starts with a special service for Ascension Day together with our other local churches in Lambeth South Deanery:
Thu 30th May 7.30pm
at St Peter’s, Leigham Court Road, SW16 2SD
What kind of Messiah do we really need? It’s certainly not a re-run of David, Solomon, or any from the past. Jesus, who they called Son of David”, redefined what that Messiah would look like.
He came from God – he was God’s provision, not man’s idea. He took on human flesh – raising us up – rather than bringing our hopes down with the inevitability of human corruption. He was totally secure in who he was, where he came from, why he was here – rather than anxiously clinging onto to a failing power. He was the perfect servant of humanity and his mission was unsullied by human desire for supremacy. He came to give of himself rather than take for himself. He included the marginalised rather than seeking popularity. He came for you; he came for me. His Kingdom began before time and would stretch beyond time.
This is the King God has given us – not in response to our braying demands but from the fullness of his undying love. Here is the Prince of Peace; here is the Saviour of the World. He is here now, risen from death, alive! And today he offers himself: will you accept me as your King? Will you trust me? Will you receive me? Do it today while there is still time: Open your heart and say, “Yes Lord, I receive you. You are the King of my heart and my life.” Amen.
So is that it? Just one long sorry tale? Well not quite. Because there’s another Old Testament story – which surfaces through the history books and bubbles up through the crowning of kings and taking of land but isn’t really the subject of them.
It’s the story of faith kindled and sustained in the lives of individual people. It’s the story of moments and responses. It’s the cry of Hagar the outsider. It’s the bravery of life-saving midwives named Shiprah and Puah. It’s the steadiness of an unimportant woman called Ruth.
It’s the perseverance of Samuel in searching for the right person to anoint as king. It’s the wisdom of a humble leader called Abigail. It’s the courage of Nathan to confront David. It’s the repentance of David and the prayer of Solomon, even though these were just moments in time, long forgotten, it seems, just a few years later. It’s the spirit of Elijah, the passion of Amos, the tenderness of Hosea, the tears of Jeremiah, the insight of Isaiah, the vision of Nehemiah.
This is the thin line running through the Hebrew Bible – the story of faith. And this is the line of which we are inheritors – we who continue to live by faith today. Numerous as grains of sand on the seashore.
As we listened to the reading from John 10, I misheard what was being said. I thought it was “the hard man” – not “the hired man” who sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep. Why would a “hard man” run away? Surely he would be tough enough to send the wolf packing! Yet he is hard in a different sense.
Jesus is often seen as the “soft man” – meek and mild. Yet he was the one who went all the way for the sheep – laying down his life to die for us; rising from the dead and returning to find us – yet again.
This is how Fred Bruner translates the passage in his commentary on John’s gospel: “The hired hand who is not the shepherd and to whom the sheep do not belong, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep in the lurch, and runs for his life.” But love does not leave others in the lurch. We love because God first loved us; he showed us what love is all about.