The week in focus
Connecting to the world right now
In touch: Living in the light
Up-to-the-minute jumping-off points for sermons, linking the reading to the latest news and global issues.
Jesus calls us to be reborn to eternal life; a life lived in the light and not in darkness (John 3.14-21).
Ideas for sermons or interactive talks
- Lockdown versus eternal life. Few of us imagined that we would still be in a national lockdown approaching a second Easter. It might be valuable to ask the congregation to share what they have missed and what has made the lockdown feel longer. Students are returning to schools this week and many parents have said that home-schooling has felt like an eternity. However, compared with eternity, this has been relatively short-lived. There are so many things that we can complain about but Jesus calls us to look up, to focus on Him and to consciously live our born-again lives in the light of eternity. Invite people to reflect on anything that has helped them to raise their gaze from their everyday to focus on Jesus. How can we help ourselves to continue making that choice to look up rather than down?
- Into the light. There has been a huge reaction internationally with people criticising the couple for talking about family matters that have traditionally remained private and others asking what the treatment of Meghan Markle in particular shows about the attitudes of the Royal family and British people generally. Whichever side you take in this argument, it is clear that the Sussex’s speaking out is exposing things that were intended to remain hidden. Many of us would struggle if things we said in private were broadcast internationally – but God intends for everything to be brought into the light – so that we can repent and be forgiven. As Christians we are not looking to convince people that we are perfect but we allow the Holy Spirit to show us wherever we fall short, we repent, receive forgiveness, and move on again wiser for it.
- Dark deeds. The recent military coup in Myanmar remains in the news because of the growing protests against it. Peaceful demonstrators have been shot and killed and the image of a Catholic Nun pleading with open arms for soldiers not to open fire has been broadcast around the world. It is so important that these images are shared and questions are asked of our own government about how they are encouraging a return to democratic rule in Myanmar. If the country’s de facto rulers can maintain secrecy over their suppression of free-speech and protest then it is easier to ignore it. In Jesus’ words, ‘all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed’ (John 3.20). It is the responsibility of Christians and all moral governments to fight to keep these things in the light where they can be challenged.
- Eternal life. In ‘Wandavision’, one of the main Marvel heroes, Wanda, has created a ‘perfect world’ to live with her superhero partner and their children. The problem is that all Marvel fans know that her partner, Vision, died at the end of the last blockbuster. This series has highlighted the lengths people can go to in order to escape from grief and achieve ‘the life they always wanted’. Unfortunately, this perfect world is built on the suffering of others and Wanda has to choose between her family and the many innocent residents of her world. The temporary life Wanda creates, based on American sit-coms through the decades, is clearly intended to be perfect but contrasts with the ‘Eternal life’ Jesus offers to Nicodemus. Wanda creates her own life – which lasts barely a week – out of her own strength and struggles unsuccessfully to maintain it. Jesus offers eternal life that does not require us to battle to achieve it, only to believe.
Questions for discussion
- How comfortable are we that our deeds should be ‘in the light’? How much would we be comfortable with other people knowing about us?
- There has been a monarchy in the UK for around 1200 years. What other aspects of life have lasted as long or longer? Do these help you when you consider the idea of ‘eternity’ and ‘eternal life’?
- What helps you to ‘look up’ to Jesus in your day-to-day life? Conversely, what drags your gaze downwards?
Steve Taylor is joint-vicar of St James Alperton near Wembley. He shares the job with his wife, Ali, and shares his house with their two daughters, two cats, an ageing hamster and a few fish.
Connecting faith with everyday, real-life issues for young people.
Oprah Winfrey’s interview with the Sussexes has been a major talking point in the press and on social media over the last week. This is ironic, as the role of the media – especially the toxic effect it had on the life and mental health of Meghan Markle – was a recurring theme of the conversation.
In a world where ‘being good on Instagram’ is a viable career path, attention is a valuable currency. The media know this. It may be easy for them to get your attention for something positive when the big story is a royal wedding. But when the wedding bells fade, the simplest way to keep your attention may be to say something awful. And often, when we give that awful thing the light of our attention the media can continue to focus on it.
In John 3.14-21, Jesus talks about how the light of God exposes our wrongdoing but that those who believe in God don’t need to fear condemnation, and that they have eternal life. In the ‘attention’ economy, today’s headlines are tomorrow’s fish ‘n’ chips paper but what is left behind when the spotlight moves on is a real person, eternally loved by God. So where should you focus your attention? And how does it feel to know that God’s attention is on you?
This is one of the main things the Oprah Winfrey interview was about: media outlets seem to have been playing the game of ‘how can we get the most attention possible?’ while many people gave them the attention they wanted by focusing in on whether the story they wrote was racist or not. But, as Meghan Markle once said in a different interview, no one ever stopped to ask if she was ok.
It is true that our attention can be used positively to shine a light on wrongdoing. But sometimes it might be that when the light of that attention shines, it can allow something negative to gain traction. How can you focus your attention in a way which shares the eternal love of Jesus?
David Wadsworth is a storyteller and poet, and writer-in-residence at Cambourne Church. More information and examples of his work can be found at www.wadsworthcreative.com.
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