As a community separated by a virus but drawn together by faith, we worship today:
- Many of us are praying at 10am every Sunday
- We are joining with worship from all over the country watching BBC1 for Sunday Worship (10:45am) when The Very Rev Dr Sarah Rowland Jones leads a service from St Davids Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, with hymns sung by a Songs of Praise congregation recorded in July 2019.
- Songs of Praise (1:15pm)
- Revd Graeme Holdsworth takes Holy Communion at 6pm, in his study on behalf of our community
- Morning Prayer is said every day
Jesus said, “If you love me…”
Today’s Collect Prayer and Bible passage are read for us by Cynthia. The Bible passage is John 14:15-21 found on this website or in your favourite Bible translation.
A transcription of the Sermon for those who prefer to read…
Father, may these spoken words be faith to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jesus said, “If you love me…”
Can love be demanded?
Can you force someone to love you?
Can you make someone love you?
When Jesus says, “if you love me” he holds the door open to love. Jesus doesn’t demand that his followers love him, he doesn’t even assume that his followers love him. He doesn’t try to persuade them to love him and he doesn’t force them to love him.
“Do you love me?”
“Can you love me?”
“Will you love me?”
“If” is not even a question: it is an open door.
To love someone involves knowing them. Getting to know someone involves giving up some of your time and focussing on the other person, really looking at them and finding out what they think, what makes them act the way they do, what drives them: what do they like, what’s their favourite food, what music do they enjoy. We tend to associate with people like us, who did Jesus spend time with? Who were his friends?
I use social media – like twitter and instagram. Looking at what I share will tell you that I like cycling, the outdoors, I enjoy a beer, love science and talk about God a lot. But social media is only what I want you to know about me – I don’t share everything. I’ve been married since 1994 and I’m continually growing in the knowledge of this person I’m married to. Our relationship changes over time. Sometimes we laugh and sometime we cry – but we invest time in each other, we show an interest in each other and through that we discover we like each other a lot. I don’t limit my wife to my social media updates and I don’t just click ‘heart’ next to her instagram posts as my way of telling her I love her.
Getting to know Jesus the person, rather than settling for the sanitised stories of our childhood can reveal shocking insights into a man who changed the world. Studying Jesus life in a group can help us to avoid falling into the common traps of assuming we know the answers already. I find it interesting when I hear someone else read the Bible as they pick up or emphasise words I wouldn’t normally notice.
Jesus was born in, no wait… Jesus was born. That means that Jesus was a human baby. When did you last look at a baby? Look into the face of a tiny, vulnerable human. Before Jesus did anything else – Jesus was a vulnerable human baby…
Babies are vulnerable. Statistics for the UK show that 1 in 5 homes experience some form of domestic violence. Imagine being a baby, or child, in a violent environment. Most, 4 in 5 homes, are loving and nurturing: the majority of people look at children and want to take care of them. That’s in this country, but what if your baby was born in a war-torn country?
It was recently highlighted to me that Jesus was, genetically, a Jewish boy. He was also, due to the political map of the time, a Syrian refugee. Born in Bethlehem, in the part of the Roman empire ruled by Quirinius: the governor of… Syria. Jesus’ family then fled from their homeland due to political persecution. If you want to know what Jesus might have looked like, try to remember the faces of Syrian refugee children. Jesus and his family survived. Many did not.
The second observation about Jesus is that he was a man, a human.
It is easy to write Jesus off as a fictional character like a comic book superhero, because there are stories of him doing things humans can’t do: turn water into wine, walk on water, heal people by a word, or most unbelievably: resurrection. And yet, those who wrote about him, whose stories ended up being put into a book and called ‘The Bible’, they wrote about a man not a superhero. They wrote about a man who laughed, cried, ate, and argued.
Jesus hung out with those in society who have no power. He was could be found talking to prostitutes, adulterers, drunkards, liars and cheats. When he said, God blesses… he didn’t say, “you can see that God has blessed everyone who is rich”, instead he said that God blesses people who are poor, abused, sick or outcast from society.
Is this one of the reasons we struggle to spend time with Jesus? Is it because the comfort and security of success seem more real than the comfort and security of God’s blessing? It would seem so much easier if Jesus was here now instead of floating off somewhere into the clouds to be with God the Father… but that’s the way it is. In the gospel reading Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to be with those who love him… so that we would not be alone but would have an advocate, a comforter, the presence of God, the wisdom and love of God with us.
As I think about what it means to be a Priest in this place, to pray for everyone, to pray for a growth in the knowledge and love of God, I realise that it is all about Jesus.
I would love to hear what you know about Jesus.
- What draws you to love him?
- What is you favourite story of Jesus?
- What do you find most shocking?
- What do you find confusing about Jesus?
The first step on the path to wisdom is acknowledging that you don’t know the answers… and making a decision to start learning. May you know the love of God in your hearts, this day and always.