Monday 27 March 2023

 1 Corinthians 1 v18/25.

This morning I want to speak about the Cross, and have chosen a passage from Paul’s 1st Letter to the Church at Corinth.
     Paul wrote to give advice and admonishment to the people there because of the way they were acting. He is showing us in this passage how the Cross is so important for us as Christians, and how it is involved in human affairs and thinking.
     Each religious faith has its own symbol. Muslims have the crescent moon; the Jews have the Star of David, but for Christians we have the Cross.   Some Churches have a Cross outside, and most also display the Cross inside. It is embossed upon our Bibles and prayer books, and ladies particularly wear a gold cross.
     Paul said he gloried in the Cross. He said, we preach Christ crucified, and when writing to the Galatian Church Paul stated, ‘God forbid that I should boast about anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’, to indicate how much he prioritised the Cross. He could have boasted about his own intellect, his mastery of languages; he could have boasted about the unique birth of Christ or the miracles performed, even the resurrection, but he didn’t, only the Cross.

     The bible tells that God loves all people and wants then to be saved, and the whole bible from cover to cover is about salvation. The Cross has always been the standard for God’s people and the Church.

Let me now turn to Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians Christians.

     The Church at Corinth was having problems which caused Paul to write to them.  Corinth was a cosmopolitan city, which has been described as the Soho of its day, full of corruption and immorality. It was a trading centre and there was much wealth and a style of living, which did not match up to Christian standards. The Church, which had started with much power, was allowing some of the culture to invade the Church, and some members were influenced by the rhetoric of some preachers who were deviating from gospel, and this caused division and dissension within the Church.
     We have a similar situation here, where there are men/women occupying the most prominent position in the Church, openly accepting and even encouraging Christians to adopt the morality of society, despite the fact that the Bible expressly condemns doing so.
     Paul begins this passage by saying Christ sent him to preach the gospel, not with profound words and high-sounding ideas, for there is mighty power in the simple message of the Cross of Christ. I think sometimes that a more social message is preferred.

     If you see a restaurant advertising good class food, and you enter, only to find you are served ‘junk’ food, you are not likely to visit again. People are now visiting churches expecting to hear spiritual messages, hearing what the bible states about the moral and spiritual issues of the day, and in too many places hear poor messages which are in direct contradiction of the bible, leaving them confused and dejected. We must tell the true meaning of Scripture so they can understand that which God wants them to know.

     In verse 18,for the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, which means not saved, and no hope of getting to heaven for they have rejected Jesus, but to those of us who are saved and have accepted Jesus as Saviour, the gospel is the power of God.

      Paul always taught there are two distinct points of view, two black or white absolutes that can never be reconciled, because they produce two different responses to the gospel. We all have to decide now which we believe.

     We have a choice to make for our future when this life is over. Many people don’t want to think of that, and dismiss it from their minds.  Many more believe there is no need to worry, as long as one leads a ‘good’ life we are all going to heaven. Apart from the fact ‘good’ has not been defined, how would we know when he had done enough?

     I have taken hundreds of funeral services in the past years, and irrespective that the deceased never read a bible, attended church, and being totally unaware of belief, it was always thought the relatives of the deceased, the person was heaven bound.

     Unless you accept the Cross and its meaning, you are not able to make an assessment of the future. The Cross is the pivotal point of Christianity.  If you tell people that all their efforts and achievements will not put them right with God, and the only way is to believe the death of Christ on the Cross, and we can do nothing to earn our salvation, they will think it ridiculous.

     The Cross strikes at the heart of human pride. Just as the Jews could never accept that a man hanging on a Cross could save the world, so today people mock the idea. Those who are blind to the truth of the gospel are said to be ‘perishing’, which means unsaved and are eternally lost. To them however, it is absurd, and they refuse to believe the Biblical teaching that states to achieve eternal salvation you have to believe that a man died on a Cross 2000 years ago, in a little country on the far side of the world, and did so that our sins may be forgiven.

     The other reaction is that the Cross is the power of God to those of us who have accepted Christ’s death on the Cross as our means of salvation.
     Why take a risk on your eternal future? If you were due to fly to America, and as you were boarding the plane you were told there was a 1% chance the plane would not make it across the Atlantic, would you still fly?
     Paul said he understood how foolish it sounds to those who are lost when they heard that Jesus died to save them, but God had said He would destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be to men, even the most brilliant of them. He said ‘you come to me my way, or you do not come at all’.
     If you wear a Cross you should ask yourself, why you are wearing it, what does it mean to me? Most people just see it as an item of jewellery, such an idea would have been horrifying bearing in mind the tortuous death it carried; it would be like wearing a model of the gallows around the neck. It was so crude a death it was never mentioned in polite company.
     Paul asks where is the wise man, where is the scholar, where is the philosopher of this age, has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world.  Challenging them who think they can solve life’s problems.
Paul is speaking to those in the Church who claimed to be wise and proud of their wisdom, which they were using to divide the Church and to promote themselves by changing the message of the Cross to make it more acceptable. Paul is telling them it is worthless in the sight of God and will only destroy the Church.

     The Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look to wisdom. This was a stumbling block which could not be overcome by Jews or Gentiles, but to those who do believe it is a message of power.
     The Jews demanded that what Paul was teaching should be proved by some miraculous sign. Jews could not ever accept that the Messiah would be crucified; it was totally contradictory to their belief. The Greeks placed so much influence on human wisdom and intellectual ability to be the means of salvation.

     God chose a way which ordinary people could understand. Abraham Lincoln once stated God must have loved ordinary people, because He made so many of them. Paul gave them an ordinary and simple message, believe in Jesus Christ who gave His life to be crucified on the Cross and you will have eternal life. If we had to be very wise and academic, millions of people would never have come to know the Lord. Heaven would be only for the clever people.
     The gospel message is the opposite of worldly wisdom and is hard for some to believe, but we do believe. But there are still people who want to see some proof for what we preach. The Bible states, by grace you shall be saved through faith’. If you have to see signs or other proof to believe, you don’t need faith. True faith means believing in what you cannot see.
     God said, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate’.
The message of the world sees us as self-sufficient beings; there is no need of God. We have the ability to think and reason which will prove sufficient to eventually solve all of our problems.  Obviously, God doesn’t think so much of it.
     Just where has all the wisdom of the so-called wise brought us? How well have we done in solving the world’s problems? Have we eradicated poverty? Has all our research and expertise in the fields of science and medicine rid our world of disease? Have we found a cure for cancer? There is more suffering now than history records.
     With all the highly educated professional educators, how can we still have ignorant people wandering our streets, graduating from our schools and colleges not knowing basic maths or English?
     Look at the enormous amount of hatred in the world with many of the Arab countries wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the map; the barbarity of Islamic militants. Paradoxically hatred has been introduced into our society by legislation. The (inequitable) Equality and Diversity Bill has caused considerable distress

Consider the hate mail and persecution experienced Christians who do not wish to surrender their beliefs to society’s morality. The unfortunate reality is that for all our so-called sophistication, we have not been able to solve the basic problems of society–– problems that have been around since the beginning. Certainly, we have been able to see great advances technologically. We have great new gadgets. But on the really important issues of life, we don’t even have temporary solutions.
     But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
The Cross upon which Jesus died was not only a place where he bore the sins of humanity and paid the penalty for those sins, it is also a way for our lives by his power. It is saying that God became weak in order to save us. It says that when we surrender our lives, we truly find them. It is the very power of God, concealed from the so-called wise and sophisticated and revealed to those who come as a child, in simple faith and trust.
     For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength
Today the cross of Christ is still a cause of offence. The message of the cross of Christ is still foolishness to those who are perishing. To them the cross is the weakest link. In the Cross, we see the power of God displayed. God was powerful enough to become weak. And it will take the power of God in our lives to humble ourselves in complete surrender to him. The good news is that God has given us his power. It is now the duty and responsibility of the Church to boldly proclaim this.
     There is one underlying message running right through this passage. ‘There is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ’. God gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. We do not earn our right to heaven by all the good things we do, being saved is a gift from God, if we could earn it would not be free. God accepts us when we believe in Christ.
May the Cross always remind you of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made for the salvation that can be yours.

You are invited to make a comment


Thursday 23 March 2023

The Reverend Eric

JOHN 3. V3.

Jesus said, Truly truly, I tell you the truth. Unless you are born again you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.

If I were to go and ask people I met passing in the street, ‘are you a Christian, and if so why do you think so? I would in most cases get a reply such as, ‘of course,  I live in this country’ or ‘I am because I believe in God.’  Perhaps a variation on those two.

Billy Graham relates how at one of his meetings a member of his team asked a man, ‘sir are you a Christian, and the man replied I have been a member of the Church of England all my life, and I am not changing now.

But not all people who attend Church are in fact Christians in the biblical understanding, either by belief or living.  The gospel this morning is one of the outstanding passages in the whole Bible, and helps define the difference between a true Christian and a make-believe one.  I hope our study of it, will help you whichever you are, and bring you to a close relationship with Jesus, which is what God wants from all of us. 

Jesus knew and understood all people, it was part of His divine omniscience, knowing the hearts of people.  He was in Jerusalem for the Passover feast and many people were there who knew of the wonderful deeds, especially the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  He understood how fickle people could be, so He took care they did not place Him in a disadvantage.

The Chapter begins by referring to Nicodemus. He was a member of the Jewish Government, a Pharisee, a Professor of Theology. Rich and religious, he tithed part of all his income, he was the sort of man many a Minister would welcome to be in his Church.

One evening under a mid-Eastern moonlit sky, he went to see Jesus. We are not told the reason for going st night. Perhaps he did not want to be seen, as it would have been an embarrassment for him, or perhaps the best time to be alone with the Lord.

He addressed Jesus as ‘Rabbi’, showing respect and courtesy to Jesus, for it was an honourable Office to Jews, and Jesus was not entitled to be called Rabbi, for He had not had any Rabbinical training.

 There are people now who don’t like to acknowledge that they are identified with the Church of Jesus, for fear of embarrassment or through being mocked.  There are many who are too proud to seek Jesus. 

 Nicodemus spoke highly of the work of Jesus, and conceded that God must have been with Him in order to do what Jesus had done. There is no need for anyone fearing to see Jesus, He is there for any person to call on Him at any time.

 Nicodemus recognized that he needed a change in his life, and wanted to go deeper, he wanted what Jesus offered.  Sometimes it may be difficult to admit this, but Nicodemus was ready to face up to it. 

How many of you might feel you are nice and friendly, honest and do your best to help others, you have attended Church most of your life, but apart from not attending Church, there are many people who have all those qualities who belong to other faiths, or are in fact atheists, more sincere than may Church members.

The religion of Nicodemus was that of doing good works.  The problem with a religion of good deeds is, that we can never know when we have done enough, but that is the basic religion of the world. 95% of the population today, believes that as long as you are honest, kind and helpful to others and do no harm, you are a fully fledged Christian with a passport to heaven. 

Of the hundreds of funerals I have taken over the years, there has never been any doubt that the deceased had gone to heaven. The sad and cruel factor is the Church has encouraged people to believe so; if you doubt me, look at the liturgy in the funeral services.

Think for a moment, if you stood before Jesus to day and He asked you why should you be allowed into heaven, what would you say. Is there enough evidence in your life, to justify your admission?

Jesus sensed in Nicodemus a deep hunger and emptiness.  He sincerely believed he was doing what he thought God wanted from him, yet he had an unsatisfied heart that led him to Jesus and risk incurring the wrath of his people. 

There are many lovely people now, I personally know some of them, who if only the Church would stop pandering to noisy activists, and got down to spell out in simple terms what Jesus and the Bible is calling for, would turn to Christ and be a valuable asset to the Church and Christian faith.

Jesus answered Nicodemus with that phrase, which has been immortalized by evangelical preachers, ‘you must be born again’.  Jesus didn’t say ‘you must think about it’ or ‘you must consider it’.  He said ‘you MUST be born again.’ 

Nicodemus took Jesus’ words literally, and asked ‘how can a man be born when he is old?’  Surely, he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb.  In his heart there was a great longing.  He could see the effect Jesus was having on crowds, and longed to have that ability.  He knew it was beyond him.

Billy Graham tells the story of a lady on a bus in America sitting next to a Bishop.  She asked him, ‘have you been born again.’  The man answered, ‘I am a Bishop’.  The lady said, ‘I didn’t ask you that.  I asked if you were born again’.  The bishop later said he went home, read this chapter and realized his life had been missing something real, and he realized what the lady meant.

I get so much pleasure and inspiration from watching the services from American Churches, where the people seem to be so much more God centered than in this country, and when you see how the people are dressed as if they were going to meet the Lord, and it is a joy to see them with Bibles in their hands and the joy in their faces. Christianity is a joyful faith and we should enjoy praising the Lord and following in our Bibles.

Like many people today, Nicodemus felt he was too old to change, to set in his ways, but we can begin anew at any age.  So many people are desperately unhappy and unsatisfied because they are missing out in their lives.  They seek refuge in alcohol or drugs or gambling or whatever.  The thought of seeking spiritual help is beyond their minds.

If you think of a birth, the body exists before birth and can move and feel, but knows nothing of this world.  It cannot see nor communicate yet the world is all around it.  At the moment of birth, the embryo comes in to the world and can see, breathe and make contact.  The baby is born of the flesh. Women go through agony to give birth and enabling us to live, and continue to give care to their children after birth.

Jesus went through agony being beaten 39 times with a leather studded belt, collapsed after being made to carry his own Cross, to die on it after nails had been driven through his hands and feet; and still cares for his children of all ages still.

Jesus told Nicodemus he needed an experience analogous to his physical birth.  To be born again is to be changed in such a way, that can only be described as a re-creation. To be born of the Spirit means to have the Spirit of Jesus Christ living inside of you. It means that God’s gracious love comes and lives inside of your heart, when you are ready to believe that Jesus Christ was Lord and is the Saviour of the World. That He died to take upon Himself the sins we have committed so that we may be forgiven and made righteous before God.

Jesus then said, ‘no one can enter the kingdom of God unless born of water and the spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.’

The Kingdom of God is a society in which the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven.  To lead a life, in which we submit all willingly to the will of God. What Jesus calls for is a complete transformation in our lives.  This means in our thoughts, words and actions. Something which goes beyond irregular attendance at Church, and a casual attitude to faith during the rest of the week.

People come to a point in life when they feel that they are going through the motion of religion, of having the ritual without there being any sense of the real thing.  If you come to that point in your relationship with God, and it happens to people all the time, you need to come before Jesus and ask Him to come into your life, and give you that new life.

At this time John had been baptizing, and it was a sensational event.  Many people now superstitiously think, that if they have their babies baptized that will ensure their entrance into heaven, a sort of once and for life matter, irrespective of a life in between, which is pure superstition.  Water may cleanse and may make you smell nicer, but that is not enough in God’s eyes.  What it stands for is important, but you have to grasp the full symbolism, which is repentance for sin, and the start of a new way of living. 

Most people don’t want to admit there is anything to repent of, they are perfectly good and God should recognize that. A Vicar put a notice outside his Church which read, ‘this church is here for sinners.’  The next week two thirds of his congregation were absent.

Jesus referred to the wind blowing and being heard without it being seen or knowing where it came from or where it was going.  When we are born again, we feel the Spirit of God inside us.  You don’t see God or control Him, but you see the effects when Jesus takes hold of your life.  You get that missing motivation; worship becomes more meaningful and necessary to you.  You don’t find so many excuses for not coming to Church.

When we are born of the Spirit, we have a new power within us which enables us to be what by ourselves we could not be. We see what a mighty change our Lord declares as being necessary for salvation. No one could be His disciple unless the inner person be cleansed. The change is not a superficial one, it is a change of heart and character, it is a complete resurrection of being.

Jesus gave a good illustration by talking of wind. We may not know where it came from or where going to, but we feel it even though we could not see it, but we may see the effects of it.

Many thousands of people went to the Billy Graham Crusades in the latter half of the last century.  Touched by rousing hymns, massed choirs, sermon by the world’s greatest preacher, they immediately had a Damascus road conversion.  Quite a lot of men became clergy and even bishops, other went back to their parishes and in the more mundane atmosphere of 1662 Matins, poorly put together services and indifferent preaching, fell away; whilst others with regular worship and a desire to know the Lord just grew in grace over time.

A person may attend Church regularly and love God and Jesus, but are deprived of the true gospel through  poor preaching by clergy, who are reluctant to be positive in their sermons lest they upset someone in the congregation. If a preacher does not receive a complaint these days, he/she should start to examine what they are preaching.

Having someone objecting to what you have said in  sermon, is like having a badge of honour.

Some times after a person has gone to Church for years regularly and felt nothing im particular, and then one day hears a word from he gospel, and it touched their heart, and all worship became more personal and profound.

I attended Church from school days, and it wasn’t until I was living in Mombasa in Kenya, and during a bible study, there learned what born in the Spirit means.

Jesus referred to an event in the Old Testament when the Israelites were wandering in the desert and complained about God, who in His wrath sent snakes which killed people.  When Moses prayed, the Lord told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole, and when anyone was attracted, they would be healed if they looked up at the pole.

God said, ‘my son will be lifted up on a cross and those who look to Him will be saved from their sins’.

We have the whole message of the gospel in verse 16, ‘God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,     ’

If you have ever lost a son (or daughter) you will know the sense of loss and pain which goes with it. This is what was sacrificed for you and me.

 You are invited to make a comment

Wednesday 15 March 2023


Mothering Sunday

We have come to the fourth Sunday in Lent which is traditionally known as ‘Mothering Sunday’, the day we remember with love our mothers.  We dedicate this service to them, for we will all have fond memories of our mothers, even though many years have passed on.  


This tradition originated in the 17th century, when most of the population would attend Church, usually to the Church at which they had been baptised .  People would walk to Church, when  going to Church was a Sunday normality; some would carry flags and banners. Girls in domestic service would bake simnel cakes as presents, and would be given time off by their employers to visit their mothers.. 

In the United States, President Woodrow Wilson passed an Act of Congress in May 1914. declaring that the second Sunday in May, should be known as ‘Mothers Day,’ in order that love and reverence for mothers could be shown.   Retailers and non-Church members in this country, have adopted that title to make money, rather than the English understanding of the religious significance.


Let us turn to the Bible, as we acknowledge the love for our mothers. God having created the earth, with all its elements and animals, then created man.  He then saw that man was lonely, and loneliness can lead to depression.  God saw that man needed a companion, so gave woman as man’s helper; someone who can be at man’s side, who will give life more meaning, pleasure and support; someone to love and cherish.    God has now made two people, man and woman, Adam and Eve


  We must accept that God knows best, and when he wanted man to have a companion, He made a woman as the perfect answer, someone who could complement man in every way, physically and mentally, in a way other men could not, and men throughout the ages have appreciated and recognised woman as the greatest of gifts. God wanted to supply what was lacking in man’s life, and together they could have children, and create the ideal family. God planned the human heart to love, marry and have children. 


When God made the world, He intended man/woman to have different characters to fulfil different functions in life, equal in every respect, but not the same. .  It took the 2oth century, in the so called name of progress and equality, to pull women down to make them like men, and some to be of the coarsest of men.  God intended them to be mothers, and motherhood to be of the highest calling, and endowed them with special gifts.    

  Motherhood is a special privilege and a sacred duty. The great American President, Abraham Lincoln, once remarked, that no nation is greater than its mothers, for they are the makers of men.  The Rabbis have a saying, ‘God can’t be everywhere so He made mothers.’   

A mother's love is special and unique, and God gave woman a special and caring nature for His purpose.  Today we have the ridiculous and offensive suggestion, that children can be raised by two men after some woman, known or unknown, has provided the child by some means.  An American psychologist stated a child will never come to full development psychologically without a mother in the home.  A family is only a true family with  man, woman and child(ren) To-day it is the target for left-wing and other activists, for if the family is destroyed their philosophies and ideologies can be adopted.

A mother’s presence in the home is essential, and there has never been a more urgent time when good mothers are needed.  I have worked in every social classes of society, but have never known a Jewish child get involved in anti-social behaviour or criminal activities.  I once asked a Rabbi why he thought this was so, and .he told me it was due to the control the Jewish mama has over her family.

The foundation for every home is a father and mother (of different sexes) and the breakdown of  family life and influenced is reflected in the breakdown of the nation’s morality.  It is now unrealistic to expect marriage to be for life, but rather until we get fed up with each other.


The emancipation of women began with Christianity 2000 years ago, when Mary received a message from an angel, and was told she would be the only woman ever to wear the red rose of maternity with the white rose of virginity, and be the mother of the Saviour of the world.  When her Son grew up, He gave women a new place in human relations, with a dignity that wherever Christianity has gone, women have been respected


Female politicians have tried to turn this upside down, and in the false name of equality, have made some women to adopt the worst practices of men.  For 2000 years women had in many respects been superior to men,  but in  the cause of equality and feminism, have adopted the worst vices of men.   


The Bible calls on older women, who have an honoured place in society, to play a major part in guiding younger women in the bringing up of children from their years of experience.  We must have concern for women bringing up children in a world where all moral values are being eroded.  Theirs is a big responsibility, especially when the nation’s broadcasting system gives out such foul talk and explicit scenes, that cause weaker minds to think that is the natural way of life.


We need women who will lead their families back to more old style morality, decency and purity.  Children are being brought up without any religious knowledge, knowing nothing about Jesus or Biblical characters, even in the homes of whatever class of home.  An idealism prevails as to how children should behave, but it is often a source of admiration and being in  modern phraseology ‘cool’, for a child to be sexually aware.  Schools play little part in educating children in religion or conduct unless the school is a private one.


Spiritual matters should be of concern to mothers.  Promises are made at baptism services that children will be brought up in the fellowship of the Church, although few have ever any intention of honouring the promises made.  When my two sons were growing up my then occupation required me to be away from the home for many long hours, and so much care fell upon my wife.  It is to her credit, that they both entered the Christian ministry after being youth leaders at their local Church.  Today, they are successful Vicars at Churches of their own, where they have been a powerful influence in the Churches they have served. 

I would encourage every mother to teach their children the stories of Jesus, and other stories from the Bible, it will give them a sure foundation for life.  To bear a child is a costly and sometimes very painful act calling for endurance sometimes beyond the mother herself.  Mothering Sunday calls on us to remember it is the giving of oneself. 


Mothers continue to care and worry for their children even when they reach adulthood. It is mothers who have the unique ability to forgive their children, and make excuses, even when they commit criminal and other kinds of offences.


We have numerous examples of godly mothers in the Bible, as an example for us to follow such as the mother of James and John, who sought favour for them from Jesus, Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth Salome, and of course above, all Mary the mother of Jesus, who God called to be the mother of His Son, and chose a young Jewish village girl, not some celebrity.  


Women have been asked on radio and television what their occupation was , and have replied, ‘only a housewife and mother’.  There is nothing to justify the word ‘only’, such is a  most honourable and worthy occupations.


At such an emotional time, let us also  remember and have our hearts go out, to those women who have been denied the opportunity of having a child, for whatever reason. We should feel sadness for those mothers who have lost  child by whatever means, and for those mothers whose children have been unfaithful or unkind to them.

In closing I Hope that every one who reads this  sermon, when thinking of their mother, will also  remember with love and gratitude, that our mothers endure pain reaching to the doors of death to give us birth.


May God richly bless all mothers.

Saturday 11 March 2023


The Reverend Eric

 JOHN 17  v 6-19

It is the night before the Crucifixion. Jesus is with His Apostles at the Last Supper and is spending His last hours before going to the Cross.

In a few hours He will be dead, so He is telling them He is going to leave them and they will be left to face life without Him. He then concludes with a prayer, which makes this one of the outstanding passages in the New Testament, telling His followers then, and by extension to those who follow Him through the ages, what they will have to face as Christians.

For Jesus, life was life with a climax and that was the Cross. When He spoke of the Cross as His glorification, it had a deep significance. It is one of the facts of history again and again, that it was in death that some people’s greatness was recognised and they would never ever know how they influenced others.

I once took a funeral of a young man who virtually gave up his life by the way he lived, suffering from acute depression and a feeling of achieving nothing. Tributes were paid in the most sincere and outstanding words, by men of his profession who went to considerable effort to do so, and it was sad to realise the young man never knew how much he was valued. We see this in the life of religious figures, and in the world of music and art.

The Cross was the glory of Jesus because it was the completion of the work God had sent Him to do. God had given Him authority over every man and woman on earth; He had come to show the love of God, and what He was prepared to suffer for mankind. In His glory He brings glory to God, and if He had not gone to the Cross, it would have meant His work was not completed; to stop short would have suggested there was a limit to that love. Jesus showed there was nothing the love of God was not prepared to do and suffer for us.

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus could have escaped the Cross by never going near Jerusalem. The Cross was proof that men could do their worst, yet He could rise above their worst, and the Cross would not be the end, for the resurrection was to follow.

In verse 6, Jesus says ‘I have revealed you to those whom you have given me’. Jesus is here thinking of particularly of the Apostles with Him in the Upper Room; those who turned and followed Him in His ministry; those ‘kept the Word’, meaning they were obedient to the faith. But this also equates to all who would one day follow Him.

Then Jesus goes on to say He was not praying for the world, but for those who God had given Him. Jesus is teaching us that we are rescued from the world. The world means all who are opposed to God’s standards and way of life; those who live without reference to God.

This means there are two types of people in the world, which the gospel makes clear over and over again; those who are loyal and obedient to God, and those who are not. Jesus was always quite unequivocal, that we are either for Him or against Him, there is no neutrality or sitting on the fence. Jesus is firmly black or white in how you respond to Him

It is like being on a mountain top; you can keep to the laid down path and be safe, or make your own way which will likely end in disaster. Jesus spoke of two roads, one leading to eternal life, the other to destruction, so we have to decide our course in life.

Sometimes we feel buffeted by the storms of life, the stresses and strains, the problems of work and family, and personal relationships. We ask will I be strong enough to do the work God wants me to do. Jesus is praying here for all who believe in Him, and particularly for the difficulties to be faced.

In the Bible names mean not only how we are addressed, but also refer to people’s character. The Jews saw the name God as being too sacred, so they used four letters, IHWH. The Hebrew language did not have vowels and God was seen as being remote from man.  Jesus was telling us because of what He had done in the world, He had brought God close to men and women so that they could use God’s name

When Jesus says that God will protect us by the power of His Name, He means the power associated with God’s character that He will keep us and watch over us, and guard us spiritually from falling from Him. The Bible makes it clear we need to obey the Word of God.

In verse 11, Jesus prays that God will leave His disciples in the world and will protect them from the evil one, because like Him, they do not act to the world’s standards. He wants His disciples to be active in the world. God will rescue us from people who in rebellion are opposed to Him, but that does not mean we should gather in holy huddles out of contact from others, who need to hear about Jesus from us.

There are of course, religious orders that lock themselves away from the outside world. They are truly dedicated men and women, who sincerely believe they are serving God. The kind of Christianity however, which shuts itself off in a monastery or convent, would not have seemed to Jesus to be Christianity at all. The kind of Christianity which finds the essence of the Christian life in prayer and meditation, in a life secluded from the world, would have seemed to Jesus to be a sad version of the faith He died to bring to people.

It was Jesus insistence to be in the hurly burly of life that we must live out our faith. Christianity was never meant to withdraw men and women from ordinary people. It does not release us from problems, but equips us to deal with them. It offers not always peace, but triumph.

Jesus is saying He wants His people to be in the midst of the world, mixing with non- believers. Just as a lifeboat is of no use set permanently polished in a station, but is needed to go out and rescue people trapped in stormy seas, so we need to be rescuing those dear to us, trapped in the perils of life in this world. Jesus was saying His people are not meant to be little ships which stay in harbour, although it is much safer, that is not what ships are for, they are meant to be on the high seas.

Jesus prayed for the unity of His disciples, and that they would be one as He and His Father were one. There can be no divisions between Christians. If there are, the cause of Christianity is harmed and the prayer of Jesus is rejected. Jesus never considered different denominations, which would be criticising one another, or considered one denomination could claim exclusive access. Jesus prayed we would be one, and there is no prayer of Jesus which has been so hindered from being answered by Christians.

Jesus warned us of the hostility we face from a hostile world which hates Christians. If you find that hard to accept, just consider the violence, even murder, of Christians in Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia. On a more subtle scale, in Australia and Canada; where Bible preaching is under threat and proposals have been made to ban parts of Scripture.

You may say well this is England it can’t happen here, but it is happening now. Consider scientists, intellectuals, to whom the Bible is a form of hate literature, arty types, who have shown their dislike and contempt for the Christian faith. There is now legislation which makes it an offence not to recognize people who claim to have changed their gender, or if you don’t call them by their preferred gender name.  The Church has decided it is hate speech to declare marriage is only between a man and a woman, in case it upsets same sex couples. Street preachers have been arrested, and Nurses suspended just for praying for people.

We have people showing quite manic attitude to Christianity. Now we have our faith under threat from politicians and public servants who want to ignore Christian festivals, ban Biblical teaching. ‘Christian Concern’, the organisation which legally represents Christians suffering from secular repression, has undertaken many cases.

The world hates biblical truth, and if you take a stand publicly for the truth of the gospel, you will not be popular and are likely to be called narrow minded at best, and a bigot at worst.

Finally, Jesus prayed that His people would be made holy by the truth, set apart for a purpose, and have the character necessary for the task. If we are Christians set apart through the death of Christ, we must go into the world with the Word of God.

The central request of this prayer is for God to keep those of His own people from the evil one, who would seek to destroy our lives and ministries. Those who believe in Christ are not of the world, they are in the world, but not of.

Jesus calls on God to make them holy, with unity and openness among His people. Here is proof for the value of unity amongst Christians. How often we waste time and energy fighting fellow Christians, which made Jesus pray so earnestly that believers may be one.

This illustrates how important it is for Christians to believe the Bible. Unfortunately, and regrettably there are too many members of the Church, lay and clergy, who are not prepared to do so because it does not accord with their desires, and actually condemns their desires.  If we cannot agree within the Church, we are betraying our faith, and more importantly our Lord.

The recollection of Christ’s prayer should abide in our minds and influence our actions This should not be treated lightly. We should live peaceably with one another, but there always seems to be a storm centre in our midst.

Finally, we see how Jesus prays His people may at last be with Him and behold His glory, and wants those who God gave Him to remain with Him. He prayed they would have a character necessary for the tasks they will face.  If we are Christians set apart through the death of Christ on the Cross, we must go into the world with the Word of God.

Recent events in this country have revealed that from the highest to the lowest levels of the Church there are men and women clergy who just don’t believe the Bible, otherwise they would not produce ridiculous proposals which directly contravene the Scriptures. We would not be apologizing for the fact the Church did not completely bow to society’s wishes.

We do not see Christ now.  We read, hear and believe in Him, and cast ourselves on His finished work.  But it is by faith, not sight, we make our way to heaven.  We know little about heaven, but we can rest on the blessed thought we shall be with Jesus.

You are invited to make a comment.



Thursday 2 March 2023


The Reverend Eric

Thursday, 2 March 2023


John’s gospel in Chapter 12,verses 20-33. Turn with me to this passage which John alone tells. 
Jesus had entered Jerusalem for the Passover festival having just raised Lazarus from the dead, and was receiving an enthusiastic welcome from crowds of people gathered for the event. This was the major festival held annually to remember how God saved Israel. 
This was Jerusalem’s big annual religious festival: we might compare the Passover to our Christmas, when the Churches attract many people who attend not so much from a religious attitude, but see it as a social event.

At such a time as this, many non-Jews would go to the city to join in the celebrations. Some Greeks were amongst the crowds who had heard of Jesus, and were determined to meet Him. They were from a settlement in the North of Galilee, and went t o Philip who came from near their area and said to him, ‘Sir, we want to see Jesus’ Philip went to fetch Andrew who took them to Jesus knowing He would never turn anyone away.

Having heard the stories of what Jesus had done, they realised something was missing from their lives and wanted to receive from Him that something. So when they said they wanted to see Jesus, they were in fact seeking a meeting with Him.   These were sincere people, not sightseers anxious to see a celebrity figure; they didn’t want to see the temple or any other prominent figure.

The word 'see' here, has the sense of have a meeting with, being able to talk with Him.  Like so many people today, these Greeks were not content with what they had in their own lives; they must have felt there was something missing. They thought there must be more to life than they had experienced, and were searching for the truth.      

These words, ‘Sir, we want to see Jesus,’ were the words the preacher used in his address when I was ordained.  They are carved on the pulpits of numerous evangelical Churches in both England and the United States, to remind the preacher that his duty is to teach about Jesus Christ; not to entertain, or engage in politics, nor speak about climate change, nor be intimidated by political correctness, remembering he is there to bring people closer to God, and there is no other way people can come to God, except through Jesus Christ.  The Bible states, ‘how can they believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?’ 

I have witnessed slide shows, drama, and guessing games from the pulpit.   I believe such action from the pulpit lowers people’s respect and reverence for the Church, even if they feel amused at the time.

    When Jesus was told of the Greeks’ request He was pleased and responded immediately. He had not gone to Jerusalem to enter for the same purpose as the crowds had in mind; events were building up and were leading to the time of our Lord’s road to the Cross. So when He heard a group of people were genuinely seeking Him, He said, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.  Jesus said this to show the kind of death he was going to die, and the word ‘glorified’ was a substitute for crucified.

The term Son of man, would have been heard before, as it was used in the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, and was used to mean the world would end.  The Jews dreamed of a golden age when life would be wonderful, and they would be masters of the world.  The Son of man would be the conquering hero, sent by God to lead Israel to world glory.  This made the Jews listen carefully to what Jesus was saying, as they thought the time had come to be victorious.

  When He met those Greeks, it was the first sign that the gospel was to go to all the world, and part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the Gentiles, the symbol of the great harvest for which He came. If He had not died, we probably would not know any more about Him, for He would have just been another figure of history, of no greater significance than any other great religious leader. Because of the cross, He was able to do something He could never have done otherwise.

Jesus was glorified as his hands and feet were nailed to a wooden cross, which was then lifted up causing him to bleed and suffocate to death.    Crucifixion was the most prolonged, painful and horrific form of execution ever invented by man. 

Jesus said this was His greatest hour.  The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified, Jesus who died in the place of His people, taking the punishment, so they could be forgiven.    This is what Christianity is all about. This is the centre of what it means to be a Christian. 

He went on to say "Truly, truly, I say to you." Whenever Jesus used those words, it meant that He was going to say something important. Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone." He was pointing out that when a seed,  it brought forth fruit. Likening this to man, it was by people dying for the faith, so other people would learn the gospel.

As Christians were martyred for the faith, so the Church grew, and He was here meaning that He was like the grain of wheat, and unless He went to the cross, His whole purpose in coming to earth will have been in vain. He knew what He had to face, and that He is going to be glorified through the sacrifice the cross, because by that cruel death, the way to forgiveness for all believers was made possible. If He had not made the sacrifice on the Cross, you and I and everybody else, could not have forgiveness. His death meant eternal life for all who believed in Him. 

The Jews would not have understood what Jesus meant. For them the Son of Man conveyed an image of someone who would lead to world conquest and so attain glory, but Jesus meant it was time for Him to make the supreme sacrifice for the world by dying on the Cross so bringing glory to Him and to God. 

Jesus said the one loves their life will lose it. He was referring to those who live solely for themselves, and out to get as much as they can without thought for others. Christians generally are called to put service of the Lord first, and indeed there are many men and women who could have followed brilliant careers for rich rewards, but chose to go on mission fields far away from their homeland and work for very little.

We see the humanity of Jesus displayed when He expressed his fear at the thought of the Cross, but was ready to give obedience to God and suffer much pain, which would ultimately lead to triumph. No one wants die at the age of 33 years, and no one wants to die on a Cross. 

God spoke to Jesus in His hour of torment, just as He did at His baptism and when on the Mount of Transfiguration. God is always ready to give strength when we seek it for the tasks we face in His name and cause.   As Jesus sits in the condemned cell contemplating his death, it’s hard.  Just because he knew it was God’s will, didn’t make it easy.    His heart was troubled.   

And if Jesus was that stressed out, why are we surprised when the Christian life seems tough and hard.  Jesus never promised it would be anything else.  We follow a crucified Lord who said:  follow me. 

Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." The crowd that was there heard it, and said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.   Jesus told them, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine’.  Jesus was meaning this showed the intimate and unbroken union He had with God the Father    

Let us think for a few moments how this relates to us in our time.  Maybe something has happened in your life to make you think things are not as you had hoped.  Perhaps the thought of drawing close to God seems attractive, and you would like to meet with Jesus.  Sometimes people can come to Church for years, and then they hear a word which makes them think there may be something more for them.  

This is why it is so important that all preaching should be based solely on the Bible.  If society doesn’t like what we preach, then that is their loss. But we should not under any circumstances apologize for quoting Scripture, as so shamedly recently happened.

We can never know what is in people’s minds, often more than we would expect.  We see here Jesus being sought by people from a distant land, when there many in his own land who wanted him dead.  I don’t know what was in the minds of the Greeks, but they were really seeking Jesus for honourable purposes, 

If and when, we want to see Jesus, He is ready waiting to meet us in our Bibles; obviously not in the physical sense, but an equally powerful way, and we can meet Him whenever we want to without restriction.   

 God still speaks directly to us to encourage us, and will always respond to the seeker.  If you have loved ones in your family or amongst your friends who are not saved, keep praying for them that they may come and see Jesus.    God is always ready to give strength when we seek it for the tasks we face in His name and cause.
At the cross, Jesus underwent the judgement we deserve, and paid our debt to God. His death gives us hope of everlasting life with Him one day. He wants to give us that hope in our life today. He alone can give you that new life that can never fade, and you can find that new life by meeting Jesus.

People in these high pressure days are so often weary and depressed, and looking for that spiritual something. People are looking for something beyond themselves, looking for a way that gets the most out of life, yet carrying a load of guilt, fear and worry.

So many men and women these days are doing things and behaving in a way that once would never have been thought of, so carrying all sorts of moral problems.  Then they feel guilty and ashamed, become troubled in mind, and turn to drink and/or drugs.  Jesus said, ‘come unto me all you are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’   

Everyone today has to decide how to respond to Christ. People can be attracted to Christianity by its morals, but won’t commit themselves to Christ Himself.  For many the price is too high, for it would mean giving up some of the world’s standards and ways.  Nor is an emotional attachment to the Church is what our Lord is seeking. 

Our Lord said death was the way to spiritual life and glory.  This was meant to teach the purpose of the Messiah, which was not  like other kings of the world.  He didn’t come to seek a life of honour, ease and magnificence, but to have a painful death on a wooden Cross.  The crown he would wear was one for crucifixion, not coronation. His death would be a source of spiritual life for the world, and like a seed of corn would bring fruit to the praise of God, and redemption for many people.

When he said he who would hate his life would keep it; for those who wanted to be saved, must be ready for salvation.  Those who love their life with all its pleasures, but may lose their souls; those who deny life here to serve Christ, will duly gain life.

Christians know when this life ends, a new life begins.  Without the death of Christ there would be no life for the world, but those who live by the Spirit reap everlasting life.

We learn that those who profess Christ must follow him, just as a soldier follows his Commander, and sheep follow a shepherd, a Christian must be true in following Jesus. Real Christians show faith and obedience.  To serve Christ in name and form is easy, but to follow in faith and life can be too demanding for others.

The Lord offers encouragement when he says, ’where I shall be, so shall my servant be, and God will honour him. When the Father honours us on the last day, we shall find his praise makes up for all we gave and lost.

 A day is coming when we will all see Jesus. The Bible says everyone will assemble before Him as He sits on the judgement throne. Some will go one way with the goats, some the other way with the sheep. We will have either joy in the after-life with Jesus, or eternity with the lost. The criterion is how we respond whilst we are here on earth. The bible says ‘now is the time of God’s favour, now is the time of salvation’. It will be too late after we have died, and no amount of intercession will then save us. 

May we ever be like the Greeks in our passage today and want to see Jesus and seek Him with all our hearts

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