The word we find in scripture translated as ‘love’ can one of a number of expressions of love:
Eros – intimate love and/or sexual passion
Philia – affectionate love within friendships and community
Storge – love within family relationships
Philautia – self-love, caring for ones own well-being
Xenia – love shown through hospitality to strangers
Agape – unconditional love – of God for his people.
It is this agape love that we find in these verses in Luke’s gospel where Jesus says to his disciples to love, not only those it is easy to love, but those it is really, really, hard to love.
Why? Because this is what God is like. Loving, generous, merciful and kind.
The more we live a life of agape love, the more we discover about the character of God – who is gracious, kind and merciful. And the more we inhabit the character of God in our lives, the more holy, and whole we become. For in living a life of love, we experience more of God’s unconditional love for us and all the world.
Follow Up: Show love to others this week.Think of what you’d really like someone to do for you, and do it for them.
Today’s thought for the day is also available in Worshipping Together, a monthly worship at home resource.
I always look forward to hearing new Christmas tunes and carols, and watching the music video’s that come with them. This year I’ve been struck by Ed and Elton’s ‘Merry Christmas’.
Every time I watch this, I see reference to another past Christmas hit. Slade, Wham, Snowman, even a Sausage Roll!
If feels like they’ve looked back at all the classic Christmas tunes that people have most loved and tried to combine all the ‘feel-good’ buts into one video.
It has a wonderful, Christmassy feel about it, but the song is also very real. It starts with the truth that Christmas 2021 is also a Christmas of lament, remembering all that we have gone though these last 2 years…
I know there’s been pain this year but it’s time to let it go Next year you never know, but for now Merry Christmas
As we remember the Christmas story, the declaration of angels saying God’s promised one has come, and will transform the world…Mary, Joseph, shepherds responding to God’s message… there was much they didn’t know. But for now, in the moment, they look in awe and wonder at the Christ-child, who is love that is the best love of all.
We’ll dance in the kitchen while embers glow We’ve both known love, but this love that we got is the best of all I wish you could see you through my eyes then you would know My god you look beautiful right now Merry Christmas
This Christmas I want you to see the Christmas story, not through Elton’s eyes – but through God’s eyes. God who wants us to see and know that in Christ we find the ultimate expression of God’s love. Love that has no terms and conditions attached, love that shows no judgement, Love simply because God can do nothing but love us.
Just as we may well spend some of Christmas visiting or spending time with people we love, so too did God step down from heaven and become human, to spend time with us. To live as we live, because God loves us.
So as Christmas comes around once again, here comes the annual reminder of God’s love come down to earth, and to us.
I feel it when it comes Every year helping us carry on Filled up with so much love All our family and friends are together where we all belong Merry Christmas everyone
We’ve had a tough 2 years, and while the landscape is changing it is still going to be tough for while longer… but the love of God we discover in Jesus helps us carry on through the highs and lows of life.
And that gift of love is not only for us to keep and cherish for ourselves, it is also one we are encouraged to share.
There are many ways of encouraging, of giving, of sharing, of caring for and loving the people around us. In our words, our actions, our giving and offering hospitality.
Christmas is a time to give and share and encourage, Christmas a time to love, because it is through the best love of all we discover in Jesus that the world, and we all, can find true hope.
this love that we got is the best of all I know there’s been pain this year but it’s time to let it go Filled up with so much love Merry Christmas everyone
Last week our journey through the ending(s) to John’s gospel took us to the shore of Galilee to Peter and some of the other disciples having fun fishing on the lake, meeting the risen Jesus and enjoying fresh fish with him around a campfire. Friends enjoying breakfast together as the sun breaks on the shore.
This week we pick back up where that scene left us, because as breakfast is finished and the campfire moves from flames to glowing embers, Jesus turns to Simon Peter and asks him ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
It feels like a change of pace in the story – we move from an intimate breakfast with friends perhaps having fun and laughter together, to an intimate and deep 1 to 1 between Jesus and Peter.
“Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” comes Peters’ reply.
I wonder how he spoke those words. What his tone and body language was? Was Peter filled with confidence and conviction, as he must have been moments before when he had jumped into the water and waded to shore. Or was he filled with remorse and guilt, his denying Jesus that night in the Jerusalem courtyard coming back to haunt him?
This conversation repeats, 3 times in total Jesus ask Peter do you love me, each time Peter responds, “yes Lord you know me, everything about me, you know, you know I love you.”
It is interesting and perhaps not surprising given how we often find numbers used within scriptures storytelling, that after Peter 3 times denied, Jesus asks him 3 times ‘do you love me’.
I wonder if, for Peter, there was something redemptive and transformative in that being asked 3 times – if it helped him to find forgives and wholeness after his 3 times denying Jesus. But let’s not get Jesus wrong, there is no suggestion here that our wrongdoing, our guilt, our sin, needs to then be corrected by actions, words and works that go in the other direction – as if we have to rebalance the scales. That’s not how Jesus’ love and care for us works.
Jesus is not reprimanding Peter. Yes, he is asking a question, but it seems to me that this conversation is a gentle, friendly, loving one between 2 friends in a corner on the beach after sharing fish sarnies.
Each time Jesus responds to Peter in a similar way.
Feed my lambs. (v15b)
Tend (or shepherd) my sheep. (v16b)
Feed by sheep. (v17b)
Different words – and there may be some significant to the nuances there, but a common thrust. In just a few small words Jesus calls Peter deeper, responding with love, acceptance, welcome, forgiveness and commissioning to serve the flock of Christ.
Sometimes I wonder if, as we see this encounter move from the fun and laughter of breakfast to this 1 to 1 with Jesus, we think Peter is expecting to get his comeuppance for his denying. But Peter knew Jesus, and I wonder if Peter would have been expecting the exact opposite. Expecting Jesus would forgive and love and accept him, and still call him deeper – and feeling guilt and shame because he didn’t think he was worthy of it.
I wonder if this challenges some of our assumptions as Christians about how we think about our own worth. I wonder if we too often feel guilt and shame more intensely than we should or than Jesus ever intended us to. I wonder if we expect reprimand when Jesus just wants us to receive his love, and love him too. I wonder if we have allowed the notion of sin to become a barrier in our relationship with Jesus and our responding to his call to go deeper.
Jesus says to you today: do you love me?
Friend, no matter what I love you. I forgive you and I still call you. Come deeper with me, serve me, follow me.
Happy Easter! We’ve journeyed through Lent, through Holy Week, and now we’re here. We can eat an Easter Egg – if you haven’t already that is and celebrate the story of the resurrection of Jesus.
Have you ever been treated for shock? Perhaps sat with a sugary tea after something that you have witnessed or has happened to you? I remember having to lie down in the woods after breaking my wrist in my teens and going into shock.
Well the story of the Resurrection begins with shock. After a tumultuous week where their leader had been taken from them and crucified, you can perhaps begin to imagine just how emotionally and spiritually vulnerable they were already. Some of the women had journeyed to the tomb that morning and found Jesus body gone, and an angel greeting them.
“Do not be alarmed, you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here, he is risen. Go tell the disicples that Jesus goes ahead of you to Galilee and you will see him there.”
(Paraphrase of Mark 16:5-8)
We might think the women would be filled with joy and celebration – Jesus is alive! But we are told, they are seized with amazement and terror – and so ‘they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.’ I think they were in shock. Needing some time to let the news sink in.
Eventually the women do tell the disicples – and the disciples meet the risen Jesus and are filled with joy and wonder!
In very different circumstances, we have had a year that has shocked us and shaken us. But the truth of Easter remains the same. Jesus has risen – and that sends shockwaves around the world until the end of time.
God knew the world was a mess, God could see the mess. And so God sent Jesus, and while some of the reasoning is surrounded in mystery, and quite a lot of debate, somehow, through Jesus’ life, and death and resurrection, the deepest and strongest love that has ever existed is outpoured onto the world, and onto us. Friends – hear me today – share with you this shockwave that comes to the world, and to you – you are loved. You are forgiven. You can find freedom. Yes you.
The Easter shockwave does all that – with hope and with certainty.
But it doesn’t end there. Jesus invites us into a relationship, a partnership, a journey. To be partners in the shockwave of a story that is filled with mystery and wonder. Joy and celebration. Where we are loved, forgiven and free.
And just as we are a diverse human race, that journey looks different for all of us.
Ask anyone who has partnered with Jesus – and they will tell a different story of mystery and wonder and joy. But threaded through them all, is the truth that we are loved, forgiven and free.
Folks, today I invite you into the journey that is the shockwave of Easter.
If you want to know more, and I really hope you do, get in touch with me or your local church to share your story, and discover the threads of love, forgiveness and freedom that Jesus has already woven for you.
Each of us, daily, clothe ourselves. At least, I think we all do!
What we wear each day is often influenced by the activity of the day, though over the last 12 months that fact has likely been diluted for many of us!
In ‘normal’ times we might put smarter clothes on if we were going to a party or the theatre; more casual clothes if we’re catching up with a friend; older, more worn out clothes if we’re gardening or decorating; more comfy clothes if we’re relaxing with a book of in front of the TV.
With the daily ritual of clothing ourselves, comes the purpose we are clothing ourselves for.
In Colossians, we read words that encourage us to clothe ourselves, not in socks, shirts and skirts, but virtues that help us to live fruitful lives which nurture and build us and each other up.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
The Hebrew verb that can occasionally be understood to mean a change of clothes is more commonly translated as renew. I wonder, when these words in Colossians were written in Greek, if this Hebrew word play was also in mind.
These virtues were alternative and subversive in the militaristic society where power and dominance were seen as the signs of success.
But the call to live in the fruitfulness of these virtues was because of a new activity and purpose – one that would lead to a renewed and transformed way of living that was disticntive and alternative, and intrinsically intentional.
These virtues are not simply about niceness, the niceness and goodness that perhaps comes somewhat naturally and passively. They are about real, intentional discipleship. Being committed and disciplined to clothing our character around the life and character of Jesus – with the ever-present help of God’s Spirit.
And through that renewing of ourself, the constant attentiveness to how we clothe ourselves in light of the renewing Spirit of God in us, we bear fruit which nurtures and build us and each other up.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This week I talk about God’s love for us and how Jesus came because God wants to be close to us.
Last week was exciting in our houshold because I became an Uncle for a second time – and had a wonderful video call with my second niece, who at the time was just one and a half hours old.
Even through a video call, we just wanted to reach out and have a cuddle, but of coruse we can’t. We’re in lockdown, and our niece is in Ireland, sadly it’s going to be some weeks before we are even able to begin conteplating the idea of a visit.
We heard the news of the pregancy on a video call, we saw the scan pictures by messenger, now we’ve seen her on video calls, but we’re stuck at a distance and can’t reach out our arms and hold her. We can’t feel her heartbeat, or feel hands wrap around our fingers. Yet.
One of the most familiar verses in the Bible is John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
Because of God’s love for the whole world, God was not satisfied with our feeling that he was at a distance from us – and so sent Jesus, to be close to us, and not just close to us, but to live as one of us, to experince human emotion and feeling and relationship.
Through Jesus coming to live with us on earth, God makes crystal clear that his heart is first and foremost for the world, and for us. God is interested in us. God wants us to believe in him, to experirence the fullness of life we can experience with him – now, and in eternity. God loves us, with depth and care.
The following verse in John 3 is perhaps a little less well known:
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
There’s sometimes a belief that God sits up at a distance from us, on a throne somewhere in the clouds, pointing his finger at us – but that’s just not the truth I find in the bible, and in my relationship with God.
God sent Jesus not to bring condemnation, not to point a finger, but to save the world – because God loves the world, and God’s heart is to love us too.
If you want to know more about God’s love for you, or have questions about God, church or faith, please get in touch on any of our media channels – we can’t promise to have all the answers, but we’ll listen, and we’ll try.
However you’re spending Christmas this year, I pray you have a safe, hope-filled and blessed one.
A wife posted her Christmas wish list on the fridge for her husband to see. Rather than a list of items of desire, she simply wrote, ‘something that will make me look beautiful’. When Christmas rolled around she expected to open a package with some fancy jewellery of clothing. Instead, she unexpectedly received an exercise bike.
Christmas this year is not what we would have expected back in January. Christmas has been interrupted. There’s things we can’t do. Places we won’t go. People we won’t see. We may feel frustrated, disappointed, hopes have been dashed, people are hurting.
2020 has been a year of change, restrictions and interruptions. And if you’re anything like me, I’m not a great fan of interruptions to my plans and routines.
We’re all marking Christmas differently this year in one way or another…
As we do, I wonder if living through an interrupted Christmas might help us see the Christmas story differently – and afresh for us.
Because the Christmas story itself is filled with interruptions. Christmas is an interruption.
Mary’s day in interrupted when an angel appears before her and says she will have a child. How does Mary respond? Does she head out stockpiling loo rolls and pasta? No, she said ‘I am the Lord’s servant, let it be’.
The whole land was interrupted with a census called by a foreign dictator that sent everyone back to their hometowns – their own lockdown – so to speak…what do mary and Joseph do? Do they head to Barnards castle for an eye test? No, they comply and head to Bethlehem.
When they get there there’s nowhere to go. Everywhere has already filled up, social distancing and the rule of 6 mean there’s no space for Joseph and a pregnant Mary…they find some shelter…
And then, the biggest interruption of them all, A baby is born. Immanuel, God with us.
A baby that is God, and is human, and turns everything upside down. Who enters the mess of the world and be with us in our pain. A gift that challenges injustice. A gift that is full of forgiveness. A gift that shows the world true love. Because God became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14)
Shepherds on the hillside watch their sheep – their night interrupted with light and the songs of angels…
Townsfolk’s sleep interrupted as shepherds run through the town praising God…
Magi’s studies are interrupted by the appearance of an unusual light…
Herod’s confidence interrupted by unexpected news a new king had been born….
All because God interrupted the world and interrupted the status quo, through a vulnerable babe in a manger.
This Christmas, may the worldly interruptions we face be insignificant to the kingdom interruption that Christmas is all about. A holy interruption.
Love is with us, Hope is with us. God is with us. Immanuel.
May your life be interrupted by Christmas – God with us.
Looking back on the interruption of 2020, and the interruption that the season on Advent encourages us to look towards.
What has given you peace this year? What is giving you peace today? Comment below, I’d love to hear your experiences.
Lydia, my youngest daughter, is 4 and an early riser – it’s unusual if she wakes up after 6am, usually, around 5:30 in the morning we’re awoke to Lydia coming into our bedroom asking ‘is it morning’, ‘can I have a cuddle’, ‘can you help me put my tights on’, or ‘wake up’!
Louise, my wife and I often respond with something of a grunt, a groan, or a go and play in your bedroom, but Lydia has none of it, she’s wide awake and she wants our attention.
During Advent, Christians often read some of the story of John the Baptist, an older cousin of Jesus who was himself called by God to tell people of the coming one, who would bring signs of the kingdom of God.
Right at the beginning of Marks gospel we read some words that we also find in the Old Testament – which point to John the Baptist as a messenger preparing the way for the Lord – the coming one.
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”
The message at the start of Mark’s gospel is – ‘wake up – make space for the coming one!’ Pay attention to the signs of the coming kingdom.
The use of the words that are also in the Old Testament make a link with the words we find there. Some of them come from Isaiah 40, which is a chapter that begins with the words:
Comfort, O comfort my people, says God.
They are reassuring words, because they remind us that God cares for us, loves us and wants to comfort us. That in making space for God in our lives, the turmoil of life is interrupted by the coming one who came to bring peace to the world.
There’s a myth that God is sat on a golden throne looking down on use little humans wagging his finger in judgement, saying we are awful people who deserve to be punished. There’s even been Christian leaders suggesting that COVID-19 is God’s punishment on us. That’s codswallop.
God doesn’t sit on high, at a distance, judging us. God is among us and with us.
God knows the mess that the world is in, knows we, the human beings God made, are not always the best at looking after the world and one another.
But God knows we try our best and doesn’t focus all effort on punishing us. God loves us and wants our living together to be interrupted by peace, that we might live in peace with one another.
We’ve seen that interruption this year as we sacrifice our own wants and desires, to limit our activity and care for one another through pandemic.
Christmas reminds us that God came to live among us and show us signs of the kingdom of God now. One day Jesus will return and establish an even greater kingdom where all is well, and filled with peace.
But as we journey towards Christmas and hear the message wake up, make space for the coming one – we discover that the coming one, Jesus, has come to make God’s love and care for us more real for us today. The kingdom is now.
So while we know the world isn’t perfect, We know we’re not perfect – perfection isn’t want God is asking of us right now. What God is asking of us is to wake up and be open to be interrupted with peace, to let God’s peace flow into our lives, and flow out into our relationships with one another.
May your life be interrupted… by peace.
All shall be well in his kingdom of peace; freedom shall flourish and wisdom increase; justice and truth from his sceptre shall spring; wrong shall be ended when Jesus is King:
Sing we the King who is coming to reign, verse 2, by Charles Silvester Horne
In this advent season, waiting & watching, Known & unknown, Certainty & uncertainty, Hopeful & hopeless, Stability & instability, in the now & yet to be, We pray for peace & love, Grace & wisdom, Justice & hope, For all those who make decisions now, which impact what will be.
Originally written on 12th December 2018, in light of the Brexit ‘meaningful vote’