Evensong Sermon Series, Lent, Sunday 26 March 2017

By Liz Blakey

1 John 3:16-24

I have chosen this passage to illustrate how my thinking has changed over time. It does include many questions that I hope you will find helpful. I am not going to go through every word or phrase but pull out some and reflect on them. This I hope picks up the themes for today of the church mothering us and the Bible as a light for our path.

I have heard that professional musicians used to playing pieces very many times are not surprised to hear new things in familiar music each time they play. For me it has been the same with reading the Bible and I have no reason to think I am unique in this.

I have no idea when I first heard or read this passage from the Bible. I do have a clear memory from my childhood, I must have been four or five years old, sitting the children's corner of The Church of the Good Shepherd in Romford and hearing the S S Westley anthem “Blessed be the God and Father” with it’s haunting phrase “Love one another with a pure heart fervently”. Though it is a quotation from 1 Peter there are echoes of this in the 1 John passage and its words returned to me frequently during my childhood and beyond.

Later living in Swindon and following Confirmation I was in the fortunate position of attending weekly discussion group for teenagers at the Vicarage. This was a very nurturing experience. We had a series of sermons based on the book Honest to God by John Robinson. At one of these meetings following the sermons I remember saying that I did not believe that Jesus was the son of God but did believe that he was someone recognised as being close to God and someone who acted as people might expect God to act. The passage in 1 John refers both to Jesus as God’s “Son, Jesus Christ” and to those being addressed in the letter as “Dear children”. Can these be regarded as literal form of address? 40 years ago my answer might have been that Jesus is God’s son although I could not understand how. More recently I have returned to my teenage view. What about you?

Who are those being addressed in the letter as “Dear children”, are they the writer’s offspring or is this a way of expressing the relationship between the writer and their readers? How can we see ourselves as being addressed as “Dear children” by someone who lived 2000 years ago?

Forms of address are powerful, as a woman I find it heartening to read in 2 John that the letter is addressed to “the chosen lady and her children”. Not that I think I am chosen but it is good to know that some women are.

Whoever we are, we are encouraged to love one another “with actions and truth” rather than with “words or tongue”. Should we be asking ourselves how we balance our actions and words?

Is there a difference between our hearts condemning us and our consciences? How does this relate to God and our free will?

How about the thought of obeying commands from Jesus? Does this sound too authoritarian for modern hearers? Is the idea of following in his way and attempting to do in any situation what Jesus would have done, although difficult, be more accessible? Remember the WWJD bracelets that some wore a while ago?

v.24 “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.” How can we live in someone who lived long ago? How could this be an expression of the resurrection? As a church we have prayed prayers that acknowledge that Jesus has no hands but ours … Two quotes from our Benefice Prayer … which gives thanks “for our calling to be Christ’s vibrant, diverse, inclusive and nourishing body” and “May how we live and all we are present the living truth of Jesus Christ … ”

A final question …

How has the music, the “love one another” music you and I hear and read in the Bible changed for us during our lives and in this Lent?