Tag Archives: Suffering Servant

A blessed stranger (Easter 5B, 3 May 2015)

Reading
Acts 8.26–40

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.…The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
1 John 4.1, 21

At the beginning of our service, we prayed a Prayer of Invocation which came from Korea. It began:

Stay with us, blessed stranger,
for the day is far spent,
and we have not yet recognised your face
in each of our sisters and brothers.

Philip the deacon met a stranger, a blessed stranger, on the wilderness road from Jerusalem to Gaza. And Philip saw the face of Jesus in the stranger’s own face.

This is part of the fulfilment of Jesus’ words to the disciples in Acts 1:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

The Book of Acts is about the way the Good News of Jesus spread in those early days of the Church. At first the message was heard in Jerusalem, and then in Judea; those who were part of the covenant people were to hear it, and respond. Which they did.

But the message couldn’t be contained to the people of the covenant. It burst those boundaries, like new wine bursting old wineskins. They proclaimed it in Samaria, where tainted people lived because their ancestors had violated the covenant.

And then the next step comes: the ends of the earth. Total non-Jews. And so we come to the first recorded time that someone from “the ends of the earth” heard the Good News of Jesus.

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Come to serve—Sunday 29, Year B (21 October 2012)

Reading
Mark 10.32-45

 

Jesus said:

whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

It’s not easy to be a servant, but it is the Way to Life. There is a Native American story that might help us to reflect on how we should live. It begins like this:

A young brave goes to an elder and says, ‘I’m confused. My heart is filled with good and with bad.’

Like the young brave, James and John were filled with good and bad. They desired to serve Jesus, but they were being led astray by false desires.

Peter, James and John were Jesus’ three main men. Oh yes, there were twelve apostles, and there were others, men and women, who followed him. But they were a core group of three.

The Three had come from the same place, Capernaum in Galilee. Fishing was their trade, and they plied it on the Sea of Galilee.

They were loyal to Jesus, but there were deeper loyalties at work. James and John were brothers, they were the sons of Zebedee. They wanted a core group of two, not three. They wanted Peter demoted.

So they come to Jesus asking a favour:

Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you… Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.

Now, that is so understandable. Ambition isn’t wrong, right?

It’s so understandable—yet so wrong on so many levels.

Let’s look at what has been happening just before J&J came to ask their ‘favour’.

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God is love (Easter 5, Year B, 6 May 2012)

Readings
Acts 8.26-40
1 John 4.7-21
John 15.1-8

Back in 1967, The Beatles sang

All you need is love.

And they were right. Love is all you need.

Many of us spend our whole lives trying to find that love. We look for it everywhere, convinced it’s ‘out there’, somewhere. We look for it in romantic attachments, in our children, in friends, in sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

Sometimes we find enough of it to meet our aching need. Sometimes we find it only to lose it again, or to realise that the ‘love’ we found wasn’t love at all.

The Bible talks a lot about love, and no more so than in 1 John. Let’s refresh our memory:

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

In fact, John goes further than that. He says,

God is love.

What does that mean? How do we see God’s love for us? John answers this question too:

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

John is saying that God loves the unlovely. God loves those who put his only Son on the cross, where he died for them. Can we believe that? It’s not necessarily easy for every believer to believe that. It’s not easy because either

  • we think we’re deep down unloveable and don’t deserve God’s love; or,
  • we think we’re better than most and God is lucky to have us on his team.

Both are dead wrong.

The fact is that God loves each one of us absolutely and unconditionally and for ever.

Of course, the love we’re used to is deeply conditional. We love others as long as they do the right thing. But if they do something to hurt us or our family, then we criticise and turn against them.

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Third Sunday of Easter (Year A, 8 May 2011)

The risen life: walking in hope

Readings
1 Peter 1.17-23
Luke 24.13-35

 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.

Cleopas and his friend had hoped…but their hopes died with Jesus.

People can live through any loss, except the loss of hope. Hope is essential to a human life. Without hope, we are diminished.

How do we sustain hope when things go wrong? How do we keep ourselves out of the pit of despair?

To answer those questions, let’s join Cleopas and his friend on the way to Emmaus. (There are those who believe this was no friend with Cleopas, but his wife—and I think they make a good case. So I’m going to call them Mr and Mrs Cleopas.)

As we join them on the road, we notice something straight away. This isn’t an amble, a ramble or a stroll. Neither is it a quick march, and there’s no spring in their step.

These despairing disciples are trudging, they’re plodding, barely able to drag one foot after another.

The stranger can’t help but notice the way they’re walking. It looks a lot like the walk of a condemned man to the scaffold.

Yet even in their deep despair, they allow this third man to join them. They extend hospitality to him.

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Passion/Palm Sunday (Year A, 17 April 2011)

Jesus: emptied of ‘all but love’

Readings
Isaiah 50.4-9a
Philippians 2.5-11
Matthew 21.1-11

 Last week, we sang that wonderful hymn, And can it be. Recall these amazing words from verse 3:

He left his Father’s throne above
(so free, so infinite his grace!),
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race.

Jesus ‘emptied himself of all but love’. As I’m saying these words, some of you will be hearing the tune in your heads.

Scholars think that the passage from Philippians we read today was originally a hymn, so the Philippians may have also heard the tune in their heads when Paul wrote these words:

Christ Jesus…emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

We have no idea of the tune today; it would sound like a kind of chant to our ears rather than a song. I’m sure it sounded nothing like the tune to And can it be, but the words certainly inspired Charles Wesley.

He left his Father’s throne above…
emptied himself of all but love…

That summarises the first half of Paul’s words very well indeed.

Paul isn’t trying to give us a stand-alone theological explication of the ‘being’ of Jesus. He has a very practical reason for speaking of the ‘self-emptying’ of Jesus. Let’s look at why Paul introduces this hymn. He says,

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…

So the ‘mind’ of Christ Jesus is a mind that has something to do with being emptied for others.

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