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Sunday 17th December 2017 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Third Sunday of Advent followed by Coffee Hour
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15th January 2017 – Second Sunday of Epiphany – Jack Noonan

Sermon (Click Link to Listen)

Bible Readings: Isaiah 49. 1-7; Psalm 40. 1-11; John 1. 29-42

Focus Scripture: John 1. 29-42

A few days ago, as I sat down to draft this sermon, it struck me that today is the third time, in 2017, that we meet as a congregation. I wondered why such an unusual observation should strike me. For within the Judaeo- Christian tradition this number has significance.

In Judaism the number 3 signifies completeness and stability.

Judaism, in common with Christianity also associates the number three with divine perfection.

For Christians the number 3 is most associated with the mystery of the Divine Godhead …The Holy Trinity; that dynamic ,creative Love relationship, by which the One God expresses Himself through the three distinct Persons : Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

  • It was on the 3rd day of creation that the earth rose from the water

  • We have 3 founding patriarchs in the Faith; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

  • The Seraphim’s adores God as thrice holy…singing; Holy, Holy, Holy.

  • There are 3 great Pilgrimage Festivals to Jerusalem which were observed by Jesus and His disciples: Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.

  • Jesus raised 3 persons from the dead.

  • On the Mount of Transfiguration were Elijah, Jesus and Moses The event was witnessed by the 3 apostles Peter, James and John.

  • The crucifixion of Jesus was on the 3rd hour.

  • His suffered on the cross for 3 hours

  • His resurrection on the 3rd day.

  • Jesus holds 3 great offices; Prophet, Priest and King.

And we, His creation are tripartite also….being composed of body, soul and spirit. Our capabilities are also threefold expressed in…. thoughts, words and deeds.

What might this underlying design feature be pointing at? ’’ I suspect the clue and answer may rest in the phrase: ‘as in heaven so on earth.

Part 2

So now, on this auspicious 3rd Sunday in 2017, as we turn to the hope in our Gospel reading, may we sense The Holy Spirit witnessing 3 things to our spirit:

That we are presently in a

  • Time of Grace,

  • Time of Forgiveness and

  • Time of Blessing…Amen.

As we enter our third week…Jesus, in our gospel reading has already entered the first week of His public ministry.

By way of context, a few verses earlier in this, the opening chapter of John’s gospel, we are introduced to the great mystery of the pre cosmic existence of Jesus, the Living Word of God:

‘’He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God .All things came into being through Him..

He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him…

To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.’’

It is well to pause a moment here and consider the major spiritual fact stated in what I just read.

He/Jesus gave(us) power to become children of God.

We are believers not because:

‘’ of the will of the flesh… or of the will of man…, but of God.’’

There is great assurance in that knowledge.

For Christian living is not always plain sailing….. there are times when we are frail believers, anxious believers, vulnerable believers, and even unbelieving believers.

It may surprise us to know that this occurs primarily, when we unconsciously believe lies. Lies about ourselves and lies about God.

Lies we often absorb growing up in a damaged world, among fallible people.

I am no good’……………………’ I was always stupid’’…..’ I never have luck’….‘’God could never love me’’…’’ God will never forgive me’….’

These are paralyzing lies.

The anti-dote to… and the basis for this stinking thinking ….rests in our failure to grasp and sink into our heads that God’s love for us is unconditional… not earned…it is free, gratis and for nothing. We all qualify for it ….just openly and honestly ask for it.

So this is the year ….. in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, let us identify, dismantle, and disempower lies that we have untinkingly believed to be true.

This year of Grace let us reclaim the power we unwittingly leased to the enemy, and renew our hearts and minds in the knowledge and power of Christ. Remembering:

To all who received Him (Jesus), who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood… or of the will of the flesh…. or of the will of man,…. but of God.’’

We are the children of the Almighty God… a Loving Father… Jesus, is our Divine Physician enabling 2017 to be the year of our spiritual makeover… The year we tell the lying deceiver, to pack up his tissue of lies, and go to hell.

‘’(For) in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him (Jesus) who loved us.’’

Part 3

John the Baptist sees Jesus coming towards him and spontaneously calls out to those around:

‘’See! The Lamb of God who is taking away the sin of the world!’’

This title ‘Lamb of God’ reverberates with deep associations among the Israelites who hear him.

1. It echoes the story of the Passover lamb whose sprinkled blood saved from death all those who came under its protection… the night before the exodus from Egypt.

2. John, the son of a priest who officiated,at times, in the Temple…knew all about sacrificial lambs. Jesus, the Lamb of God would be more efficacious than all the lambs sacrificed for the sin of the people….whereas Jesus’ sacrifice would deliver people from sin itself

3. The title , Lamb of God, also evoked in Israelites the image of the horned lamb. That horned lamb is not of the meek and mild variety, but represented the conquering champion of God. The King’s champion, like David’s was Saul’s in relation to Goliath. Champions fought in single combat.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, was also the champion of God who would fight, in single combat with sin, and triumph.

John’s disciples also heard that Jesus is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit and is the Son of God.

For John’s ultimate function will be to point, to direct his followers to Christ.

John never claimed fame or greatness. He drew back the veil so Jesus and Jesus alone would be the focus of attention.

And that is what we must be.

As we grow into Jesus, we, like John, must point Him out to others and discretely step aside so that on encountering Jesus and a seeking soul may blossom.

We see this very clearly in the latter half of our reading. Three men are standing and talking. The Baptist and two of his disciple. John points beyond himself directing his disciples’ attention to Jesus. He effectively invites them to leave him; to transfer their loyalty to a greater teacher. John was relegating himself to second division. He knows that the beginning of the end of his ministry has started.

At a respectful distance, the two disciples now follow Jesus…

And Jesus, does something utterly characteristic of His Father. He turns…. and in speaking to them reaches out to them.

In that flicker-moment we see divine initiative in action. God, again is more than willing to meet us more than half way.

Think back on….when our uneasy hearts began to seek and search, like the prodigal son; our Father ,in love, sought us and secured our well-being.

Paradoxically our starting to search for God is an indication that God has already found us.

Jesus asks the two disciples directly: What are you looking for?

How might you and I answer that?

Their answer: ‘Where are you staying? ‘always struck me as sort of rude. But, like all things with Holy Scripture, if it doesn’t make sense…. We need to rummage more.

These disciples are serious minded Jews, not spiritual fad tourists.

They were not looking for casual road side chat.

They had heard a lot from John. They had questions to ask. They wanted quality time with Him. Eternal matters are no trivial matter.

Jesus replies in classically rabbinic style. His answer is really a challenge: ‘Come and see.’

This answer, I now know, is very Jewish….. it is really saying:

“Do you want to know the answer to this question?

Do you want to know the solution to this problem?

Come and see, and we will think about it together.”

When Jesus said: “Come and see!” he was inviting them, not only to come and talk, but to come and find the things that He alone would open up to them.

The time the three spent together bore fruit. The next meeting Andrew introduces his brother Simon.

Who knows what a day brings? Simon certainly didn’t.

Jesus looked at Simon. But the verb ‘to look’ is not precise enough. The Greek verb indicates a concentrated, intent gaze. This gaze of Jesus journeyed to the recesses of Simon’s heart.

Having looked intently, Jesus renames Simon, calling him Cephas(Peter/Rock) Remember, in this culture, names speak of character and nature.

Be careful with prayer. The knack is to spot the answer. Be careful when you hear the voice of Jesus say;

What do you want?

For He sees us not only as we are, but as we can be.

He sees in us the seeds of wonderment that only Divine Love can germinate. Just look at the subsequent lives of the Baptist and those first 3 apostles.

In love Jesus calls us out of ourselves to become more ourselves.

He renews and regenerates what has been damaged, stolen or killed in us; for with His Death, He’s already paid for all our repair work.


For the final section dealing with John’s Gospel I am greatly indebted to W. Barclay’s wonderful Daily Study Bible (NT)