Category Archives: abide in Christ

‘I am about to do a new thing’

Acts 10.44–48 

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine. 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

Isaiah 43.1–2, 19


Last week, we heard of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch. We heard that the Spirit of Jesus led Philip to him; we heard that there was no reason for a eunuch not to be baptised. In other words, there was every reason for him to be baptised! 

Today, we have heard the final act of another very important story in the Book of Acts. It’s the climax of the story of the conversion of Cornelius and his household.

The Ethiopian eunuch had an important position in his country, but he was also considered an inferior. Cornelius also had an important position; he was in charge of 100 Roman soldiers. But no one considered Cornelius to be at all inferior, because he was a Roman. 

Luke wrote the Book of Acts with an eye towards Rome, and so he spends a lot more time on Cornelius than he did on the Ethiopian eunuch, whose name we don’t even know. (Have you noticed that?)

Cornelius was a seeker. He was searching for truth, and that search had led him to become a ‘God fearer’. God fearers were Gentiles who found the Jewish belief in one God and the Jewish ethical code to be very attractive, but they did not take the step of actually becoming Jews, with all the demands of the Jewish law that entailed. 

So Acts tells us that Cornelius 

was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God.

It was while he was praying one day that God told him to fetch Peter to his house. Listen to what happened to Peter the very next day: Continue reading

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Abide, dwell, remain (Epiphany 2A, 15 January 2015)

John 1.29–42

Discipleship…is a state of being. Discipleship is about how we live; not just the decisions we make, not just the things we believe, but a state of being. (Rowan Williams, Being Disciples)

Today we have the story of two men coming to Jesus for the first time; one is Andrew, the other unnamed. It could be you, it could be me.

It’s the story of their becoming disciples.

In this chapter, John’s Gospel uses what may seem to be an unexpected word to describe being a disciple. That word is ‘remains’.

It’s one of John’s favourite words. He uses it all over the place. It’s only one Greek word—meno, for the Greek geeks—but in our English Bibles it might be remain, stay, or abide.

For example,

This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14.17)

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. (John 15.4)

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. (John 15.9)

Let’s look at where it comes in this chapter. Jesus realises he is being followed, and says:

‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi,…where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.

The English language mucks this up a bit, but let’s persist. Where we have two words, the Greek text has only one.

Rabbi, where are you staying?
They came and saw where he was staying,
and they remained with him that day.

Remember: staying, remaining, sometimes abiding or dwelling, it’s the same Greek word. (μένω, ménō) And it’s used a lot in John’s Gospel.

It describes what being a disciple is to a tee.

A disciple is a student who remains with Jesus. And in remaining with Jesus, the disciple is changed, even transformed.

These days, a student is someone who goes to uni when her scheduled classes are on, and perhaps at other times to work in the library. They may only see their lecturers when they’re in class.

It was different in Jesus’ day. If you were a student—a disciple—2000 years ago, you would expect to

hang on your teacher’s every word, to follow in his or her steps, to sleep outside their door in order not to miss any pearls of wisdom falling from their lips, to watch how they conduct themselves at the table, how they conduct themselves in the street…
(Rowan Williams, Being a Disciple)

Not many people these days would make that kind of commitment just to get a BA!

But it’s the kind of commitment required of a disciple of Jesus.

Continue reading

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