Spring Harvest: Bible Reading part 2

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Bible Reading by Gerard Kelly – Be – 1 John 2:7-3:3

Recap

  • John’s foundation is that Jesus is both God and man:
  • Light, life and love are three themes that will be weaved
  • Sin & brokenness, and the Jesus way of confronting these
  • Followers will imitate the life of Jesus

Some of the things that were worrying John, the church community he was part of and the pressures they were under.

1 John 2:7-11

The connection of God’s love for us and our love for one another cross with the theme of light  Where love is light has shone, and where light shines we learn to love one another.  If love is not visible then we have to assume that the light has not come in this area.  He is not say 100% that people are in light or darkness – but makes an assumption based on the actions.  If I see you hating one another I have to assume that love is not there.  Not writing a new commandment but telling you what you always knew – not linked to Jesus – but what had always been the case – love The Lord your God and your neighbour – what Jesus emphasised – but what the Jewish people always emphasised.  Jesus lived it in a way that had never happened before – this is what made it real.  It is what always John had known to do – but Jesus showed him how to do it in a real way.  Not just moving house regularly to change your neighbour!  Not by trying harder but by encountering the love of God.  A new exploration of a very old commandment,

This is his version of the New Age movement.  Many are taught it was invented in the 20th century   nut cases.  Jesus taught loads about the new age – this age and the age to come.  Not quite what people mean today but the concept of new age is very biblical.  Darkness is disappearing, and the light is already shining.  That is to do with John’s worldview, the New Testament world view – John doesn’t have time for the Greek heresy of the life you live now and the life you will live later in some floaty place.  Jesus spoke about a dark age and an age to come that will be filled with light – this doesn’t happen when you die, but when you receive Christ  So John says don’t sit around waiting for it but realise that it has already begun.

John has the same view of eternal life – not something you’re waiting to inherit, or that you’re waiting to begin.  The qualification is that you confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that you surrender your brokenness to God and let him deal with it.  From that point God is already in you pushing back the darkness, declaring the new age.

John’s conviction is that the darkness will be ultimately victorious.  Light brings love and love renders faith concrete.  If you don’t love then the light of God isn’t in you – regardless of what you sing and say in church.  Where we don’t love is a big neon sign from God as to what we need to deal with.  Maybe when you meet someone who has a different view point of church, a different skin colour, a different lifestyle – John says that you’re not terrible – it is pretty human – but ask for God’s light to shine more there.  Love is the evidence of the light of God in your life.

1 John 2:12-14

Writing to people he knows, churches who he is in touch with.  He does it twice to make sure they can see his deliberate action of those who are the children of God – those who have just got their and those mature in your faith.  Being part of the family of God is diverse.  People at Spring Harvest are saying how great it is at an older age to be learning new things.  If you are genuinely open to the Spirit of God and the Word of God you will go on learning – this is the picture that John wants us to have.

This isn’t the only reason he writes this.  He takes time to address the challenge of Gnosticism – which was a tendency that was beginning in some of the churches.  He understands it well, and writing later he is more aware of it.  Cavlism was the sense of dressing up the Old Testament in esoteric thoughts.  The Gnostics were very influenced by Greek thought, and specifically Plato.

The body, and everything in it is bad – the Hylic.  The material world is created by lesser Gods as it is in some sense flawed and broken.  The word deal comes from Platonic thinking – everything we see is a poor reflection of the ideal in the theoretical world – e.g. the chair is a poor imitation.  Everything is about escaping the body and living for spiritual realities.  It is the oldest heresy in the church and yet we still struggle with it now.

The Hebrew view is that the cosmos, the human world is the top level as God made it.  Put simply God was bored of the fluffy clouds and having coffee with the angels.  God expressed himself in creation – it is a positive expression of God.  The focus is the redemption of the cosmos – the resurrection of the bodies – not being whisked away from the earth.

John sees the Gnostics as a key challenge to the faith – he sees that God comes to us in flesh but the Gnostics say the flesh world is negative so they believe that God has done something stupid, he has parted with his dignity in doing this.

John 3:16 – God so loved not just me and you but the cosmos, the world that he sent his one and only son for the giraffe, dolphin and more!

Another feature is that Gnosticism divided humans into three areas:

  • Hylic (stuck in the body) – human demands – food and more food!
  • Psychic (aware of the soul) – emotional and inner psychological soul – the sign is that you start writing poetry
  • Pneumatic (living in the Spirit) – they live for the Spirit

Unfortunately some Christians live for the Spirit but deny their own human actions, e.g. I don’t need to eat any more as Jesus will look after you and the Holy Spirit will pay the rent.  The Holy Spirit comes to bring life to your eating, sex life, community and more.  Don’t let the similarity of language fool you – they are not bringing you into the Kingdom but something entirely else.

The Gnostics always a steps of spiritual ascent – it varies but in John’s day to was seven linked to the seven spiritual beings.  At each stage you get the next level of enlightenment.  To get to the next stage you receive more secrets – very similar to Free Masonry and Scientology.  You move up through the ranks and eventually get to be Tom Cruise.  Tom Cruise literally has nothing negative in his life according to Scientology!  Just tell that to his wife and ex-wife!  John says “rubbish” – as far as the love of Christ is concerned – the person who became a Christian a minute ago and the person who has been in the faith for 50 years have access to the same knowledge.  Where John sees Christians beginning talk about having secret knowledge he tells them to repent.

Spring Harvest is the evangelical business class – frequent flyers still don’t get a better chalet though!

The Word of God speaks to everyone and some need to come to terms with the insight that God gives to new Christians as well of them.  We don’t divide into different classes or blessings.  The things we don’t understand we probably need to get rid of, e.g. why we can’t open the curtains without Vera being there!

All esoteric faiths have a ladder from earth to haven – climbing up with God – but when you find the top of a ladder you will still find thin air – there is no system of increasing enlightenment.  The Gospel says you meet God where you are – in your community.  The Jewish story meets Moses where he is – the ground is Holy take off your shoes.  God establishes things where we are – he wants us to understand his purposes where we are – in our relationships, in the places where we live as that is where God’s story placed us.

Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth – the battle is to get God here – there is no victory to get God worshipped on the earth as they do that already!  There is a ladder in the Christian faith – but it is the ladder God climbed down to get to us – if you’re going to use an up and down concept.  Let’s see how much heaven we could see in our neighbourhood, faith, relationships, church and more.

One rule for all – you are all children of God.  If you are a newbie in the faith or a father in the faith then you receive the same challenge.

1 John 2:15-17

Just in case we are no clear he carries on.  If you receive these words as a Gnostic he says don’t take on the world views.  John isn’t talking about that – there is a kingdom where we are dark in our thinking – part of us is that and part of the world is that.  The Kingdom of God is arriving so the questions is do you let your identity to be shaped by the light or darkness.  The world in this language isn’t the physical world, our community and culture.  It is a challenge to the empire of the world, e.g. media, advertising.

Belief + Doubt = Sanity

John in his culture with no society of consumerism.  He still understood even then that there is something that calls to us to be comfortable and often against the word of God saying love your neighbour.  The question of whether or not you’ve got the right stuff comes from whether or not you have identity in possessions – do they hold your heart or not?

Just look at the Tiger Woods campaign “Winning takes care of everything” which stimulates the idea to win we should buy more Nike kit.  They are going beyond marketing, and become philosophers and theologians.  Did winning take care of everything for Lance Armstrong?  His need to win and to keep winning drove him into disastrous actions and wrecked the life of him, his family and hundreds of others.

We need to be willing to speak the truth.  Maybe the new car, the bigger house, the extra holiday won’t change anything – sometimes it can but often not.  Not living in our barns, one of the few places in scripture that Jesus allows someone to be called a fool.  Tonight it is over – Jesus said he was thinking about the wrong things.

Will you be what God says you are, be who he calls you to be, secure in Christ regardless of richness, poverty and possessions.  Hear God speaking your identity – not the stuff around you.

Loop back to the fundamental thing, the tiny anchor – the life of Jesus – let that be the anchor that everything else relates to.  More people in the UK have lost their faith from being comfortable rather than persecution.  The things we fear are often the things that will free us.

1 John 2:18-25

Introduces the concept of anti-Christ, it is anything that is n work of the world that goes against Christ in your life.  It doesn’t matter what they are – they could be good, bad or anything else, but they are the anti-Christ.  The clue is to stay faithful.

1 John 2:26-3:3

The clue is how to listen to God and not the billboards is to remain faithful that God has given us the Holy Spirit to be our teacher – nurture that relationship.  Not moving through stages, but teach us from within.  And we can be secure as God has brought us to the father.  Jesus brought us to the place where we are secure as the children of God.  That is our identity and future – to be taught by the Spirit to be taught all that Jesus wants us to come.

Spring Harvest: Gerard Kelly in the Big Top

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Gerard Kelly preached on the first evening in the Big Top – here are my notes from his sermon:

Niagara Falls – never been but apparently a good place to go on a honeymoon but slightly confused, thought a good room would be a good place!  The River Slava running through Slovonskibrod and now on border of Serbia after being ripped apart during war.

Rivers play a big part in our life wherever we are.  By the way don’t do a river cruise go on the ocean, do a proper cruise!

Every river you pass begins somewhere else, quite often unexpected.  Stand in the mountains next to something that looks inconsequential, but after a 1,000km this might be a huge great river.  Rivers have a source.  The source of the Nile is very famous as no one knew where it came from.  During the 19th century people were fighting through the jungle and climbing hills to find the source.  That’s the adventure we’re going on this week, where Jesus is the source of our faith surprisingly.  We make the faith into a big colossal movement which bubbled away at the source as Jesus.

The name of Jesus still produces huge reaction in our culture as there is a sense in which it matters.  There is moment in the gospel where Jesus talks to his closest followers and talking about who people thought he was, chatting through the rumours, and then he looks them in the eye and asks “Who do you think that I am?”.  Time to do that and take it out of the gospels and bring it to us.  What do you think about Jesus, not others, not the media etc., but who do you think He is.

Personally

That is where the root of your faith has life.  Lots of us have very complex faith lives.  Have to obey a lot of rules, obeying Christian trends.  Sometimes it is really good for us individually to return to the simple question “Who do we think He is?” and what has he done in our life.  Maybe allowing some of the complexity to wash away, and reconnect with the reality of our faith.

Corporate

Have friends who he’s known for years, but have watched them recently falling apart.  Christian friends saying really hurtful things.  Saying things that suggest you’re not a Christian.  Why have we got to the place where we say my part of the church is so important that I can justify excluding people from the church.  Bogging is great but when you write a blog post, the stronger it is the better you feel about yourself.  People are saying things that they wouldn’t say if everyone was in the same room.  We’re showing non-Christians a confused message.  We’ve got different routes, and rooms like the tributaries.

Maybe if we all thought about where we started, we would discover powerful things.  at the time that Jesus cam there were no Baptists!  No Roman Catholics, or Orthodox believers, no Pentecostals, no Charismatics, no denominations that were adding something before and after the word Christian.  The first church was a Christian church, they didn’t add anything like the word first – that came later!  There is a call to our faith that is separate from our denomination.  Equally you shouldn’t hate it, some of you don’t need our encouragement, especially the church leaders!

You can be really involved in that denominational structure, but don’t believe that that is Christianity – that it is the only bit, come back to the source and see that God is is bring people to his church as Roman Catholics, as Orthodox Christians, there are about 3,6000 denominations in the world.  It’s like the lottery, there are 3,6000 denominations, and God worked it out that you were in the right one.

What unites us is our commitment to Jesus, that is what makes Christianity – it is the movement of those who follow Jesus Christ.  If you will confess that Jesus Christ is the son of God you are God’s children and boy shouldn’t God’s children love each other.

It’s okay to have distinctives, but don’t worship your distinctives then you are in serious trouble.  If you idolise your distinctive then you are in serious trouble.  If you worship together you have a much happier life.

Source Texts

Jesus in the Gospels; what does Jesus in the Gospels look like, is that the Jesus that we’re talking about in our churches.  If not who moved?  Do we need to refresh our understanding of Jesus.  Are we honest enough to say to people that it is because of Jesus that we do what we do – some of us have got too cool to say that.  But people are moved by that.

The Apostles connected Jesus to the story of God, looking at the kingdom of God.  Showing that Jesus is Good News.  The Good News is not about Jesus, Jesus is the Good News, the Gospel.

Be Say Do – Good News is who Jesus is, the words that he spoke, and the actions that he did.  These are the things we are therefore also called to.

We get our identity from our calling to God – that changes everything, and then allowing God to change us.  God doesn’t have much use in the 21st century for spiritual space cadets.  If you walk three feet above the ground open a theme park or a freak show as you are not much use to God or anyone else.  God wants us to be utterly present with our family and friends.  We are listening, engaging and involved in their lives.

What does it look like to speak Good news?  How do you talk about your experience of Christ?  How do you explain it, as in 1 Peter, how do we explain our hope.  How do we share our personal words, those awkward moments over the photocopier.  What happens when there is something that tangibly smells and feels like Good News and have space for people to hear.  People have done surveys of those who don’t like the church are things that we would claim are not part of our church – against women in society, not deeply homophobic, but people think our churches do because of how we act in public, and those who appear to act on our behalf say that, so there is a lot about how we communicate this publicly.

Doing Gospel ministry, done in unity.  Amazing things happening, e.g. Redeeming Communities, XLP, Street Pastors, and so on.  100 young people went and blessed an old brethren chapel by redecorating it.  Three old people had to decide what to do with the chapel when it’s life came to an end.  They hung on for the property, and in the end decided to make it a Christian community centre called The Hub.  The woman from this decision weeped with joy as the young people entered to help renovate this chapel.  How do we make a genuine difference.  We thin, being distinctive Christian is the problem – if you wash their feet and iron their curtains no one is upset if you do it in Jesus’ name, they are upset when you poke them with a stick in the eye.

Pope Francis is showing us this, washing a women’s feet, and she was a Muslim.  Showing unconditional love as they are a person and not for any other reason.  We need to catch up with the programme.  We can’t proclaim one thing and do another.

John 3:16

John 3:16 God so love us that He sent Jesus.  The coming of Jesus is an expression of God’s love, and is transforming us.

Women runs a prayer room in a small town.  Her daughter was married to a Marine who was killed in Afghanistan.  She was left with a young child.  The woman prayed, their daughter is bringing up her son on his own.  How can we make it not horrible, how can we redeem it, asking for God’s opportunity to bless Afghanistan.  Teaches TEFL, a local secondary head had two teenage Afghans as mother was killed, coming to live with father.  They were being horrifically bullied.  She teaches them English, brings them into her home.  They hear they’ve been living in temporary accommodation, so they were homeless, and asked her to be their mum.  She’s now fostering them.  When her grandson who lost his dad to the two Afghans he plays on their laps as they are his friend.  That is God’s love in action.

We can’t love each other, how do we love other people.  Love goes in the opposite direction to hurt.  She felt blessed as God had answered her prayers through all of this.  We dream that as we encounter Jesus we would be those kinds of people.

Spring Harvest: Bible Reading part 1

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The first Bible reading by Gerard Kelly is on 1 John 1:1-2:6, apologies for any typos or spelling mistakes whilst trying to keep up!

John’s text is a little odd, it meanders around and he repeats himself a number of times so helpful to bring your bible and follow them through.  In the old days you used to get points for your big bible, these days we’re too cool to carry our bibles!

John is trying to pull together his own record of what he’s seen, his own video recorder.  We will assume that this is the Apostle John, the same who wrote John’s gospel.  We can’t be certain of it, but it is a good guess, writing around 85-90CE.  He writes as an elder of the church in Ephesus.

He was there when Jesus first called disciples, seen the church begin and spread, but then seen people twist and change the gospel.

1 John 1:1-4

John writes as a witness, one who has seen the story unfold.  You may be familiar with the prologue of John’s gospel; he uses similar phrasing and wording.  Cf. The Message translation of John 1:14.

  • We saw Jesus, we touched Him, he was a physical being, present with us day after day after day for three years.  It is rooted in the historical reality.
  • And yet John has become convinced that this Jesus is God in flesh, he existed before we saw him.  “Existed, and then became flesh”

This is the foundation of his faith, defines the Christian movement – Jesus is both man and God.  It doesn’t mention 13 weeks of membership classes, it doesn’t say what doctrine you have to believe, it doesn’t say much about morality – this is a statement of foundation which unites us.

John was a relatively uneducated fisherman, taken from a simple peasant lifestyle – upper working class background.  But very quickly shows he is a learner with a sharp mind.  As the church spreads to Asia Minor he becomes very aware of the Greek mindset in the Empire.  The Romans had the swords, but the Greeks had the calculators.  The Romans carried on the Greek philosophy, education and triangles!  They loved the concept of beauty and mysterious in the universe and the vastness of it all.  John says that he agrees but I think there is an order to it, and I think that comes from Jesus.  He makes this connection from the philosophy to Jesus – the double confession is what forms the church, but is also the most crucial part of our faith to hold onto in post-modern culture – rather than a good man, a great teaching Rabbi, a man with more God stuff than the rest of us.  John doesn’t say that Jesus is the best man, he succeeded for his efforts, instead he says when he looks at Jesus he sees what God looks like when he reveals himself.

The whole of human history is a vast ocean, everything that it in the ocean matters, but everything that is in the ocean that matters is in the small boat in the huge ocean.

If there was a God who made the world, who choose to rescue us, to initiate our rescue – that is what Jesus looks like.

Did some research of portraits of Jesus.  No wonder people don’t want to join the church if that’s what they think we look like.  Interestingly Google suggests “Michael Jackson portraits” as an alternative link!

Jesus is a rumour, this is the third generation of faith, writing in 85-90CE.

1 John 1:5-7

God, John says is light.  Again links to John 1 with the light being revealed which the darkness cannot overcome.  Think back to the Greeks, and the intelligence of the universe, things being illuminated, and John says that comes from Jesus.

There are three things which John basis his ideas around Jesus

  • Light
  • Life
  • Love

Our culture believing itself to be distant from John asks questions about these issues in mysticism and esoteric thoughts.

Image of rope is to symbolise looping back to one of John’s key themes.  He starts with big themes and then weaves them rather than giving a logical development of 63 different issues.

1 John 1:8-2:2

John has a very big place for the nature of sin, the brokenness of humanity.  It is a huge part of his thinking, reflecting on what Jesus makes possible.  Those hoping for a nice warm up will be disappointed as John won’t allow us to do that.  He wants us to know how crucial the brokenness of humanity is in his thought process about Jesus.

Jesus coming to be the atoning sacrifice.  He moves out of his Greek triangles move, back into his Jewish story mode.  All the disciples, Peter, John, James, and Paul etc. have understood Jesus in the context of their upbringing, the Jewish story.  Atonement is the sacrifice and removing the issue of sin.  John says we need to understand the Jewish context to understand Jesus.  By John saying Jesus came to be a sacrifice for our sins and the world’s sins.  The Jewish ritual of bringing a sacrifice for each time you sin, or of once a year putting a goat into the wilderness with your sins on it, and feeling good temporarily.  John says the whole cycle is replaced once and for all by the event of Jesus giving himself on the cross.

John as a Jewish thinker, deep in his thinking and psyche of who God might be is the narrative of the Exodus.  Sat around the family table once a year to rehearse the narrative of Exodus: we were in slavery but God came and rescued us.  The process of saying God is in human form is deeply radical and offensive, but God rescuing humans is natural due to the Exodus story.  In the Jewish family the oldest man reads the questions – why did God come – and the youngest child answers – to rescue us.  John and his fellow disciples see that is what Jesus had done – to initiate the Exodus but for the whole world.

Particularity

A particular life that bears universal significance.  The One God, who is infite, is present in finite humanity.  This is important, but challenging in our society where we have soft views of God looking at a sunset of climb a mountain, but to say it appears in a particular place is challenging.  John says it is challenging but what he is claiming from the historically verifiable life of Jesus.  We can rethink the meaning of the gospel in post-modern culture, we can reframe how we say things to help people but you cannot move away from the particularity of Jesus – that in that one life God actually came to us.

Polarity

A movement from Heaven to Earth.  The initiative the One God takes to rescue his creation in an outside-in manoeuvre.  It is God’s initiative offered to humanity.

God’s intention for them, to draw humans free into intimate fellowship with himself, has come forward in the face of Jesus.”  Tom Wright

Derek Tidball, The Message of the Cross: Jesus at the initiative of the Father has come to put something right.  He is doing this in the context of talking about sin.  In v. 8 if we claim no sin we are fooling ourselves, we are all broken, and it is at that point we stand to understand the significance of the coming of faith.

Leonard Cohen – taking seriously that we’re cracked, we are broken.  Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense, talking about the atheistic bus adverts says we can’t just enjoy life, it is simply not true, it is nonsense, no evidence that human beings without intervention do good, they do some good, humans are capable of beautiful things but in the next moment the most atrocious things.  We know that God has made us beautifully but we can’t live it, e.g. Romans 7: I know what I should be but I can’t live it.  We know that there is something in us that we are fighting.  The Prodigal Son owns the weight of his mistakes.

Psalm 51 is the most powerful version of this, not written by a prodigal son or an addict, but by someone who has fought for 20 years to be king, who has always followed God’s guidelines and yet still find there is something wrong in his life.  The problem wasn’t out there, it was always in there.  But he has the courage to come before God and say you need to fix this, not from a place of weakness and degradation but from a place of triumph and strength.  David also wrote Psalm 139, and there is nothing that is contradictory that says we were made by God and yet broken, and neither change – we aren’t not God’s when we are broken and vice versa.  Please don’t say we used to be broken but now we’ve been saved!  They only have to come and live with you for 5 minutes to realise sin doesn’t disappear.  John will tell us how we can deal with it.

1 John 2:3-6

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

John makes an interesting connection between belief and behaviour.  It isn’t very evangelical.  We love grace, and then say that how we behave doesn’t matter.  John disagrees, and says your behaviour is a reflection of who you are.  He will look at those he’s writing too, and if he sees no evidence of God in their life he will ask the question how is it true!  Help me today God to be more like Jesus – that’s what the rest of 1 John explains to us – not by trying harder but by surrendering more.  Jesus constantly went to parties, he wasn’t a negative force, he never wrecked a dinner party, he just wrecked funerals – including his own!  People were so glad he was there – do people feel that way about you?