Sunday  7th February- 2nd Sunday before Lent 


The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.

Collect

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,
who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things,
now and for ever.

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First Reading

Colossians 1.15-20

Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him.  He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

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 Gospel

John 1.1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.  He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  But 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.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

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 Post Communion Prayer

God our creator,
by your gift
the tree of life was set at the heart of the earthly paradise,
and the bread of life at the heart of your Church:
may we who have been nourished at your table on earth
be transformed by the glory of the Saviour’s cross
and enjoy the delights of eternity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Sermon

Colossians 1:15-20

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts, be always acceptable in your sight, our Lord and Redeemer. Amen.

If you’re anything like me, you may have a love/hate relationship with social media.  I mainly use it for staying in touch with family and friends and it can be a great source of encouragement, love and laughter.  This morning, we are livestreaming the service on Facebook, enabling you to join us for church, even though we are in lockdown and unable to be with each other in person.  That is all good.

However, we have also seen the rise of real ugliness on social media and the negative side of human nature, with people sending threats and using propaganda to further hate and evil.  There is good and evil in the world and we can choose to allow ourselves to give in to the hateful narrow mindedness of others, both in reality or on social media, or to be consistent with the message of love and grace that Jesus calls us to.

The good side of social media often has me laughing and even crying with joy or at the wonder of God’s creation, as well as being sad when life is tough.  I am also reminded to think about my Saviour, Jesus Christ, as I see posts that glorify God.  I came across this post recently.  It simply read:

Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about discovering who God created you to be. (repeat)

Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about discovering who God created you to be.

These fourteen words cut to the heart of both our Gospel and Epistle readings this morning.

We know the first few verses of John’s Gospel so well.   “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. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

It introduces Christ through this awesome litany of who he has been, who he is now, who he will be, and all framed around the grace, love and light of God.  John describes Jesus as being the true light that brings light to everyone.  How wonderful!

When we look at our passage from Colossians this morning, we find a wonderful description of God. In verse 15, Paul says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation”.  People sometimes ask the question, ‘how do you know what God is like?’.  Here Paul tells us – Jesus is the image of God.  If we want to know what God is like, we look at Jesus – described by John as the light of the world and described by Paul as the image of God.

While Paul’s words were directed toward the Colossians, we also know that they were recorded so that all generations, including this one, would know who God is and how incredible he is.

Whilst we live in a world shrouded in many places by darkness and despair, we are reminded today of where we should be placing our hope, not on the things of the world, those things which are inevitably going to let us down and disappoint us, but rather on the one who never disappoints, Jesus.

It is not always easy to be a Christian. Human beings are capable of great love, but equally we can display great hate, because our passions run deep into who we are as a race. We know our words can heal or harm, as can our actions.

Our ability to learn, grow and develop has allowed us to fight disease, most recently against COVID-19 and the development of a vaccine, we have developed our wisdom to allow us to reach for the stars, but equally, we harnessed the atom and developed Nuclear weapons.

I used to work for the SPCA Horse Care Unit in Cape Town, South Africa, where I witnessed horrific abuse of equines and other animals.  One day I was off duty and driving behind a cart horse that was being beaten.  I couldn’t stop, as I was alone and in a dangerous area, but I remember crying out to God, sobbing and asking him how these people could be made in his image.  How could human beings that were capable of such cruelty, be made in the image of God?

We constantly sit in the middle of dark and light, and whilst the dark cannot overcome the light, the struggle is real for us all. God gave us free will so we can choose to follow him and strive to live like him, or we can choose to reject him and collude with a world that is so often full of evil.

We long for peace, prosperity and equality for all in this world, for an end to discrimination and abuse in all forms and all unconscious bias.

Light and dark, hope and hopelessness, we often find ourselves torn between the two, between heaven and earth.

Paul’s words remind us exactly who Christ is, not only the first in all creation, but the one who holds dominion over it all, whether natural or supernatural.

But more than that, Paul reminds us that Christ is the head of the church, the body of men and women through the ages, who have received salvation through his demonstration of pure love and grace upon the cross. That act which only he could perform to bring us into full relationship with God.

As I wrestled with the good and evil that humans are capable of, God taught me a valuable lesson when I was working with those horses.

There was a particularly despicable man who beat his horses mercilessly and not only his horses, he abused his wife and children, alcohol and anything or anyone who got in his way.  I had confiscated numerous horses from him and had his 5th one at the horse care unit.  He came with his wife to try and get his horse back.  The more I explained that he had ruined the horse and could not have it back, showing him x-rays and other evidence, he became more and more abusive towards me.  After a while, out of shear desperation, I yelled at him and asked him if he had ever heard of Jesus Christ.  He shouted back that yes, he had heard of Jesus Christ.  I told him that Jesus loved him and that I did too and that the reason I had his horses was because it was my job to keep them safe from people like him.  It took the wind out of his sails and he left.  Several months later, I had a phone call from a friend who asked me if I had heard what had happened to this man.  He had become a born again Christian and was now going around telling people to stop abusing their horses, wives and children, to stop drinking and smoking.  I was overjoyed and moved to tears.

Here was a man who I had considered scum of the earth (I am ashamed to admit that, but I did think that) and this man had become a Christian.  God showed me in that moment, that nobody is beyond redemption.  Jesus can reach any heart, no matter how damaged or bad.  The simple words, Jesus loves you, can be life transforming.  I will never know whether it was my words that helped that man to give his life to Jesus.  There were no doubt others along the way who were instrumental in his salvation too.  Sadly, he and his horse were killed in an accident a few months after that and I felt genuine sadness, but I also had a deep sense of joy, that this man who once was totally lost, was now with his heavenly Father and one day I may see him in heaven.  There is nobody else who can transform hearts like this.  It is only the Lord Jesus.

Verse 19 of our Colossians passage reads, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”  God sent Jesus, who was fully human and fully God, to bring us to a new understanding of who God is.

Jesus showed us through his life, death and resurrection, the true nature of God.  God loves us so much that he sent his only Son to live and die and rise again for us, so that we could be reconciled to him.  When God created Adam and Eve, they had an intimate relationship with him.  They walked in the garden together and talked to each other.  After they sinned, that intimate relationship was destroyed, and humans were separated from God.  That separation ended with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Through his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered death and restored us to a relationship with God, if we are willing to give him our whole life, living in a way that is pleasing to God, that honours him and brings him glory.  That includes what we put on social media.

We are now just 10 days away from Lent and the forty days of temptation that Christ endured in the wilderness. We will walk the path with him, and if we give ourselves the chance, the opportunity to learn from him as to how he dealt with those who tried to  take him off the path that had been laid out for him by God the Father.

For nearly a year now, our lives have been lived in a way which has been alien to us, it has forced us to change, adapt, and possibly in some ways lose focus.

As we prepare to begin our journey to the cross of death and ultimately salvation, the church has always set this upcoming time aside as a time of deeper study and contemplation. In a year where there has been real and physical danger, and a time when many have been affected by loss in so, so many ways, I am reminded again of the phrase I quoted earlier:

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about discovering who God created you to be.”

As we prepare for Lent over the next 10 days, let us ask God to show us who he has created us to be, the unique purpose for which he has created each of us.

Let us pray

Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for coming to earth, to be the light of the world, showing us how to be more complete as human beings.  May we seek you more earnestly as we prepare to journey with you towards the cross and may we be ever transformed by your love and grace.  Amen.