Sunday 15 December 2013

The gospel reading this week is about John the Baptist who is incarcerated in a dungeon and is near the end of his life. The place where he is held is one of the hottest places on earth and he is there because he has criticised Herod for his immoral lifestyle.

John is also depressed as he realises his ministry is over, Jesus is now predominant, and whilst John has always preached about Jesus, he finds Jesus appears to be doing nothing to help him. Consequently John begins to have doubts about his faith, as most thinking people will have.

In order to resolve his fears he sends his disciples to ask Jesus to confirm He is the Messiah, and Jesus responds by telling them to return to John and acquaint John with what Jesus is saying and performing

Jesus also points out all things happen in God’s appointed time. The people generally expected Jesus to lead them in a political campaign against the Roman power, but Jesus was not One who would command military action. Jesus knew people would be disappointed and fall away once their expectations were not fulfilled, and the same thing happens today. At the same time Church members can be very cruel and their conduct can cause havoc in a Church.

I had a lady in one Church where I was acting in an honorary capacity who worked so hard and demonstrated her faith in a very practical way. She was one might call a perfect Christian in action. If a person became ill she would be the first to see what help she could offer in a practical way, shopping cleaning or just visiting and offering comfort. She was a PCC Secretary, a lay reader, and generally active in all Church social events. Sadly a new Vicar was appointed whose wife who would have been more suited to a prison guard. She was jealous that any other woman could even have a say never mind being so popular, which led to my friend’s life becoming unbearable there, and at the wife’s behest caused her to leave the Church. She drifted away from Church, which lost a valuable servant at a crucial time as both the Vicar and his wife left soon after. There should never be any animosity within a Church family.

If you feel disappointed or downcast, if you feel no one cares for you and you feel you have laboured in vain, remember there is some One above who is watching over you and will recognise your efforts. He records all we do and sees the goodness in us. One day he will say ‘come ye blessed of my Father and receive the Kingdom prepared for you’.

There does come times of personal weakness in which doubt enters all our lives, and if it has not happened to you (yet), then perhaps you are not thinking things through.

The devil is always active and can influence our thin mind, especially in times of personal sadness and worry, and then like John we begin to wonder if we have got it right. Jesus understood John’s thinking and praised him publicly as the greatest man born of woman, yet he did not have the experience which each one of us can have of knowing the Holy Spirit come into our lives.

Millions of people consider themselves Christian, without any real entitlement. True they are Christian supporters, but there is no commitment. Many people feel inspired by the ceremony often performed and enacted in the Church of England, in which ritual take the place of real faith and belief. I have served in Churches where ceremony was a feature and which was very meaningful, and added much to worship, rather than the basic services, but it should be an aid to remind us we have been in the presence of an Almighty God and nothing more.

The message people always need to remember, is that we are worshipping the Jesus who died on the Cross for the forgiveness of all our sins, and as the Bible emphatically states, no can come to God the Father except through Him… He alone is the means of our salvation.

There are a lot of politicians, and other trouble makers, who want to airbrush our faith right out of existence and we are letting them get on with it., They are pathetic cowards who would not dare to say or do the things to Islam that we allow, and to the credit of Islam they stand up these cowards.

If you have trusted God for some purpose and feel like John let down; if your faith becomes weak, be like John and tell God to speak to you. Listen or read the great hymns of Charles Wesley who wrote in one hymn ‘my faith looks up to thee, O Lamb of Calvary’ Above all, never let anyone cause you to doubt or lead you to spiritual rejection so that you drift away from Church. You may think it could never happen, but it could and will if you are not careful.

May God bless you and be at Church each Sunday.

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