John 1:10-18.... (Sermon: “Which God?”)
We are here in the name of Christ Jesus.
We are here to worship God.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet the only true Son, who lives in the heart of the Father,
this Jesus has made God known.
The light of Christ Jesus be with you all.
And also with you.
Most holy Friend, hidden from our eyes yet made knowable in Mary’s holy Son. through him we approach you with confidence.
Let us begin this service with eagerness, continue it with open hearts, and end it with renewed courage.
In the name Christ Jesus, who with you and the Holy Spirit are worthy of our utmost love and praise and service.
CONFRONTING OUR SIN AND TRUSTING GOD’S GRACE
Whether we like it or hate it, whether we want it or not, all of us are caught up in the evil of the world. Repentance, confession, and forgiveness is something we truly need.
Let us pray.
Most loving and most lovely God, we yearn for you and adore you, even though the beauty of your ways leaves us acutely aware of our malformed lives. As we have done on frequent
occasions, we commit ourselves to your mercy, knowing that you are here waiting for us.
If, like sleep walkers, we wander from you without realising what we are doing, lead us back to where we truly belong, we pray.
If, like spoiled children, we pout and protest about the basic duties and responsibilities of following Christ, then chastise and discipline us, we pray.
If, like hypochondriacs, we become absorbed with our guilt to the point where self pity replaces repentance, confront and heal us, we pray
If, like adventure-seekers looking for an adrenalin rush, we take foolish risks with temptation and place ourselves in a vulnerable position, rebuke us and redirect us, we pray.
If, like discontented investors, we begin calculating how much we get out of our faith, and lose the sense of wonder in treasuring your love, confront and deliver us, we pray.
If, like mutineers hoisting up a tatty flag, we not only ignore our conscience but openly defy your clear Word in Christ, storm us and capture us, we pray.
Faithful and most liberal God, please help us to let go of excuses and fears; to release ourselves into the abundance of your saving grace in Christ Jesus; to humbly accept forgiveness; and to allow your Word to point our minds to noble goals and direct our feet in the paths of love. Through Jesus our Lord.
Friends we are the shareholders of a great fortune. Out of the storehouse of God’s loving, we have received grace upon grace, and are granted the right to become children of God.
Thanks be to God.
PSALM 147:12-20: THE WORD
We praise you God, from the house of prayer,
we praise you in the congregation of faith.
You make the gates of prayer open,
and bless every child in your Presence.
To the very edges of life you bring peace,
and feed us with the finest of bread.
You send your Word to this earth,
and he moves speedily to our aid.
He comes gently like woolly flakes of snow,
like a white frost covering the muddy earth;
he showers his bread as freely as hail,
nothing can withstand his coming.
Your Living Word will melt frigid hearts,
your Spirit moves and waters freely flow.
To Jacob’s people you spoke persistently,
and you gave sure truth to the new Israel.
We must be the luckiest people in the world!
Others do not realise what has happened!
Let everybody praise our wonderful God!
It is good to sing praises to Christ the Word!
Ó B D Prewer 2002
BEFORE THE BIG BANG
John 1: 1-18
In the beginning was the YES!
The YES was then with God
and was always
Before time-space, the YES was there;
without it no thing was
or ever could
YES was the source of all things
and brought light and life
to earth patterned
In the darkness the YES always shines
Full of grace
And this YES became a mortal
dear to God’s heart
yet truly one
Oh invisible YES we see you!
we touch you
Ó B D Prewer 1991
SERMON: WHICH GOD?
No one has ever seen God; but God’s only Son, he who is nearest the Father’s heart, he has made God known.
Which God do you worship?
Some may wish to retort: “The one, true God, of course, obviously!”
It is obvious to most of us that there can only be one true God. God may be given many different names in different languages, and worship is expressed in diverse ways among many cultures, but behind it all there can only be one God.
But still I will ask: But what kind of God is that one true God? Which is the nature of God you worship? Behind the names we give God, what is the essential character of that God?
¾If some want to call God the Creator, then the question is: What kind of Creator?
¾If others wish to call God the Divine Judge: What style of a Judge?
¾If one believes that God is the Righteous One: What variety of Righteousness is this?
¾If the belief is centred on the Holy One: What is the character of this Holiness?
¾If God is to be worshipped as Liberator: What is the style of this Liberation?
¾If God is seen as the Ever-Present-Spirit: What are the personal traits of this Spirit?
¾If God is honoured as “Father”: What is the nature of this Fatherliness?
¾If God is prayed to as Mother: What are the qualities of the divine Motherliness?
¾If God is the Mind-Purpose driving all time and space: What is the Mind-Purpose like?
Which God is it we worship? What kind of a God in personal terms?
¾ Involved or uninvolved in creation?
¾ Caring or uncaring?
¾ Ruthless or compassionate?
¾ Dependable or capricious?
¾ Ethical on non-ethical?
¾ Vengeful or forgiving?
¾ Rigid or permissive?
¾ Bullying or nurturing?
¾ Which God?
Even in that remarkable Book of enlightenment which we call the Old Testament, we glimpse various ways people viewed the one true God. And no matter how sincere these views were held, and no matter how more advanced than the pagan superstitions that surrounded the Jewish people, some of these views seem incompatible.
GOD OPENLY REVEALED
Turn now to the sublime words found in the great prologue of the Gospel according to St John. “No one has ever seen God; but God’s only Son, he who is nearest the Father’s heart, he has made God known.” John 1:18
The absolutely simple truth, yet at the same time ineffably profound truth, is this: Christ Jesus totally determines the Christian definition of God. If you want to see the nature of God, look on Jesus. That’s how it is for us.
For that reason, a mentally handicapped person, with a most limited theological understanding who trusts in Jesus, and prays to Jesus as if he were the totality of God, is much closer to the heart of the Mysterious Glory, than many well educated, urbane people. A child can be wiser than the very clever, sophisticated and theologically erudite men and women who say there must be a God yet reduce such a God to the inaccessible “Divine Mind” that existed before the Big Bang which started this universe.
For Christians, the nature of God; the personal nature, the kind of God that God really is, has been most surely revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s Son, and the Christ of the Church. This we most emphatically affirm.
The Christmas Season which we have been celebrating moves on into Epiphany tomorrow, the 6th January. The Epiphany, or unveiling of God (pictorially expressed in the story of the three wise men coming from the East to worship Jesus) is a declaration that the God we worship is the God who has the nature of Jesus. This infant Epiphany is climaxed years later, in most amazing way, as Christ is nailed and left to die on a cross.
Nothing is plainer. Nothing is more complex. No one has ever seen God; but God’s only Son, he who is nearest the Father’s heart, he has made God known.
NEW WAYS OF SPEAKING ABOUT GOD
In the contemporary scene, many Christians have been attempting to find new ways of talking about God.
They look for new ways that will more adequately express our faith and witness to the faith in a changing world. They want to break free what is seen as distortions of the idea of God, by traditional Western culture. In particular they want to be free of monarchical, imperialistic and masculine models of God. Thinkers like Sallie McFague, consider that the original “Father” word for God as used by Jesus was corrupted by the power-brokers of Western Christendom from at least the time Emperor Constantine.
As most of you will know, I have for a long time been seeking for new ways in which to express the glorious reality of God. Not with conspicuous success; no way! But I have been trying my hardest for Christ’s sake!
On one thing I am unshakeable: Whatever words we use must carry the qualities of God as revealed by Jesus. The whole advent, teaching, healing, suffering, dying and rising of Jesus must radically shape and colour the “image” of God we take to our mind and heart. As Tubingen theologian Jurgen Moltmann kept reminding us over decades, we must never get far from the Crucified One in any understanding of the nature of God.
When we want to use the word “Father” it should be Jesus-shaped fatherhood. Not gathered from the good fathering we may have seen in some families, but on that which is revealed in the word and way of Jesus. From the celebrating father in the story of the prodigal son to the father into whose hands the crucified Christ commits his spirit.
When we want to use a feminine word like “Mother” it must take its primary meaning not from (as some have attempted) ancient, mythical worship of the ‘earth mother” but from the nature of that complex and profound Person who began life at Mary’s breast and ended it nailed to a cross..
When we want to use a word like “Friend” it cannot derive its core meaning from good friends we may have known and enjoyed. It meaning must flow from the One who was “friend of tax gatherers and sinners” and from that “greater love” that “lays down his life for his friends” and his enemies.
When we want to call God “Divine Lover, the mental “model” should never be shaped from the even the most treasured of our human loves, but on the quality of the gentle, fierce, costly, cross-carrying love of Christ.
When we prefer to think of God as Liberator, then the crucial elements in our concept of God must be drawn from the non-violent, self-giving of Jesus. “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
GOD IS LIKE JESUS
God is like Jesus. That may seem like blasphemy to some, and utter nonsense to others, but for those who have been gathered into the healing, liberating, confronting, nurturing love of Christ, it is a Light exceeding all other. God is like Jesus. Hallelujah!
God as Creator must be understood in the light the Creator’s true Son.
God as Judge must take on the values and activities of the Man from Nazareth.
God as the Righteous One is defined by the righteousness of Jesus, and Holiness by the quality of Christ’s “otherness”.
Our private definitions of the Holy Spirit cannot be allowed to slide into some twenty first century variety of superstitious animism. We must not digress from the practical, loving charisma of the humble Galilean when we speak of the Spirit.
The Mind-Purpose (beloved of cosmologists) at the genesis that caused the mega explosion which resulted in immeasurable stars and planets, can only be understood by being a humble learner in the school of Christ.
No one has ever seen God; but God’s only Son, he who is nearest the Father’s heart, he has made God known. John 1:18
Those of you who know me well, understand my passion for nature and my adoration of the Creator. But this is only made possible by the impact of Christ in my life. Without him, creation would be for me a sometimes beautiful, yet sometimes terrible, enigma.
In “Kakadu Reflections” (that coffee table book which brought together some of my poems/meditations with the glorious photography of Ian Morris) I tried to witness to the Creator who is the God of Christ Jesus. On site there at Kakadu National Park, among its tropical fecundity, I roughed out the poems that were later published. One of them goes like this:
`God is on the waters,
God is in the land,
God is on the mountain,
God is in your hand.
God is in the forest,
God is on the plain,
God is in the desert,
God is in your brain.
God is in the sunlight,
God is in the air,
God is on a falcon’s wing,
God is in your prayer.
God is in our laughter,
God is in sad loss.
God is seen in one life:
God is on the cross.
God is clearly seen in one life. Christ is crucial to my understanding of God. Without the God of Christ crucified, the sphere of nature and everything else is a closed book. Without him I am, to quote a friend who uses colourful yet apposite language,” up crap creek without a paddle!”
No one has ever seen God; but God’s only Son, he who is nearest the Father’s heart, he has made God known.
(Inspired by Ephesians 1).
All thanks and praise we joyfully offer you, God of Christ and our God. In this remarkable Jesus you have enriched us with a spiritual bonus direct from heaven.
Thanks for choosing humanity even before you laid the foundations of time and space, that we should become a godlike species, acceptable in your sight. In Christ you have given us a loving destiny as your children, in line with your purpose and grace overflowing in Jesus, the most lovable One.
Thanks for the redemption that is ours at the cost of his blood; the forgiveness of all wrongdoing, the treasure of his saving grace lavished upon us. Though him you have actually given us the insight and nous to experience the secret of what life is all about.
Thanks for making that wonderful secret so open in Christ; a grand plan embracing the full potential of billions of years, to harmonise all things in him, absolutely everything on earth and in heaven; all implicit in your purpose which achieves everything you set out to do!
Thanks that we, who are among those who have staked their first hope on Christ, have been destined to spend our lives for your praise and glory, along with all hear the Truth and trust the liberating good news.
Thanks most loving God, for this gift of belief, a present sign of your Holy Spirit as the promise of the complete inheritance still to come, all to the celebration of your glory!
PRAYING FOR ONE ANOTHER
In the following prayers, I ask you as the family of God to use your imagination and picture diverse people being placed in the arms of God.
Let us pray.
Holy Friend, help us in these prayers to let go of our self-importance, to quieten our impatient hands, to align ourselves with your will; and to co-operate with all that you are doing for the liberation and healing of humankind.
We hand over to you our loved ones and friends, near or far away; May they, whether strong or weak in faith, co-operate with your purposes and fulfil their lives in ways beyond their anticipation.
We hand over to you our church, its members and its leaders. May we, in concert with your universal church on earth in its many branches, participate in the mission of Christ with humble zeal and untiring love.
We hand over to you the individuals within the church family for whom today seems like an uneven battle with adversity. May they know that around them are the “everlasting arms” which never weary or faint.
We hand over to you our brave but gravely flawed systems of democratic government. May the better intentions of our politicians survive the cynical pressures of powerful lobby groups and become legislation that will better the lives of the least powerful among our citizens.
We hand over to you systems of government in other nations that seem even more flawed than ours. Just as you are prepared to work within our limitations, may your Spirit also work within theirs, and bring the world closer to peace and goodwill for all.
We hand over to you the coming week. Whatever pleasure, pain, uplift or downfall, may come our way, please give us the grace to entrust all things to you, that both good and bad may be woven into a tapestry of greater purpose, and our daily lives declare your praise. Through Christ Jesus our Friend and Redeemer.
GOING WITH GOD’S BLESSING
That you may go out into the world, happy as those who have been given a remarkable treasure, I bless you in the name of the living God.
That holding this treasure which is far too much for you, you may share this wealth by many gracious deeds and words, I bless you in the name of the living Christ.
That in your enthusiasm you may display tact and sensitivity, and when bruised or weary you may exhibit patience and fortitude, I bless you in the name of the living Spirit.
The peace of the thrice-personal God be with you always, my friends.
And also with you.