Tag Archives: faith

My Soul is…

A reflection based on John 12:20-33.

Reflect: how does your experience of ‘feeling’ through the pandemic echo with or conflict with what you believe or know to be true of God?

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In John 12, after being approached by Andrew, who has been approach by Phillip, who has been approach by Greeks wanting to come to the Passover festival (are you still with me!?), Jesus begins to talk about his coming death. Or at least, we know that he was talking about his coming death. The author of the gospel of John knew. The disciples, the Greeks, the crowd? Perhaps not so much.

In a moment which, in the text, takes us from a conversation with those around him to a conversation with his Father, Jesus says ‘Now my soul is troubled’. (John 12:27)

Though troubled is perhaps an understatement and under-interpretation of the truth of Jesus’ feeling here. A more literal interpretation of the Greek might be agitated, or more crudely, in shock, turmoil or distress.

Jesus wasn’t troubled in a trite and simplistic way. it wasn’t simply that the shopping delivery had arrived and they had swapped your beloved smokey bacon for your less favoured unsmoked.

Jesus was feeling turmoil and anguish in the depths of his soul because of what was looming on the very near horizon. He was soon to be glorified – which to the Author of the gospel, Jesus’ being glorified was the being ‘lifted up’ – the cross.

As Christians we talk of glory, often, as a good thing – ‘To God be the glory, great things he has done!’ goes the popular hymn. But Jesus was not feeling good – despite knowing what was to be gained through this moment.

Jesus has already talked about how useless a single grain is unless it falls into the earth and dies, to then come forth and bear much fruit. (John 12:24)

Jesus seems to know here, what needs to happen – but his feeling – his feeling was pain. His feeling was turmoil. His feeling was fear. His feeling was urging him to say to his Father ‘save me from this hour, this time that I know is at hand’ John 12:27.

In a moment of pain and fear, Jesus was honest with God about how he felt, despite what he knew was to come.

Friends, when was the last time you told God how you feel? How you really feel? Asked ‘where are you God?’ when you’re struggling to feel God with you, despite knowing that God is there?

Jesus’ experience shows us that it is ok to be feeling something that is contrary to what we know, or think we should be feeling. We can’t deny the truth. Can’t suppress the reality of our feeling – if we do, we start to be dishonest with God, and dishonest with ourselves.

Friends, be honest with God today, just as Jesus was, because through being honest with God about how we feel, we are honest with ourselves.

Faith in the fog

Faith in the Fog
I drew away this morning, thinking I was going to a quiet place.
When I got there I could see only a few metres, the wind was howling, the rain soaking in.
Where was God in all this?

Then I realised. My life is a bit like that at the moment. I can’t see where I’m going.
This blowing at me from all directions.
Yet I hear the Lord say ‘have faith in the fog’.

So I will. I will have faith in you Lord. I believe.
I believe you will provide for me. I believe you have a plan for me.
I believe you hold my life in your hands.

So I stand in the cold.
The wet, the wind, the fog and say here I am. I am listening.
I will have faith in the fog.

Out of the Way

In the gospels we read the story of Jesus turning over the tables in the temple courtyard.  Perhaps the closest we get in the gospels to seeing Jesus express his frustration in a physical way.

It was coming to the festival of Passover, when Jews would remember how God passed over the land of Egypt and led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

It was an important festival, and Jesus heads to the temple – where he finds a menagerie of traders. And what does Jesus do? He overturns the tables; he drives the animals and traders out of the temple and declares ‘stop making my father’s house a market place’.

Why does he do this? Why does he make such a scene?

The trading that was happening in the temple courtyard had become a distraction from worship, and for some even a barrier to worship.

People were having to buy animals in the courtyard to then go to make their sacrifices, and to buy the animals they must get temple currency – like me as a Brit going to China and trying to use Pound Sterling to buy my dinner – I wouldn’t get what I needed.

The temple traders which may well have begun as a practice to enable those who didn’t have access to animals for sacrifices to be able to access them, have become part of a system of injustice.

Reflection on this gospel story might poses for us various quesitons about worship, economics, justice and injustice, anger and frustration…

But today I want us to briefly reflect on the words of Jesus: ‘Stop making my father’s house a marketplace’. Get this stuff out of the way, it is distracting us, distracting you, from God.

As Christians we have a different relationship with buildings than Jews did with the temple in Jerusalem. Church buildings are a gathering place, and can become sacred space to us, through our encountering God through worship and through lives of others. But we also know that God is no more present in these buildings than all the world. Yet buildings have a significance and value for many.

In the last 12 months as Christians, we have been faced with learning to have a different relationship with buildings that we have done before. When we have gathered in them, we have done so under restrictions which restrain us from singing and even talking with one another. For much of the time they have not been gathering places at all.

For me personally, the restrictions and particularly the responsibility of leading worship within them when I have done, has distracted, and limited me from being able to encounter God through worship and interaction with God’s community.

I encourage you to reflect today – what distracts you from worship and encountering God? What can you do to overcome those distractions?

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Under Pressure?

GROW – Colossians

Week 1 – Colossians 1:1-23

This month the Methodist communities I serve in Bognor Regis, Felpham and Westergate are going to be studying the letter to the Colossians, and my Sunday reflection videos are going to take a sneaky peak too.

This week we’re looking at Colossians 1:1-23, which forms something of the trailer for what’s to come in the rest of the letter. It sets the scene for us.

The Colossian Christian community have been coming under pressure. Colossae had been a busy riverside city, a centre of trade – but other cities had overtaken them and Colossae had become a bit of a has been place.

As a result, there was a lack of hope, there was uncertainty in the community. And pressure was building from many corners of their society. All vying for attention, cults presenting themselves as truth and hope and salvation.

Paul, who writes this letter from prison, and has never met the Colossian Christians face to face. He’s heard of their faith, and he writes to them. Much like me speaking to a camera right now, hoping that you who are watching will be encouraged in your faith, Paul wanted to encourage them.

And so he writes:

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.

Colossians 1:1-23

Paul writes to encourage and affirm the Colossian Christians in the faith they have…

‘you’re doing good’

Keep at it…

Despite the pressures around you, keep at it.

Keep focused on Jesus.

There’s much more Paul wants to say about Jesus – and why keeping focused on Jesus gives hope – and we’ll come back to that more next week.

But this week – I want to encourage you.

Life is full of pressure and uncertainty right now.

And here in the UK we’re in a patchwork of restrictions across the country, there’s very live debate about whether the restrictions are going to far, or not far enough, what the scientific evidence is…

There’s so much vying for out attention.

Some much competition for truth.

Just as Paul encourages the Colossian Christian community to keep on keeping on, despite the pressure around them, my encouragement to you is to keep on keeping on.

If you a Christian – keep at your relationship with Jesus.

Paul goes on to celebrate the truth that the Colossian community’s faith is bearing fruit and growing among them (1:6).

Church – keep growing, keep praising, keep praying, keep encouraging one another in faith.

Keep asking questions and looking to God for answers.

If you’re not a Christian, then I want say to you – that despite all the noise around us, and around you, presenting itself as truth and hope – there is one true source of hope that will be faithful to you, and never leave you – Jesus.

Jesus is hope, and truth, and light.

Jesus has, and continues to make such a difference to my life.

Jesus is the one certainty, the one truth, we can hold onto.

We’ll look at more on how Paul presents the hope Jesus gives next week.

For now, keep on keeping on.

Despite pressure and uncertainty,

Looking to Jesus,

Grow and bear fruit.

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More on Colossians

Life Jacket

This hi-viz belongs to one of my daughters – a bit small for me! They often wear them when they ride along the pavement on their bikes.

They don’t call it a hi-viz though They know it helps keep them safe and so they have always called it a life jacket.

What do you have that keeps you safe?

Of course we’re familiar with face coverings, keeping distance from one another, we have speed limits and breaks on bikes and cars. We are surrounded by things that are there to keep us safe.

As Christians, sometimes we talk about Jesus saving us.
We call Jesus the Saviour of the World.
Saviour – literally means someone who saves someone else from danger.
Jesus is, in many ways, a life jacket for us, for me, for you, for all the world.

In John 12:46-47 we read Jesus say:

‘I have come as light to the world, so that everyone who believes in me will not be in darkness, I came, not to judge the world, but to save the world’

I have come as light to the world: A bit like a fluorescent jacket, Jesus offers light. Jesus light is not for a limited group people Jesus has written down on a list – Jesus says this light is for all the world – whoever believes will not be in darkness There’s no limit to who can be saved by Jesus’ light – simply believe Jesus is who he says he is – the light of the world, the son of God.

Know the Jesus is not here to judge – but save I would look prettyridiculousif I went out trying to wear this wouldn’t I – I may get a few judgmental looks!

Well we’re reminded here that Jesus doesn’t judge us, and Jesus doesn’t judge you – Jesus doesn’t look at us and criticise us – Jesus came because of God’s love for the world, to save the world.

And if you’re watching this from the world – then my friend that includes you!

If you want to know more about Jesus do get in touch via social media, email, old fashioned telephone – we would love to talk with you.

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Testimony Thursday: Good Days, Bad Days

#A week or ago, I was included in an email sent to quite a number of people with the subject heading ‘a reminder to worship’ and this verse:

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Colossians 2:6-7, NRSV

As I read those words I was struck by how different life looks now to how it did only a few weeks ago – and how at times it really doesn’t feel like I’m continuing anything.

I don’t know about you, but for me, almost everything that was in my diary over the last 6 weeks has been cancelled or postponed, and almost everything I’m doing now, whether it be work or family life, is very much different to how it normally is or was planned to be. How can I continue anything?

But after my instinctive reaction, I soon realised that this summons to the disciples of Colossae was not about the practicalities of church life and family living, but about continuing living in Jesus. Continuing to be rooted and built up in Christ. Continuing to sustain and deepen the faith they have already been pursuing, the faith they have already been taught and grounded in. Always giving thanks.

In the last few weeks,
I’ve had good days and bad days.
Happy days and sad days.
Days where I’ve felt I’ve made a difference.
Days when I’ve wondered if I should even have got out of bed!

Yet all the while, no matter how I’ve felt about the ‘stuff’ of my day, I’ve been certain of the fact that Jesus is there beside me.

I found this stone on the beach last week, round with a hole in it and, to me, it was like the empty tomb. It now sits on my desk next to my little stone cross as a reminder that no matter how I feel at any moment of any day, Jesus is alive and with me every step of the way.

As you continue to live in Jesus, I pray you know for yourself that he lives and is with you every step of the way.

May the peace of the Risen Christ be with you.

Rev Dan


Join the conversation

How has God been speaking to you this week? Please share in the comments below as we encourage each other to continue in faith.