Today's Gospel (John 3.31-36) appears very abruptly in the text of John's Gospel. Indeed some commentators have even considered whether they are words of John the Baptist. For he has just been speaking and there is no change of speaker indicated. Yet they seem to me all of a part with the Johannine figure of Christ and its high christology Key themes of the Gospel are indeed included in it. Let me turn to them in a moment. Firstly however, as Penny observed, at yesterday's eucharist, about an earlier passage in this same chapter 3 of John, these words clearly come from a context of conflict...
Making a transition is rarely easy, is it? Currently I’m conscious of many changes in which I am involved, some of which will take much time, wisdom and energy to unfold. We are, of course, in the very midst of such a change this morning, as Penny and I lay down our callings here, and as all of us open ourselves to the new things that God will do with us in the future. As such, this is a special, and precious, moment, as all holy transitions are. For the test, and the fruit, of God’s love is often found where we experience change. After all, as we see again, strikingly, in our Gospel reading today, our God is a God of a new creation, always calling us forth into new life and growth. Like John the Baptist, some of us are called to let go and pass on the baton. Like the disciples we are all called to ‘come and see’ where Jesus is calling us. Like Simon, we may be called to new names and purposes. Don’t you agree Penny?...
Rejoice! For this is the Sunday for joy! By tradition this Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for the first word of our second reading today, Rejoice! Just as Refreshment Sunday comes half way through Lent, and is a day for feasting and letting go of the Lenten disciplines for a day, as we rejoice in being half way to Easter, so Gaudete Sunday comes half way through Advent, and tells us that we are half way to Christmas. The note of warning is still present as we heard from John the Baptist in our Gospel reading, but the other readings begin to sound a note of celebration. On this day by tradition the pink candle of our Advent wreath can be lit, and rose coloured vestments worn in those wealthy churches that own them - it is an expensive matter to have vestments that you only use once or twice a year!
So why is any of this important?...
How do you picture peace? I wonder if your vision is quite the same as that of the prophet Isaiah in the John the Baptist story in our Gospel reading today? Isaiah says this: “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Well, that definitely doesn’t work for me if it were taken at all literally. For I was born in the North Pennine hill country of England, which owes so much of its life, history, wildness and picturesque beauty to the variety of its landscape, its hills and valleys. I certainly know that the folk of the Durham Dales would do all they possibly could to avoid every valley being filled, every hill being made low, and the winding paths and rough ways being made smooth. I suspect too that few people in Toowoomba would take kindly to such an environmental transformation of our own Range, valleys, hills and landscape. No. On this second Sunday in Advent, as we centre on the theme of peace, we need to look deeper if we are to find fuller meaning in today’s Gospel reading. Perhaps we are helped by re-casting Isaiah’s words a little. To that end, I offer some words of the great El Salvadorean archbishop and martyr Oscar Romero: words which I believe catch up the spirit of the Advent prophets, that “Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.” Let me return to that, and to John the Baptist in our Gospel, again, in a moment…
by Jon Inkpin, for Advent 3, Year B
What does light mean to you? Let us reflect upon it. For light is at the symbolic heart of Advent and Christmas, as it is of our Gospel reading this morning. Indeed the Gospel writer John says of John the Baptiser, ‘he came as a witness to the light.’ So what is this light and what difference does it make to our lives?
Our Gospel reading today is not entirely helpful. For a number of reasons, our lectionary compilers missed out 11 verses between the first few verses (verses 6-8) and the following ones (19-28). Which is a bit of a shame. For verses 9-10 especially, are, for me, key to understanding both the light of John’s Gospel and John the Baptist’s role. For verses 9-10 say this: ‘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.’ In other words, John’s Gospel is saying that what we know as the light of Christ is that which lights up everyone, but we, as human beings, fail, so often, to grasp this. As a result we become separated, or feel ourselves separated, from true reality. This is the root of the brokenness and divisions of our world, of our personal relationships, and of our own personalities. If we are not connected, or do not know ourselves as connected, to eternal light, then how can we shine to our fullest.
This is at the heart of the ministry of healing in which we share in our eucharist today. As we pray, we do so to be reconnected and renewed in the light of Christ. For, in the light of Christ, all things are interconnected and re-illuminated. The ministry of healing, you see, is not a special separate act. It is an affirmation and demonstration of our deepest reality: that we all come into being through the light of Christ and that we all shine best when we allow that light to flow through us and between us...
by Penny Jones for Advent 2 year B
It gave me great joy yesterday to see everything so green after the rain. I am sure we are all taking delight in the clean fresh scent and the signs of new life. It would not be too fanciful I think to say that our bit of the world has been ‘baptised’ over the last few days.
The great medieval Christian mystic Hildegaard of Bingen coined a particular word for such ‘greening ‘ of the earth. She called it ‘veriditas’, from the Latin word for green. For her it best described the first shoots of green leaves poking through the white snow after a long winter in her native Europe. It was the sign of new life. And so too for us, as rain restores life to our parched land we see fresh potential for life in the renewed greenness of our land.
When we think about baptism and the ministry of John the Baptist which we recall today, veriditas, the ‘greening’, is a good picture to have in our minds. It is a picture that works at many levels. It describes the ‘greening’ of the outer world, the created order on which we rely for daily life. It describes the ‘greening’ of our inner world, the work of God in our individual souls. And it describes as well the transformative work of the Holy Spirit within our society and wider political systems...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,