Ideas for sermon preparation on John 18.33-37
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- What is power? The conversation between Jesus and Pilate about the nature and origin of kingship is a ‘compare and contrast’ exercise between the might of Rome (absolute power exercised from the top down) and the ‘bottom up’ model of Jesus (through the devotion and obedience of followers). It is not that Jesus does not have more power than the emperor. The difference is how he exercises his power. How do we see power exercised? How does our faith tell us power should be handled? How do you use your power?
- The twenty-first century may be said to be characterised by ‘Facebook lives’. That is, it is so easy to present an idealised, sanitised version of ourselves and our lives to the world. In this world, the notion of truth is seemingly malleable. We live in an era of ‘fake news’, and real news dismissed as fake for personal advantage. John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is the truth, and that if we belong to the truth we will listen to his voice. How can we let the truth of Jesus guide us to live more truthful lives? What difference could this make to our daily living?
- The mysterious, unknown realm of ‘heaven’ has fascinated people for millennia, yet the way we speak about it often has little to do with the biblical description. How do we perceive heaven? Is it a parallel to our own world, rather like ‘Diagon Alley’ in the Harry Potter books? Is it simply the place we go to when we die? Or is it something else entirely? How does praying ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ fit into our understanding of the way the world works? The readings from Daniel, John and Revelation give us some idea of what heaven is, and what it isn’t.
- Biblical imagery can be very strange to our modern eyes. Daniel’s fiery thrones, wheels and streams; the one who ‘comes with the clouds’ in both Daniel and Revelation – and there’s plenty more, even more strange, in those two books and elsewhere in Scripture. Some will dismiss this imagery as nonsense – but is it delusion, a fantasy? Or is it, rather, an attempt to represent a ‘strange truth’? What are those truths? What language might we use to represent or proclaim them in today’s world? Some of the images and concepts in today’s blockbuster films may indeed be fantasy, but do they give us a language that we might use?
- It is the final week of the church year. Next week is Advent, and a new year begins. Advent looks both back to the birth of Jesus and forward to his return, and the apocalyptic literature we encounter in Daniel, Revelation and in parts of the Gospels serves a similar purpose. Christ the King provides an opportunity for us to reflect on our spiritual year past, and a chance to look to the coming year with fresh eyes on God’s plans. Is it time for New Year resolutions of a different kind from those generally associated with 1 January? What ideas come to mind?
You may also find this week's All-age conversation useful.
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