In discussing our draft vision and strategic directions, a few people have asked: Why the emphasis on new life in Jesus and renewal? In response, I’ve pointed to biblical verses such as 2 Cor. 5:17
‘If anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come!’ or the Bible’s ultimate vision for our future of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev. 21:1; 2 Pt. 3:13) and Jesus’ words, ‘I will make all things new’ (Rev. 21:5). In addition, the Bible has a recurring theme of ‘newness of life’ in Christ (Rom. 6:4), with Jesus bringing new birth (John 3:3-7), a new covenant (Matt. 26:28), new hearts (Ezek. 36:36), being the new Adam (Rom. 5) and forming a new Israel (Gal. 6:15-16; 2 Pt. 2) and a new temple (1 Cor. 3:16).
This is not about discarding the old, but of transforming and renewing hearts and lives to become more like the resurrected Jesus.
Creating a Mission Action Plan is an act of stewarding the unique resources and time we have as we enter a new moment in history. Yes, our faith is ancient. It is critical that we constantly seek Jesus’ original message as we read Scripture in the power of the Spirit. Yet we cannot return to the 20th century or a time before the Internet or Coronavirus. Tomorrow will never be repeated! As God’s stewards in this unique time and place, we must go beyond preserving the past, seeking genuine renewal for the new moments and opportunities for inviting people to experience and share new life in Jesus.
There’s a sense of excitement as we approach Christmas but also weariness with the extra activities, concerts, parties and shopping now that restrictions have lifted. For some, life seems to be an uphill battle due to overwhelming demands, fear, grief or isolation.
Today’s advent theme of Joy is more than a happy feeling. It’s a lasting attitude that God’s people adopt, not because of happy circumstances, but because of their hope in God’s love and promise. Amidst our worries and weariness, we can rejoice in the Lord because we are anticipating Jesus’ return and the removal of all fear and loss. The gift of God’s Spirit is a sign of Jesus’ ongoing presence inspiring hope, love and joy in the darkest of moments.
Micah 5:1-6 was written when God’s people had drifted far away from God’s best, with even the kings and priests unable to bring them back. But Micah announced that from Bethlehem a leader would come who would shepherd God’s people back in the strength and majesty of God. On this third Sunday of Advent we anticipate Jesus’ coming and are invited to return to Him, the Good Shepherd who alone can restore our joy, love and peace.
What are you anticipating and trusting that fills you with joy?
Biblical hope involves expectant waiting based on God’s unchanging character and promises. Biblical hope is superior to optimism because it endures even in the most difficult of circumstances. It involves looking back at God’s past faithfulness to motivate hope for the future. You look forward by looking backward, trusting in who God is, what he has done, and what he promises.
After quoting Isaiah 11:10 about the Root of Jesse rising up as a banner for all nations, the apostle Paul writes, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ - Romans 15:13
Because God is the only lasting source of hope, he will also bring joy and peace to our hearts when we increasingly place our hope in him. By the power of the Spirit, we can then overflow with hope as we choose to cultivate this habit of expectant trust based on God’s character and faithfulness.
In Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we have a ‘living hope’ allowing us to live as new people because the empty tomb opens up a new door of hope. Christian hope is boldly waiting for God to bring about his future based on his character and promises, looking to the crucified and risen Jesus and anticipating his return and renewal of all things.
As we approach Christmas, what are you hoping for and what is the basis for your hope?
In one parish the girls in the youth group told me that 1 Corinthians 13 was their school reading. In another parish and referring to a different school the girls in the youth group told me that 1 Corinthians 13 was their school scripture reading. Today I wonder if our schools have selected scripture readings as they seek to be all things to all people, but is that the cynic in me talking?
In 1 Corinthians 13 the author, Paul, introduces the theme of love just at the right time, after being critical of the local church. Love can mean so many different things. Some people here might remember the free love movement of the 1960’s. Was that about love or about breaking down moral standards of behaviour?
The church in Corinth had wandered from Christian standards. There were factions, the misuse of Christian liberty and an abuse of spiritual gifts. Paul had been correcting the Corinthians, but then decides to offer a positive model of how the church should exist, which was quite a contrast to their model.
Have you heard that the Greek language had more than one word for love? There was eros, which was the love of deep desire and sensuous longing. You won’t find this word in the Bible, but in The Song of Solomon we read of erotic love. The word storge is the love that exists between members of a family. Again, this is not found in the New Testament, but the opposite astorge is in Romans and elsewhere. The two forms of love that we are familiar with from the scriptures is philia and agape. Philia is brotherly love or the deep love of friendship. An example is “love one another with mutual affection” Ro 12.10 Agape love is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. It is the love expressed towards us through Jesus. It implies loving when there is nothing worthy to evoke love. This is the word Paul used in chapter 13 of his first letter.
So, when we think of love as romantic and that 1 Corinthians 13 is appropriate for weddings please note that the original intention was referring to a very different love.
The final verse is “And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” And Margie likes to remind me that in heaven only love will exist, because the other two will have been fulfilled.
All Souls Sandringham