The Holy Spirit in Context

A sermon preached on Exaudi, 12 May 2013, at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Fareham
Text: John 15:26—16:4
A recording of the sermon is available here.
What follows below is unedited, typos and all.


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

In the name of ✠ Jesus.

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Throughout the Church’s history, there have been approaches to putting together the lectionary, the sequence of readings from one service to another. Often in the early church, they used a continuous lectionary: one one Sunday, the preacher would expound a part of a book of the Bible, and the following Sunday he would simply carry on from where he left off, until he got to the end of the book and start on another book.

Continue reading The Holy Spirit in Context

Hearing Is Believing

Sermon preached on Quasimodo Geniti (Second Sunday of Easter)
Text: John 20:19–31 (Ezekiel 37:1–14  1 John 5:4–10 )
15 April 2012
Our Saviour Lutheran Church
Fareham

It’s one of my favourite paintings, and as far as I know one of the best known of Caravaggio’s many masterpieces: Doubting Thomas. Jesus is revealing the wound in His side, with an expression of patient endurance, with perhaps a tinge of pain. Thomas has his forefinger in the wound, with a look of utter astonishment painted with perfect realism on his face, while two other disciples look on. Caravaggio captures with extraordinary skill the moment of belief, when Thomas is forced to believe against all his better knowledge what the other disciples had already told him: Jesus really is alive. But he would carry forever the title of Doubting Thomas, because it is more blessed to believe when you haven’t seen, yet he only believed when he saw.

But as I have often said, the epithet ‘Doubting’ is not really fair on Thomas. It makes it sound like he is somehow inferior to the other disciples, a lesser apostle, perhaps even a deficient sort of man. There are those good people who believe without seeing, and then there are the thomases who need evidence. When in reality he wasn’t Doubting Thomas but Everyman Thomas. He really believed, as we really believe, that seeing is believing. That, if in doubt, you need to verify what you hear with the other four senses.

Now, this may be a sound principle in some situations, but it makes for very poor theologians—and under that heading, I include all who claim to know anything about God. Indeed, the very misery of mankind for which Christ died and rose again began with seeing as the instrument of believing. God had said to Adam that he may eat of every tree in the garden, but on the day that he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would surely die. But because the snake promised Eve that her eyes would be opened by the eating, Eve looked at the tree and she “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate”.

Continue reading Hearing Is Believing

Behold, your mother

A sermon preached at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Fareham, on Good Friday
22 April 2011
Text: John 19:26-27

In all the gruesome gore of the crucifixion, amidst the injustice and cruelty, and the terrible suffering and pain, John relates to us a most incongruous scene of touching affection:

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26f.)

What a beautiful example of a son’s love for his mother. Even as He hangs on that cross dying, pushing His feet against the nails in an agonising, desperate and ultimately futile struggle for breath, He manages to show concern for the woman who brought Him into the world, ensuring that she has a home after His death.

Continue reading Behold, your mother

All things in his hands

A sermon preached at Our Saviour Lutheran Church on Maundy Thursday
21 April 2011
Text: John 13:1-15

The more you think about it, the stranger this Gospel reading is. We are very used to it, and we have learned what it means, which is a very good thing. But it is also a good thing to step back from the familiar and try to recover the strangeness of what John writes concerning the Last Supper.

The most obvious thing in this passage is that Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, and that this was not a natural thing for Him to do. In that culture, where people travelled on foot, wearing sandals, by dinner-time, most people’s feet would be in serious need of washing. A wealthy and hospitable host at a dinner would have the guests’ feet washed for them. You may remember Jesus’ rebuke to Simon the Pharisee, when the sinful woman washed the Lord’s feet with her tears and wiped them dry with her hair: “I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.” (Luke 7:44). Not having the facilities for washing His feet put Jesus in His place, as less than an honoured guest.

Continue reading All things in his hands

Faith-work

“And at the heart of [the] contrast [between Jesus and Moses as new vs. old] are the different functions assigned to obedience under the two mediators. ‘For the Law was given by Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’ (Jn. 1:17). From the perspective of the first Moses, the question, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ is a perfectly valid question (Jn. 6:18; cf. Ex. 18:20, 36:1-7, etc.). But when the new Moses has come, the question cannot be posed in the same way. There is now one work which is to be done—to believe (Jn. 6:29) —which is unique among works in that its efficacy depends, not on its activity, but precisely on its passivity (Jn. 1:12, 3:14—17, etc.).”
Karl T. Cooper, ‘The Best Wine: John 2:1–11’, Westminster Theological Journal , 1997, p. 373