Sun 4th Sept / St Edward’s Church
New teaching series on John’s Gospel / Readings: John 1.1–18, Jeremiah 29:1-14
So today we are starting to look at John’s gospel and we are going to be looking at this and studying it from now until Advent, in both our Sunday and Tuesday services, and in our bible study group too.
When we read God’s word it is so rich, it helps us to draw closer to the Lord, know more about Jesus and who he is in our lives, and is a plumbline for our lives too. So, I really want to encourage you to make the most of this time looking at John, and really get into this book as we study it.
So let me tell you a little about John. There is more than one John in the bible. It’s a little like my house growing up – my Dad is called John, my brother is called John, my Uncle is called John and my Grandad although known as Jack, was called John. So we had to specify on Christmas present and cards (still do) which one the pres is for – John C, John L, John R – all very confusing – as it can be with John’s in the bible. But this John here who wrote the gospel is largely believed to be John the disciple. John, the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ as he refers to himself, in John 20 – with one feels a slight level of smugness.
Despite that I love this gospel! It is very different to the other 3 – Matthew, Mark and Luke are commonly referred to as the ‘synoptic gospels’ because they share many similarities, possibly borrowing from each other in content. John’s is more symbolic, and with a real focus on the signs and wonders of Jesus, as signs to believing in him, which he interprets and reflects on theologically.
Now we start this gospel with this fabulous introduction, in which John lays out some of the key themes he will delve into, highlighting Jesus from the word go as the son of God who reveals the Father. And of course introduces us to another John – John the Baptist – who pointed the way to Jesus.
He starts out with ‘In the beginning’:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.In him was life, and that life was the light of all humanityJohn 1:1-4
He tells us Jesus was there at creation, more in fact – that all things were made through him. Sometimes I think we focus on the order of books in the bible. We don’t necessarily think about Jesus being in the Old Testament but John tells us, he was there right from the start.
I love John’s description of Jesus in the first line – In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. John is far more poetic and mysterious even than the other gospel writers, the language he uses is often beautiful. And here he uses ‘logos’ translated as word, rather than Jesus’ name. And he does this because if we think about who he was writing for at the time. He was appealing largely to 2 groups – Greeks and Jews.
The Greeks were very into reason and thinking, philosophical thought. And Logos was the Greek word for ‘reason’ or thought – both in terms of our inward thought / our own ideas etc and expression of thought in speech – speaking thoughts aloud. So in using this word John was appealing to the idea of reason – not just declaring who Jesus is but putting him into a framework the Greeks would understand – ie: there is a reason for life and Jesus is it.
But he also appeals to Jewish readers – who would have understood the idea of logos a different way – as a revelation from God – a word spoken from God. He also starts his gospel with the same words that start Genesis – the first book in our bible, the first book of the Torah – in the beginning.
So John is cleverly trying to appeal to all who would hear his words and point them to Jesus.
He goes on – who is this Jesus, this word?
The true light v9
gives us the right to become children of God v12
the word dwelled among us v14
that Jesus brings grace and truth v17
And John even takes us back to Moses’ teaching telling us that Jesus is the fulfilment of Jewish law – v17 which would have been key to Jewish readers at the time.
These are amazing statements of who Jesus is.
And then he introduces John The Baptist. Whose purpose is to point people to Jesus.
This is our purpose too. To point other people to the Lord who we know and love for ourselves.
This week we launched our vision and I’m going to to do a quick recap on our headline points:
we want to – in addition to this service and things we already do:
- Start a new outdoor service, within a community garden which we will grow and develop (starting on 2 Oct)
- Start a new contemporary evening service on a Wed eve (14 Sept)
- Seek to employ someone to oversee children’s work and school’s outreach (grant funding)
All of these are exciting and we feel God has led us to them. It has been a process to get here, much prayer and input from you all and discussion and so on – but ultimately the purpose of all of this, is not to have a nice garden or create a new place to worship, it is to point ourselves and others to Jesus – simple as that.
John says, v 16:
Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
We have all received abundantly from the Lord and we seek to give of that to others.
In the message translation of these verses it says it like this:
We all live off his generous abundance, gift after gift after gift.John 1:16-17 (MSG)
We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, this endless knowing and understanding—all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.
We live off, in, and through the generous abundance of God, through Jesus Christ.
And I want us to take that one step further – next week is our Gift Day towards our new vision. And I could stand here and say to you all, come on we need money to do this, we need to pay our parish share, pay our heating bills and so on, but as I said on Wednesday our giving should not be about guilt and duty, but about being led by God.
And I know giving is a difficult area, for some of us we may be just about paying our way, others might be facing real financial hardship, some of us have no idea how we will pay our bills this winter. The last thing you need is someone asking you to give more. and honestly if you can’t give, it makes no difference to God – we cannot buy God’s love.
But. What I am going to do is to encourage you to think and pray about your giving to church to help us share the message of Jesus, in 2 ways
1 – be generous
One of the most well known passages about giving is the widow’s mite – Luke 21, Mark 12. Jesus saw her make an offering in the temple – which was required of all Jews. She gave 2 mites – the smallest least valuable of all the coins. But Jesus says, Mark 12: the others gave of their wealth, – ie: it was easy for them to give, but she, she gave out of her poverty, out of nothing out of all she had to live on.
He was saying her generosity was greater because she had so little to begin with – but she knew God and she gave generously because of God. So I am asking you to do the same, to be generous out of what God has blessed you with. Because of who Jesus is and because we want to see others know him like we do.
2 – pray
I hope that you will have heard the vision and be super excited, that the HS will be stirring you up as much as the vision team, that you will be thinking wow yes I want to be part of this, to see what God will do here in all this.
But I want you to seek God’s guidance. Don’t just pluck a figure from thin air, pray and seek God. it would be easy to say oh yes I can up my monthly giving by £10 a month, or just throw £20 in the basket on gift day but is that honouring to God? Just as John talks of the generosity of God and giving from what we have been given, he echoes Deut 16:17 which says:
all shall give as they are able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.
Which reminds us that we all receive differently and we all have the capacity to give differently.
Now I know that for some of us change is hard. It’s hard to be excited because we are anxious, we have questions, we are not quite sure where God is taking us, but it’s certainly outside our comfort zones. So I want you to remember 2 things.
1 – Our Jeremiah passage you may remember I talked about earlier in the vision process – in this passage God is saying to the people (through Jeremiah) the people who have been exiled and find themselves in a new and unfamiliar land, to bless where you are, seek the prosperity of this place I have put you. And if you do so, you too will prosper, you will be blessed. Now we shouldn’t necessarily do things because we think we will receive in return but we can learn from this people who had lost everything, who had to start again, that God was saying you will prosper in this place – and my prayer is that every single one of us will continue to flourish and prosper here.
2 – and we can do this because we know this word, this Jesus, who John has just told us has been at the centre of the world since the very beginning and continues to be. That his light shines in the dark and nothing can overcome it. That he calls us children of God, who reveals to us grace and truth. So we can trust in him. If the Lord is guiding us we need not fear or worry we simply trust, take one step at a time. I don’t think those in exile just went oh ok great let’s plant a garden, get married and all will be fine, it would have been a daily process of saying yes to God and God’s leading. That’s all we need to do. Seek God and take one step of faith at a time.