A reflection for the 7th February 2021
'Second Sunday Before Lent'

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Offered for Sunday 7th February 2021


Stephen

Reflections Script

'Second Sunday Before Lent'

February 7th 2021


In the immortal words
from Spandau Ballet
'To Cut a long story short',

a few years ago I found myself
in a mostly empty Sea View
restaurant on the southern
tip of Italy with eleven others,
two thirds of whom I'd not met
until that day,
but everyone had been pre-warned
by the owner of the apartment
where I was staying;
I was a Vicar so I'd become
the 'Novelty Act'
for the evening!

The meal was reasonably edible
and the conversation was flowing
fairly well!
While waiting for desert a local
'Vineyard owner',
who was not Italian and who
was sitting next to me,
suddenly out of nowhere said
he was disappointed,
considering who and what I was,
I'd not said 'Grace'
before we started!

I tried to deflect and defuse
the situation by saying
'No potatoes, no grace'.
Unfortunately I underestimated
the tenacity of the person
who kept pushing his point
and my acceptance of his belief,
'As long as you believe in God,
whatever way you want to
package it as all faiths
are the same aren't they?'

With all eyes totally focused on me
and all conversation stopped
I took a very deep breath
and gulp of the very palatable
red wine he'd bought from
his vineyard,
I replied quietly and calmly,
I could not agree with the statement
as we have Jesus to put into the mix.

No Jesus no problem
with your statement!
But Jesus changes everything,
it's not just about his teaching,
preaching, miracles and example,
it's about where we put Jesus
making Christianity unique,
different and challenging!

Then quoting the opening verses
from John Chapter one,
which puts Jesus outside
of the created order and
therefore pre-existent with God?

To say you could cut the atmosphere
with a knife is an understatement!

Needless to say there was not a
follow-up invitation and
no exchange of address
and phone numbers!
The response to the question
where do you put Jesus
makes Christianity unique!


Let us Pray


Source of all truth
and Lord of all life,
It was your Son Jesus Christ
who taught us to call you
Father' and to acknowledge
no one may come to you
except through him.

Enable us to recognize
with gratitude
those elements of truth
and justice in our belief,
encourage us to love
and care for those who
search for you
under other names,
but keep us from ever
denying the uniqueness of Jesus,
and fire us with the desire
to make him known as
humanity's only
Saviour and Lord.

In the name of Jesus,
the word with God
before time began.
Amen


Address


When I was in Industry
I wish the following example
had been my experience
so negating all the time spent
in cigarette smoke
filled rooms!

A 'Components' Manufacturing Company'
had got into a desperate state
and only weeks away,
unknowingly at the time
by the workforce,
from bankruptcy.

The employees were
obviously worried;
not only was their
livelihood under threat,
but the very popular,
but ineffective,
company director
had been dismissed.

Shock turned to alarm
when a new man was
parachuted in and,
at first, seemed to have
little to offer in the way of
a warm working relationship.

However, bit by bit
things began to change.
Regular meetings were held
to which all were invited;
progress reports were offered
and any action needed
was fully explained,

and the new man was no
office-bound director:
he could be found helping out
in the works canteen when
there was an unexpected
staff shortage,
and was also seen up a ladder,
horror upon horror,
with a screwdriver in hand!

People began to trust him
as he took them with him,
step by step;
confidence grew and bit by bit,
the rot was stopped
and the company
began to grow again.

For John as he wrote and
compiled his Gospel,
the events surrounding Jesus'
'Incarnation', that is God
being revealed in human form,
were so unprecedented they
needed a unique introduction.

The 'Synoptic Gospels',
Matthew, Mark and Luke
each begin differently,
but conventionally.

Mark has no infancy or
childhood narratives,
but starts abruptly with
John the Baptist's
announcement of the imminent
arrival of the adult Jesus
on the public stage.

Matthew and Luke both offer a
genealogy and a selection
of nativity narratives in
their early chapters,
but Matthew places his
genealogy first,
tracing the descent of
Jesus back through
David to Abraham.

Impressive as this genealogy is!
John, in the introduction
to his Gospel,
takes things back
much much further.

For John, the question of
Jesus' earthly origins is not,
in itself, enough.
Drawing on ancient hymn
traditions and a variety of
images drawn from the
Old Testament,
John's focus is Christ's
pre-existence with God,
as God,
at the very beginning of things:

God's co-agent in creation,
and the one through whom
all life comes into being!
John 1: 3;
'Through him all things were made,
without him nothing was made
that has been made

John, having established
Christ's divine credentials,
the action moves rapidly earthwards.

First, the herald appears:
John the Baptist bursts on
to the scene, witnessing to
the true light about to be
revealed to the world:

v9 'the true light that gives
light to everyone was coming
into the world'.

But all does not go
according to plan, as many;
even among Christ's own people;
do not recognise?
the light.

The starkness of the choices
people make has an
Old Testament roots
and resonance
see Deuteronomy 30:15-20
and Psalm 1.

John does not spell out
the consequences for
non-acceptance,
but says in 1:12
"but to all who received him..
he gave power to become
children of God".

And then, the triumphant
climax to which the whole
introduction/prologue
has been building up to v 14;
"And the Word became flesh
and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father's
only son, full of grace and truth".

"Incarnation",
God being revealed in human form,
is a very powerful thing,
at whatever level it happens.
Things began to turn around
for the beleaguered
manufacturing company in our
illustration when people began to see
that the new company director
was not content to stay in
his office, enjoying the
trappings of his position.

He was prepared to
"Get His Hands Dirty"
and muck in with everyone else,
not just on the odd token occasion,
but whenever and in whatever way
was needed at the time.

Gradually, people began to trust him
and give him their loyalty
as they realised in his hands,
and theirs, the company
did have a future.
Hope was reborn.

If this simple human example
of 'Incarnational Living'
we can see it's deeply felt
effect on the community
in which it occurs,
how much more must this
be true of the incarnation
of Christ?

And the challenge that faced
the people of Christ's time
remains the same for
humanity today:
now, as then, some believe
his testimony and the evidence
of the lives he has transformed,
others turn away,
either not seeing,
or not wanting to see,
the love he brings.

This is what makes
Christianity unique.
In Christ, God chose to live
among humanity,
sharing our hopes and joys,
our weakness, confusion and pain.

Accepting our kinship
with Christ means we also
accept our share in his care
for the world.

Our sensitivity to pain and joy
will be heightened as we allow
his love to deepen within us;
but he promises to be with us
as we seek to carry the light
out into a world that
still cries out for God's
love and healing.


To Summarise

An inspirational and
"Incarnational" company director
inspired his employees
and turned the failing
company around.

John sets the scene for
Christ's incarnation in the
cosmic setting
"with God" before time began.

People in Christ's time,
as now,
face a choice of
acceptance or rejection.
In Christ,
God chose to live as a
human being,
sharing our joy and pain.

As brothers and sisters of Christ
we seek to spread his light
in a world desperately
in need of God's love and healing.


Our Blessing


May God the Father,
God the Son and
God the Holy Spirit,
who brought all things
into being,
bring life and peace to you.

May God the Father,
God the Son and
God the Holy Spirit,
who lived among us
in Christ,
dwell in your hearts.

May God the Father,
God the Son and
God the Holy Spirit,
who dances with delight,
bring you joy.

And the blessing of God almighty....


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