On the power of words and language…
On the power of words and language…
And Jesus had this way of transmitting this acceptance – and from his fullness we have all received.
From Dallas Willard:
“Joy is not pleasure, a mere sensation, but a pervasive and constant sense of well-being. Hope in the goodness of God is joy’s indispensable support”
Joy is not a pleasure. Not a mere sensation. Not just feeling happy in the moment because of something that’s going on. it’s a pervasive and constant knowledge of well-being that all ultimately is well with me and not just with me but with all things. That’s joy.
Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord” and Nehemiah says “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”
It is important to engage in the things that cause us to be sustained – worship, scripture, friendship, finding the things that give us joy. For Jesus this included partying with non-religious people.
The idea of significance is that I was made to make a difference beyond myself. Satan’s temptation was to find the significance outwith the identity of God.
For Jesus this is “my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to do his work.”
Jesus tells us all these things so that our joy may be complete in him.
Our temptation is to reverse the cycle, to begin with achievement, then significance, then sustenance, then identity. Jesus reverses this which is why he was able to sustain massive personal rejection.
Comes back to this phrase “In a little while”, in a little while we will receive all the answers.
Bultmann “It is the nature of joy that all questions go silent and nothing needs explaining.”
In a little while our joy will be complete.
Or looking good. How attractive enough. Comparison with George Clooney.
Grace is enough. Paul in Ephesians 2
What would grace say to this area ? Stop
All this success looks like idolatry
In the bible the opposite of grace is salvation by works. It is ironic that a generation that does not believe in God still believes in salvation by works.
Grace is good news but it is not soft. It teaches us about sin. Amazing grace it was grace that taught my heart to fear
Grace would say that that uneasiness you feel cannot be healed by achievement or messages of self esteem. You need to be saved by what sin is doing to your soul.
Tell story of girl who disobeyed. Girl says you had better spank me now because I have disobeyed. The human will has rebelled.
And we have just got used to this world because it is all of us. But god never gets used to it. Never says that’s okay. Gods standard is the sinless position in which he dwells. In gods eyes sin is the real horror of our soul.
Reads list of sins and asks people to honestly deal with where they are.
Spiritual sanity begins by saying something is broken in me
Grace came one day (John 1)
All have sinned (Romans 3)
Grace would say you can have the acceptance you have always craved. Just humble yourself and check out of the culture of performance.
You can affirm this and still not be a follower of Jesus.
Take a pencil out. What does it mean to give my heart to God.
My only hope is this man Jesus.
I want to receive your forgiveness and love and I want to surrender.
I want God to fly the plane
The ultimate “I can’t believe I haven’t died moment” still awaits us, and belongs says John – “but to those who did believe he gave the right to become children” – to those who have faith. To have faith is to jump.
My favourite illustration still remains Indy in the Last Crusade.
And some fine poetry from Michael Symmons Roberts’ “Anatomy of a perfect dive” (From “Corpus”, page 67).
…Feet on the brink. Avoid brushing earth
from your soles. Some trace of it
can cross the border with you;
flecks of other people on your skin and hair,
…reach up with your arms, as if this was
less dive, more surrender,
less surrender, more ascension. Stretch
until your heels lift from the sandstone
…You’ve left the world. There. The land
was thin. The land, let’s be honest, was dying.
…Technically, this is the crux.
You are living a half-life between
two elements. You may wish at this stage
to be photographed or painted.
Now you know what your solidity is for:
so gravity has something to work with.
The first was to imagine an edition of the X-Factor, and against the backdrop of this year’s show where viewers were urged to vote for Mary and save her from going back to Tesco.
So imagine the X-Factor, we have just had the theme, the sonerous voice-over, the reminder that the contestants will giving the performance of their lives, the portentous background music of Carmina Burana, Dermot appears, talks up the show, and then announces the arrival of the X-Factor judges.
The dry ice-pumps, the doors draw back, the fireworks descend from the ceiling, and the judges appear.
“Louis Walsh” says sonerous voice-over man – Louis grins inanely
“Danni Minogue” – Danni smiles, savouring the moment, she might not be here next year,
“Cheryl Cole” – Cheryl stands, salutes her an public
and “Simon Cowell” – the camera cuts to empty space on the stage, dry ice, sparklers but no Simon.
Dermot rushes onto stage, an envelope is thrust into his hand, Dermot opens the envelope, white with shock, reads out it’s contents. Simon has left the show to spend the next thirty three years working on a checkout at Tesco.
The other illustration related to the news that 14,000 families had been displaced fleeing violence in the Ivory Coast.
I had shown my concern about the situation by making the effort to drag my mouse across other more frivolous stories on the BBC webstie to click on the headline. Furthermore, in a remarkable demonstration of International solidarity, I had pressed paged down repeatedly to reach the end of the article.
If I wanted to demonstrate further commitment, I might endeavour to send some money.
I may even take out a direct debit, to ensure my giving was regular.
If I was even more commited I might undertake to pray on a regular basis for the people of the Ivory Coast.
If the depth of my love stretched to its limit, I might choose to leave my job, my family, my home; I might invest my remaining savings in a flight to Nigeria and then on to the Ivory Coast, and resolved to spend the remainder of life with the people of Sierra Leone.
As I left, people might comment, “See how much he cares for these people.”
What must the angels have said the day that the Word left the side of the Father to enter the womb of Mary. “See how much he loves those people… see how much he loves.”
And nine months later they sang
“Glory God in the Highest and Peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
10th October 2010
Magnificent tour round the scriptures from John Ortberg.
This a talk on community, and living together, and mostly when we do such a thing we start with the ethics, with the need simply to love.
Instead what Ortberg does is ground this in the being of God, and then the plan of God (Lukan fans of Salvation history are on home ground here, indeed as we all ought to be – how come salvation history got marginalised as an idea, here’s to you Oscar Cullmann).
He begins with ancient societies – hierarchies of kings, nobles, artisans; then peasants and slaves; and the way that the king was said to bear the image of God, this is how is rule was authorised and respect was due. And then looks at the revolutionary nature of the Genesis verse (Genesis 1:27) which is so radical in saying that all bear the image of God.
Here we pick up the idea from Tom Wright that the king used to send his image to different parts of the empire, so that the people knew who was in charge; and that the image was to represent the king. But here it is all of us who represent the king, who bear that image.
Here he makes the central theme of the sermon that we bear the image, we represent the king, and we reflect the glory back to God and the image to creation.
Then Ortberg goes through the fall (and the break down of community and enmity between man and woman); through to the story of the Exodus and the giving of the law.
At this point a connection I had never noticed, that with Moses on the mountain top there are seven speeches from God, over seven days. This is not the only Genesis resonance but also tabernacle (which measured only 45 feet across) in the smallness it was not mean to be the home of God, but to represent a mini cosmos.
Once again here you get the idea of glory (there are allusions to looking forward to the day when the glory of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea) and of things being finished.
Then to the life of Jesus who tabernacled amongst us (John 1:14), who inaugurated a kingdom and who declared at the last “it is finished”.
Then to 1 Peter 2 – you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood – the idea of being kings and priests is present again;
And finally to Revelation (cannot get the reference) where the people will be with God and reign with him.
And in this context, we are to be community; a community of God’s people, a royal priesthood, a chosen race, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.
Jesus among Other Gods
His tug on my life
His name and his tug in my life mean infinitely more now than they did when I first surrendered my life to him. I cam to him because I did not know which way to turn, I have remained with him because there is no other way I wish to turn. I came to him longing for something I did not have. I remain with him because I have something I will not trade. I came to him as a stranger. I remain with him in the most intimate of friendships. I came to him unsure about the future. I remain with him certain about my destiny. I came amid the thunderous cries of a culture which has three hundred and thirty million deities. I remain with him knowing that the truth cannot be all-inclusive.
India has the veneer of open-ness but it is highly critical of anything that hints at a challenge to it. It is no accident that within that so-called tolerant culture was birthed the caste system. (page 7)
From Oscar Wilde
For he who lives more lives than one
More deaths than one must die…
How else but through a broken heart
May Lord Christ enter in?
Where do you live?
Where do you live? Seems the most absurd question (John 1:35-42). This was a serious investigation through a seemingly absurd question.
Heaven and hell (Page 36)
From C.S. Lewis
Heaven understands hell and hell does not understand heaven… To project ourselves into a wicked character, we have only to stop doing something and something we are already tired of doing; to project ourselves into a good one we have to do we cannot and become what we are not.
Virgin born (page 38)
The popular talk-show host Larry King was once asked whom he would choose, if he had the choice to interview one person across history. Larry King replied that he would like to interview Jesus Christ and that he would ask him just one question: “Ar you indeed virgin born?” “The answer to that question”, said King, “would explain history to me.”
From G.K. Chesterton (page 46)
A child in a foul stable
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home:
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all mean are at home.”
Suppression of the evidence (Page 50)
The scriptures categorically state that the problem with such people is not the absence of evidence; it is rather the suppression of it. The message of Jesus Christ shifts the charge of insufficiency from the volume of evidence to the intent of one’s will.
Notice for example the words of Thomas Nagel, professor of philosophy of New York University. This is how he explains his deep-seated antipathy towards religion…
In speaking of the fear of religion. I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility towards certain established religions… in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines… Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition… I am talking about something much deeper – namely the fear of religion itself… I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and naturally hope there is not God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.
One of the hardest things about having faith,
Is that it is faith in someone which is unseen.
I don’t know if you have every prayed the “God if you there…” prayer.
One of the best ways to maintain faith in God is to say “God if you are there, I would like you to let me know.”
But there is a close relative of that prayer, the “God, give me a sign prayer”
God if you are there, give me a sign
God if you are there, let this free kick go in the back of the net
God if you are there, let this drive stay on the fairway,
God if you are there, let this coin land heads
God if you are there, move this tree.
God if you are there, please just show up
God chooses not to be seen.
And we say why, why be such a difficult puzzle.
The response would seem to be that if God is seen, then we would be blown away by God,
If you were to go to a desert on the equator, and have the sun directly above you, that would be hot, it would be like having a 1kw heater on to you, that’s the heat of a the sun, about 1kw heater on to every square meter of the earth.
In fact it’s not just the earth, but the this huge sphere of 1kw heaters.
In fact I worked out that this is probably 235,000 million million million heaters on the sun.
In each galaxy there are 100 billion stars.
So that then makes 23,500 million million million million million heaters in the galaxy
Hubble deep field took a picture of the sky, one 5p piece at 75 feet.
And took a photograph to see how many galaxies in that spec of sky
10,000 galaxies, not stars, galaxies.
Which led them to estimate that there are 125 billion galaxies in the universe.
So the number of heaters in the universe,
2,945 million million million million million million million heaters in the universe.
And that is just a speck in comparison to the power of God.
So that is why we cannot see God. We would need more than sunglasses to deal with the power of God.
No one has ever seen God.
Two places where John cries out
“No on has ever seen God.”
And the first one, in John 1:18
“No one has ever seen God, it is God the only son, who is at the father’s side he has made him known.”
Jesus lets us see God.
And you are saying, that is a cop-out, because we can’t see Jesus.
It’s not a total cop-out, because he is written about here
By people who were convinced that he had risen from the dead.
But there is a second part,
A second moment when the writer of John, or someone close to him
Write “No one has ever seen God.”
And it is in a letter that they wrote, in 1 John 4:12
No one has ever seen God
And you know that behind this lies all the “God if you are there prayers”
“No one has ever seen God”
But if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us.
God has so ordered world that we cannot see him, directly.
But there are two avenues, two paths to seeing of God.
Jesus and love
Or 785 million million million million million heaters. Plus
Now another word for those 2,945 million million million million million million heaters Plus
When the shepherds in the Christmas story saw the angels, the Angels first of all said “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to all God’s friends”
And then the glory of the Lord shone around them.
Not the full amount, but a hint of glory, is on the very limit of what humans can bear.
And it is that glory that came in Jesus.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory.
The passage we read this morning, is from the last moments that Jesus has with his disciples before his death.
And the glory is about to disappear in a way that is painful.
Do you remember a few weeks ago we spoke about the story of Eli and him dying, and his sons dying, and his daughter in law dying
And in this painful moment, what do people say “Ichabod”, the glory has departed
That’s what is about to happen here.
The glory is about to go.
Now the Son of Man’s glory is revealed; now God’s glory is revealed through him. 32 And if God’s glory is revealed through him, then God will reveal the glory of the Son of Man in himself, and he will do so at once. 
Like a firework, a roman candle, that burns brightest before it burns no more
My children, I shall not be with you very much longer. You will look for me; but I tell you now what I told the Jewish authorities, ‘You cannot go where I am going.’ 
And they are about to hit the “No one has ever seen God problem” again.
You have the glory
And you have Jesus
And in that you know God, perceive God,
God if you are there, — oh there’s Jesus
And then Jesus is gone, so what are you left with,
You are left with “Love one another”
And this is what Jesus says
“And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
You will love
And you will know that I am there, because it is the love that I have for you that you live out for others.
And others will know
They will pray the “God are you there prayer” and instead of the tree moving,
Or the free kick going into the back of the net
They will see these people who love each other,
In shocking, stunning, unpredictable ways.
They love, they love, they love
Only Jesus could have let them love like that.
I have shared with you many times one of my favourite quotations from Minutius Felix, someone who hated Christianity and the Christians:
*** Quote here from Minutious Felix ***
These Christians, they loved, they loved.
They loved one another as God had loved them.
Crudely put, God has a three way choice, to reveal his glory, himself
God wants us to love
To show that we are Jesus’ disciples.
I reckon that when the disciples heard that the glory was going,
That there no longer 2,900 million million million million million million million
That there is no longer going to be Jesus arguing with Pharisees and healing blind men, and spotting the potential in the outcast and walking on water
Now the burden of bearing witness to God is going to fall on you
They thought, We are never going to manage that?
Jesus – after you have gone, half of us are never going to see each other again
Jesus – you have no idea how hard I find it following you
Jesus – it is obvious that people have fallen in love with you, when we are around, they are going to disappear
Jesus – I don’t mind loving some of the people that are in this room with me, but no way I can handle it with all at least five of them, we have so little in common, and when they speak I cannot believe how daft they are, how pointless their words, and how blinded are their egos.
Us doing the job of the heaters – no chance.
But Jesus reckons we can do it.
It’s like Roy Hodgson at half time says to Fulham, very simple, you can do this.
Jesus is the same, you can do this, this love.
And The Christians did. They loved.
Love is what you do for close family, and you extend it out:
‘When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore.
So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.’
Rebecca- age 8
‘When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.
You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.’
Billy – age 4
‘Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.’
Karl – age 5
‘Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.’
Chrissy – age 6
‘Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.’
Danny – age 7
‘Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.
My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss’
Emily – age 8
‘Love is what’s in the room with you if you stop opening presents and listen.’
Bobby – age 7 (Wow!)
‘If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,’
Nikka – age 6
(we need a few million more Nikka’s on this planet)
‘Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.’
Noelle – age 7
‘Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.’
Chris – age 7
‘Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.’
Mary Ann – age 4
‘I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.’
Lauren – age 4
Yesterday I was at a wedding in Fife.
And we thought about three days. We thought about yesterday, the day they were married, and love is easy on that day.
And then there would be another day, when they would wonder if yesterday was a good idea, and love would not be easy on that day.
And then there would be a third day, a day with God, a day of reckoning, when all the love would be witnessed and they would know something on that day, They would know the worth of love.
And we too will be there on that third day, those who have faith,
And we will see the worth of love:
And we look back on life of life we will say that the best of energy was given to the noblest of callings
When we discover that a thousand small kindnesses amount to magnificent beauty
That in the choice to love, we touch the very fibres of the meaning of life
That in the giving to the other we discover the joy of cherishing, passionately holding, , being bound to someone other than ourselves.
That love does not shirk sacrifice, does not aver pain, but always emerges victorious.
That love forges us, births us, hews us, renews in a better likeness of our maker
That the seemingly fleeting moments of love are written into the history books of the universe
The love is the path to the deepest joy, the most courageous hope, the finest life.
That we at our most, when we love most,
And someone might just come to us, to us a congregation and say
I knew that there was a God,
Because you loved.
None: Good New Translation – Second Edition. electronic ed. : : ,, ., S. Jn 13:31
None: Good New Translation – Second Edition. electronic ed. : : ,, ., S. Jn 13:33
None: Good New Translation – Second Edition. electronic ed. : : ,, ., S. Jn 13:34
From a sermon by Graeme Glover, bringing together John, Thomas and A River Runs Through It
Sermon – Loving without Complete Understanding – April 2010
My mother turned and went to her bedroom where, in a house full of men and rods and rifles, she had faced most of her great problems alone. She was never to ask me a question about the man she loved most and understood least. Perhaps she knew enough to know that for her it was enough to have loved him. He was probably the only man in the world who had held her in his arms and leaned back and laughed.
Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn’t. Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.
Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.
Jesus Christ, the died on a cross and was rose again told us that “Who ever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within them”. Amen.
* Taken from a sermon by John Ogbert ??
** Quoted from a Sermon: (based on Revelation 22: 1-7) by Revd Thomas A. Sweet
*** Much notes re Psalms adapted from Albert Weiser.
These I have loved:
White plates and cups, clean-gleaming,
Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, fairy dust;
Wet roofs, beneath the lamplight; the strong crust
Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food;
Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood;
And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers;
And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours,
Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon;
Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon
Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss
Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is
Shining and free; blue-massing clouds; the keen
Unpassioned beauty of a great machine;
The benison of hot water;
The good smell of old clothes; and other such–
The comfortable smell of friendly fingers,
Hair’s fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers
About dead leaves and last year’s ferns. . . .
And thousand other throng to me! Royal flames;
Sweet water’s dimpling laugh from tap or spring;
Holes in the ground; and voices that do sing;
Voices in laughter, too; and body’s pain,
Soon turned to peace; and the deep-panting train;
Firm sands; the little dulling edge of foam
That browns and dwindles as the wave goes home;
And washen stones, gay for an hour; the cold
Graveness of iron; moist black earthen mould;
Sleep; and high places; footprints in the dew;
And oaks; and brown horse-chestnuts, glossy-new;
And new-peeled sticks; and shining pools on grass;–
All these have been my loves. And these shall pass,
Whatever passes not, in the great hour,
Nor all my passion, all my prayers, have power
To hold them with me through the gate of Death.
They’ll play deserter, turn with the traitor breath,
Break the high bond we made, and sell Love’s trust
And sacramented covenant to the dust.
—-Oh, never a doubt but, somewhere, I shall wake,
And give what’s left of love again, and make
New friends, now strangers. . . .