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Fed In Love
That’s the task that is at your feet. You, the disciples of Jesus Christ, are called to go out into the world nourished by the body and Blood of Jesus Christ that you may bring others to his glorious name in his love.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Now the last time I preached on this particular miracle here we were reading about the feeding of the 5000 in John’s Gospel. And in John’s gospel and the way the lectionary has it, it’s quite different because in John’s Gospel there are two apparent miracles. First of all, Jesus walks on water. And secondly, Jesus feeds the 5000 and John presents it very much through the lens of those two miracles.
But I’m sure you will all remember that I told you there are three miracles in that particular reading, not two. And the first miracle, and it’s in this reading as well, is what?
And the crowd gathered to see him.
Ah, I see light pouring in your eyes as you remember all the way back to my preaching on this. There is always before Jesus miracles another miracle that occurs. And it is that there were crowds of people who were coming to see Jesus. And so we don’t, when we think about the miracles in Jesus life, simply have to read about them in scripture and believe them simply because we’ve read them.
We can believe them because people were there at the time gathering to see Jesus, to hear what he had to say, to see the miracles that he was giving us as a sign of who he was, to be healed.
And that is exactly how the gospel starts in Luke today, Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God and he cured those who were in need of healing.
That is where we as a Christian community must start everything. Jesus made the crowds welcome. We must make people welcome in this place. There must be no barrier to anybody walking through that door. And when anybody walks through that door, what do we do? We talk to them about the kingdom of God and then we cure those who are in need of healing.
Now the church likes to have mission plans and mission action plans. And those of you who are on the PCC will know that we must have a vision and a mission and a tagline and we must fill in all of the correct boxes. And every time the Archdeacon puts something like that on my desk, I want to reply with this verse because this is our mission action plan.
We welcome anybody who walks through that door, we talk to them about the kingdom of heaven and then we cure them of any need. And that’s the joyful thing about St. Anselm’s because that’s exactly what we do.
There are two main ways that we do that at present. First of all, the most obvious that fits with this gospel is the food bank. Anybody who comes through those doors and asks for help receives it. We don’t work with the more mainstream food banks, you may say, because they have requirements about who can and who cannot receive from our bounty, from our help. So anybody who comes through that door is welcomed and is cured and we talk to them about the kingdom of heaven. They are fed, nourished through the generosity of this congregation and of the congregation of St. Edmund up the road and of everybody who collects food. They are nourished in body through the love that we share through one another that Jesus Christ gives us. This is a practical outpouring of Christ’s love and it is a joyous thing and it is why I will not allow anybody to say that you cannot have.
But I can understand why people want to say no, we’re not going to help this person and we’re not going to help this person. The disciples do it right here in the gospel. They say send the people away and they can go to the villages and farms roundabout to find lodgings and food for we are in a lonely place here.
Importantly, when people say we shouldn’t help that person it’s not because they’re necessarily being unkind or ung
Loving Inside the Trinity
In the name of the Father of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – Amen.
Today, as I’m sure you’re all aware is Trinity Sunday. It’s a day we call to mind the Holy Trinity and what that means to us today.
Trinity Sunday is an annual reminder of the simple command to live within the love and commandments of the father, son and holy spirit – and Jesus tells us how we discern how to do that.
It is tempting to try and pull apart the Trinity. To understand it at a purely academic level. To pull apart the gospels – scripture in general and to concentrate solely on our brains in the exploration of our faith. To forget our stomachs and our hearts.
To explore the difference between the descriptions of the holy spirit in Matthew, Mark, Luke & John or to carry out a deep scriptural analysis of what was written when.
Those are good and worthy pursuits, but for us – to only do the academic work is to leave behind a great deal of our faith.
Because our faith is a felt faith. It is a faith that exists as much in our hearts and our stomachs as it does in our brains. The moment we forget that we lose the awesome breadth of what God has in store for us – we lose the ability to engage with what Jesus taught us – and we lose sight of what the Holy Spirit wants us to do in this life.
Now, I’m not saying we should leave our brains at the door when we come to church. What I am saying is that academic and intellectual exploration has to work alongside that gut feeling we all experience when we see the work of the Holy Spirit and that gentle warming of our heart we feel when we see the love of Jesus in action.
Our faith is a broad, complex and wonderful thing. It interacts with the world in a myriad of ways and people interact with us – and the faith they see in us – in a myriad of ways.
We should be open to all those possibilities.
The fact that somebody may want to talk to us about where the Trinity appears in scripture for example, is an opportunity to engage people about their faith. For us to crack open the bible and talk them through the gospel of John and its rich description of the workings of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. (so I suggest you take your pew sheet home and read around these chapters!)
Or it may be that people want to know what the practical outworking of the Trinity in our day to day lives is… or they may want to understand how our love of God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit makes us feel.
We need to be prepared to answer these questions in the real world.
There are three things that I think any christian should be ready to answer in the street.
How does God make you feel?How does the Holy Spirit guide your daily life?How has Jesus taught you to live a life more pleasing to God?
These questions form the heart of what we talk about in the world when we bring people to the love of Jesus – and in so doing – to the love of God and the Holy Spirit.
They are true because we experience them across the breadth of our lives and because we see them in scripture – the test of truth.
We experience them with our brains, with our stomachs and with our hearts.
This is a truth that has been known for millennia.
Our faith is an experienced faith.
It has to be lived out to be understood. It has to be engaged with and asked questions of, but ultimately the truth of it is found in our hearts, stomachs and brains.
When we talk to people about God, we engage them with all three of those things. We engage them with the truth of what we have seen, what we have learnt, what we have experienced in our day-to-day life with Jesus.
And we should be more prepared for it.
We should, each morning as we cross ourselves and say the Our Father – think with our brains, feel with our stomach, experience the joy of love in our heart, and ask ourselves – how can I go into the world today and bring somebody to Jesus.
Come Holy Spirit
Acts 2:1-11, Romans 8:8-17, John 14:15-16,23-26
Pray that we continue to grow, that we continue to bring people to Jesus in baptism, that we continue to turn people from evil in the world, that we continue to offer a home of hope, love and faith for all.
It’s odd I think to see that in the first sentence of our reading from Acts ‘when Pentecost day came around’.
I always remember being confused when I read it and heard it because to me Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, the powerful arrival of the Holy Spirit.
It marks that moment when the Holy Spirit descended on the people of that room all that time ago – giving them gifts to go out into the world and tell people about the Good News.
Why then do we see it mentioned here in this context? The reason is because it was already one of the three major jewish festivals –
Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles.
Every male of suitable age within 50 miles of Jerusalem was required to go to the Temple.
They went for two reasons:
1 – To celebrate and remember the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai
2 – To offer two loaves of bread as a sacrifice for a good harvest.
It was celebrated 50 days after Passover – so this would be mid-June time – perfect conditions for travelling and that small pause in between sewing seeds and watching, waiting for a rich harvest.
…and so knowing this, Pentecost takes on a wider significance for us, the heirs of that feast.
Over the last few weeks I have been preaching on the coming of the Holy Spirit, how, when he arrives he will give us the gifts required to go out into the world and bring people to Jesus. How the coming of the Holy Spirit will help us – how he will guide and shape us to be better Christians, better prepared for the time when judgment comes.
I have told you that in the power of the Holy Spirit nothing is impossible. In the power and strength of the Holy Spirit there is no evil, no sin we can not turn our backs on – we can live a good and holy life – an example to others BECAUSE of the Holy Spirit.
Because of the Holy Spirit we can continually decide to – as St. Paul puts it in Romans – Live in our spiritual selves – to not have to follow our unspiritual selves.
Who then has this gift? Who then receives the power of the Holy Spirit to go out into the world and proclaim Jesus? Who then receives the power of the Holy Spirit to turn away from Evil and turn others away from it as well?
Who then receives the gift that allows them to follow the commandments?
Each and every single one of us who has been baptised in water and in the Holy Spirit has received that gift!
That powerful gift that comes with great strength and fortitude.
But, perhaps over time this precious gift becomes forgotten. It lies dormant in each of us – never really seeing the light of day because we burry it.
Well today is your annual reminder to uncover it!
Today we put ourselves in place of the disciples in that room 2000 years ago and we shout ‘come Holy Spirit!’
We cry ‘Abba, Father!’
*We pray that tongues of fire descend on us and the gifts we have already received are made apparent.
**We pray for the strength to live spiritual lives.
***We pray – and cry out – for the strength to bring people to the feet of Jesus.
Now, I appreciate this can sound hyperbolic. A little over the top for our beautiful gentle and loving community here in St. Anselm. This calling on the Spirit is a little too charismatic.
But, we must recall where Pentecost comes from. How everyone is called to the Feast as a matter of duty – not charismatic excitement or emotional blackmail – we are called – in the same way as the Jewish men where all that time ago to go to the Temple – the Temple being Jesus Christ – to remember his commandments and the Law we received – to offe
Prepare for the helper
And this is how we can live in perfect love with one another and bring others into it. With the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches us all of the things that we need to know until the end of days.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s Gospel and this Sunday, in fact, marks a transition. It is the transition of the time when Jesus is with us, with his disciples after his resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Coming of the Helper.
This Thursday, we mark the Ascension – 40 days after Easter, the moment that Jesus returns to His Father. And so in our Gospel today, he is preparing his disciples and his friends for his leaving. He starts with a reminder, a summary of his teaching, the teaching that we have been hearing and studying over the last 40 days, that he loves us as his Father loves Him, and that we must love one another in the same way.
He reminds us that the evidence of perfect love is perfect obedience. He is setting us up for success. He knows that we have to live on without Him, physically with us. And he knows how hard it can be to live in that perfect love and in that perfect obedience. And so he tells us and reminds us of the Helper who is to come – the Holy Spirit.
And this is how we can live in perfect love with one another and bring others into it. With the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches us all of the things that we need to know until the end of days. And we must always strive to learn more about our faith, about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We must strive if we are to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The Holy Spirit continuously takes us back to Jesus, takes us back to those things that he taught us whilst he was here on Earth. We strive to a deeper meaning of the truth that Jesus gave us, and the Holy Spirit will save us from our own arrogance and from our own egos – if we let it – it takes us back to Jesus, his teachings and his actions.
As we strive to learn more about our relationship with Jesus, we must do it in and with the Holy Spirit. Otherwise we risk going off on our own journeys, feeding ourselves and not our faith.
This is an important thing in what I just said. I said if we let it, if we let the Holy Spirit teach us and speak to us. And it’s important because we can become deaf to the Holy Spirit if we dismiss that small voice in our minds too often.
“Oh no, not that teaching. That’s too hard. I can’t do that.”
“Oh no, not that teaching. My friends wouldn’t like that teaching.”
When we are tempted to live outside of the perfect obedience that Jesus gave us. When we are on the brink of walking a wrong path, there will be somewhere in us a little saying of Jesus, a prod, a memory from Sunday school, a picture of Jesus calling us back to the truth of his love and that small voice, that small prod is the work of the Holy spirit.
We must be open to that, open to the Holy spirit, the helper that God sends us.
Finally, Jesus tells us of his parting gift, the gift that helps us be open to the Holy spirit, the gift that helps us to bring others into that relationship.
And it is the gift of his peace.
I preached during the week when this reading came up in the weekday lectionry on Jesus’ peace and how I love to teach it in primary schools Because I get all of the children, especially in Church schools, to turn to one another and say, peace be with you.
Do that for me now. Turn to one another and say to your neighbour, peace be with you. That feels nice, doesn’t it? Does that feel nice?
And then I get the children to turn to one another and say, I love you. And the children go no no no! And they turn to one another and they pull a face turn to your neighbour and say, I love you.
It’s harder, isn’t it?
It’s harder. But that is the gift of Jesus peace. It is the gift of being able t
Commanded to Love
Love is how we should exist as a community of Christians in this place and in the world.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Please sit down.
Last week we talked about the bond of love that exists between in God the Father and God the Son. And we explored how that bond of love is the bond of love that Jesus has for us and how Jesus calls us to express that love between Christians.
So the love that you and I have for one another is the same love that Jesus has for us and that God the Father has for God the Son. And it works in both directions.
This week, though, Jesus goes further.
He doesn’t just say, Here is the example of love between my Father and me and you and you and one another. But he commands us to love one another in the way that he has loved the disciples. “Love one another as I have loved you.”
So not only does Jesus command us to love one another, but he also lays out how to love one another. And the how is in how Jesus loves his disciples. He’s given us the model in the way that he is with his disciples, in the way that he forgives them, in the way that he walks with them, in the way that he just exists with them.
He shows us how to love. And as I read the scripture and as I read the examples of the interactions between Jesus and his disciples, I come up with four things that identify the practical outworking of love between all of us.
And the first is that love must be selfless. Even in our deepest and our closest relationships. It is in some way always about us, even if it’s subconscious we are thinking, what do I get out of this relationship?
And it may just be that the relationship makes you happy or that at least you’re not lonely if you’re in this relationship. But ultimately that is still about us and it’s not about the person that we love. Love must be selfless. It cannot be about us. Jesus one desire was to give himself utterly and completely for those that he loved.
Love, therefore, is sacrificial. The removal of self can be hard and very difficult, but there is no limit to where love can take us. There is no demand that is too high. Jesus love for us was so complete that it meant the cross. Sometimes we think that love exists simply to make us happy.
Those who’ve been married for a very long time know that is not necessarily the case. Love can bring pain, and love can demand a cross.
And so therefore love has to be offered understandingly. The disciples were not great at times. They were slow to learn. They were irritable.
They often argued with one another. But Jesus loved them for who they were.
When you open up a Clinton’s Valentine’s Day card or you speak about love in the world, you often hear the phrase “love is blind” what absolute tosh! Poppycock!
Love is open-eyed. It allows for us to love not what we imagine people to be or who we want them to be, but who they are. The heart of Jesus and our hearts are big enough to love warts and all.
Love is offered forgivingly the disciples denied Jesus they left him in his hour of need. They spent all that time with him and they never seemed to understand him.
They were insensitive. They did things that we would not be able to forgive.
But Jesus held nothing against them. There was no failure that Jesus could not forgive. Love that cannot forgive is a dead love.
So Jesus shows us that those we love the most we have to be able to forgive the most.
Love is selfless.
Love is sacrificial.
Love is understanding.
Love is forgiving.
Love is how we should exist as a community of Christians in this place and in the world.
Perfect Love & Perfect Obedience
We must not be lazy in our faith. We must strive each and every day towards a perfect love in one another, sharing that perfect love that exists between God the Father, God the Son, you and me and every Christian on the face of the planet now and has ever been.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen. Please sit.
I always find it funny that Jesus talks about sheep quite as much as he does. Being a Welshman, of course, and growing up on a council estate on the side of a hill, I was surrounded by sheep a great deal of the time. I spent summer holidays castrating sheep. I know sheep better than I would like. And so when Jesus talks about sheep, I think I have a degree of understanding because, of course, sheep and sheep herding and how those animals behave – and they are stupid animals – was something that people understood.
And that’s why Jesus uses this example of sheep. So often the shepherd is with his flock. That’s what Jesus talks about a lot. And in the Middle East shepherding and looking after sheep really hasn’t changed very much; in the Western world. It’s slightly different.
And it’s different in that in the Middle East and actually in Wales, the shepherd must smell of his flock. He must be part of the flock. He must be trusted by the flock. And the way that that’s achieved is through smelling like the sheep. Now, one thing you may not know is that the Bishop has his crook, and you might think that the crook is there because it helps him bring sheep back into line.
Actually, the first use of a crook by a shepherd is he will walk into a field, plant the crook into the ground and lean on it. And he will stand amongst the flock, the new flock, until it learns who he is, until he becomes one of them. When they walk up to him and rub against him to the point that he smells like one of the flock, he smells like a dirty sheep. That’s where Jesus starts by being amongst his people and smelling of his sheep.
But I have to tell you, having grown up with sheep, they are monumentally stupid creatures.
They spend every second of every day inventing new ways to kill themselves. They will jump fences that are there to protect them. They will jump in deep ditches. They will go for swims in rivers that will carry them away. They will push their heads through sharp barbed wire to the point that they can’t get them back out again.
And the amazing thing about sheep is not only do they invent stupid ways to kill themselves, but they don’t necessarily learn from their earlier mistakes. And so they will always be one sheep who pokes his head through the barbed wire and does it every single day without fail.
Sheep are also monumentally lazy. I have stood and watched a sheep lying in the sun, enjoying the sun. Clearly a very contented sheep, nibbling the grass around his head because he can’t be bothered to get up.
And then I watched him wiggle himself around so his head is in a new bit of grass. And I watched him spend the entire afternoon do a little 360 on his back because he couldn’t be bothered to get up. There was nothing wrong with the sheep. I did go and prod him later on in the day. He was absolutely fine.
Sheep are stupid and sheep are lazy. They will always try and find the easiest path to achieve something. But in that laziness and in that stupidity there is a deep bond between the sheep and the shepherd because the sheep learn very quickly that the shepherd is there to both protect them and to lead them to places that are good and to save them from their idiotic decisions.
This is why I like talking about sheep, because you don’t have to say that people are stupid, people are lazy, and people make silly decisions. You can blame it all on the sheep. But the shepherd. The shepherd is always there to save the sheep from those three things. And over time the flock develops a total trust and a total love with a shepherd.