From the Vicarage, a service and sermon on 27th Dec, 1 John 1 and John 21.19-end.
Happy Christmas! Today I want you to think about how to wrap up this year.
We wont do it in this service, we will begin it today, but I would like you to work on this through this week. It’s a sort of Examen if you like. A spiritual exercise where you sit back and reflect over the day and think about
What did you do, what didn’t you do, who can you count as a blessing this day, What went well, what didn’t and can you bring it all to God and pray His peace upon it.
This Covid-19 filled year has robbed us of our senses – at first we were not allowed to shake hands, to hug, and then we were locked down so unable to see each other, many of those who got Covid19 found that they lost their sense of taste and smell. And even our hearing has been challenged as we’re not allowed to sing and we wear these muffling masks.
St John starts his first epistle by talking about his experience of Jesus – “That which was from the beginning which we have heard, which we have seen, which we have looked at and our hands have touched”.
This is John talking about what it has been like to live with Jesus. He could as easily have gone on to talk about smelling Jesus – I don’t know how often they swam in the Sea of Galilee!
John’s life with Jesus has engaged all his senses, his whole being and its affect has been to make him fully appreciate being alive, being human. THE Glory of God is a human fully alive (Irenaeus of Lyons). Not just a spiritual being but a whole human being, body and soul.
There’s been lots of advice about how to look after the body – go for your daily walk. And there’s been some advice about how to look after the mind – being kind to yourself, setting yourself simple to do lists so that you can notice that you are doing something.
But regarding our Spiritual health? I really miss sharing the wine and singing loudly!
So as you look over your year and see what went well – give thanks to God for those moments. And as you look over the year and see times of sorrow – put them into the hands of God.
In the first reading, John looks over his life and sees firstly the joy and wonder that came from hearing and seeing and touching the Source of Life Himself. The Word made flesh. The Light that has come into the world.
John has spent his days living with this Jesus, this Light.
So look over the year and see if you can spot those moments when you have noticed that the Light has been with you.
Its important that you start here – looking for glimpses of the Kingdom of God, flashes of Angel wings, a distant chorus.
I was getting my hair cut earlier in the week when the hairdresser told me how much she liked my Jesus is the reason for the season jumper and how she always wakes up with a song in her head and it always seems to give her the bounce she needs for the day. And I thought good for you, you’re being blessed by God whether you know it or not!
But much of this year has also been in Darkness. Now when John talks about darkness his emphasis is on Walking in the darkness.
So there’s a trouble and a strife and a storm that we are all in.
There was a saying earlier in the year about how we’re all in the same boat so be nice to each other. Good conclusion but I preferred it when someone said No, we’re not all in the same boat, we’re all in the same storm. Some of us have nice large boats and others are in little dinghy’s and we need to be giving a little extra help to certain people.
And I’m afraid that that still remains the same. We need to keep up our support of Seahaven foodbank and so on.
But when John talks about walking in darkness, what he means is deliberately choosing to sin. He means living a life that values, prefers, sin and selfishness – dark deeds – over the joys of living in the light.
So maybe we should be honest with ourselves. And that’s why we started with a Confession. “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves”.
So maybe as we look back over our year that we might pause and say – Yeah that’s not me at my best. I’m not proud of that. I’m sorry.
And here’s the joy– “the blood of Jesus purifies us”. That’s a complicated phrase so for today just roll with it and remind me to explain it a bit more as we get nearer to Easter. It means that having Jesus in our lives brings with it a clearer sense of purpose and drive.
Now here’s the fun bit. Part 1. Today is a special day for celebrating Saint John.
Saints are renowned for their purity, they are supposed to be quite literally Holier than thou. Unless maybe we’ve got that wrong.
St John says “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves” – this holy saint sins.
He endeavours not to walk in darkness, but we all wander. We sin. Even saints do.
Here’s the fun bit part 2. John isn’t afraid of sin. He isn’t ashamed. He doesn’t hide it. He brings it to God and says I got it wrong. Again. I’m sorry. He confesses his sin.
Its like he’s a kid with a splinter and again and again he keeps coming back to Mum and saying – It hurts can you take it out.
“God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins”.
So Saint John turns out to be a sinner.
But its not the deepest truth about him.
As we reflect on this year, how we go about it will be shaped by how we view ourselves.
We will see this year perhaps through rose tinted glasses? – in which we make ourselves look like the hero, or the victim.
St John warns us against deceiving ourselves. But that’s hard.
What helps John to reflect back on his life is that he has practised constantly reminding himself of a deeper truth, a deeper magic.
In the reading from the Gospel of John, you heard how Peter is walking with Jesus and turns and he sees John walking a little way behind them
but John who wrote this – doesn’t say – ‘Peter turned round and saw John following’.
He wrote “Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following”.
Now we know that Jesus loves all his Disciples. But in John’s Gospel we read, four times, this name, this description – the disciple whom Jesus loved – and it is as if John doesn’t think of himself as John, he thinks of himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Who are you? I’m James, I’m a husband, a father, a vicar – you get the idea – we have lots of different answers to these – some of them make us look good, some of them can make us look like idiots.
Now ask John. Who are you? I’m the disciple whom Jesus loved. That’s how John sees himself. All that matters is that he knows he is deeply loved by Jesus.
And that gives him the courage, the faith, the hope, to face his sins, to face the darkness, to face the storm no matter what size boat he is in.
John knows he is loved. He has held and touched and smelled and seen and heard Jesus.
And no amount of darkness, no amount of Covid-19, no amount of lockdown can take that away.
Who are you? You, you are the disciple whom Jesus loves. Who am i? I am the disciple whom Jesus loves.
It is a deeper truth that will anchor you as you look over the year gone by and ponder
what to give thanks to God for,
what to confess as sin, as wandering into the darkness,
and as you cry over the strife of last year.
And how will you face this next year?
By remembering who you are – you are the disciple whom Jesus loves.
That is the deeper magic, the deeper truth about you.
And that will anchor us as we together, as fellow loved disciples, we face the hopes and fears of this coming year and find that they are met in Jesus. Amen.