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Monday, 15 May 2017

Discover & explore: Through Christ alone

Discover & explore services at St Stephen Walbrook feature music and liturgy with the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields. These services explore their themes through a thoughtful mix of music, prayers, readings and reflections:
  • “A perfect service of peace in our busy lives.”
  • “Spiritual food in the middle of the day.”
  • “Beautifully and intelligently done.”
The current series of these services of musical discovery is exploring Reformation 500 themes and continued last Monday with the theme of 'Through Christ alone'. The service featured the Choral Scholars singing: Morning star & The Deer's Cry by Arvo Pärt; God so loved the world by Bob Chilcott; and O Lord, give thy Holy Spirit by Thomas Tallis.

All Discover & explore services begin at 1.10pm:
  • Mon 22 May - God loves you 
  • Mon 29 May Bank Holiday – Church closed 
  • Mon 5 June - Baptism saves 
  • Mon 12 Jun - The Lord's Supper 
  • Mon 19 Jun - The Cross alone 
  • Mon 26 Jun - Forgiveness is free 
  • Mon 3 Jul - Life of repentance
In today's service I shared the following reflection:

‘When Martin Luther preached from the Gospel passages on John the Baptist, he always emphasized how John’s finger pointed to Christ, and how the church most follow in John’s footsteps and point people to the Lord without fail.” He said:

“…The devil does not intend to allow this testimony about Christ. He devotes all his energy to opposing it and will not desist until he has struck it down and suppressed it …”

“For this reason it is necessary constantly to persevere and adhere to John’s testimony concerning Christ. For it requires toil and effort to continue with word and testimony, for a person at death to be able to say, I must die, but I have a Saviour concerning whom John the Baptist testifies; on him and on no other creature, either in heaven or on earth, do I rely …”

“What I am telling you is that it is easier for us humans to believe and trust in everything else than in the name of Christ, who alone is all in all, and more difficult for us for us to rely on him in whom and through whom we possess all things.”’ (

How could we understand this key Reformation emphasis today? For me, the key to understanding is the incarnation. In John’s Gospel we are told that: “No one has ever seen God” but “The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” In the Prologue to John’s Gospel, Jesus is described as being God’s Word to human beings; he is in himself the message that God wants to communicate to us. This Word is a real person, not simply a description of God or a statement of the truth about God. What this means is that the truth about God is found in a relationship with Jesus and not in a set of statements or beliefs about him. Truth is not a prescription that we can swallow but a relationship in which we live.

The key difference between the Old and the New Testament for Christians is that in the Old Testament God was revealing himself to and through fallible human beings – meaning that his revelation is imperfectly made and imperfectly received - while in the Gospel stories of Jesus, God is able to fully reveal himself in the humanity of Jesus. So, there is in scripture a developing revelation of God which culminates in the person, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. This means that where we see a difference between the revelation of God found in the Old Testament and that found in the Gospels we have to resolve that difference in favour of what we find in Gospels, because it is the only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father’s side, that has made God known.

Jesus is the creativity, the definition and the wisdom of God; all wrapped up and revealed in human form and flesh. Jesus’ creativity is seen in the new way of being human that he reveals to us. In him, the divine and the human come together enabling us to see all that human beings can potentially be; all that we can potentially become. In him we see the best of humanity because in him we see God expressed as fully as can be in human form.

What we see is love because God is love and therefore, in Jesus, we see pure love expressed without reserve and without self-seeking: the way of compassion instead of the way of domination; the way of self-sacrifice instead of the way of selfishness; the way of powerlessness instead of the way of power; and the way of giving instead of the way of grasping. Therefore to follow in his way is to experience divinity in our lives; to move towards the divine. When we see him call his disciples to follow him that is what occurs; they leave their old way of life behind in order to begin to experience a new and divine way of being human. As the Prologue to John’s Gospel puts it, God himself becomes their Father.

In doing so, he is also the Word of God which describes and defines us. The Prologue to John’s Gospel explains Jesus’ ability to define us in terms of light and darkness. John gives us the image of God as light to help us grasp the idea that Jesus is the one by whom we can come to see humanity as we really are and as we were intended to be. Light is not something we can see directly but something that enables us to see ourselves and our world. This is what Jesus does for us through the incarnation; he shows what humanity was originally intended to become. In Jesus, for the very first time in the history of the world, a human being lives a fully human life.

As a result when we see ourselves and our world in the light of the life of Jesus, what we see are our failure and inability to be the people that we were created to become. In the light of the way that Jesus lived his life, we see our lack of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. As the writer of 1 John says, if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. But when we live in the light, seeing ourselves as we really are, then we become honest with ourselves and with God. By coming into that honesty we confess our sins and are purified of them.

Ultimately, the Word that God speaks to us in and through Jesus is ‘Love’. In 1 John 4. 9 – 10 we read, “God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.”

Jesus came into our world as the Word of God to live a life of self-sacrificial love as a human being. He shows us what true love looks like and he shows us that human beings are capable of true love even when most of the evidence around us seems to point towards the opposite conclusion. But he did not come solely as an example or a description of love. He is love itself, the reality of love, and, therefore, as we come into relationship with him we come into a true relationship with love. This why he came, that we might receive him; that we might receive love. He is then in us and in him. Love in us and we in love.

In the beginning Love already existed; Love was with God, and Love was God. From the very beginning Love was with God. Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. Love was the source of life, and this life brought light to people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.

“God is love. And God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.

Dear friends, if this is how God loved us, then we should love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us. (1 John 4. 8 – 12).


For love God came to us in the person of Jesus—God With Us—and poured his Spirit into us that we might be one with him forever. In his name, let us pray to the Lord, saying: Christ is all, and is in all. Lord, thank you for the gift of your constant presence. Give us the desire to commit our hearts to you. Thank you for the grace of your unfailing love. Grant us the willingness to love others as you have loved us. Thank you for uniting us with your Son. Help us put on our new selves, setting our hearts and minds on things above. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of hope, with thanks and praise we open our hearts to you, who unite us with you through Christ. Help us to pursue you with the passion only your Spirit can provide, and to reflect you with the light only your Spirit can supply. So we say, Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Thou hast led me to place all my nature and happiness in oneness with Christ, in having heart and mind centred only on him, in being like him in communicating good to others; This is my heaven on earth, but I need the force, energy, impulses of thy Spirit to carry me on the way to my Jerusalem. Here, it is my duty to be as Christ in this world, to do what he would do, to live as he would live, to walk in love and meekness; then would he be known, then would I have peace in death. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

( and

The Blessing

With our lives hidden in Christ, let us now depart in peace, united in the faith and joined in His call to
serve through the power of His in-dwelling Spirit; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.


Arvo Pärt - Morning Star.

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