Readings, prayers and reflections are available below.
SECOND SUNDAY BEFORE LENT 07 FEBRUARY 2021
Today's Sermon is available as an audio recording here. Press play to start.
Almighty God you have created the heavens and the earth and made us in your own image: teach us to discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
Colossians 1:15-20, John 1:1-14.
Confident in the love that sustains what love has created help us to do your will in all things.
As we give thanks for the beauty of the natural world we pray that it will not be lost through human greed and folly.
Comfort those who are weighed down by worry about food and clothing, lack of work and homes. Help and inspire all who work for the relief of poverty.
We pray for the sick and all who care for them. We pray especially for Mary Maxwell and Paul Evans.
May the dead find peace in the kingdom where there is no fear or anxiety.
I believe that it’s the third time since Christmas that we’ve had the opening of St John’s Gospel as our main reading. That’s not a complaint, because we can never hear too frequently that majestic passage, In the beginning was the Word, and it provides material for meditation throughout one’s life. Today, though, it’s linked with two other readings, one from the Old Testament Book of Proverbs, and the other from St Paul’s letter to the Colossians, and there’s a common theme running through them - the theme of creation.
The teaching that everything which exists does so because God has created it is the very first lesson we learn from the Bible in the book Genesis, and St John clearly wants to connect what he’s saying with Genesis, because he opens with the same words, In the beginning. The Book of Proverbs and St Paul also emphasise the origin of everything with God.
Now, what is there in these passages which we need to hear at present? Perhaps we can let them remind us that in times of difficulty, tension and uncertainty like these it can be helpful if we go back to basics and reflect on some fundamental matters.
For example, we say almost without thinking that everything around us exists; but do we stop and let the awareness dawn in us of the extraordinary fact that things do exist? It’s an old question, why is there something rather than nothing? Actually, we can’t imagine nothing – the nearest we can come to it is to picture empty space, which is not the same thing.
By simply pondering the astonishing fact that things exist, including ourselves, we become open to the possibility of experiencing wonder at everything and everyone surrounding us. And this is extremely important today, because our culture has become a dismissive one, a culture which likes to diminish the wonder of things. I encountered an example of that years ago when I overheard a young boy, visiting a church with his parents, saying, “it’s feels nice in here.” His mother immediately snapped back, “you don’t want to let yourself be had by atmosphere”. With those contemptuous words, she possibly did untold damage to that boy’s sense of wonder
How many times do we hear someone saying, “it’s only …“ this or that. Yet nothing and no-one should be treated with the disrespect of the word “only”. Our ability to marvel at existence is fundamental to our human nature, and if it becomes shrivelled by the superficial materialism which surrounds us, then we lose not only a vital part of who we are, we also lose a basic pointer to the glory of God, the glory we glimpse through the plain fact that things exist.
But our readings today add something to this. They make clear that what exists is wonderful because God is active and moving in it at every point. St John makes the extraordinary statement that the Word was made flesh. The Word is our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God’s word spoken directly to us, God speaking in the human terms we can understand.
St Paul says that the human body of Jesus during his earthly life shows us that from the start God intended to be active amid material things.
Now if you’re saying that this is pretty mind boggling, you’re quite right. Passages like this are not meant to be picked apart in analysis. We need to read them, possibly aloud, and to let them sink into us. At some point, we will have a glimpse of what they are pointing to, but only a glimpse, because we’re dealing with what goes beyond ordinary definition.
But one thing more must be said. If looking at everything around us can lead us to wonder at the creative work of God, we should not forget to include ourselves in that picture. Extraordinary though it may seem, if Jesus is God’s word spoken to us, then in another way, each one of us is a word spoken by God to the world. The fact that we exist is wonderful enough in itself, but in addition each of us reveals something of the endless creative power of God. We are each of us unique, so we can show something of the creative imagination of God which can be shown by nobody else. We can damage that image of God in us, we can overlay it with grime, we can distort it; but every one of us is made to be a revelation of God.
Most of us will say that we don’t feel much like divine revelations, but the initiative doesn’t lie with us. We speak of God by the fact that we exist at all. Our work is to try to keep that image of God in us free from disfigurement.
This may seem rather high-flown, but it’s important that we listen to what the scriptures tell us about creation and about ourselves. We must keep alive our sense of wonder. That way, we learn that nothing and nobody is without value. They and we are all channels through which the light of God can be seen in the world, at least by those who have not closed themselves against the possibility of seeing it.
That is what St John is pointing to when he says that Christ, God with us, gives us power to become children of God, who are born not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. We are here because God wishes it and rejoices in us as His work. What more dignity, could we want? And what greater challenge?