It’s February 2017, and Sarah and I have now been living in the Dale for three months and experienced many wonderful things about being here but one thing in particular is the wonder of the baking! Beautiful cakes, breads, pies and baked delights in all shapes and sizes. You will probably recognise the anticipation of having seen some lovely big, fat, fruity scones and buying some and slicing one open in eagerly, only to reveal that yours hasn’t a single piece of fruit in it. You’ve paid for it, bought it at a price and know what it should be like but it’s just not what you were expecting at all. What’s gone wrong? Why has it turned out like this? There is a simple answer; the ingredients were wrong. What went into it was not as the recipe instructed.
If the ingredients are not wholesome and filled with good things, then we can’t expect the finished product to be either. It’s the same with my life, your life and God’s church. Jesus, with His death on the cross, has paid for a fruitful church and has bought the possibility for me and you to live fruitful, wholesome lives that bless us and the world around us, but we need to follow the recipe, for what we put into the ‘mix’ affects the outcome.
Our readings today are reminding us of how important it is to keep a check on what we are putting into our hearts and minds and spirits through what we choose to look at, listen to and read about. John’s Gospel records Jesus telling us that we are to be ‘in’ the world but not ‘of’ the world. As disciples of Jesus we are intended to be living our lives in a very different way to the rest of the world. We are called to be radically different. If we think and live like the rest of the world, then we are not being the salt and light that Jesus desires us to be. The church of Jesus Christ is meant to be radically different and I firmly believe that the world needs us to be and desires us to be so.
Our outward behaviour and conduct matters, as do our thoughts and our inner conduct for they both influence the way that we live our lives; Jesus highlights, in some very vivid and graphic imagery (as was the literary style of the age) exactly what he means.
Be careful what we say to one another. To challenge someone’s behaviour may be appropriate but it is wrong to attack their character.
If we know that someone is holding a grievance against us then before we gather for worship we need to make the first move to try and bring peace and resolution to the problem. Basically, there should be no ‘lumpy carpets’ – no sweeping problems out of sight hoping they will go away. They won’t.
And then Jesus moves onto the imagery of chopping off pieces of our own bodies. He is not calling us to self-mutilation, but in a very bold manner drawing attention to the fact that we need to ‘guard our environment’. We need to ensure that we, and those for whom we are responsible for and love, are growing in good soil. Put simply, if we know of something that is causing a problem in our lives then we should get rid of it. You can’t expect to grow good pasture in the summer if you’ve allowed poison into the ground in the spring. Our lives and our spirits follow the same principle but it begins with a choice. We have to want to fill our lives with good things. For me it’s a ‘no brainer’. I want to fill my life with good things that will bless me and enrich me and those around me but I wasn’t always like that. I had to make a choice. We all have to build our lives on something and one day I realised that building my life on the ideas of Dave Clark wasn’t getting me very far, so I decided to place my trust in Jesus and follow His guidance and since that day his Holy Spirit has been guiding me and prompting me into new patterns of behaviour. There’s plenty to keep him busy! But here’s the key - God didn’t make me. We must choose, but the benefits when we do are real and immediate. As Moses told the Israelites, it’s a choice to be made between ‘blessings and curses’ and ‘life and death’. I want LIFE – every time I want to choose LIFE but I still do stupid things and when I do I need to repent, seek His forgiveness, learn from it and then by His Grace, I can move forward and I can move on.
God wants to bless us with Life – ‘I have come that you might have life in all its fullness’ Jn.10:10 – so …. I need to guard my environment, fill my life with good things and enrich my soil. How? By reading God’s word and becoming more and more aware of the promises He has for my life, to move on from operating as a ‘spiritual baby’, and become the bold, mature, spirit filled disciple who can make a difference in the world. If you’re interested in having that kind of a life, then why not come to one of our services and discover more? You and me together.
What a hope we have in Jesus!
here to edit.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale