Reflection – 30 January 2022

Here is Tom’s reflection for today.

We are meeting in the church building and on Zoom from 11.00. Here’s the Zoom link.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84890359132https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84890359132

We would love to see you.

Mark Taylor

The way, the truth and the life

Good morning and a very warm welcome to you all this morning, it’s great to be back with you in the building and in person. Things we need to live with these days like Covid may hamper our attendance at church sometimes, but it’s great to be back with you this morning in the flesh. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Tom, I’m your 3rd man so to speak, not like Harry Lime for those of you who are old enough to remember that, but your 3rd many in the preaching team among some others too, and it’s my privilege to share Gods word and lead this service this morning.

This morning in my tradition the CofE we celebrate Candlemas which is when Christ was presented in the temple. We’re going to read those verse from Lukes gospel as we begin our worship this morning. Luke 2:22-40

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[b]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[c]

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Maybe this morning you’ve come to worship not knowing where the light is, let me tell you, that you’re in for a treat because you’ve come to the right place, my prayer is that like Simeon you would recognize the light of the world this morning, the light that has been shed abroad at Christmas come down from heaven can also be shed abroad in your hearts this morning, that light can be revealed to you today, and you can then carry and take that light into the town of Newark and set it ablaze with the light of Christ.

Lets pray.

Lord Jesus Christ,

light of the nations and glory of Israel:

make your home among us,

and present us pure and holy

to your heavenly Father,

your God, and our God.

All   Amen.

An opportunity to sing now. Light of the world you stepped down

Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes, Let me see, Beauty that made this heart adore you
Hope of a life spent with you

Here I am to worship, Here I am to bow down, Here I am to say that you’re my God, You’re altogether lovely Altogether worthy, Altogether wonderful to me

King of all days, So highly exalted Glorious in heaven above,                                 Humbly you came to the earth you created, All for love’s sake became poor                                                                               

I’ll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross

Let’s respond to the light of the world as we bring before him our morning offering

Let us pray to the Father through Christ who is our light and life.

Father, your Christ is acclaimed as the glory of Israel:

look in mercy on your Church, sharing his light.

Lord, have mercy.

All   Christ, have mercy.

Father, your Christ in his temple brings judgement on the world:

look in mercy on the nations, who long for his justice.

Lord, have mercy.

All   Christ, have mercy.

Father, your Christ, who was rich, for our sakes became poor:

look in mercy on the needy, suffering with him.

Lord, have mercy.

All   Christ, have mercy.

Father, your Christ is the one in whom faithful servants find their peace:

look in mercy on the departed, that they may see your salvation.

Lord, have mercy.

All   Christ, have mercy.

Father, your Christ is revealed as the one destined to be rejected:

look in mercy on us who now turn towards his passion.

Lord, have mercy.

All   Christ, have mercy.

Lord God, you kept faith with Simeon and Anna,

and showed them the infant King.

Give us grace to put all our trust in your promises,

and the patience to wait for their fulfilment;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All   Amen.

And so in the words of John Cleese, now for something completely different.

A children’s song, as we consider the theme for this morning, the way, the truth and life.

You won’t get to heaven on the back of camel

You won’t get to heaven on the back of a camel
And you won’t get to heaven on a sheep
You won’t get to heaven on a double decker bus
And you won’t get to heaven in a jeep
A pogo stick will only make you feel sick
And you can’t drive there in a car
A rocket in your pocket might make you see stars
But it sure won’t get you that far

There’s only one way (one way), one way (one way)
You can get to heaven, oh yeah
There’s only one way (one way), one way (one way)
That’s through God’s son Jesus
He’s the only way

You won’t get to heaven by looking real good
And you won’t get to heaven ‘cos you’re slick
You won’t get to heaven by jumping from a plane
And flapping your arms real quick
A flight or a kite or an elastic band
Might whizz you through the air
Or you could scuttle in a shuttle right over the moon
But it still won’t get you there

You won’t get to heaven by saying you’re a Christian
And you won’t get to heaven ‘cos you’re good
You won’t get to heaven just by going to a church
Though many, many think you could
A mum or a dad or a sister who loves Jesus
Won’t get you there it’s true
You’re in favour with the Saviour but this you gotta know
You need to find him just for you

And now our bible reading for this morning from John 14:1-14

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Talk

Jesus says:

“I am the way…”

And there in verses 2 and 3 he says:

“In my Father’s house are many rooms… I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

What does Jesus mean when he talks about ‘going’ and ‘coming back’?
What is happening when Jesus says these things? In a nutshell, he is about to die. Jesus knows exactly what he’s heading towards. His weary disciples don’t. They’re confused. They don’t understand. But they know enough to feel their hearts gripped by anxiety and fear and uncertainty about their future.
They’ve thrown in their lot with Jesus. They’ve given up everything. And now he says more and more insistently that he’s going to leave them. So, back in 13.33, he says to them:
‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.’

In 13.36, Peter presses him to explain himself:

Simon Peter asked him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’


And Jesus’ answer is here in our passage:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms… I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

He is going, in a word, to heaven. He’s going to be with his heavenly Father. He’s going back to his Father’s house. And what is more, he is going to prepare a place for them. And that is the issue that’s at stake. It is eternal life and eternal death. It is heaven and hell.
How do we find eternal life? How do we find a place in heaven? How can we know the way? When Jesus says there are many rooms in his Father’s house and he’s going to prepare a place, he doesn’t mean he’s going to dust the rooms and make up the beds. He means he’s on his way to be crucified for their sins – to open the way for them to join him at his Father’s side.

And Jesus doesn’t just say that he is going. He also says that he will come back to take his disciples to be with him. How will he come back? The Bible shows that he comes back in three ways. First, he comes back when God raises him from the dead and he appears again to these disciples. Secondly, after he has ascended to the right hand of God his heavenly Father, he comes in the person of the Holy Spirit to be with his disciples on earth always, in spiritual form. In these two ways Jesus has already come back. And his spiritual presence now is the constant experience of those of us who are disciples of Jesus today. Then, thirdly, Jesus will one day come back bodily when he returns as he promised to judge the world and to gather his people to himself for ever.

That’s what Jesus means when he says, “I am the way…” And that is why the right direction in life can only be found in Jesus.

Although I love the honesty of Thomas here. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

You’ve gottta love Thomas haven’t you? He is the sort of chap who epitomises the “there’s no such thing as a stupid question” principle. You know in the learning environment we’re constantly reminded of that aren’t we.

‘There’s no such thing as a stupid question’… and so we ask the obvious and we’re made to feel this big! And so next time we bluff, and we nod our head in the right place, and we pretend we understand…! None of that with Thomas. Because this isn’t a stupid question and he’s straight to the point: “Jesus, what are you talking about?!” we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? …if we don’t know where you are going. There’s a subtle assumption to Thomas’s question that is easy to miss here, though.

The assumption made by both Peter and Thomas is that they need to know where Jesus is going, so that they can follow him directly. But the precise way that Jesus will return to his Father is a way that only he can travel. Jesus needs to travel by the way of the literal cross and resurrection. He is the only one who can lay down his life for the sins of the world. He is the only one whose sacrifice will count and open up the way for man to be reconciled and made right with God. And as the ever patient Jesus sees Thomas’ misunderstanding in verse 6… he stops talking about his own route home…and answers Thomas by explaining the way that all those who wish to be counted as his disciples must travel to get home.

Jesus says: “I am the truth…” And when, there in verse 2, he says that there are many rooms in his Father’s house, he adds:

“if it were not so, I would have told you.”


That is: “This is the truth. I always speak the truth, so if this wasn’t true, I wouldn’t say it.”
How do we go about establishing someone’s trustworthiness? I suppose there are a couple a questions we ask ourselves. First, we ask, “Does this person tell the truth?” This is an issue of character. If they tell the truth, that will be demonstrated by their track record of consistent truth-telling. Secondly, we ask, “Do they know what they’re talking about?”
The character of Jesus is attested even by his enemies. They couldn’t prove any sin in his life, and at his so-called trial they struggled even to find false witnesses who could pin anything remotely credible on him. His track record of truth-telling was supremely established when he predicted his execution, and promised that he would rise from the dead – and then those things happened just as he said. What is more, he then promised that his fearful disciples would be given the power of the Holy Spirit to bear witness to him around the world. And since then, billions of people have believed in Jesus through their testimony. So for Jesus we can give the character test a tick.

Then, does Jesus know what he’s talking about on these big questions of life, death and eternity? His claim is clear. His claim – and the Bible’s claim – is that Jesus does indeed know what he is talking about because he knows both sides – both God’s side, and our side. He is fully God and fully man in one person. That’s the claim. So we have to decide. Is he mad – is he lying but doesn’t know it, that is, deluded? Or is he bad – is he lying deliberately, that is, evil? Or is he God – that is, telling the truth?

If you are weighing up the truth of Christianity, that is essentially your choice. Is Jesus mad, or bad, or God? And, by the way, that means that you have to decide similarly about us who are believers (and very imperfect followers of Jesus). Are we deluded? Or deliberately lying to you in order to get your money or whatever? Or following Jesus who is the Son of the one true and living God?

If you want to know the truth about Jesus then lets look at the conversation between Philip and Jesus.

Once Jesus had finished talking with Thomas, Philip steps up. And he challenges Jesus. And he challenges Jesus in a way that all of us, if we’re honest, have, at one time or another, challenged Jesus over.
Have a look at verse 8:

“Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.””

In other words, ‘Just give us some proof Lord! If we could only see him with our two eyes, if we just had some physical proof, if we didn’t need to take everything on faith, then all would be hunky-dory.’ Oh how often, honestly, do we feel the same? We live under the illusion that the will of God would be easier to accept if only we had a supernatural, physical visitation from our creator to reassure us! Suffering would be more bearable if God were to appear with personal assurance; biblical instructions would be easier to follow if he’d just show up and clarify a few of them in today’s cultural context; frustrating and confusing situations would be acceptable if he’d just come and explain the big picture that we can’t see

Listen to how Jesus responds to Philp verse 9:

“Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?'”

I imagine at this stage Philip has one of those faces that says: ‘Jesus, what are you on?’ And so Jesus continues…

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”

It’s a remarkable exchange. The disciples want to see the Father. And Jesus says, ‘What are you talking about? Since day one you’ve seen him because I’m God.’ And yet they hadn’t seen him. They hadn’t recognised who Jesus was. They were spiritually blind. As were we all, until the Holy Spirit did his work in our hearts and minds, we were as slow and blind as the disciples.

Jesus says: “I am the life.” Life is to be found in him, both now and beyond death. If Jesus speaks the truth, and if he is the life, then there are massive consequences for our understanding of reality. Here are some of them.
One: there is a whole unseen supernatural reality. God is there. So are angels and demons, of which the worst and most powerful is Satan.
Two: physical death is not the end of our existence.
Three: this universe as we know it is provisional. It will come to an end.
Four: Jesus will return visibly and gloriously to judge the world.
Five: there will be a new heaven and earth.
Six: hell is real.
Seven: whether we will belong to Christ’s Kingdom, escape hell, and have eternal life depends on whether or not we reject or accept – that is, trust and live for – the King, Jesus himself. So accepting that Jesus is what he says he is – the way, the truth and the life – involves no slight adjustment in our thinking. It involves a radically new way of looking at the world and our lives.

And, of course, if this is true, then eternal life can only be gained in Jesus. He is God! He is King! We cannot reject Jesus and want nothing to do with him and refuse to listen to him and still imagine that we can be welcomed in to his house!

Imagine someone coming to your front door, and either ignoring your greeting when you answer the door and standing there as if you didn’t exist; or asking for the person who lives there and telling you you’re wrong when you tell them you live there; or telling you that some friend of yours, of whom you’ve never heard, told him he could live there. Would you let them in? Of course not.

We cannot ignore or by pass Jesus and still hope to enter eternal life. He is the owner. He is the householder. And what is more, he has paid a very heavy price so that we can enter eternal life – because we don’t deserve to. Because of our rebellion against the living God, what we all deserve is to feel the full force of God’s righteous anger against us for ever. That is hell. But God loves us. And he has taken the punishment that we deserve for our rebellion on himself in the person of Jesus as he died on the cross. Jesus has paid for our eternal life with his own blood. It is only as we plead before God the Father the death of his Son in our place that the door into the Father’s house is opened to us, and one of those many rooms promised by Jesus becomes available to us. Forever. We cannot ignore or by pass Jesus and still hope to enter eternal life. Of course not. Eternal life can only be gained in Jesus.

An opportunity to sing again, our closing hymn, To God be the glory

To God be the glory
Great things He has done
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin
And opened the life-gate that all may go in

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord
Let the earth hear His voice
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord
Let the people rejoice
O Come to the Father
Through Jesus the Son
Give Him the glory
Great things He has done

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood
To every believer the promise of God
The vilest offender who truly believes
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives

Great things He has taught us, great things He has done
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see

Lets remain standing for a prayer of blessing

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,

fill you with radiance

and scatter the darkness from your path.

All   Amen.

Christ, the Sun of Righteousness,

gladden your eyes and warm your heart.

All   Amen.

Christ, the Dayspring from on high,

draw near to guide your feet into the way of peace.

All   Amen.

And the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among you and remain with you always.

All   Amen. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and evermore. Amen.

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