Galatians 5.1-25: The Christian idea of freedom

Galatians 5.1,13-25
Verse 1: For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery Verse 13: For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters
Paul is getting passionate here – because it is about the very heart of the gospel.
He is writing to people he loves, people who have heard his message, who have come to believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God, who have put their trust in him and who have received forgiveness and acceptance, who have become part of God’s family, and received the Holy Spirit – all as a gift. They realise that there is nothing that they have done to deserve it or earn it, but that it is a gift that God has freely given them.
But now teachers are coming and are telling them that they are not proper Christians. They are telling them that if they want to be proper Christians then they must follow certain rules: the most dramatic of which is that they (or at least the men) must be circumcised.
And Paul…

Understanding the Trinity

John 16:12-15

If you visit the Tretyakov Gallery and go downstairs to the icon section, you will discover this icon.
It is Rublev’s icon of the Trinity and is one of the great gifts that Russian spirituality has given to the Christian world.
It depicts an Old Testament event. Abraham, the great ancestor of the Jewish people, has settled by the oak of Mamre (Genesis 18:1-15). You can see the tree here in the centre of the image. Three travellers are walking through the desert. Abraham, as was customary at the time, invites them to stop and rest, and provides them with food. So here you have Abraham’s house and the desert, and the three visitors, seated around a meal of lamb. Those who have investigated the original can make out the image of a lamb in the cup. After they have eaten, the guests tell Abraham that even though Sarah his wife is over 90, she will have the son that God promised them. And Abraham realises that he has entertained not just three travellers, but the Lord God himse…

Acts 2:1-4 The fire of the Holy Spirit

Acts 2.1-4
I was very struck, when I pointed to that banner and asked someone what is was about, that the answer they gave me was, 'hell'.
Fire can represent the absence of God: hell and destruction. Sodom and Gomorrah are two cities in the Old Testament, where people had rejected God and there was serial violence and abuse, and they are destroyed by fire (Genesis 3:24) Jesus speaks of the ‘eternal fire’ of hell (Matthew 18:8); Revelation speaks of the second death being a lake of fire, into which even death and hades are thrown (Revelation 20:14) And we may be familiar with those images of hell: of Dante’s inferno (although interestingly, the deepest pit of hell is not fire, but ice - the absence even of heat), Hieronymus Bosch’s nightmares, and the icons of the last judgement.
But fire is also about the presence of God God appears to Moses in a burning bush (Exodus 3:2) God leads the people of Israel, at night, by a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21) Malachi speaks of the comin…

What Christians have in common.

Ezekiel 36.24-28

Great to be together at this joint service
God has a restoration programme! Not a building – more personal and more cosmic. He wishes to restore humanity – so that we become the people who he made us to be - and, through us, restore creation so that creation is as it was supposed to be.
God is in the business of making a new people.
That is what Ezekiel 36.24-28 is all about
1.He gathers us.
God speaks through Ezekiel to his people and says ‘I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land’ (v24) He is speaking to Israel, to his people in the Old Testament. They have been scattered. They had been exiled to the North and East, Babylon, and to the South and West, Egypt. And this verse was fulfilled when the Jews returned from exile to the land of Israel.
But that was just a small preview, a taster, of what God is going to do. When he sends Jesus, his unique and only Son, into the world, God does a new and ama…

How can I love you?

John 13.31-35
‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another' (John 13.34)

I don’t know where to start.
There is so much that could be said about this, and so many questions
1.In what way is this a new commandment? After all, the great command in the Old Testament is that we are to love God, and that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves (in other words as if he or she was one of us) 2.And why does Jesus command us here just to love one another? He is speaking to his followers, to his disciples. Why does he not simply say that we are to love all people, whether they are Christians or not? But there are other places where he does command us to love all people, because God loves all people. Some of you will know the story of the Good Samaritan. But here Jesus tells his followers that their love is to begin with love for one another. 3.And how can you command someone to love? Jesus says that we are to love one another. He does not say that we are to serve one another. I…

The gift of peace which overcomes fear

John 20.19-31
Jesus gives peace to people who are afraid
The disciples are in a house with a door that is locked because they are afraid of the authorities.
That is what fear does. It locks us in

We are so often paralysed by fear: by fear of other people, by fear of being shamed, by fear of failure, by fear of condemnation, by fear of losing something or someone that has become so precious to us that it is part of us, by fear of being hurt or pain, by fear of death.
It is because of the fear of being rejected that we do not invite someone out for even something as simple as a coffee or a drink It is because of the fear of humiliation that we are not prepared to share our weaknesses and vulnerabilities It is because of the fear of the consequences that we do not do what is right. Many years ago I was going into one of the churches where I served, when I noticed two young men go up to an older drunk man who regularly used to sit on a bench in the park in which the church was situated.…