Thy kingdom Come Ascension to Pentecost Novena
The God who shows
1 John 4:9-11 9 This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him, 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Imagine you can’t swim. For some of us that may not be very difficult.
Imagine you are in deep water, you can’t touch the bottom, you are exhausted, scared and beginning to panic. What do you need? Imagine somebody offers to read out the introductory lessons from Teach yourself to swim. Another friend offers to swim near you so that all you have to do is copy how they do it. Neither would be much help. You don’t need a book of instructions and ideals you can’t follow, and seeing someone else apparently doing it perfectly will not be any use either.
What you need is a lifeguard. You don’t need educating, you don’t need inspiring, you need rescuing.
St John is quite clear that this is the whole point. This is why God’s Son came into the world. The motive was love, the purpose was eternal life, and the means was the cross. For two thousand years Christians have found different ways to express what the Lord Jesus’ death on the cross means. Like facets of a diamond, the various ways of looking at God’s actions in making us right with Himself reflect a different colour of the spectrum of God’s love. In these verses, John uses language that would have been very familiar to his audience: the sacrifice. All the background of the Old Testament comes into focus. There, people offered sacrifices of animals to God in order to find forgiveness. They show that the sacrifice died so the worshipper lived.
The cross works, not because we can ever fully understand it or perfectly explain it, but because our holy and loving God says it does. The person in the sea doesn’t need to know the physics of swimming or where the lifeguard learned to swim, he just needs to trust himself to the rescuer. As St John puts it in his gospel, we need to believe into Jesus. We give up self-reliance or trying to be good enough for God and allow ourselves to be rescued.
The thief who turned to Jesus as he hung dying on a cross next to the cross of Jesus and simply said: “Lord, remember me’, didn’t know much theology but he knew his need. In response, Jesus promised him paradise.
Pray that your five will allow Christ to rescue them and find that peace that comes from knowing you’re safe in someone else’s arms.
As we live out the Kingdom, there can be nothing of imagining we are better than anyone else. Instead, our lives and our words are, as the great theologian Paul Tillich put it, ‘One beggar telling another beggar where to find food. – The Very Revd Bob Key
Note: The Thy Kingdom Come Novena for 2023 is focused on verses from St John’s First Letter. Thy Kingdom Come is an annual invitation and encouragement to Christians and Churches, across the world, to seek the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we might live out and share the Kingdom of God. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby &The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell