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Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Invited in to the Dance of Love

Here's the sermon that I shared at St Andrew's Wickford this morning:

Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.” (John 5. 17-30)

“God wants to communicate with humanity, and … Jesus represents the essence of that desire to talk,” says Mike Riddell. As God’s Son, Jesus was in a constant conversation with both God the Father and with God the Spirit. In these verses and others, the Son claims that he hears from the Father and speaks just what the Father has taught him (John 8: 26 – 29). He also claims that his relationship with the Father is not just one way, rather the Father also always hears the Son (John 11: 41 & 42). Similarly, he says that the Spirit will not speak on his own but only what he hears (John 16: 13). The Spirit is sent, like the Son, by the Father, but comes in the name of the Son to remind the disciples of everything that the Son said to them (John 14: 26 & 27). This interplay or dialogue within the Godhead between Father, Son and Spirit can be summed up in the words of John 3. 34-35: “For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God; to him God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.”

Stephen Verney calls this interplay between Father, Son and Spirit, which he believes we are called to enter, ‘the Dance of Love.’ He writes: “”I can do nothing”, [Jesus] said, “except what I see the Father doing”. If he lays aside his teaching robes and washes the feet of the learners … it is because he sees his Father doing it. God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, is like that; he too lays aside his dignity and status as a teacher. He does not try to force his objective truth into our thick heads, but he gives himself to us in acts of humble service; he laughs with us and weeps with us, and he invites us to know him in our hearts through an interaction and an interplay between us. It is this knowledge that Jesus has received from the Father, and in the to and fro of this relationship he and the Father are one. They need each other. That is the pattern of how things potentially are in the universe, and of how God means them to be”.

The beginning of John’s Gospel can be read as saying that this kind of conversation, dialogue and partnership with God is actually what life is all about: “It all arose out of a conversation, conversation within God, in fact the conversation was God. So God started the discussion, and everything came out of this, and nothing happened without consultation.

This was the life, life that was the light of human beings, shining in the darkness, a darkness which neither understood nor quenched its creativity …

The subject of the conversation, the original light, came into the world, the world that had arisen out of his willingness to converse. He fleshed out the words but the world did not understand. He came to those who knew the language, but they did not respond. Those who did became a new creation (his children). They read the signs and responded.

These children were born out of sharing in the creative activity of God. They heard the conversation still going on, here, now, and took part, discovering a new way of being people.

To be invited to share in a conversation about the nature of life was for them, a glorious opportunity not to be missed.” (John 1: 1-14 revisited)

God wants us to be in conversation, in dialogue, in debate, with him so that we can find him for ourselves, find ourselves in him, and embody his characteristics and interests in ourselves. The philosopher, Martin Buber, has argued that “God is not met by turning away from the world or by making God into an object of contemplation, a “being” whose existence can be proved and whose attributes can be demonstrated.” Instead, we can know God only in dialogue with him and this dialogue goes on moment by moment in each new situation as we respond with our whole being to the unforeseen and the unique.

Our dialogue with God interrogates the very nature of what we are, and how we understand our identity, as it is from the art of conversation that truth emerges and our identity is constructed. It is through this conversation that the Father loves us, showing us all that he is doing. Truth emerging and identity constructed are the greater works which he shows to us through this conversation and which astonish us.


U2 - Invisible.

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