Monthly Archives: May 2023

The Light of Christ and Our Light

Matthew (5:13-20)

Last week we heard of old Simeon in the temple holding the infant Jesus in his arms and rejoicing that He was to the light to the Gentiles and the glory of “thy people” Israel. 

Our gospel reading today continues that double theme of light and glory of Israel and its past laws and prophetic tradition. 

Jesus says to His disciples:

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

17Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.

Jesus is the fulfilment of that past and He is the New light, and that light is to be seen in His followers too. 

I want to start with the second of those themes because Light in the disciples of Jesus is related to it.

17Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.

Jesus had a radical approach to the Laws of Moses and the various traditions that had flowed from it and sometimes He was accused by His Pharisee critics of going against the laws and traditions of Israel.  They had added lots of traditions of their own interpretation of the Old Laws and it was often these rather than the Law that Jesus seemed to set aside. 

We need to understand there were lots of Laws of Moses and later traditions to cover every aspect of the life of the people of Israel:

Laws of bodily functions, sickness and purification to be fit come into God’s presence

Laws related to the Sabbath and special festivals

Laws relating to family life and relations with others

Laws relating to crimes related punishments

Laws relating to treatment of slaves and “strangers” in the land

Laws relating to looking after the land and the livestock

Laws relating to offerings of thanksgiving 

Laws relating to “sin offerings” because of offences against God or neighbours 

The list goes on.. (you get the picture!) 

On another occasion answering questions Jesus simply quotes two laws that He says sum up what all the others laws of Moses are about…. 

The First- to Love God with your whole being

The Second – to love your neighbour so much that you desire as much good for them as you would want goodness done to you. 

This was what the whole of the Laws tried to do with its multiple regulations and obligations. 

In these two laws we see …

The vertical dimension- lTo direct our minds and lives to God who comes to us , 

and the horizontal dimension of our obligations of love and care to people and all the world around us. 

The gospels show that whole of Jesus own life and ministry displayed that double commitment 

and when He appeared to break laws He was often fulfilling the true essence of the Law in these two ways, even if not in exact detail for every law that existed that the Pharisees insisted on. 

Jesus also talks about the fact that the prophets of the past in their messages to Israel really point to Himself and in His life was fulfilling so many of God’s promises to Israel to be extended to the Gentile world as part of His mission to the whole world. 

His words and actions always raised up the poor and weak but troubled the proud and uncaring just like the prophets of old had.

Jesus was always the great Prophet and Finality of all the Prophets. 

In what Jesus said and did He is God’s Final Word to Israel and indeed also the Final and most important Word and revelation rest of the world, and no one can ever be greater than Him. 

Jesus is superior to very philosophy and religion. It was indeed all this that makes Jesus the Light for all the nations, to draw all things together in Himself and bring a universal unity with God. 

Our Light is His light in Us. 

Jesus also said 

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

What is this light we have that is to shown to all? 

Well it is not our own light that comes from our weak efforts of living a good life. What we have is the Light that may grow within us and expresses Jesus and Hs eternal light and glory. 

Our being Light givers is related to Him as the One True Light for the world.

It is when we are involved in our self offering to Him, we are fulling that First Command to Love God with our whole being. As we pay attention to that we become bound up in the following the Second Commandment of loving our neighbours.

And that love is not just for those close to us and who we live with and like, but extend to all people across cultures and every boundary humans selfishly make. 

In Jesus we come to be the Light because we are engaged in His way of being  Light and Hope and way for the world. 

There has been recent news of continued declines in church attendance should make us even more aware of our individual calling to be the Light of Christ for our less believing society, to be the living examples of how our society can be better, and confront the forces of selfish ideologies

We will be the Light of Christ whenever we show His unlimited loving and self sacrifice for the good. 

We will be His Light when we act in honesty, and charity , when we care for people near and far, and stand for their dignity and rights.

We will be His light when we confront the wrongs of society in His name and all call politicians and those in power to account for their policies and actions. 

We will be His lIght when we care about our world and all its people and creatures. 

And strangely when we are engaged in it, people seeing it may come to know Christ and God for themselves.    


That you may believe…

Sermon on St Thomas and having faith

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (Reading: John 20:19-31)

Some years ago my wife and I went on an Aegean cruise visiting biblical sites. One of the places were stopped at was Ephesus, the –traditional place where the Apostle John is said to have settled, preached and lived with Mary the mother of Jesus. This also the place where it is said that John in his old age published the gospel written in his name. (Although some scholars think  others wrote it for him).  

The end relates to the beginning 

In our story today we see the disciples experiencing the joy of seeing Jesus alive after His horrific death. We read of Thomas missing out on first appearance and not believing what he is told by the others. But when he does see Jesus Thomas declares my Lord and my God” 

This is something new and a new revelationPreviously St Peter had declared You are the Messiah (Christ)”

Now –The disciples had finally come to see that Jesus was more than Israel’s promised Messiah and all of their experiences had led them to that understanding what John puts at the start of his gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 

We also read in the gospel story  Jesus recognised by the marks that even His newly risen body bares. He will carry those marks forever as sign of who He is- The Crucified Son of God whose suffering has been for the world

There is a verse from a well know hymn

Crown Him the Lord of Love:  Behold His hands and side;
Rich wounds yet visible above   In beauty glorified:
  No angel in the sky  Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye   At mysteries so bright.

The doubts of Thomas

Back to Thomas, who is often remembered from this story as “doubting Thomas”, but that is unfair. All the disciples apart from John seem to doubted Jesus resurrection until He appeared in the room with them. 

It may be that many people today have doubts about various parts of Christian creeds. I was confirmed at about 14 yrs old but had some serious doubts about a variety things in my late teens and early 20’s. 

I remain involved with the church choir  and so remained in the church and tried to sort them out by reading about the things that concerned me. 

My reading took me on a long intellectual journey that covered things like the reliability of the bible as source of revelation, the person of Jesus and the things written about Him. It is strangely the fruits of all that investigation that led me to be trained as a Reader when I was 28 and was licensed three years later in Sep 1988

What I can affirm

Despite many apparent discrepancies in the gospel accounts they paint a real picture of Jesus and His uniqueness and the presence of God in His nature, more important than any other person in history. 

The resurrection stories tell of something that really happened and experienced by the disciples that changed their lives and their whole outlook on the world. 

There really was an empty tomb and the body of Jesus was not just brought back to life it was radically transformed. 

This transformation that happened to Jesus points to God’s intention to transform and change everything in the universe and compensate for all the suffering and evil that takes place. 

The Resurrection is not just some symbol of some heavenly existence after our death, 

it can be a symbol of how our lives can be transformed by His love for us and the world even in the present, 

It is about a great future completing of all God’s intention and purpose that was started with universe 13.7 billion years ago. 

Post-script story

Some years ago Usha and I had a visit to Kerala (South India).  It is one of the most Christian states in India.

Among the many churches are the Mar-Thomist Orthodox Christians – dating back to the first churches long before European missionaries arrived. 

These churches trace their origins to the preaching of St Thomas coming to Indian AD 52. According to some accounts he was martyred, killed by spear in AD72.  the Feast of Saint Thomas on July 3 is celebrated as Indian Christians’ Day.

The name Thomas remains quite popular among the Saint Thomas Christians of the Indian subcontinent.

So Thomas is not Thomas the Doubter, but Thomas the brave and Apostle to India.