Sunday at St Andrew's

Sunday 16 May 2021

Morning Worship, 10 am on Zoom 

Repeated as Evening Worship at 4 pm in Church by advance booking only

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Series: 1 John ‘Living in the Love of God’

6. 1 John 5. 9-21

‘Confident life’

Speaker: James Cook 

 

If you find this type difficult to read, 

please look at this page.

 

A version of the talk in video format will be available on the St Andrew’s channel on YouTube, from later on Sunday 16 May. 

 

 Welcome to this service at St Andrew’s Eaton

‘Confident Life’

As we come to the last Sunday in our series, when we’ve been looking at the first letter of John, we find ourselves sandwiched between Ascension Day and Pentecost – two great festivals that speak of the confidence we can have as followers of Christ: Christ who on the one hand has returned to heaven, and who is there, a human as we are, and is ‘on our side’; and who on the other hand, is the one who sends the Holy Spirit upon us, to make us more like him.

Every reason for a ‘confident life’!

But there are even more reasons, as we shall see…

 

As we begin, let’s pray that God will still our hearts and minds and speak to us in this time today.

  

INTRODUCTION                

Leader:  Alleluia. Christ is risen.

All:        He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

 

Leader:   Praise the God and Father 

             of our Lord Jesus Christ.

All:        He has given us new life and hope.

             He has raised Jesus from the dead.

 

Leader:   Alleluia. Christ is risen.

All:        He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Faithful one, whose word is life:

come with saving power

 to free our praise,

 inspire our prayer

 and shape our lives

 for the kingdom of your Son,

 Jesus Christ our Lord.

 Amen.

 

HYMN: Let all the world in every corner sing

 

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS

Leader: Christ died to sin once for all, and now he lives to God.

Let us renew our resolve to have done with all that is evil

and confess our sins in penitence and faith. 

cf Romans 6.10

 

Jesus Christ, risen Master and triumphant Lord,

we come to you in sorrow for our sins,

and confess to you our weakness and unbelief.

We have lived by our own strength,

and not by the power of your resurrection.

In your mercy, forgive us.

All:        Lord, hear us and help us.

 

Leader: We have lived by the light of our own eyes,

as faithless and not believing.

           In your mercy, forgive us.

All:        Lord, hear us and help us.

 

Leader: We have lived for this world alone,

and doubted our home in heaven.

In your mercy, forgive us.

All:        Lord, hear us and help us.

 

Leader: May the God of love and power

forgive us and free us from our sins,

heal and strengthen us by his Spirit,

and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord.

All:        Amen.

 

PSALM 47

 

All:        Glory to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning is now

and shall be for ever. Amen.

 

FIRST READING

John chapter 17 verses 6-19

Jesus prays for his disciples

 

This is the word of the Lord.

All:        Thanks be to God.

 

HYMN: Safe in the shadow of the Lord words or listen here

 

SECOND READING

1 John chapter 5 verses 9-21 

Confidence in the life God gives

 

This is the word of the Lord.

All:        Thanks be to God.

 

SERMON (James Cook)

‘Confident Life’

1 John 5.9-21

 

Do you know the true value of what you have? In the long-running sitcom Only Fools and Horses, the brothers Del Boy and Rodney discover in the supposedly final episode that they did not know the true value of a precious watch they had chucked into their garage. The watch turns out to be an 18th century marine timekeeper that was thought to have been long lost, and there it was sat gathering dust in their garage. There’s the scene where they’re in the auction house, and first Del Boy, then Rodney faint with shock as the price climbs to a staggering £6.2 million. Not knowing the true value of what they had, they’d left it to gather dust.

Do we know the true value of what we have? And not antiques in our attics, but the vast riches we have in Christ. We come today to the final section of our series through the letter of 1 John. A major theme that you may have picked up that runs through this letter is the theme of assurance. Remember that John is writing to Christians troubled by a group who’ve left them and started espousing some new, esoteric teaching. They feel doubtful and fearful. And John wants to assure them of all they have in Christ. The promise of forgiveness, an advocate in heaven, a confidence that is greater than our hearts, the love of our Father God. Such riches. And as John reaches the conclusion of his letter, he wants to hammer home this message of assurance. There’s a word that he uses over and over again as he comes to a close – did you spot it? The word know. ‘You may know you have eternal life.’ ‘We know that he hears us.’ ‘We know that we are God’s children.’ We know. These are the sure things we can hold onto when our hearts feel doubtful and fearful. Let’s not make the same mistake as Del and Rodney of overlooking the true value of what we have, what we have in Christ.

There are three things in particular John says we know we have in Christ.

Eternal Life

First, we know we have eternal life. This is what he says is his purpose in writing, verse 13. ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.’ For John, eternal life is more than simply life that goes on for ever. Eternal life is true life. Life to the full. Life in vibrant colour, as opposed to drab greyscale. And this true life is life in relationship with God. In his Gospel, John quotes Jesus’ prayer on the night before he dies, in which he defines eternal life simply as knowing God. Having a relationship with him. True life is life in relationship with God because God is the source of life. 

This true, full life we experience glimmers of now. We might see it here on a Sunday as we gather as a disparate group of individuals to praise our God and love one another; we might see it in the deep joy in the Lord someone expresses even when everything seems so bleak; we might see it in the astonishing ability someone has to forgive and not hold a grudge. But these are the merest, tiniest glimmers of the full, rich, fruitful life that awaits us when Jesus comes again. It’s easy to lose sight of this eternal life in the drudgery and suffering of this world. It’s easy to doubt that we have this life when we feel conscious of all our sins and failings. But John writes to assure you: if you know Jesus Christ, you can know for sure that this life is yours. You may experience just the tiniest glimmer now, but do not doubt that this life is surely yours.

Boldness in Prayer

The second thing we know we have is boldness in prayer. John writes, verse 14: ‘this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.’ Not only that, but ‘we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.’ Our prayers are not sitting in God’s inbox waiting to be read. He’s heard, and he’s answered. 

Now, of course, there will not be a person here, I’m sure, who has not struggled deeply with a prayer that’s seemed to go unanswered. We had a whole session in our Lent Prayer Course on unanswered prayer, and if you weren’t there do call or email me and I can share the resources with you. Unanswered prayer can be a real discouragement to us. Does God really hear us? Is it really worth praying? And we can hold back. Of course, John doesn’t give a blanket promise that God answers all our prayers – God remains God, he’s the one in charge, and he answers those prayers, John says, that are according to his will.

But notice what John says. He doesn’t tell us, with all our doubts, simply to be bolder in prayer. Rather, he reassures us that we have boldness in prayer. It’s something we have. That word for boldness literally means something like ‘freedom of speech’. We’re free to come to God with anything that’s on our hearts. We need never feel that something is too insignificant for his concern. We need never feel embarrassed to tell him how we really feel about prayers that have seemed to go unanswered. We can wrestle with God in prayer. Wrestling in prayer is not an expression of mistrust. It’s an expression of confident faith in God because it’s a refusal to let go of God. This is the boldness we have in Christ. 

This section on prayer raises another question, with the mention of mortal sin, or the sin ‘that leads to death’ in verse 16. I don’t really have time to get into this here. All I want to say is that there’s much debate as to what John means: one possibility is that he’s referring to the sin of persistently, stubbornly refusing to turn to Christ and seek his forgiveness. For John makes abundantly clear elsewhere that whatever we’ve done, we can come to God through Christ and receive his complete forgiveness. Remember his words at the start: ‘If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ If we seek forgiveness, there is no sin that cannot be forgiven.

Confidence in the Battle

Thirdly and finally, we can know confidence in the battle. The next thing John says ‘we know’ is that ‘those who are born of God do not sin’. And this will also raise lots of questions. Is John saying that when someone becomes a Christian, they stop sinning? He can’t surely mean that, because at the start of the letter he said that ‘if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’ What he seems to be saying is that the Christian has a new aversion to sin. I remember when I became a Christian at university, slowly becoming dissatisfied with the pride and selfishness that characterised my life at the time. No Christian can ever go on sinning as before.

The reason: ‘the one who was born of God’, John says, that is Jesus Christ, ‘protects them’ for ‘we know that we are God’s children’. The evil one may launch his attacks, we may slip and fall, but we are ultimately untouchable. The fourth-century preacher John Chrysostom described the Christian life as like fighting in a gladiatorial arena: only, our opponent is chained, and the judge is wholly on our side. Whenever we slip and fall, the judge comes down and helps us up. All the odds are stacked in our favour. There is nothing we could do to lose. 

You might be feeling the struggle really intensely right now. You might feel like you keep falling into the same sins over and over again. You might feel like life is just too overwhelming. Know that victory is yours. Not won by your own efforts, but won for you by Christ. We can enter the struggle with confidence, with hope, rather than despair, and the lie that it must always be this way. If you are a Christian, you are held securely in the hands of Jesus Christ. The evil one cannot triumph over you.

So. Do you know the value of what you have in Christ? Do you know the riches that are ours in him? Jesus is our greatest treasure. If we have him, we can know that we have eternal life, true life in all its fullness, a life we experience a glimmer of now, and will experience the full technicolour measure of when Jesus comes again. If we have Christ, we can know that we have boldness in prayer, the opportunity of coming to him with all our feelings, all our doubts and fears, as we wrestle with him in prayer. If we have Christ, we can know that we have confidence in the battle, that victory in all we struggle with is ours. These are the sure things we can hold onto when our hearts feel doubtful and fearful. Let’s not allow these riches to gather dust, neglected and forgotten, but embrace them with confident, expectant faith.

 

A version of the talk in video format will be available on the St Andrew’s channel on YouTube, from later on Sunday 16 May. 

 

HYMN: O the deep, deep love of Jesus

 

PRAYERS (Margaret Smith)

 

“This is the boldness we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

 

In confidence we pray,

All:        hear us, good Lord.

 

Father God, we thank you that once again lockdown restrictions ease and we can meet each other inside and enjoy more leisure and hospitality. We pray especially that the easing of restrictions in care homes will allow for more families and friends to be able to visit loved ones, and continue to pray for wisdom for scientists and the Government as they monitor the data from Covid infections both here and worldwide.

In confidence we pray,

All:        hear us, good Lord.

 

Tomorrow evening is the Annual Parochial Church Meeting. Father God, we thank you for all the blessings you have bestowed on us as a church fellowship, especially over the last year of lockdown. We thank you for our leaders, for the faithful preaching of your word, for the freedom to worship, for our buildings and surroundings, for all that builds up our life as your body, the church. We pray for those to be elected to office within our fellowship, and for Phil as he leads the meeting; may your Holy Spirit guide us, equip us, encourage us and challenge us to share the good news of Jesus with those in our parish and our city.

 

In confidence we pray,

All:        hear us, good Lord.

 

Whilst we enjoy peace and security, the newspapers and TV are full of news of places where there is violence, war and oppression. Heavenly Father, it’s hard to understand all that is going on in the Holy Land but the situation there is grave. We pray for calm and peace to be restored, for an end to the escalating violence, for the hearts of people of all faiths to be softened, and for diplomacy, tolerance, understanding and respect for the rights of freedom to be upheld. We pray especially for children and young people from all groups who see violence as the only way of living. Please intervene by the power of your Spirit that peace may come.

 

In confidence we pray,

All:        hear us, good Lord.

 

And, heavenly Father, in our own land we pray for the people of Northern Ireland who also struggle with generations of suspicion and hatred amongst communities. Give wisdom to politicians and community leaders to work for peace, especially as events of decades ago are brought before the courts once again. May your will be done, dear Lord.

 

In confidence we pray,

All:        hear us, good Lord.

 

Heavenly Father, you are the Healer and the Comforter. We bring to you those who are unwell and those who have been bereaved. And in the silence let us commit to our Father those we know who need to know his healing and comfort at this time.

 

In confidence we pray,

All:        hear us, good Lord.

 

Finally, Father, make us channels of your peace. 

Where there is hatred, let us bring your love; 

where there is despair let us bring hope, 

where there is darkness, let us bring the light of Christ, 

the light of the world, into that darkness. 

For Jesus’ sake. 

All:        Amen.

 

The Collect for today

O God the King of glory,

you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ

with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:

we beseech you, leave us not comfortless,

but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us

and exalt us to the place 

where our Saviour Christ is gone before,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

All:        Amen.

 

Being made one by the power of the Spirit,

as our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

 

All:        Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done, 

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation 

but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, 

and the glory are yours 

now and for ever. Amen.

 

HYMN: Christ triumphant, ever reigning

 

FINAL READING

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1.12-14)

 

Silence is kept.

  

RESPONSORY

Leader:   As we wait in silence,

All:        All make us ready for your coming Spirit.

             As we listen to your word,

All:        All make us ready for your coming Spirit.

             As we worship you in majesty,

All:        All make us ready for your coming Spirit.

             As we long for your refreshing,

All:        All make us ready for your coming Spirit.

             As we long for your renewing,

All:        All make us ready for your coming Spirit.

             As we long for your equipping,

All:        All make us ready for your coming Spirit.

             As we long for your empowering,

All:        All make us ready for your coming Spirit.

 

THE BLESSING

Leader:   God the Father,

who has given to his Son the name above every name,

strengthen you to proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord.

All:        Amen.

 

Leader:   God the Son,

who is our great high priest passed into the heavens,

plead for you at the right hand of the Father.

All:        Amen.

 

Leader:   God the Holy Spirit,

           who pours out his abundant gifts upon the Church, 

   make you faithful servants of Christ our King.

All:        Amen.

 

Leader:   And the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among you and remain with you always.

All:        Amen.

 

Leader:   Waiting expectantly for the promised Holy Spirit,

go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia, alleluia.

 

All:          Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.

 

 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION

 

  1. What glimmers of eternal life have you seen?

 

  1. What would it look like for you to wrestle more with God in prayer?

 

  1. How does the knowledge of Christ’s protection encourage you in your struggles?

  

 

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