Sermon Study Guide – St. Thomas’ Church, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

 

(Date: 18 Mar 2012) “The Mini Bible make Maxi Christians” Eph 2:1-10, & John 3:14-21

 

  1. Many people today feel simply overwhelmed with the complexity of their lives? They wonder what the use of so many of the things that clutter up their existence is. Is that something that you ask: What’s it all for- what difference do you or anything really make? Do you find the responsibilities and pressures of your life wear on you? Do you long to have something a whole lot simpler than what you have? What sorts of things do you find burdensome for you?

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Leader’s Guide:

The Bible teaches that there is actually a very simple truth that is the core to everything. It is a core truth that can enable us to live simply and with passion even in the midst of a very complicated world and life. It is what the Gospel reading is about today and we have all heard it many times before: it is called the Bible in miniature. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 3:16 God so loved the whole world…not just Israel, not just the Church or special people. We are special but so is everybody else. With God we are all special. We know just how this works: we have children. When the first is born you love her 100% and when the second is born you don’t then divide your love 60-40%. What happens when the third comes along? How do you know you are special to God? So who gets to “not perish”? Why? Is that good news?

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  1. Almost everyone who goes to church knows John 3:16 (the little Bible). It is on billboards everywhere- and rightly so. But how many know by heart John 3:17? “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Why do you think verse 16 doesn’t flow into verse 17 for many Christians?

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Leader’s Guide:

 

Jesus did not come to condemn but to save the world. Not, “You were so sinful that you needed to be saved”. That may be true but that isn’t what it says. It says, “You were so loved that you were saved.” Not change first and then be loved but be loved first, so that you can be changed by that love. The Jews have a special role and the Church has a special role but God so loved the world. The Jews are here for the gentiles- the church is here for the world. We are to be God’s messengers that God so loved the world but so often we so often seem to say- you need to change first, then you can be loved. Our message is: you are loved, and we pray that message will be received and believed so that the world can then chose to change and live in hope. What do you make of Archbishop William Temple’s saying: The church is the only organization that exists for the sake of non-members?

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  1. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (3:18) So why do you think so many Christians engage in self-condemnation and judging others (especially other Christians)? Do you do it?

If we do not believed we are not condemned by God then we will condemn ourselves. The job of the Church is to get out with the good news of God’s love so that people will break the cycle of their own self-condemnation, and then their condemnation of others after themselves (because self-condemnation makes us miserable and misery does love company)! The Church was not saved to be miserable or to spread the miserable news.

 

We have been created for God’s works. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Eph 2:9,10)

 

Saint Paul says we have been created (and redeemed) for good works. That’s it! If we do not believe we are loved, if we do not believed we are not condemned, then we will remain in condemnation and feel as if we are unloved. Then we will not be able to do good works in Christ Jesus. We will be able to do some good things but those things will all be about us, not about the love of God we have seen and believed and received in Christ Jesus. His love frees us to live freely and show people what it looks like to live as free children of God.

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In the Book of Common Prayer, before receiving the Holy Communion of Jesus’ presence in us, we say the Prayer of Humble Access. It helps us hold John 3:16-18 together so that we stay out of condemnation of any kind. It is one of the bet Christian prayers to memorize and use over and over again:

 

WE do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, Trusting in our own righteousness, But in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy So much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, Whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, So to eat the Flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, And to drink his Blood, That our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, And our souls washed through his most precious Blood, And that we may evermore dwell in him, And he in us. Amen. (BCP p. 83)

 

That’s the mini-Bible for you!

 

 

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