Are you ready for Jesus?

The following story is based on true events, but at different times in my life I may have been either driver, in my teens and early 20s I had an XR3 these days I drive an audi.

I was stuck at some traffic lights waiting for them to turn red.
This chap had been cutting me up and he got alongside me.
He was revving his engine, and looking over. He clearly wanted to go first.

Paula was like – let him go. which I was prepared to do.

A pause, lights when you are waiting for them can seem to take an age.

The lights went amber, I was surprised he didn’t go.
Oh well I thought…

Then Green, he must have jerked his clutch up way too fast. Because he leapt 2-3 yards on in frog hops.
He stalled his car he wasn’t ready, as he missed the orange light.
He had drifted off… then
When green came it obviously caught him by surprise.
he made a mess of it and frog hopped down the road.

The signs were all there, but you never know when the lights going to go green. They stayed red for a long time. In that time he lost concentration.

Who knows where he had drifted off too? His mind was not on the task at hand.

How does all that relate to today’s reading?

There are some similarities.
Jesus is telling us today

We are at that place of waiting for the lights to go green, however unlike the traffic lights there are more stages than just ready, get set, Go. There are far more things to do in these stages, than just wait and be alert.

We don’t get to sit nicely and wait, ours in an active waiting.

Ours is a calling while we wait.

To follow Christs example in calls us in so many ways,

We have to call him Lord, and know truth in our hearts that he is the source of all truth and love, and to rule that as Jesus says

“3 Heaven and earth will pass away, but his words will never pass away.”

And we have to stay the course, don’t do as the chap did and get distracted while he was waiting…. We have to stay focused.

As Jesus said
” Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, “

I doubt that chap, was carousing, but maybe he had drifted off on the anxieties of life. Got so caught up worrying, or gnawing away at a problem. Maybe that was what was making him so anxious to get round.

who knows, but Jesus warns us about that, and asks us to stay focussed, because that focus can help us when we are worried.

Like the old hymn goes what a friend we have in Jesus.
Our friend wants to carry our sins and griefs.

One thing that does hold true from todays metaphor is that Lights change without warning, we may if we sit at traffic lights long enough get to know how long they take. But in the time of waiting for Jesus we have no clue,how long before the lights go green.

However

One thing we know in the first week of advent is that the clock is ticking, because in the first week in advent we await, Gods affirmative action, deliberate action of Jesus arrival.

That ladies and gentleman was when the clock started, from red, to amber.

From stop to get ready.
Who has to get ready? When jesus said “this generation” doesnt mean the generation of Jesus day it means all the generations of humanity since he came. This generation in Gods terms means the group Since the clock started?

Today we await, the entry into the world of Gods redeeming love, brought into the world as a defenceless baby, I am sure over the next few weeks many sermons will talk about that fact. That the way he set the clock ticking to our salvation was not through force, but by the exact opposite. Today in advent week one we imagine a world that was firmly at “stop” and on his birth knew it had to get ready, and we learned from his example that he came to show us how.

Jesus showed us, that we become powerful when we give up our ideas of power, when we give love we receive so much more.
He started a journey roughly thirty years between his arrival and his resurrection, and theres something in that, the pace of our lives arent the pace God moves very often, most often he moves at a pace of lifes phases and things change when we are ready. He opened the gates of salvation, but it may take all our lives to get ourselves ready for him to come again.

How do we maintain that metaphorical car that focus, how do we keep our driving skills? Or better put how do we keep our eyes on him let him into our lives to keep us on the right track. The answer is simple – prayer. Prayer opens the garage door; prayer is us knocking on the door of the greatest power ever. A power that loves us very much, and wants to welcome us into his world, of peace and justice and love.

And all this is what it means to be ready, it means so much more than simply prepared, we need to know who he is, love him, follow his example and show love etc etc.
Like that chap from the lights, theres so much more to being ready, you have to learn to drive to even be sat at the lights, maintain your car etc etc.

Then you have to stay ready and not let all those things drift, let your driving habits get so bad that you stall and you do this by practice and staying alert.

This is what Jesus is asking today, that we maintain all the assets and edicts of our faith, trust in him, love for all, readiness to sacrifice, study so that we really know what he is asking, and prayer so that our study is led by him etc etc etc

We worship in an Anglican Church and our faith is built upon tradition, scripture and reason. All of those are nourished by prayer.

That I think this is, the real value of our church, and all our theologians, and our priests, our bible study, and our prayer. Getting us and keeping us ready.

Then comes the next task. That’s every person who knows jesus shows jesus in the way that we act.
That is our task in this life. Getting as many people ready for when the lights change as we can.

He came to show us how to et ready, his salvation gave us the means to move forward with him when the lights go green.

Our task is to ponder on him all of our lives and be as ready as we can be

As we move through advent, as we think about all the lessons contained in why he came, what he tried to teach us. The question we have to ponder over and over again with prayer, with thought, with love, in companionship, listening to the words of our service that show us. I mean we are just about to hear the words of the creed. When we hear all those words, we need to ask

is are we ready?

because in advent week one, we prepare for his arrival, and we know in that very moment the lights have changed to amber.

Amen

Sabbath, what is it, why, and how?

I stand here today giving the first sermon on the subject of Sabbath, being as it’s the first I thought I would spend a little time looking  Sabbath, what is it, how can we do it, what is it not and why? And reflect on what Sabbath is and how we might observe Sabbath in our modern context. What does God want?


The first thing many of us learn about the sabbath was, that when  God made everything, he rested, on the seventh day he had a rest.   Did he go have a lie down? Did he sort of let creation do its own thing for a bit? Like when we leave our kids with the iPad for an hour and go put a wet flannel on our head?

Here’s the thing, as much as we try, humanity is not going to stress out God to the point of needing a lie down and neither is making everything. God is omnipotent, all powerful inexhaustible and does not need a rest. God did not need to rest, so why is this in scripture?

This is God setting an example to us, showing us what we should do moving forward.  He’s saying 6 days of toil and then we stop, he loves us and only wants whats best for us, and so he’s setting the cycle by which we should live, for many more reasons than just rest.

There have been many versions of what doing nothing on the Sabbath means in the bible, the Hebrew noun for Sabbath, “Shabat” simply means stop or cease. The first time Sabbath is mentioned by name is in exodus verse 20 chapter 9-11 in the ten commandments, where God makes it a holy day, and says everyone including the foreigner has to stop work.

Making a thing Holy really means setting it apart as special. The dictionary really points us in the right direction when it defines holy as “dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.”.  Hence the reason why Ezekiel criticised people for continuing to buy and sell sheep in the sabbath, basically keep the works of industry moving, but Isaiah was more interesting, he wants us to celebrate the sabbath as more than just as an exhibition of piety, but to do so properly meant to ‘learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow’.

That’s not really stopping as such is it, so what is it? Isaiah also foresaw when the Sabbath was for more than just gods chosen people but for all humanity and included us here today. 

But if it isn’t as simple as just stopping and watching Netflix, or a good book whats it  all about?

 Jesus often ran into the Pharisee’s legalistic view of the Sabbath when he healed people and walked through fields of wheat eating corn, this  was seen as breaking the   strict laws of Sabbath, His response was that the sabbath was made for humankind not humankind for the sabbath.  

Essentially God made the sabbath for us to be released from bondage not to be interned by another sort of bondage of legalism. So for Jesus Sabbath had a greater meaning than just doing nothing on a Sunday.

Also it hasn’t always been on a Sunday, for early Christians it followed the Jewish tradition of starting on a Friday to a Saturday evening.  It then moved again to the “lords day” on the first day of the week in acts.

 The Sabbath was a day of rest, but the Lords day was a day to gather in community and worship God and concentrate on his word. As our faith moved to the Gentiles community Paul said that they don’t need to follow this Jewish rite but encouraged them to set aside a special day to worship the lord if they decide to do so, but they are free of the legalistic duty.

Essentially as Christianity separated from Judaism to create its own identity they moved from a legalistic sabbath to a “lords day” where the emphasis was on worship.

So what did our lord want us to do with this day? Old testament law was not abandoned in the new testament but fulfilled, properly fulfilled. Take Jesus pronouncement that where the OT says do not commit adultery, anyone who looks lustfully wishfully at another woman has done so.

The  law is about the betterment of society, Jesus is concerned about whats going on in our heart. So it is with the Sabbath, as we move from the legalistic rite of Sabbath bound up in laws and a burden to all, so as we as modern day Christians work out what to do with old testament ideas of sabbath we must overlay the idea’s that Jesus came to fulfil that law, to bring it to its proper purpose.   This is in part what the Jews listening to Jesus saying in matthew

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”.

would have heard, their yoke was twofold, the burden of an occupied society, but also burdened by a legalistic faith that used the Old Testament law as a tool to keep their culture intact but also to make a straitjacket that all had to be bound by.

So Jesus yoke is easy, and his burden is light. But there is a yoke and a burden, he wants us to follow the law by having a day of rest, but the yoke is he wants us to spend that time concentrating on him, pondering him. Closer to the lords day of the early Christians.

 As the old testament scholar mark scarlata said “Sabbath is God’s way of drawing us into a place of rest where we might begin to tap into the divine imagination and wisdom that brought the entire universe into being.”  Being still and knowing he is God as it says in the psalm, only by being still and turning ourselves to him can we access the true meaning of Sabbath.  I recently gave another sermon about Jesus being the bread of life, and someone asked him how they can access that bread.  Jesus response was  “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”.

By taking ourselves away from the pursuit of the bread that spoils, in our ever more commercialised world we can stop and meet the bread that never spoils in our lord Jesus Christ.  By being in his world for a day or so, we are driven by what Boenhoffer called costly grace, the grace that costs something in our lives and drives us to sacrifice ourselves for others , that drives us as Isaiah said “‘learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow’” or whatever our society needs us for, by letting him into our lives we become his body on earth, make a rebellious statement about what we think is of real importance by turning of and tuning into him. We make a statement that we believe life is more than the frenetic gathering of wealth.

This ethic takes us right back to the time of god and his  overthrowing the Pharaoh and exile.


Each time God sent a plague Moses demanded god free his people  Pharaoh had   his people making more  bricks and with every twist he removed the means to make bricks but increased the demand, he wanted Israelites firmly focussed on mammon,

Whereas as soon as God got them, he asked them to stop on the seventh day, eat the bread they had already collected, but focus on him. Focus on him and leave mammon behind

This is what our Sabbath should be, its why I was happy to work on my studies on Sundays as I trained to become an LLM, because that wasn’t about mammon it was about God, its why we should gather here each Sunday and focus on him.  Because ultimately this is fulfilling the law of the sabbath, not meeting it legalistically but truly in our hearts.  Making time, real time each week to focus on him,  our Sabbath.

Which by the way in our busy lives doesn’t have to be on a Sunday because it has moved around,  in the past both through our Jewish heritage and as a means of setting our faith apart from Judaism  and sometimes it has too, wherever it settled it was always encouraged. Because wherever it is ,  the idea is we must set aside time to be with our lord each week. Proper time that we regard as sacrosanct, not of mammon and to state openly to the world this time is his.

What a statement, my life is yours, I think your more important than everything else I might be doing. That’s rest and witness all at once!

So to sort of cover off what is this sabbath and what isn’t it…

Well some of that is informed by the fact

God doesn’t need a Sabbath, but he knows we do, that’s why he models and commands it for us

Also Jesus railed against a legalistic sabbath and

It’s easy to be legalistic about observing the Sabbath, but that doesn’t get to the heart

It’s easy to be blasé about the Sabbath, but then we miss the rest we need that helps us refocus on God

Properly observed, Sabbath is a light yoke and an easy burden


Because ours is the lord of the Sabbath, and we should give our Sabbath time to him.


Because that’s what he wants,  that’s sabbath our time focussed on him and being his body here on earth, acting for him, in ways that please him, and bring his wholeness to the world.

When we reflect on sabbath that is  what we should reflect on both on defining it, and doing it.


Our Lord Jesus Christ 

Because it’s his

Amen

Sermon on the growing seed and mustard seed

June 13th: Second Sunday after Trinity

1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13

Psalm response ‘We will call upon the name of the Lord our God

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17

Mark 4: 26-34

Note to reader – St Marys runwell is a very lovely saxon church with a very large copper beech tree outside its door. The day I gave this was HOT and as everyone files out I knew we would all be under the shade of the tree. We would be surrounded by the many gravestones that sit under it.
They are quite formal in service, and the church has many people who have come for most of their lives. 

Has anyone at St Mary’s ever heard of Radulphus?

The earliest rector ever recorded here at St Mary’s was Radulphus in 1181. I wonder what sermons he preached and how many times he said something that resonated with someone listening, sat not more than a few feet from where you are today.  We sit here today part of that story, and I wonder what lives they all had. I wonder what lives all the parishioners had since then. What petitions did they bring before God, what were they? What I wonder have all the people sat where you are today asked for, as they bowed their heads in prayer?  

I wonder did God give them what they wanted, or in what way did he help them see what’s happening? If at all, quite often, we are clueless to see what the heck is happening, especially in the midst of everything. 

How many of us look back on our lives and see where God has known better than us, or how many times have we prayed and seen the velocity of our lives change course long after a prayer. Sometimes we wonder why our plans have gone awry and plead with God to put them back!  Sometimes when we look back, we see that if X or Y had not happened, our lives would have missed some real purpose that God had in store. 

How many seeds has God sown, all unknown in all the lives that have been sat where we are today, and really we cant see them or they are held in the dark until they are fully grown?  

That’s what our first parable is about today, things that God sows in our lives in our world that we don’t see until he is ready to show us or that we may never see.

This parable is about the things that God does in the dark or at the same speed that mustard seeds grow into trees. Things that grow so slowly or things over a tree’s life span, which means we may never see them bear fruit because it won’t happen in the lifespan we have?

A Sermon by a famous French theologian in 1866 contained the words,
Blessed are old people who plant trees knowing that they shall never sit in the shade of their foliage. Maybe that’s got some wisdom for today.  In all the lives that have sat where we are today how many planted seed’s that grew into tree’s real or metaphorical that we sit in the shade of? 

How many of them did things guided by God, in the dark just like a seed grows in the dark, that affect our lives today?  

We don’t know how mustard seeds are created inside a pod but we know they need so many things to flourish, and planted, and watered, and tended for. 

Only God knows how, and why, and what for and that’s the story of our first parable today. The things that God plants that we don’t know or notice until the tree has grown bore fruit.  All those stories precious to God, working to contribute to his purpose, add their bit to his story.

He also reaps what he sow’s, and we await the day he harvests and brings us all home to rise again with him.  That idea brings us on to  the next parable of our pair. We live in that space of now not yet in our lives. Jesus planted the seed, the seed that grows into a large tree that birds sit in the branch of, that gives life to our planet, that we sit in the shade of.   That seed that has a secret life as the roots burrow down in the soil and live in harmony with our planet. So as with all Jesus stories, there is a mystery here. We, as Christians, live with mystery. I think mystery is a significant part of both our stories today. The seed’s planted in our lives and the countless lives before or after that we don’t see until God’s ready to show us, or maybe we just don’t see in this life but maybe in the next.  We await our turn in God’s harvest, knowing that when he brings us to him, we will never die nor need harvesting again. Maybe then we will see more of the things he created, and tended and sowed and harvested. 

Planted through love, and love always has a choice. God won’t force us to listen to him.  Love never forces anything on anyone but tries to pull and cajole and caress its beloved into a place of safety and wholeness. Love is willing to die for its beloved, as our lord died for us, planting the seed that allows us to come to glory. God’s harvest is us with him forever made into everything he wanted us to be. One day we are promised to see that come to fruition, we believe we will rise in glory to share that glorious harvest.


When you leave today have a look at the tree outside. I am reliably informed it’s a copper beech tree. 


Maybe wonder, who put the little sapling down, and tended it until it was the magnificent things we see today. They maybe imagined what they might look like fully grown, but we get to see the glory of them.

That’s what our parables are about today. Knowing who planted the seed, and tends it sometimes without us knowing who tended them, who created the seed, who will harvest the seed and the promise of seeing the story come to its magnificence crescendo of eternity with him.  You, me, all of us, including  radulphus and all who believed with him 😊

I wonder if part of the thread that really joins us to radulphus,

a bishop long ago once said If I get to heaven I think I will be surprised by three things, one that I am there, two people I expected to see but don’t, and people I didn’t expect to see 😊

That loops us to part of our purpose here, is to sit here and wonder what do we have to do, to be, to say, to act like to know in our hearts, to have faith in, so that we become the seed that God scatters on the ground

that when the harvest comes

One day we will all rise in glory.

Amen 

Dont give anything UP for lent – Jesus wants your time.

.

  • Chocolate
  • Social Networking
  • Alcohol
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • School
  • Meat
  • Sweets
  • Coffee
  • Fizzy drinks


Other things include gossip, deserts and sweets, snacking, and binge watching Netflix

That’s quite a list, thankfully being as I have never succeeded the whole 40 days of any of them
I’m not sure any of those get to what our stories today or lent is all about.


In our story today, Jesus is baptized twice, once by John and then Baptized by God and the spirit. He is led away into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. This is where our self-denial comes from in Lent, replicating jesus suffering in the desert.  I think, however,  if we aren’t careful we can reduce lent to the denial of chocolate, or a swear box, or beer, (all of which I have done badly at various lents) .

Other places where 40 days is mentioned is where God actually feeds Elijah to make him strong for the journey, so if we used that 40 days we would all be stuffing ourselves with Cake (which is what the angel made Elijah to eat).  The other more common 40 days is from Moses 40 days and 40 nights on mount Sinai, where God gave him the ten commandments and made the third covenant. 

a covenant is defined as something that changes an existing relationship.   We formalize our relationship with Christ in the sacrament of Baptism.

Maybe that’s the bit of the story that we should be focussing on, the baptism, the covenant,the change in relationship

I think that is what lent is about, not a state of denial, a marathon of restrictions, it’s about seeking the renewal change of relationship  a renewal of the covenant of baptism.

That’s whats more happening here, because of course Jesus changes our relationship with God, whatever atonement theory you adhere too, the end result is that we are closer to God as a result of God coming to earth and taking on all our sins.


The 40-day journey we are on in lent is towards Jesus resurrection where he changed the relationship between us and God.     As peter puts it Jesus enables us to “21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, “  As a result of Jesus death and resurrection we can repent (which simply means change direction) come before God with a clean conscience.  Knowing we are forgiven.

That’s what we are journeying too, it’s that journey we are on in Lent.  That’s what Jesus is asking us to do , change direction as a result of the changed relationship we have with God,

Our lent course this year is working with the psalms and so its very apposite that our psalm today tells us so well how to pursue this renewal of this changed relationship.  I would really ask that you all read psalm 25 as we begin Lent because it’s a handbook of how to do lent.  It’s a list of things to Ponder, it’s the perfect list of things to ask  for as we stand on the first day of Lent.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all day long.


 if we asked that every day of lent we would be closer to what lent is all about

 and if the things that our lord teaches you causes you to ask  how we hould react to those teachings then our psalm helps us

If you want to think about how we should react to this new covenant, then our psalm helps us to know who to ask and be assured of the right answer. How to come before the Lord when we ask

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

And

For your name’s sake, O Lord,
    pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who are they that fear the Lord?
    He will teach them the way that they should choose.

So our Psalm today helps us on the journey with the right questions, the right place to start, the correct demeanour and what to expect as a result.  That we will be taught the way we should choose.  That’s the essence of Lent, that’s what this is all about, to take our eyes off all the madness going on and put our eyes on him and ask him whatever we need to know to better react to the covenant he made, the changed  relationship with God. To ask , whats next, what should I do now you have done this Lord?

Our relationship with God has changed in so many fundamental ways as a result of Gods deliberate and decisive action, we have to reflect on what that means, that’s what Lents about. As we work through the journey towards his passion and do services to mark the big events, ask the questions we are given in today’s psalm.

But do so knowing you do so Free of the corrosive impact of shame, free of the burden of Sin, free of the chains of mortality, free to come before God, Free to love, and given love freely.

The aim of my Sermon today was to spend a few minutes  thinking about what lents about and then find out how we might do lent and maybe encourage you to do so.

 However remembering at all times the most powerful thing you can do is to pray. Our weakest prayer comes before the greatest force of all time, so maybe that’s how we should start lent.

so Let us pray

Loving God
Awaken in us a yearning to know you better
A  yearning to grow in faith
And a longing to serve you more faithfully
show us our need and the way that you alone can meet it.
Through Jesus Christ our lord
Amen

Anna and Simeon – Sermon for Candlemass

How did you meet Jesus?
Have a think about that for a mo?
For some its gradual thing, a growing awareness over time, for some he has literally been with them their entire life, for others it is a moment you can remember. For others he is introduced through friends. For me it was clutching my little red Gideons bible while very lonely in a little flat in the wilds of Dorset and asking for his help. Feeling love rush in that room, and then reading sermon on the mount. Knowing I had been shown how to live, and who to live with, I never felt alone again.

if you were here with me today, I would ask you to tell your story. How did it happen for you?
When did you meet him and When did you know Jesus is lord?

maybe if you are on Facebook share it there?

Because theirs power in that story…

Our witness of how we met Jesus, explaining that story is often our most powerful tool for evangelism, it is something we all have, that story. However, it happens it is our truth and people know truth when its spoken.

But somehow, we all met him, know his goodness, the spirit informed us of everything he is. Whether instantly or over time we reacted instinctively to the presence of him.
For Jews at that time, if they wanted to meet God they went to the temple, and he was God only for a chosen people under the law of Abraham. By being circumcised Jesus came under that law as well. Jewish custom said that the first boy child was given to God. Mary and Joseph followed this rite and did so as poor people as shown by their sacrifice.

This makes what Simeon says so radical, He said the temple, this singular place to meet God is about to be opened to the whole world by this child. Also, this God is no longer just for his chosen People but for everyone.

Interestingly our reading said he was moved by the spirit to go that day and say the thing he said.

so that is my other question?

How does the spirit move you? How do you discern what God wants in your life? Whats the feeling you get?

For me the spirit often feels like a sort of nagging feeling, one I cannot ignore. Until I take action, I cannot rest. Sounds like Simeon was like that, moved to get up and dressed and go to the temple. Then when he got there and met this baby, he was moved to Say something that would have been very shocking to all that heard, our God is now everyone’s God. This baby is going to do that.

, he. Knew the prophecy of Malachi some four hundred years before had come true, he had indeed come suddenly to the temple.

“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts”.

He knew something as well radical for his people, this promise was to be fulfilled in a massively unexpected way, as he said when he saw Jesus

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.”

This was a God for more than just the Jews, this one is for everyone, all humanity, a light for everyone. As he stood in the temple for the God of the Jews, he knew that God had opened himself to the world in the vulnerable shape of a baby born to a poor family. This is the child that will grow and tear a hole in the curtain of the temple. No longer do you have to go to the Temple to meet him, he is now abroad by the spirit. The same one that activated him to move, the same one that revealed who Jesus is to Simeon, the same one that showed who he is to all of us.

That in different ways activates us to pray, to be his disciples, to do his will. Its easy to say “Oh yes but he saw him” he saw a baby, and a poor family. But the knowledge of what he is, comes to us in an identical way. The recognition of who Jesus is, is the same for us, identical.
That is what connects todays story to ours today, we have all ,met him in exactly the same way as simeon,

Interestingly he also recognised the implication of knowing who Jesus is. As soon as he meets him death loses its sting because he knew this child is the way to salvation. He utters the words of the nunc dimitus which is latin for “now dismiss me”. “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace” This man knew faith in this child saves you, knew he had been saved and was now unafraid of death.

Anna had a different morning, she ordinarily went to the temple every single day, was probably supported by charitable donations from the temple. When our story calls her an old lady of eighty-four it was not joking. The , the average life expectancy at that time was twenty-nine.
By going backwards from her age to the history of the Jews. We know this lady had seen tragedy in her life on many levels. At the family level, she had only been married seven years and then she had been a widow for the other sixty or more years.
She had seen tragedy at her tribal level. She was of the tribe of Asher which was one of the ten lost tribes taken to Assyria as slaves. Her ancestors had been among the few survivors of that tribe which had been just about obliterated. She had seen true Genocide. Anna had escaped and kept the family tree.

She had seen tragedy at the national level. She had lived in Jerusalem and for the eighty-four years before Jesus’ birth there had been one civil war after another. Jerusalem changed hands from one group of rulers to another – from the Hasmonean kings of Syria to the Roman emperors to the hated Herodians.

So she had led an exceptionally long and tragedy strewn life, and but was at the temple in one of her many days at the temple spent praying and worshipping God. However as soon as she saw the child she knew as well; in the same way we do. Remarkably In among her long and in many ways tragic life she still gave thanks to God. At the heart of our faith is hope, and that hope is brought about by this child. She is speaking of the hope she has found in this child.

After the shepherds and the wise men, Anna and Simeon are the only the third group to know who this child is. The shepherds had the angel, the wise men had the star, I think the holy spirit had a hand there. But these two, knew in the very same way we know.

We here today, and as you listen online have in our own ways had the very same experience. This is NOT a miracle isolated to the Bible, this one happens to every single Christian in the 2.4 billion in the world today, and everyone that ever was and ever will be. What we know is what we are part of love into eternity from the day moment we know him.

Eternity enters into our knowing and we know we are called to it, like that sense of action that drew simeon to the temple, draws us to pray, and worship and act in a way befitting his disciples. And we are called, to eternity in the very same way, we know we are destined and called beyond our horizons, beyond whatever we can imagine.

You, me, Anna, Simeon, and every Christian ever, called and knows him. Anna of course shows us our duty today, and then. “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.” She gave thanks she had met him and told all who were looking for redemption.

We know there is a lot of tragedy in the world at the moment, a lot of pain, and heartache. People made motherless, fatherless, without a husband or a wife. Our death toll of 100’000
is comparable to what Anna saw in her lifetime, but she knew the correct response to meeting this God is gratitude for the hope that extends for eternity. She also knew what comes after the revelation and the gratitude. To go find others who don’t know him. Who have that nagging feeling of Simeon but do not know why.

in anna and simeons day, everyone went to the temple, religious rites were a way of life? Now not so much but the task doesn’t change it is as she did “ to praise God and to speak about the child[h] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

There are just as many who are looking for redemption today, but they do not know where to turn

Our job like Anna’s is to show them who he is. Shepherds, Wise men, and worshippers at the temple are the first who he chose to announce him. Outcasts, Highborn and those who have some sort of relationship with God, who seek him in his temple. Like us. The shepherds and the worshipers all reacted in the same way and told others. I like to think the wise men did when they got home.

But overall, the aim of my talk today was to show that albeit a miracle we see in this story , its an everyday miracle it’s not rare. Albeit a wonderful thing, it is something we have all had happen to us, and all the other billions and billions of Christians ever.

The story today is enacted in every Christian ever, we know he will come suddenly and when we least expect him, the first time we meet him and the second time . Simeon knew the baby had opened God up to the entire human race and Anna knew her next task was to tell them.

Now we know that about him its our job to tell others too.

The sign of the Manger

When I give directions, I often point out landmarks, when people come to my house, I tell them 10th house down with a Blue Audi outside. When you get down my road, count roughly to ten and look out for a Blue Audi. There’s enough information in that direction to think this is about ten houses and the chances of there being another Blue Audi are slim, especially in the next 3-4- houses and the fact it was given to you as a signpost makes it very likely you have found my house…
The Audi signifies that this is my house.

That was the thing about the manger. A roughly carved stone drinking trough with a Baby inside was unusual enough that when the Angels said they would find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in and there he was, they must have been sure this was the child Angel Gabriel had said to go see.
The other thing about the oddness of it, is that it sorts of proves they hadn’t lost their marbles, or the cold had not given them a funny turn, and an Angel really had directed them this way.

Even more importantly if we have seen an angel and he was right about this strange location for a Baby, and they had found them to prove they hadn’t imagined it. The angels were right about one other thing, and this was the messiah. What with the census going on it might be expected a few mothers and children might run away? But the manger was a signpost, this particular baby, in this location, in a rough drinking trough.

The manger was a sign.
This sign of the manger was given to Shepherds. Shepherds at this time were considered as very lowly people in society. They could not give testimony or be a witness, as they were not considered reliable. In a rigid honour based society, they were among the lowest..
So not only was the sign of the manger one of poverty, but it was given to the poorest and those regarded as the most unreliable.
These low born people were also his first heralds. They were the first ones to go and explain what had happened.

God’s and Messiah’s do not in our worlds view enter into the world like that. Our royalty leaves the king Edward hospital in the west end with the worlds press and world leaders as heralds and the woman looks very smart has her coiffured hair styled perfectly with. Dad in a very expensive suit, both smiling, holding the perfect baby as the cameras flash, and enter into a life of conspicuous privilege to lead a life detached from the day-to-day reality of all of us.
This view of royalty is one of detached, entitled perfection. It’s given to us as an aspirational thing. However, as Christians we recognise it is the precise polar and exact opposite of Jesus. But with that in mind we have to come to terms with the fact this place, this location, this poverty, displacement, and helplessness was a deliberate choice of God .God made that choice.

So we have to ask? this way God?
Why hasn’t Jesus been zapped out of the sky, been heralded by trumpets, prime ministers and princes, had roses thrown at his feet. Why hasn’t he turned up on a Gold chariot, with hangers on, mothers hair coiffured with Joseph in a Saville row suit in front of the worlds eager press .
Why has he not been led into glorious wealth, and led a detached life, while issuing ethical advice from said detachment about how we should all live? Why has god decided this way?

This is not an accident, God is complete, in every facet, in every part of his nature and being, he lacks nothing and is in everything. Omnipresent across space and time, knowing everything. However, not content with reducing himself from a thing with no boundaries in time or space, to an object, a creature with form and shape and limitations “the word” the ultimate, the alpha and omega etc. he joins us as a homeless baby

This is a god that instead of standing back and pointing the finger at everything bad. Joins us in it, born into poverty, on the run, placed in a drinking trough , literally in the mess made by animals, scared, met by and announced by societies outcasts. Totally reliant on parents, who themselves are exposed to danger, a refugee, essentially homeless,
That reason for that choice is the same reason I am a Christian, the reason for all the faiths for me this marks out our faith as unique.
Why Lord why? What should we make of this choice?
Because the only God I could ever worship, is one who met me at my lowest, who knows me at my worst, joins me in my suffering, loves me enough to die for, one who isn’t big ,scary and detached. But a baby who you could pick up and smile at, and who needs the care of a scared mother to survive. Who chose angels , a mum and the lowest of the low to announce him?

That’s the perspective the manger gives us, Christianity does not start with “Jesus saves you from your sins.” It starts with “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This means we cannot reduce Christianity to a method of being saved. It is a way of viewing reality and the narrative of scripture should influence our view of reality, how it was made, what are we, where we fit, what are we to God, what are others, etc. This view of reality in today’s shows us a lot about our lord, who he is ,who he chooses, where he is.

I don’t think he ever left the manger really; I personally feel closest to him among the homeless in southend. We often feel him most strongly when we are lost or alone, or scared or vulnerable. This is because this God knows what that is like to be vulnerable, and reaches out. This is where he is today in our story a helpless babe among the helpless, hapless and unreliable

The other person of course who shared this story is his mother. This is a mother’s story. Scholars think by the way that it was Mary that gave Luke this story. Unusually Mary’s name comes before Josephs in the text, and the fact that her reflection is mentioned in this is Luke making it as clear as he could where he got this story from . This is a mother recalling a night no mother would forget a detail about. “ But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”. The other thing that indicates this is Luke making it clear she did these things.

This is a God for 2020 isnt it? When our lives meet the real mess of life. A mother remembering giving birth in a smelly place with animals, and placing your child in the animals trough, on the run, sore, scared, worried, with a fresh burden of a new mouth to feed.

Mary’s prince is probably clearing the dung in the stable, emptying the trough, staying with her despite his young wife having given birth in a very odd way and not really understanding whats happening. His vulnerability is a sign to us , same way the manger is a sign to us, that where we should be, not pointing a finger but with others, helping saving making whole, clearing up the dung. So when we and so many are at our lowest point, I have no doubt that’s where he is, right there with us. Not pointing a finger, but with us, helping ,saving, making whole, loving us.
That’s where our lord put himself. Not by accident, not by mistake, but because that’s where he chose to be. He hasn’t locked himself up on a private island to rule us from the internet. He’s in our pain, in our loss, emptying his completeness into our loss. The angels made sure the shepherds knew him by the very fact of his poverty. The manger marked him out. The mother passed on the story, The outcasts announced him.
Also
The shepherds show us we don’t need to be among the worlds elite to announce him, and that’s such a comfort to me personally. This story helps show that those who may feel themselves or may have been made to feel unworthy can be his heralds, and announce who he is. He doesn’t need the worlds press and the paparazzi, he can have a shepherd, an ordinary mum, or a slightly sweary east end boy.

This story is shared by the angels, the shepherds, Mary when she told luke, and me, and hopefully you.
All quite different beings but all given the same job.
Inthis story we are also shown how we must announce him, where we are to begin when we speak about him.
The manger marks our God out as one who’s selfless love meets us at the lowest point imaginable.
When we speak about him, we must begin at the manger, when the shepherds in our story did as was told in out scripture “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” , they were said to be amazed, almost certainly like us, amazed that God had chosen this way to enter the world. With the lost, placed in a drinking trough, with lowly scared parents, heralded by outcasts.
That gives us all hope , and shows us where to begin when we explain him, not from a lofty perch handing out great advice from above but from the perspective of fellowship of those who may not always feel worthy, but are worthy of being Christ’s heralds. We should be where the worlds at its messiest, and meet it with love, and see the world as inhabited by Gods precious creation worth enough to die foe

When we meet the outcast, the lost, the sad, the refugee, the desperate we have to meet them as if they were precious, parts of Gods creation , worthy of being heralds of Christ, because they are . So wherever you reach out to the lost, dispossessed, helpless angry, and bring peace through love that’s being Christ. Meet them at the manger, from the perspective of the manger, this is a God who met the world from the manger, used it as his sign. Share it from the perspective of the Shepherds,as someone who may be unreliable witness to some but chosen by God to share his good news, or the mother remembering her beloveds first day,
Oh and we share a helpless babe, that shows us that when we are at our wits end, when we are lost, clueless, worried, feeling unloved, scared by the future that’s being helpless is Christlike as well.
We have all had our days in 2020 when it all got on top of us, not known the right thing to do. Grappled with seemingly contradictory demands and tried to work out the least worst option. Felt pretty hopeless doing so, 2020 has reduced all of us to the vulnerability of a baby in a manger. Been made feel less than worthy.

Christ shows us its Ok to be vulnerable, to not be able to do everything. To not know whats going on, to just ad-lib our way through strange days. That’s the sign of the way he chose to enter, today he needs his mum, wants simply to be warm, and loved. He is vulnerable, helpless, reliant on selfless love . This is what our lord chose to be like on the day of his birth, reliant on love helped by people who don’t really know whats happening. Not even Christ can sort it out today, not until the time is right.

That’s the sign of the manger as well. Our lord the servant king, who came to love us enough to die , who today needs to be served by Mary and Joseph and has the both the angels and the low born of society as the messengers of his good news .

The only God that fits 2020, and every year
Amen

Sermon Matthew 16:21-end

In certain respects, our weekly readings can be like watching a film in segments, ten minutes here, then minutes there. Like any film if you watched it that way you would either not understand whats going on, or, perhaps get the wrong end of the stick, or it may be because you have seen the film before you know roughly where we are.

I think this week reading requires a long view, see why people have reacted this way. Essentially to get under the skin of todays reading I think we have to work on a little context. 

Imagine it, a chap comes wandering past you while you’re at a steady job fishing, collecting taxes.

He asks you to follow him

You sense something, drop everything, follow him every day for three years.

Eat, Sleep, talk, pray, wander with him as he preaches in town after town.

You learn to love him with all your heart, and all your soul.

You learn that in fact he is the son of God, the Messiah.  

That means different things to different people. The saviour of your people, or the one that is going to bring back the land from brutal oppression.

Messiahs were expected to bring power back to Jerusalem,  deliver political and military victory over the current occupying force.  . You totally believe in this one. Previous claimants had ended up with
with roman justice, roman empire , roman peace celebrated because the Jewish leader had been killed 

Various Prophets all died, having had their say, tried to get the word of God to be listened too.

But this one , this one was different. He performs miracles, feeds 4000 people , heals people, comes out with stuff that makes the world make sense.

He asks you, one of the chaps that’s dropped your steady job, left your family, followed him for three years.

He ask you Who do YOU think I am – you tell him – you’re the Messiah, and you KNOW he knows what that means, what each and every one of you has invested in that word.  You’re going to put it all back, get rid of the romans, put Israel back on top! You’re going to be all that those very dead prophets promised.

He tells you a simple fisherman, the impetuous one, the one that always gets it a little wrong, that you are the rock he is going to build his church around. Hows that going to make you feel, promised that by the Messiah.  That’s trust way beyond anything a fisherman ever expected.

Then he says – don’t tell anyone I am the Messiah.  Which isn’t denying it at the very least, and confirms it in most peoples  way of thinking about that, and you know in your heart that he is, you dropped everything for him, got more than you ever imagined, saw things that will stay with you forever. This is the son of God.

THAT’S where we step into today’s segment of the story, that’s where we restart the DVD, or pressed play on the Netflix movie.

So with this context we move on to todays reading

From that time on he starts telling you he has to go to Jerusalem, the seat of power that hates him, the most dangerous place any of you could go. Then he says and here’s the kicker.

When I get there I am going to suffer and die!

Because your Peter, the rash one , You sort of grab him by the arm and say “God Forbid it lord this must never happen”!!

So many things would elicit that response, Love for the man in front of you, the fact the man you left your home for just calmly said “I am going to suffer and die” 

The man you believe is the messiah, who said your going to be the rock! Is going to die, messiahs don’t do that! They don’t die!

His reaction is a rebuke, Get behind me satan! Then he calls you the stumbling block to him, (the very opposite of a rock your going to build on).

Then he says, the thing that we still struggle to get because we are human.

The only way to follow me is to deny yourself.

(which sort of works, because you denied yourself a LOT to get here)

Then he says the real mad strange thing

The only way to save your life is to lose it.

Save your life is to lose it,

I don’t know about you, I like to win at things. Scrabble, Monopoly, win at work, win arguments with the wife (albeit that never happens).  I like my football team to win , albeit I support west ham and winning happens only slightly more often than I win arguments at home…

On one level Jesus just said, the only way you win is by losing.  In Alice through the looking glass, Alice finds out the only way forward is to step back, the only way up to go, is to go down. This is like that isn’t it? It makes no sense, sometimes even to us who have the fact of the resurrection, who are post Emmaus.

 For The disciples following Jesus logic meant he just stepped through the looking glass.

Actually what Jesus did was explain the actual only way Christianity makes an ounce of sense. Without this idea when you boil it down none of it works. Get this idea and everything fits, miss the point and it whooshes past in a whirl of confusion.  Things contradict, and jar with the world and his message. Get it and everything sort of works, what he said , and what we are supposed to do.

My mission today is to try and work towards that point, that Jesus was making.

Don’t get me wrong  I dont think we can relax after we get this; but what Jesus was talking about today we have to grasp to make the rest make sense.

It’s a bit like when I was a kid and I missed a lot of maths classes through being ill.  You cant do Algebra if you don’t know how to add up, subtract and divide.

There’s still algebra to come here, but the essence of this story, the principle is right at the core of our faith

Jesus is the ultimate example of self-sacrifice. Why;  because he is an immortal, eternal God , complete in every way, needing nothing, that made  himself small enough to be a man through love. Dying and resurrecting opens the way to salvation for us all, and he has to do that for us all.  Gave us victory over sin, defeated death. 

The mysteries and models of atonement are another day’s conversation.

But there’s also the question of what do we, here today do with this story;
And that’s the other thing  also he’s showing us the only way the world works; and that’s where I want to spend the rest of my time.

He knows that when everyone gives everything to everyone,  then nobody wants. If we give everything to each other regardless of whether we like them or not, nobody wants for anything.   The only way to reach that point is when enough people break the chain of taking from each other, and share love from the limitlessness of God.

We as Christians are taught the only way to make it work is to give to each other, the only way that we make his kingdom come is when give to each other because then we receive from each other as well; to give when we don’t want to, to give when we would rather hold on to what we have.

Fortunately, Paul takes Jesus point and explains it long hand for us,  what does this giving achieve. That is exactly what Paul is explaining today, what Jesus was doing times a million and what we have to do to replicate that in our small way.



Marks of the True Christian (Romans 12:9 – end)

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.[a] 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;[b] do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;[c] for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 
So when Jesus said “get away from me Satan” its because in protecting life, protecting what we have, we take life, protecting Jesus from Giving was being overcome by evil, and he wanted to overcome evil with good.

The limitless giving of our god,  has as Paul explained to be replicated by limitless giving,  giving to each other?

Limitless giving is how our lord saved us, and gave us salvation and

Salvation most academics think is better translated as making whole or healing

Our lord gave everything to make us whole,heal us to be who he wanted us to be

When we give to each other we make each other whole and he wants us to give without limits

That’s the way the world works, do I think we can do that?

I know I can’t, but I have faith my lord will help me try, and that faith gives me access to grace.

Grace overcomes the shortfall, in my efforts  and Ill rely on that.

Jesus knows we can’t, we aren’t able the worlds too broken but he wants us to try. To try and give as much love as we can to each other to try and lift each other up and make the other whole.

So, to conclude
Peter had Grace when he missed the point, and grabbed Jesus arm and said “no that’s not happening” 

We all have grace when we miss the point, that’s why we need grace so much. We as Christians must keep trying, we try because we have been shown how to make it work, how to make each other whole by giving..

Thy Kingdom come is Jesus asking us to do that, make each other whole.

Grace is for the times we miss the point

Father Jo once said to me if I get to heaven I want our lord to say nice try.

I say
Amen to that.

Christ as Sister

The other day I ran a prayer session and referred to Christ as mother, brother , father and sister.

It raised an eyebrow or two

Why did I leave that in?

Because faith is what saves us, through relationship with the risen christ,

Christ was male whilst on earth, because he came down into a society where unless you were male it would have been hard to be listened too.

While we was here

He said that we can call him a friend, He is called a light, a lamb, . the alpha and omega, the narrow gate etc. The saints often called christ names that transcended gender? Julian of Norwich referred to christ our mother? This is because she saw the relationship of the trinity as more than gender specific and wanted to explain aspects of his love.

Indeed when john said “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” – John 1:29. John the baptist was most likely Essene and would have spent his days buried in scripture. As such he knew the Scriptures perfectly well, and knew what he was saying, he would not have called a man the Lamb of God, when in fact, the offering for sin is a female lamb.

He was making a leviritical reference

Leviticus 4:32 If he brings a lamb as his sin offering, he shall bring a female without blemish.

In regards to a prayerful relationship, I think if your male relationships are broken, invested with ideas of the patriarchy, unwholesome etc, loving christ, coming into relationship with him in whatever way opens the door for you? That’s what counts?

He said we are made in our image, plural, more than one gender or type.

If he can be a lamb, he can be a sister, because I don’t he’s a white guy sitting on a cloud?

Maybe all our metaphors lack something? How much of gender do you think is preserved when we die, and rise again, if we join him in heaven?

More importantly for me however

Christ wants us to love him the very best that we can, that’s what really matters? As a subject for prayer, a way of coming closer if your male relationships are broken, come to him as a sister, its the agape love that counts. Because his love includes aspects of love that are mother, brother, sister, father, light, lamb etc. We can love him in all of those ways…

IE what paul said in galatians

Galatians 3:26-28 New International Version (NIV)
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Come to Jesus whatever way you can but come to Jesus because in him there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

We are people of hope.

Evening prayer BCP 24-5-20 Ephesians 1:15 End

I think todays reading should give all of us hearing this in lockdown great hope.

Albeit the world has gone a little mad, and nothing seems normal, that which fills everything in every way has risen and has created the hope which we all share.

Albeit we can all become lost in our circumstances, we can all become lost in fear, we all become disoriented Paul has shown all us Christians today our true north, the well spring that nourishes us.

Nothing has really changed, nothing is truly broken, that which was broken has healed and we who believe in him have had the separation healed. We are no longer broken or enslaved, or held ransom but we have been given the greatest gift ever.

I would like to pray Pauls prayer for you today
This is the prayer
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,

That’s a wonderful prayer for Christians, that the eyes of our heart be opened, by his spirit, and we know that we are never alone

and no matter where we are, or whats happening to us we know the hope for which we are called, and the inheritance given to those that know the way the truth and the life.

I pray that whatever circumstances you are in as you hear this today. That all think of all the people doing BCP today and praying to have our hearts opened, so that we can see hope, have been given it and know hope.
We are people of hope, Christians are people of hope and with all the people praying Pauls prayer today, I pray that you feel that hope, wherever you are. I hope you do, because hope is whats been prayed for all over the world today 😊
In Jesus name – Amen

Why is Bonhoeffer even MORE relevant today?

We live in a world where God is no longer central to our culture.  We live in a world where angry voices sometimes make being a voice of peace much harder.  History shows that others have faced these challenges before. Their experience can help us to understand the role our faith has in a society that has gone far away from God.  This is the story of one of the great theologians of our time who faced just such challenges.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on the 4th February 1906 in Breslau Germany into a middle-class family. The First World War saw the Bonhoeffers lose one son and another wounded. They suffered the privations of the Allied blockade and the treaty of Versailles for which Dietrich never forgave the allies. Dietrich was given the best education and it was a great surprise to his family when he chose to study theology.

 As Hitler’s power and persecution of the Jewish people grew in 1933, he spoke out on their behalf calling them “Worthy Citizens”.   This open opposition of the tide of hatred robbed him of a blossoming career.

It was perhaps unsurprising then that Dietrich saw Christianity as a faith that has a cost to its followers. In 1937 he wrote “The Cost of Discipleship” which spoke of, Cheap and Costly Grace. “Grace” can be defined as unconditional love toward a person who has done nothing to deserve it”. “Cheap Grace” essentially is grace where we know we are forgiven and carry on how we like, and it’s the grace without the following, grace without the discipleship. However, then he talks about the flip side, costly grace.

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.

He then says “Costly Grace” may call us to do things we may feel unworthy of or unprepared at the time we are called. Our job is to follow the call.


“‘Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own comprehension, and I will help you to comprehend even as I do. Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. My comprehension transcends yours.”

One thing that makes this journey easier is that with Christ as our mediator we become one humanity.  This binding of us through Christ makes intercessionary prayer the most powerful thing we can do. The Christ that mediates and acts in us, exists and acts in our brothers and sisters.   

“However loving and sympathetic we try to be, however, sound our psychology, however frank and open our behaviour, we cannot penetrate the incognito of the other man, for there are no direct relationships, not even between soul and soul.

Christ stands between us, and we can only get into touch with our neighbours through him. That is why intercession is the most promising way to reach our neighbours, and corporate prayer offered in the name of Christ, the purest form of fellowship” (Take a look at Ephesians 2 and see how Paul explores the same theme of “One Humanity” mediated by Christ).

His explanation of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 shows that this fellowship extends beyond the tribe we belong too.  The first mistake Bonhoeffer thinks the lawyer made was to ask, ‘who is my neighbour?’   I think you can hear that question being asked today in our time, and of course, Bonhoeffer could hear that question in his time. Bonhoeffer’s response to this question is as follows.

We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbour or not. We must get into action and obey – we must behave like a neighbour to him. But perhaps this shocks you. Perhaps you still think you ought to think out beforehand and know what you ought to do. To that, there is only one answer. You can only know and think about it by actually doing it. You can only learn what obedience is by obeying. It is no use asking questions; for it is only through obedience that you come to learn the truth.

In simple terms, Bonhoeffer says that discipleship should always cost us something and change the way we behave.  That Christ is in all humanity, and that means we share in the suffering of Christ and of our fellow humans. That all of our fellow humans have Christ in them and as a result become our neighbours. That like Peter as he left his nets, this call and response should be immediate and without question, as should our love for our neighbour.

As Hitler’s power grew, he created “Reich Churches” which removed bibles and replaced them with Mein Kampf. In response to this Bonhoeffer helped create the illegal “Confessing Church” and became the leader of a seminary in Finkenwaldein.  Here he wrote “Life Together” that still influences Christian communities on what it means to live a life before God.

The major themes of this book are that Christian communities have been built to become a dwelling in which God lives.  Various ministries should be present in these communities, Meekness, Listening, and Helpfulness, Bearing one another’s Burden, Proclamation and Confession.  

At one point he escaped to America but felt he had to come back because he felt that he could not lead the church in Germany after the war if he had not tried to do so during it.   He was at arrested on a minor charge in 1943 and taken to Tagel Prison.   While in prison it became clear he was involved in the failed plot to assassinate Hitler. His correspondence became the posthumous “Letters and Papers from Prison”. 


In them, he wondered what a Christian’s role is in a Godless world where God isn’t needed for answers.   Where God is no longer “A Priori”, that is to say, a given, or an automatically assumed truth. How should Christians behave in a world where God isn’t used for guiding our ethics, science etc.

On July 18th 1944 he wrote to his friend Eberhard Bethge in response to this question

“The human being is called upon to share in God’s suffering at the hands of a godless world. Thus, we must really live in that godless world and not try to cover up or transfigure its godlessness somehow with religion.”

The conclusion he reached from this is that

“It is not a religious act that makes someone a Christian, but rather sharing in God’s suffering in the worldly life. That is “μετάνοια,” not thinking first of one’s own needs, questions, sins, and fears but allowing oneself to be pulled into walking the path that Jesus walks, into the messianic event, in which Isaiah. 53 is now being fulfilled!”

This is the relevance of Christ in a Godless world for Bonhoeffer. Humanity is unified by the Christ in all of us. “Religious” rites do not make us right with God. Our Lord wants our discipleship, our following. Our Lord suffers because his children suffer, and as we have the suffering Christ in us, we share his suffering.  The only resolution, therefore, is to love our neighbour and to know that everyone is our neighbour. We must do this openly and, in the world, not cloistered away, letting the world see, this is why we are as we are.

If all that has left, you thinking Bonhoeffer was some sort of “Superman” that we can neither aspire to nor learn from?  My last words are a poem he wrote shortly before his execution on the 9 April 1945.

Who am I?

They often tell me

I would step from my cell’s confinement

calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I?
They often tell me

I would talk to my warders

freely and friendly and clearly,

as though it were mine to command.

Who am I?
They also tell me

I would bear the days of misfortune

equably, smilingly, proudly,

like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I know of myself?

restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

struggling for breath, as though hands were

compressing my throat,

yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness,

trembling in expectation of great events,

powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,

weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,

faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.


We only have Bonhoeffer’s early work as he was murdered at age 39. 

I hope you learn to love him as much as I do.