Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Can't make it to church - Sunday 4 February 2018

Well today gives just two weeks before Lent is upon us (2 before Lent) and it also a day full of Suffragettes and women's rights, emancipation and the like. So perhaps it's fitting that we start off with mention of the greatest and longest-serving female of all time: Wisdom (Sophia) – something we all seek and yet rarely listen to – resides with understanding.

She has both knowledge and good sense. Thus begins our Old testament reading which, having suitably armed us leads us to consider that wisdom has from the very beginning of creation been with us as a created thing. One of the challenges the early Church struggled with was the through that some also consider Jesus to be created; they reasoned that the created is less than the creator and so He must be inferior (subservient) to God the Creator. Not a good thought for those who tell me that Sophia is a member of the Godhead (not a popular thought for some as the centenary of women getting the vote falls on this day I guess).

But sexual politics aside (and that’s where I think they should remain) there is something quite special for us to consider in the fact that before the world was created God (the three persons) considered wisdom to be an essential element to have in place. Some have dialogued with me over the years to put forward their case that Wisdom created, or was a co-creator of, the physical world, but I don’t think this is the case. What we find in this Proverb is wisdom is an essential ingredient necessary for the order and stability of created world. Sadly, Adam and Eve missed out on using it in the garden and we’ve managed to largely ignore her ever since! Take a look at world history or noticed today’s world and the state it’s in with divisions, conflict, totally lunatic politicians and leaders and the like today?

God possesses Wisdom but she is not part of the Godhead, but is one who was, and is, commissioned by the Godhead.

So have started in a way that some will not find popular, let’s see if the New Testament can dig me out of the hole I’m potentially digging on this ‘Second Sunday before Lent” - and thankfully, the answer is a resounding 'Yes'! The Colossians reading tells us that Jesus is not only not created (phew - knew that of course, but many who speak of the Holy Spirit as an 'it' also speak of Jesus as if He was created and adopted rather than the creator).

The trinity is one substance with three individual, distinct and separate, natures and since God 'always was, is, and will be' it makes sense that He created everything - including wisdom - and that taking flesh He died, rose again and is the head of the Church. There's no doubt about anything in this reading and it not only gives us confidence to put our confidence in Jesus, the Christ, but provides a litmus test for the many religions out there with regard to their authenticity and Christian characteristics.

It seems to me that wisdom is found supporting, confirming and clearing the way for faith in the Trinity and in Jesus, the Saviour of the world is described in the Colossians passage. The cherry on the readings today finding its place in the John 1 passage (or Gospel reading) before us today.

Point one: In the beginning, the Word was already there.  Check.

Point two: The Word was with (The) God, and the Word was God.

Point three: Everything that was made was made through that self-same Word.

Point four: Jesus, the living Word of God is the light of the world and nothing can overcome His light (just like physically/optically speaking) darkness cannot over come light either.

Point five: The Word, who is fully god, became a human being and took upon Himself our sin, and died in our place, so we could be one with the Godhead with all that means.

Now these three passages combine together to create in us an understanding, and from that understand there comes a wisdom, and that wisdom calls us to embrace God's solution for all humankind: And this is Jesus the Christ and the cross and the resurrection power enacted in us through the Holy Spirit.

Now it is essential that we understand this because we are about embark upon a journey (called Lent) which will be (or at least it should be) self-examining and challenging and so the facts of today's readings are what will sustain us.

So, here's the 'two week warning' - get ready for a voyage of discovery, change and blessing. But never lose sight of the fact that this 'Christian' thing requires one to be different, honest, courageous and bold. People get ready - it's almost here!

The Collect
Almighty God, give us reverence for all creation and respect for every person, that we may mirror your likeness in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 8.1, 22-31
“I, wisdom, live together with understanding. I have knowledge and good sense.

“The Lord created me as the first of his works, before his acts of long ago.
I was formed a long, long time ago. I was formed at the very beginning, when the world was created. Before there were any oceans, I was born. It was before there were springs flowing with water. Before the mountains were settled in place, I was born. Before there were any hills, I was born. It happened before the Lord made the world and its fields.
It was before he made the dust of the earth. I was there when he set the heavens in place.
When he marked out the place where the sky meets the sea, I was there.
 That was when he put the clouds above. It was when he fixed the ocean springs in place.
It was when he set limits for the sea so that the waters had to obey his command.
When the Lord marked out the foundations of the earth, I was there.

I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day. I was always happy to be with him. His whole world filled me with joy. I took delight in all human beings."

Colossians 1.15-20
The Son is the exact likeness of God, who can’t be seen. The Son is first, and he is over all creation. All things were created in him. He created everything in heaven and on earth. He created everything that can be seen and everything that can’t be seen. He created kings, powers, rulers and authorities. All things have been created by him and for him. Before anything was created, he was already there. He holds everything together. And he is the head of the body, which is the church. He is the beginning. He is the first to be raised from the dead. That happened so that he would be far above everything. God was pleased to have his whole nature living in Christ. God was pleased to bring all things back to himself. That’s because of what Christ has done. These things include everything on earth and in heaven. God made peace through Christ’s blood, by his death on the cross.

John 1.1-14
In the beginning, the Word was already there. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through him. Nothing that has been made was made without him. Life was in him, and that life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness. But the darkness has not overcome the light.

There was a man sent from God. His name was John. He came to be a witness about that light. He was a witness so that all people might believe. John himself was not the light. He came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. The Word was in the world. And the world was made through him. But the world did not recognize him. He came to what was his own. But his own people did not accept him. Some people did accept him and did believe in his name. He gave them the right to become children of God. To be a child of God has nothing to do with human parents. Children of God are not born because of human choice or because a husband wants them to be born. They are born because of what God does.

The Word became a human being. He made his home with us. We have seen his glory. It is the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father. And the Word was full of grace and truth.

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. Amen.

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