Jesus the resurrection and the life

April 3, 2017

St Michael’s, 2nd April 2017

Readings – Romans 8:1-11; John 11:17-44

As some of you know I have a brother. He lives in Shropshire and considers the Midlands to be his home. He is an electronics engineer. He loves DIY and putting things together. He doesn’t play a musical instrument, and he doesn’t write creatively. He doesn’t look an awful lot like me, although I’ve been told we both have a similar walk. In short, my brother is very different from me, although we are both family and even more importantly believers.

I do sometimes wonder quite why we are so different, but then again, I look at plenty of families and I never cease to be amazed just how unalike brothers and sisters can be. Maybe in the way they look, maybe in their character, maybe in their faith. Sometimes it can even be hard to believe that these two people are related to each other, and yet somehow they are.

Now in the pages of the New Testament we find two sisters who are also very different from each other – Martha and Mary. We first come across them in Luke’s gospel where Luke describes Jesus’ visit to their home (Luke 10:38-42):

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Do you get the picture? Here is Martha, the practical, efficient one, always on the go, always fussing about what needs to be done. And here is Mary, probably the younger sister, easily distracted, prone to forget what she’s supposed to be going. No doubt it wasn’t always easy for Martha and Mary to live together under one roof. And yet for all their differences, somehow their relationship worked. They were generous hosts. They made Jesus welcome whenever he passed through their village of Bethany – just outside Jerusalem. I can see Martha in the kitchen, clattering pots and pans, hoping Mary would get the hint, while Mary carries on entertaining the guests, pretending not to hear her sister. Read the rest of this entry »


Saving Faith

March 21, 2017

St Michael’s 19th March 2017

Readings – Romans 4: 16-25; John 4:43-54

I wanted to show you this particular Youtube clip for a number of reasons:

First of all, may I encourage you to pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury? To our great shame, the Church of England is behaving rather like a dysfunctional family at the moment – with groups of people pushing forward their own agendas, not prepared to listen to anyone else, and certainly not behaving with the love and grace that Jesus expects of His followers. Personally I believe we are approaching a point where the church will split into two mutually exclusive factions, and somehow the Archbishop is at the centre of it all, trying to hold everything together. So please pray for Archbishop Justin, for him to have the wisdom and the strength only Jesus can give in the months and years that lie ahead.

Secondly, this clip is a promotional video for the second Thy Kingdom Come event, which is happening from Ascension Day 25th May to Pentecost 4th June. I will be coming back to this at the end of the sermon, because as I hope will become clear prayer needs to be at the very heart of our efforts to reach out with the good news.

And thirdly, I wanted to show this clip to remind us again of the simple fact that Jesus changes lives. We’re not here today because we are part of a religious club, or because we want to catch up with our friends and neighbours. We are here today because we are the church, that is literally, a people belong to the Lord, and we have come in the expectation that this same Lord Jesus will meet with us, change and transform us, as He comes amongst us now.

So the first question I want to ask this morning is this: how exactly does Jesus change lives? Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus’ Invitation

January 30, 2017

St Michael’s, 29th January 2017

Reading – John 1:35-42

Have you ever had the unfortunate experience of being accosted by a sales rep? Perhaps you’ve had a double glazing salesman turn up on the doorstep determined to tell you every last detail of this wonderful new window system he is desperate for you to buy. Or you’ve been down to a car showroom and been exposed to the smooth talk of the dealer determined to help you choose the shiniest and most expensive motor in the range. Or maybe you’ve encountered one of those slick TV evangelists with a shiny suit and impossibly white teeth trying every trick of the trade to get you to accept his message – and usually donate to his cause at the same time.

If that has been your experience of the Christian faith, then all I can say is that I am terribly sorry. When you look at the Bible, you won’t find anyone anywhere applying high-pressure tactics to get people to believe. Yes, the first believers argued for their faith and they were careful to explain the good news of Jesus Christ, but they never forced anyone to make a response. They respected their hearers too much to pressurise them into a decision.

So our reading this morning starts with John the Baptist seeing Jesus of Nazareth walking past. And all John the Baptist says to his two followers is quite simply, Look, the Lamb of God. Now to us talking about someone as the Lamb of God may seem quite a strange thing to say, but in those days it meant something really quite important. The people of God at that time were looking for someone who could offer the perfect sacrifice for all the wrong we have ever done. In fact, they had been waiting centuries for this particular individual because many hundreds of years earlier God had promised that one day such a person would come – the Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world.

That’s why as soon as John the Baptist said Look, the Lamb of God his two followers decided to follow Jesus. We don’t know how much or how little they believed what John was saying, but they reckoned it was at least worth finding out whether John’s claims were true. So they go after Jesus, trying to suss Him out, seeing what kind of person He might be. What they haven’t yet realised, of course, is that Jesus already knows they are there. He is fully aware of their doubts and questions, their curiosity and their hopes. But what He doesn’t do is turn round and give them a smooth sales talk, explaining exactly who He is and why it is such a good idea to join Jesus of Nazareth Ministries Incorporated. Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus’ identity

January 23, 2017

St Michael’s 22nd January 2017

Readings – 1 Chronicles 17:1-15; John 1:24-34

Well, as some of you know, Lynda and I are about to set off on an awfully big adventure, and time is fast running out to make sure we have everything we need. Over the past couple of weeks we have gradually been filling our suitcases with odds and ends, making lists of what we need to pack and generally trying to get our heads round the fact that in just over a week we will be flying half way round the world.

But of course all our preparations will be useless if we turn up at the airport without our passports and our visas. You can plan the world’s greatest holiday and have a bucket list of everything you’re going to do, but if you can’t prove you are who you say you are, you won’t be let in. It’s as simple as that.

Now last week, Lynda powerfully preached on the theme of grace and taught us that grace is not getting what you deserve, but receiving from God that which you can never earn for yourself. It is mercy, not merit, the free gift of God to all who believe and receive. And I really hope that if you were here last week, you took her message on board. You see, whatever else I may say this morning, you need to understand entry into the Kingdom of God does not depend on who you are. Getting into heaven, receiving eternal life, whatever you want to call it, is not like flying to another country and proving that you are good enough to get in. It’s about understanding who Jesus is and what He has done for you. Read the rest of this entry »


January 16, 2017

St Michael’s, 15th January 2017

Readings – Isaiah 40:1-11; John 1:14-28

Have you ever had too much of a good thing? There’s a saying, ‘Too much of anything is good for nothing’. Or the more familiar, ‘A little of what you fancy does you good’ with the implication that any more is likely to be no good for you at all. We’ve all heard stories of multi-million pound Lottery winners who end up miserable, or at least no better off than before winning … some reports suggest that most people who win big on the lottery (both here in the UK and in the US), use or lose the lot in four years, and that four times as many as usual end up divorced. But I suspect we’d all like to find out for ourselves if it’s true?!

Yet in our reading this morning, John tells us that God gives us grace upon grace (John 1:16) – not ‘grace in place of grace’ as in the more recent NIV translation … a direct translation might read ‘grace on top of grace’ … as if God were piling up layer upon layer upon layer of grace. It’s as if he is saying, you just can’t have too much grace! Read the rest of this entry »

The Holy Spirit as fire …

May 15, 2016

St Michael’s, 15th May 2016 – Pentecost

Readings – Acts 2:1-21; John 14:15-27

It’s been a good week … I hope those who came to the prayer week were able to engage with the tables, and with God in prayer … and I hope those who weren’t able to come have seen the photographs on screen or online.


You may have noticed we have a dove hanging in the hall area. The Lord’s prayer on which the prayer week was based, says nothing directly about the Holy Spirit, yet he is there throughout. In the reading we’ve just heard from John’s gospel, Jesus said,

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth.’ (John 14:15-17a)

That’s what it means to pray, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done … ‘, if you love me, keep my commands …

Another example – John 14:26,

the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

It is only as the Holy Spirit works in us to teach and remind us about the character, nature and power of God made visible in Jesus Christ that we are able to truly worship him, ‘Hallowed be your name!’

So while the Holy Spirit isn’t named as part of this prayer, it is saturated with his presence.

So as part of the display for the prayer week, I asked Mary if she could make the dove … the Holy Spirit is often represented by a dove, because of Jesus’ baptism, when Matthew tells us, Read the rest of this entry »

Born Again

May 12, 2015

St Michael’s, 10th May 2015

Reading – John 4:1-26

In the 1960s Charles Colson developed a fearsome reputation across the United States as a political fixer. If you wanted your candidate to win, then he was your go-to man. He would do almost anything to advance the cause of the local Republican nomination, and just as importantly destroy the credibility of his opponent. In fact he was so successful that eventually he ended up as the right hand man to President Nixon in the early 1970s, with the power and authority to make or break almost anyone he chose.

But then the Watergate scandal erupted in 1972 when five burglars were caught breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic election campaign. Over the two gruelling years of investigation that followed, Charles Colson’s world gradually fell apart. Eventually he was sent to prison where he spent over a year behind bars. Yet during this time something truly remarkably happened. This cynical, manipulative political operative found Christ. He genuinely repented of his sins and dedicated himself to the service of his Saviour. And from his experience of being locked up, he ended up founding the Prisoners’ Fellowship which has grown into an international organisation seeking to reach even the most unlikely of people with the gospel.

It’s worth reading the stories of people like Charles Colson because they remind us that God is still in the business of changing lives today. You see, it’s very easy when we read of a passage such as Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman to think that all happened a long time ago in a far off land, and while it’s a very nice story, it’s not really that relevant to life in the 21st century. The simple message I want to get across this morning is that Jesus is as much alive as He was back then, and that He still has the power to save right here, right now, even in Devonport in 2015.

So how exactly does Jesus change lives? Well, if I were to ask you to explain how you came to faith, I know that everyone would tell a different story. There is no one set route everyone must follow to become a Christian, and our Heavenly Father in His great love and wisdom treats every single person differently. Yet when you hear tell of genuine conversions I believe that from all these varied testimonies it is possible to identify three common factors that mark out a real, life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. These are:

1. A divine appointment
2. A conviction of sin
3. A meeting with the Messiah

Read the rest of this entry »