Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church faith//hope//love

  • The light from the stable

    We’ve had a pretty terrible few months, losing 4 friends, all too soon, some tragically.

    Here’s the sermon on it….

    What a time we’ve had. We have lost four members of the family over the last few months, all of them unexpected and tragic. What are we to make of it all?

    We can blame God, as if God would play with us in this way.

    We can concluded God is not in it, or even not there.

    We can keep on and try to not let the hurt and the questions reach us, keep busy, don’t think about it.

    None of those are right in the long term. They may be our initial response, they may help us deal with the maelstrom of feelings we are experiencing. But in the end they leave us empty.

    What are to make of it all?

    Unusually I looked at one of the letter in the New Testament. I love stories, I love the message they carry, I love the normalness of them. But this time I ended up with a complicated passage, and I’m no expository preacher, so here we go…

    1 John 5: 1 – 12

    5 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Messiah is a child of God; and whoever loves a father loves his child also. 2 This is how we know that we love God’s children: it is by loving God and obeying his commands.

    Love is what it is all about. You wouldn’t always know it to look at how the church behaves, and by the church I mean us Christians. But to believe in Jesus makes us children of God, and children reflect their parents. I know there are cases where the last thing someone might want is to reflect a parent, but generally we are a result of those who bring us up, it’s in our DNA and it’s in our very soul. As God’s children we are called to love, and to love one another, in our often failing and inept human way.

    The trouble is, this is the sort of passage that can get taken the wrong way because it talks about obeying God’s commands. But what are God’s commands? You can rifle through the OT and find all kinds of laws and commands that seem to point us in the wrong direction (mildew, genocide, capital punishment, recipes, etc), but we know in our hearts what God’s commands are. Jesus summed it all up,

    Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. And love your neighbour as yourself.

    That’s it, everything else, as they say, is just rock and roll.

    3 For our love for God means that we obey his commands. And his commands are not too hard for us, 4 because every child of God is able to defeat the world. And we win the victory over the world by means of our faith. 5 Who can defeat the world? Only the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

    And this is what it boils down to. Love is the hardest command and yet the simplest. We are all at different stages on that learning curve, some of us find it easy to love, others of us struggle, some of us find it easy to accept love, others of us resist love. But it is crucial if we want to truly live. Because with love we can face anything, with love we have a place, with love we can stand.

    People say sometimes that religion is a crutch, it’s for people who are weak and who need something to lean on. I’d say they’re right. Because we do, none of us can stand on our own and truly live, we need others, and they need us, and faith (or religion if you like), gives us that place to dwell, that strength that holds us when we can’t hold ourselves. Call it a weakness if you like, I call it being human.

    Here the writer uses a language that, again, can be used to put in a false dichotomy, a lie, that ‘the world’ is bad and ‘religiousness’ is good. It’s not saying that, the writer is saying that everything the world throws at us, and we’ve had some things thrown at us over the last couple of months, will not win because we have the victory. We follow something, someone bigger than all that. We hold onto a hope that is stronger than despair, a light that shines despite the darkness, a love that overcomes hate, a life that is stronger than death.

    Who can defeat this evil that seems so all powerful, so overwhelming?

    We can, I can, you can.

    Never forget that.

    Even when the darkest night engulfs you, when the darkness tells you there is nothing left and you are defeated, say no, and hold onto the light.

    And this is why…

    6 Jesus Christ is the one who came with the water of his baptism and the blood of his death. He came not only with the water, but with both the water and the blood. And the Spirit himself testifies that this is true, because the Spirit is truth. 7 There are three witnesses: 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and all three give the same testimony.

    9 We believe human testimony; but God’s testimony is much stronger, and he has given this testimony about his Son. 10 So those who believe in the Son of God have this testimony in their own heart; … 11 The testimony is this: God has given us eternal life, and this life has its source in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has this life;

    Jesus was born and lived among us.

    The writer talks of water and of blood, symbols of life and death. We have people in our church family who can speak of the truth of this, how they found life in the midst of death, how they survived the loss of loved ones, how they discovered life was precious and to be lived. We have stories here of the light shining in the darkness, sometimes a flickering faint light, but the darkness has not put it out.

    But the greatest testimony is Jesus himself. Born of Mary, baptised by John, who lived and loved, bringing light and life, who died on the cross and burst from the grave. However you know and understand the story, this testimony speaks the truth of life to the lie of death.

    11 The testimony is this: God has given us eternal life, and this life has its source in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has this life;

    God bless you all this Christmas time, the darkness surrounds the stable, but the light of life shines now and into eternity.

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Neil (the minister) occasionally gets round to blogging so welcome to the trivia and ramblings of an erratic stream of consciousness.

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