRONY hit me -

...the verse for today quotes Jesus as saying ‘you can do nothing apart from me’

 

I was busy CHASING MY TAIL ‘in my own strength’

...but I hadn’t asked for help

 

So I went into the bedroom and lay down -

NOT BECAUSE I COULDN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

 

...but because it’s the quietest place in the house during lockdown. 

 

Listened to a coupe of relaxing worship songs 

... then started chatting to God

(Not hands together praying,

..,but chatting like you would with a good mate)

 

….THEN after a while, 

..,,,,,went back to my study area AND STARTED AGAIN

 

  • = MUCH MORE PRODUCTIVE 

 

I should know by now - i’ve fallen into this trap COUNTLESS times!

 

‘I’m not responsible for producing the fruit -

….I just need to ABIDE in the one who produces it in me’

 

I’M THE BRANCH   ----   HE’S THE VINE

 

So that’s all that I really want to say this morning -

 

Less effort -

….more fruitfulness

 

Let’s give Jesus final word:

 

“Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me”

 

PRAY -

Lord you are the vine and we are the branches -

..please help us to abide in you -

Relating, growing and producing fruit because of you.

Please prune any deadwood from our lives -

Help us to see what needs to go and submit to your nurturing and pruning work in us.

Amen.