Ros sermon continued

Yet in today’s Gospel reading John takes this search for proof a step further.  Even when the crowd have seen signs they do not perceive their full significance.  In the verses that precede today’s reading we learn that the crowd regarded the healing and feeding work of Jesus as signs that Jesus was ‘a prophet that has come into the world’ and want to make him king because he has healed and fed them in the feeding of the five thousand.  This is a very understandable response to someone who has healed and nurtured you.

Why then, would Jesus call for anything more?

In today’s Gospel reading John gives us the answer.  Jesus wants the people to understand the spiritual significance of bread that he gives them as ‘food that endures for eternal life’.  Jesus explains to them that when their ancestors ate manna in the wilderness it was not Moses who gave it to them but God ‘who gives the true bread from heaven’.  It is this bread ‘that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’.  Jesus reveals to them that he is ‘the bread of life’ and whoever comes to him will never be hungry and whoever believes in him will never be thirsty. Hearing this, the people comprehend now the full significance of the bread.

We do not have to conclude from this spiritual significance that John was steering us away from earthly reality.  We do not have to reach that conclusion because in John’s Gospel we have a ‘realized eschatology’.  By this I mean John invites us not to consider the end of the world but its rebirth instituted by Jesus and continued by his disciples.  In the Johannine literature the setting of God’s activity is one in which earth and heaven, time and eternity have been conjoined.  By this means eternal life can become a reality in the present as the worlds ‘above’ and ‘below’ intersect.  Jesus wants the people to understand the full spiritual significance of the bread but the bread is actual bread given to the five thousand.  Actual bread is given in John’s Gospel by Jesus to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, just before Judas betrays him and this makes the betrayal of Jesus by Judas so devastating because John has given us Jesus as ‘the bread of life’.

So an earthly reality is there in John’s Gospel that conjoins with the sacramental quality of life in Christ.  There is also reference in today’s Gospel reading to a seal.  Jesus says: ‘Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal’.  Here the reference is not primarily to the bread of the Eucharist but to Jesus’ word of revelation.  This is an example of John’s realized eschatology as Jesus in the present moment is telling the people that God has set his seal upon the Son of Man whilst the word ‘seal’ is also in the language of the Book of Revelation which is concerned with the end time.  In Revelation there are the seven seals, the first four of which depict the imminent eschatological future in which the salvation of the faithful is a major theme.

Let us come down to earth again from the awesome heights of Revelation. The words ‘sign’ and ‘seal’ in our present day earthly reality bring to my mind the postal system.  We use the expression ‘signed, sealed and delivered’ when describing the finalising of post, its despatch and arrival at its destination.  So we might say that the signs revealed in the New Testament by Jesus and the seal set upon Jesus by God are there in John’s Gospel to deliver his message.  In this message Jesus provides the living water and the heavenly bread which develop the Christology of Jesus as the Mosaic prophet king.

This Christology is a “high Christology” of Jesus as divine, pre-existent and identified with the one God talking openly about his divine role.  Yet John gives us a realized eschatology because unlike the remaining Synoptic Gospels where the chief theme is the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven, in John’s theme Jesus is the source of eternal life and the Kingdom is only mentioned twice.  Nevertheless there is an identification again with the Book of Revelation because Jesus as the living water in John’s Gospel is echoed in Revelation where it is written: ‘I will give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life without payment’.  Again, in Revelation, ‘the river of living water will flow from the throne of God and the Lamb’.

Moving forward once again through time to our modern world, in the lyrics of the song dedicated to his girlfriend, Stevie Wonder sings that he said goodbye to his girlfriend but he now realises that she is his heart’s only desire and so he presents himself to her again in the words ‘here I am, signed, sealed, delivered I’m yours’.

I believe that John invites us also in his Gospel to turn to Jesus as the seal set by God who has offered us signs offering us eternal life and that we can return the compliment by seeking God through Jesus by saying the words to him: ‘signed, sealed, delivered I am yours’.


Pentecost 2018 St Mark’s  – William Gulliford 20 May 2018

Yesterday, Lady Jane Fellowes, sister of the late Diana, Princess of Wales read at the wedding of her nephew, Prince Harry, from King Solomon’s Song of Songs:
Set me as a seal upon your heart, a seal upon your arm, love is as strong as death, passion as strong as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame…” Continuing reading

The Theology of the Land with a focus on Reconciliation

A keynote address by Dr. Clare Amos at the conference: ‘Homeland? Exploring the heritage of the Balfour Declaration’, 21st October 2017
There is a wonderful saying of Archbishop Michael Ramsey that I often find myself drawing on when I want to encourage lay people to believe that they, or should I say ‘we’ – as well as clergy – have the right and duty to reflect on questions of theology. Continuing the reading

Revd Dr Matthias Grebe, Remembrance Day,  November 2016

“The Battle of the Somme raged for 141 days. More than a million men were killed or wounded, making it one of the bloodiest battles in history. And this year marks the centenary of what has been seen as the beginning of modern all-arms warfare.
As a German working as a priest in the Church of England, ‘Remembrance Day’ always arrives with rather mixed feelings..” Continue the reading

Revd William Gulliford 16 October 2016 Trinity XXI 

“I’d like you to hold in your mind three fight- related images which are presented to us in today’s readings. First from today’s Old Testament reading the night time wrestling even between Jacob and the un-named man. Second, the picture from this morning’s Gospel reading of the importunate widow addressing the unjust judge, and then her punching him in the eye. And third that picture which this morning’s Old Testament reading gives us of Jacob, newly named Israel, holding his hip in pain, limping away from the scene at Penuel”. Continue the reading

Revd William Gulliford, 22 May 2016, TheSunday after the Ascension

“And behold, I come quickly.” Rev 22: 12 . This Sunday after the Ascension is the opportunity to look back at the moment of Our Lord’s departure from the sight of his Disciples and the sending of His Spirit, on the Feast of Pentecost, which we mark next week, and which concludes the Easter season.
And so this is something of an in-between moment, a pause, a time of waiting. Continue the reading

Good Friday – Caiaphas

Jesus before his Jewish and Roman judges is both judged and judge, condemned and the one who himself condemns.I want to reflect with you on one person in particular with whom Jesus has to do in these final hours. Spare me one or two moments of improbable exploration on this journey, just so as to excavate these familiar yet dense narratives. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters next week, will not have a liturgy of this kind. They wait until the Evening of their GoodFriday and then instead of pondering the nature and significance of Our Lord’s death, as is customary in the West, instead using the burial rite of the dead, they adorn an ornamental shroud with as many flowers as it can bear and process it around the church,before as it were burying it on the altar.
The person of the High Priest, Caiaphas, and connected with him his father in law Annas holds a particular fascination for me. Perhaps it is because I spend part of my life interviewing potential priests that the character of the High Priest who tried Jesus intrigues me. Continue the reading 2015-03-03 Good Friday – Caiaphas

01 March 2015 – Sermon for Lent II Readings: Genesis 17.1-7, 15, 16 Romans 4.13-25 Mark 8.31-38 by William  Levanway

“Righteousness comes by faith not by the law. The law brings God’s wrath, but faith brings righteousness, justification, the promises of God made real in our lives. What are these words: ‘faith’, ‘righteousness’, ‘justification’, ‘wrath’? What do they mean? What do we mean when we say them? What does Christ mean when he gives his blunt judgement: ‘Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.’ (Mark 8.34b-35)? “Read entire LentIISermon