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Palm Sunday

In the gospel of John, chapter 12, it is written how a 'huge crowd that had arrived for the Feast heard that Jesus was entering Jerusalem. They broke off palm branches and went out to meet him. And they cheered: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in God’s name! The King of Israel! Jesus got a young donkey and rode it, just as the Scripture has it: No fear, Daughter Zion: See how Your king comes, riding a donkey’s colt.'

Whatever anyone might think about the person of Jesus, one thing cannot be denied: He was no coward. It takes a lot of courage to enter the city of Jerusalem, when it was filled to the brim with tourists or worshippers for the Jewish Passover. His courage is further seen in how He let Himseld be hailed in as the new King and the new Hero Who was going to free His people from the oppressors of their country: While He knew, they were going to ask for His blood within a week.

One chapter back in the gospel of John it was Thomas who remarked; Let’s go with Jesus to Jerusalem to die with Him. He said this because he was aware of the imminent danger of going to Jerusalem. Jesus had the same predicted when in Jerusalem not to be crowned the new King and Hero, but for the exact opposite.

Sometimes, I wish I had a little bit of His courage to do what God wants me to do without delay or murmuring or even not doing it. And looking to our world it appears that many more people are in need of some of Jesus’ courage to live in accordance to God’s commandments.

But, that’s reason why He went to Jerusalem. To give His life for us who are not capable of doing the God’s Will or follow His commandments. Jesus went to Jerusalem even when He knew it would end in ridicule, shame and death, but He did it for you and me.


John 12:22-30; Life

John 12:25 is a key text in the Bible when Jesus says: The one who loves life will loose it, but the one who hates life will win it for eternity. The same text with similar wordings is also found in Luke 9:25 and Matthew 10:39. It was deemed important enough by the Gospel writers to put these words of Jesus in their Gospels.

The words Sound quite harsh and even more so, also controversial. At face value, when Jesus wants us to hate our lives in order to win it for eternity we all better stop doing anything we like, and seek martyrdom at the earliest opportunity. Because that’s what is says in Matthew and Luke; those who loose their life for Christ’s sake will save it.

But, if we believe life is really only to be hated, why then made God life? When we believe that God made us as crown of His creation, as it says in Genesis, why then should He asks us to hate it. Our God is not a God of hate. God even sent His Beloved into the world because He loves us as He made us to His likeness. Out of love Jesus Christ gave His life for us and not because He hates us. It’s against the whole of God’s character and of Jesus’s ministry to focus on hate, or hating our lives the core message of the whole Gospel. 

The text from John 12:25 is in need of some nuance and this nuance begins with a closer look into what Jesus means with ‘Life’. 

In the original Greek text of John 12:25, the word used for life is the so called psuche or soul. But, we have to be careful here, because the psuche as soul has a Greek philosophical meaning and not a Hebrew one. Jesus was not a Greek, but a Jew and the Jewish philosophy was not the same as the Greek.

We can be quite sure that Jesus spoke Hebrew, or Aramaic which is a Hebrew dialect, so He used words expedient to His hearers. But, John, Matthew and Luke, writing their Gospel, used this Greek word psuche to explain what Jesus meant when He spoke about life. 

The word psuche is not alien to the Hebrew or Jewish people. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, the word psuche is not uncommon. 

When used for people the word psuche denotes a kind of life principle driving action of every type. We often call it the soul, but the soul in Jewish thinking means the whole human being in its entirety including all responsibilities. Someone's soul is therefore someone’s self, and it denotes the living person in thought, decision and action.

Later rabbinic teaching declares the body from earth and the soul from heaven and the soul dwells in the body like a guest, leaving the body at death. Then at the resurrection, body and soul are reunited and forms a unity again standing in responsibility to God.

A Rabbi's parable about 150AD puts it this way: When a blind man puts a lame man on his shoulder and both steal the fruits in an orchard, both are judged simultaneously; in the same way body and soul will be judged together.

The importance of the psuche, or soul, as the main instrument of making choices is for example seen in John 10:24. In this part, the Pharisees ask Jesus how much longer He will keep them in suspense whether He is the Christ or not. In the Greek, the same word psuche is used again, when the pharisees ask their question. So it shows how the psuche is the place where a decision is made for or against Jesus Christ.

Before finishing the question about how psuche denotes life, one question has to be answered first. And this is about what it means to hate life, in order not to loose it in eternity.

Returning back to John 12:25, there is a kind of wordplay in the original text.  It says: The one who loves - philoon - his life will lose it, but the one who hates - misoon - his life in this cosmos/creation will keep it in eternal life. Although misoon is translated as hate, its original meaning is less harsh. Miso(on) denotes the opposite of liking something, rather than hating it. In Greek miso before another word means the dislike of it, but not so much to hate it. Whereas the philo-love in the Bible  is not an overwhelming love, in the same sense, miso-hate is not an absolute hate. It is rather about what is important or not important in someone's life. 

Conclusively, we might say that understanding the word psuche and its relation to love and to hate is essentially not doing what you want to do yourself first, but looking to what God expects us to do in how we live our lives responsible in the light of His word and commandments. 

This then relates very closely to psuche as the force that drives us in our innermost being. The decision to walk with God is a free choice made by our psuche or soul. 

It is to each of us to choose whether we put our trust in God, through Christ Jesus, or not. What drives us is the first question in whatever we do. Is it out of love for God or out of love for ourselves. 

John 3:14-21 - Light

There are a few remarkable features of the Gospel of John, or certain phrases you only find in John. And one of these in the mentioning of Light and in particular the light in relation to darkness. The gospel of John, and his letters, are full of references to light against the darkness.

It already begins in the first few verses of John’s gospel. It says in :4; In Him was life and the life was the Light of humanity. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. 

And here in chapter 3 of our reading, the same phrases are found again: The Light has come into the world, and those who do evil they hate the light and love the darkness instead, :20.

This duality between light and darkness in John’s gospel, requires some notations for a good understanding of what John means to say. 

In the first place it is noteworthy to mention how John does not begin with darkness, but with the Light. In the beginning John wrote that the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome the light. And also in chapter 3, the light comes before the darkness. Besides, on several other places in John’s gospel it is written that there is not only darkness in the world, but the world itself is darkness, like in chapter 8 and 12.

The 2nd observation in how John uses light against darkness is how John explains this in terms of sin and guild. And because of this experience of guild, darkness resists the Light. This means that walking in darkness is a breach in the relationship with God and it is therefore that Jesus said: who believes in Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life (8:12).

And in the final words Jesus spoke in public this becomes even more apparent. Chapter 12 in John’s gospel contains the last public appearance of Jesus Christ and the words He spoke to the crowds. In these final words  Jesus said how He has come into the world as a Light so that no one who believes in Him should stay in darkness (:46).

There’s one final observation to mention, which is the the notion that the darkness has not overcome the Light. Essentially this is a somewhat wrong translation of the original Greek. The King James translation has translated in directly and correctly, by saying: And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

In keeping the original translation it focusses us on the question; why couldn’t the darkness, which is the world itself, not comprehended it? Our reading says that those who are evil hate the light and prefer the darkness instead, but the world is not full of people who only want to do evil. It says that those who want to do what is true want to come to the Light, but where are they? Perhaps this is the reason why it says; ‘the darkness comprehended it not’. 

The people no longer know about the Light of the world. And even when they know about the True Light, their minds are now so full of many types of guiding lights of this day and age, they can no longer observe the true Light.

There remains a task for us, who follow the Light, to let this True Light show among all the other guiding lights. It’s not so much by our words, or perhaps even by what we do, but even more so by our prayers. It begins to pray for the people whom we love that they may see the True Light and comprehend what the True Light could mean to them.

Lent 2021

In normal times the period of Lent is a time of serenity, soberness, self-denial, abstinence and contemplation. But, I can fully understand when someone has had enough of it by now during this period of lock-down and confinement to the same place.

When we mentioned removing flowers from within the church, because of Lent, people asked us please let the flowers remain in church. This was because they were looking for some colourful signs of hope and encouragement when they entered the church for some quiet moments. Indeed, it is the church, which should be the place where we’re always reminded of the colourful richness of God’s goodness together with His care and hope in all circumstances.

During Lent we usually remember the suffering of Jesus and His way to the cross from when He entered Jerusalem, less than a week before. However, during His last few days, He held the Sabbath meal for the Jewish Pascha with His disciples, which He called His friends.

In Luke 22:15, it is written how Jesus said: I have earnestly/eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you… To know the exact reason why Jesus was eagerly delighted (as the original Greek also means) to have a meal with His friends remains unknown, but it shows how Jesus was looking forward having a meeting with His friends.

When Jesus was looking forward to moments of joy and having friends around Him during His suffering, it is difficult to argue that we should deny the same for ourselves when we are observing the period of Lent.

Unfortunately, we are not yet in a position of sharing with friends again and we might be eagerly waiting for the moment it becomes possible. But, in this period of Lent we then share this experience with Jesus Who also had to wait eagerly before He could share the Passover meal with His friends.

Perhaps this year we concentrate on Lent as not only a time of sadness, but also a time of eagerly waiting to share friendships again. At least we can then say that we share one thing with Jesus in this period of Lent, which is the desire to be able to meet with our friends again.


The Light of Valentine

The Bible reading from 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 speaks about the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. The light of the glory of Christ is also the main theme of the preaching of Paul. As he wrote in :5: For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord. And what Paul preaches mirrors the Word of God that says: ‘Let Light shine out of darkness’. Because, as it says in the next verse; it is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ, meaning that God’s Light and Glory transpires through Jesus Christ.

To understand some of the key elements of Light, it begins with darkness. In the Bible it is the light that stands against the darkness. It is at the beginning of creation when in Genesis 1 it says; darkness was upon the face of the earth. Then follows the first Word God spoke, recorded in the Bible: Let there be light.

Darkness in the language of the OT denotes everything what is harmful or evil. Darkness is a threat to life and to moral. In the original Hebrew language there is not only a connection between darkness and sorrow, but also a connection between darkness and death. Whereas light refers to happiness and life, so does darkness denotes disaster and death. 

However, we should not forget that in the OT concept of God, He is not excluded from darkness. God is Souvereign over both light and darkness. He creates both (Is. 45:7), He sends both (Psalm 105:28), darkness can't hide for Him (Job 34:22, Is. 29:15) and darkness is not dark with Him (Psalm 139:11).

In the OT the darkness and chaos are not mentioned as an independent force, but it emphasises that darkness vanishes by God's Word. The darkness doesn't put up any resistance against God's Mighty Word.

Looking to the gospel of John and in his first letter, a duality between light and darkness is paramount. But, John doesn’t begin his gospel with darkness, as does Genesis begins, but with the Light. Because the Light has overcome the darkness. And it is therefore that Jesus says: who believes in Me will never walk in darkness.

As it is Valentines day today, we could look to some of the stories associated with various Valentines. 

Ancient sources reveal that there appear to have been several St. Valentines who died on Feb. 14. Two of them were executed during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II in the 3rd C.

For those who have an interest in studying saints and their stories, you can get lost in the 68 volumes of “Acta Sanctorum,” or “Lives of the Saints,” from Rosweyde and Bollandus in the 17th C. and later studies.

Following Acta Sanctorum, Father Valentinus was one of the saints who preached Jesus Christ and went on leading pagans, as it says, out of the shadow of darkness and into the light of truth and salvation. 

One man called Asterius is said to have asked: If the Christian God could cure his foster-daughter of blindness, he would convert. So Valentinus went with Asterius and put his hands over the girl’s eyes and said:

“Lord Jesus Christ, en-lighten your handmaid, because you are God, the True Light.” After he prayed the girl could see and Asterius and his whole family were baptized.

In this story about Valentine, light is more important than love. Love is not even mentioned. But, even if love is not mentioned, love is the basis for what happened. It begins with the love of God that send His beloved Son into the world. Then, because of love Jesus gave Himself for us to fulfil His ministry. And it is out of love for Christ that this Valentine preached Jesus as the true Light of the world.

In this day and age Valentines Day is associated with only love. And in the church associated with the love of God as well. But, it had a different emphasis in the preaching of Valentine as in the Acta Sanctorum. Here the emphasis is on the Light of Christ given to us through the love of God. Valentine mirrored what Paul preaches; Jesus Christ is Lord and He is the True Light.

It is the Light of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, which is at the centre, because it is the final revelation of God’s love for us. God’s love revealed to us in the salvation ministry of Jesus Christ.


Although we’re still in the middle of the effects of a partial lockdown of our society, we should not forget that there is always hope.

Over the last year, hope is something which seems noticeable absence from the mouths of our scientists and politicians. They can be forgiven for that, because it is not their first calling to give hope, but to govern and steer. 

For the Church it is however another matter. The Church should be characterised by hope, because it is on hope the whole Church and its mission are based.

Hope in the Bible contains a somewhat different interpretation between Biblical times and our contemporary society. In our mind, hope contains a level of uncertainty as someone might hope for something to happen, but can’t be sure about the truth of it. In the Bible, however, hope is closely connected to trust. Trust in the God Whose words are true, forms the basis for a hope that is certain and trustworthy.

Truth as in the Bible refers to a Hebrew word for reliability and what is constant. The truth is something that can be trusted and because it can be trusted, we can build our hope on it.

In the pilot’s mess of Transavia many years ago a sign hung: ‘In God we trust, others pay cash’. Some might take this as offensive, but it’s true that where people or circumstances might jeopardize our trust, trusting God is relying on the certainty that He will keep His word and promises. Hope in God and trusting Him are closely linked together. God will not leave or disappoint us when we build our hope and trust on Him. 

Over the past year, many were disappointed about the progress made to return to normality in our society and kept on hoping things would change for the better soon. 

This type of hope is a kind of optimism, but it is different from the hope as mentioned in the Bible. The hope mentioned in the Bible is not based on optimism, or on believing that a glass is half full instead on half empty. It is based on trusting in the truth of God’s words and promises.

The hope the Church should proclaim is a hope that will not fade or disappoint, because it is based on trust in God. It is for this reason that the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans in chapter 5: We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us.

May this be our support and encouragement for the year to come, and the guide of how we face the future. 



A thought for the day

John 16 verse 32 says “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.  

Many people  are feeling lonely and isolated at this time and if not personally then we will certainly know someone in that situation.    Well perhaps there are friends who you sent a Christmas card but who you have not communicated with directly for a long time. Why not make contact?  Write them a letter or give them a call. Just the act of enquiring how they are  will make you and maybe them feel a bit better about being under lockdown.   Any time  we are lonely we could ask Jesus to come into our lives We need never fear that he will not come . As the old hymn tells us - Oh what peace we often forfeit, or what needless pain we bear , all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.   Either or ideally both  will only take a few moments of our week but could make such a difference.   

Comfort, we ask you most gracious God, all who are cast down and faint of heart amidst the sorrows and difficulties of the world; and grant that by the power of the Holy Spirit, they may be lifted up to you with hope and courage, and enabled to go upon their way, rejoicing in your love; through Christ Our Lord, amen.

'The wonder of love and the power of grace'


Did any of you catch last Sunday’s (24th Jan) ‘Songs of Praise’ on BBC1? If you did you will have heard the very uplifting clip of Stuart Townend and his band performing their song ‘Vagabonds’. And if you didn’t hear it – do take a few minutes to click on this link and listen to it! https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p021rbf6.

As the pandemic continues to dominate all our lives, I was struck by the following lines of the song: 

“Come all you questioners

Looking for answers,

And searching for reasons

And sense in it all …

Come to the feast,

There is room at the table:

Come let us meet in this place.

With the King of all kindness

Who welcomes us in,

With the wonder of love,

And the power of grace.”

Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, David Zimmer, Stuart Townend, Ed Cash. Copyright © 2016 Getty Music Publishing (BMI) , Alletrop Music (BMI) and Townend Songs (PRS) (admin by Song Solutions www.songsolutions.org) 

The song was written some years ago and the situation that we are in now was not its theme, but at a time when we are all seeking an answer to the question “why is this happening?” these verses resonated with me. Sadly the question, “Why, Lord?” is one to which there is no satisfactory answer, because at its core is the more profound question of why any suffering exists.

Yet despite everything, the invitation is there to all of us, including those “who feel at the end of the road”, to experience the welcome offered by “King of all kindness”: in other words, the Jesus who, in his humanity, understands our suffering.

Just before I heard Stuart Townend's song for the first time, I was reading the thoughts of an American priest, Fr. James Martin – in his essay ‘Faith in the time of Coronavirus’. In it, he reminds us that:

“... during his public ministry, Jesus spent a great deal of time with those who were sick. And before modern medicine, almost any infection could kill you. Thus, lifespans were short: only 30 or 40 years. In other words, Jesus knew the world of illness. Jesus, then, understands all the fears and worries that you have. Jesus understands you, not only because he is divine and understands all things but because he is human and experienced all things. Go to him in prayer. And trust that he hears you and is with you. We will move through this together, with God’s help.”

It struck me that for all of us who question the current situation and seek answers, this is the best advice that we can act upon. So, as the vaccine is rolled out and the future begins to look just a little bit brighter, let us reaffirm our trust in the King of all kindness - and above all, let us trust that in the wonder of His love and in the power of His grace, we can build a better world when we come through to the other side.


Baptism of Christ Sunday - Acts 19:1-7

Baptism, laying on of hands and receiving of the Holy Spirit: 3 things happen here in only a few verses that keeps church and theology going round and round in circles.

The reason I say this, is because there is no systematic and uniform theology about this at all in the Bible, certainly not in the Old Testament. 

Hence, when we take a look to the origins of baptism there is not much to go on. Only the gospels of Matthew and Mark have the commission to believe and to be baptised. But, further in the New Testament there is no theology of baptism. Even more so, nowhere in the NT is the same and constant use of baptism either. Only from our reading this morning we learn that Paul re-baptised some who were baptised by John. 

Baptism might have transferred from the Old Testament, with the proselyte baptism, into a practice exercised in the NT, but that was only the baptism by John the Baptist. Baptism in the Name of Christ is of course only to be found in the NT. And although people were baptised in the Name of Christ, there is no theological teaching on this practice and even less so with receiving the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, baptism, followed by laying on of hands and receiving the Holy Spirit cannot be proven from the Bible as a ritual that has to be performed. 

It’s only Christian tradition, combined with creeds from councils and Church teaching that forms the basis for theological teaching for baptism, followed by laying on of hands and receiving of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism as an expression of faith coincides in the NT on several occasions with the receiving of the Holy Spirit. But others were baptised who did not receive the Holy Spirit at their baptism while others received the Holy Spirit before they were baptised, adding even more confusion to the real meaning of baptism.

Baptism as a sacrament only developed much later and was not practised as such by Jesus' first disciples. At best baptism in the NT was a symbol, marking a new beginning, an new commitment, and sometimes happened to the whole household.

Even if baptism is only a symbol and not a theological mandate, it still is a powerful testimony and expression of faith in Jesus Christ. 

When I lived and worked for a while in Hong Kong with YWAM at the Yuen Long Gospel centre in the New Territories, in the beginning of the 1980ies, I met several Chinese people whose baptism was a real brake with their past. Their baptism was an openly breach with the Confussius/Buddhist tradition they had been living under and most of time it caused a break with their whole family. With their baptism they started a complete new beginning with a new family, their church family. 

Although we’re now 40 years later there are still enough places in this world where baptism is a life threatening commitment and the mark of a really new beginning.

Years ago, when I was evangelising one or two afternoons per week in the Red Light district in Amsterdam with YWAM, Trudi and I went to the baptism of someone who was a thief, thug or whatever with a history of prison sentences. Trudi, who worked for a gap-year in a Christian Youth hostel, the Shelter, on the edge of the Red Light district knew him well. While he stayed in the Shelter he his gave his life to Christ, so he wanted to be baptised. At the baptism service we listened to his moving and  wonderful testimony about his former life, repentance and turning to faith. He called his baptism a new beginning of his life, leaving behind all what he done wrong and publically asking for forgiveness of all his mistakes. Many then witnessed how the water of his baptism marked the new beginning of his new life. That was on Sunday evening. The next Tuesday he left the Shelter taking with him thousands stolen from the safe and from some other places.

This shows how it is up to you and me and everyone else who is baptised, to give it real meaning and value. 

The real meaning and value of baptism is in how we live our lives as those who put their faith in Christ. If Jesus Christ and His salvific ministry is not at the heart of baptism it will always become a hollow shell. The shell often used to pour the water of baptism at the child at the font, will remain an empty symbol if not followed by growth in faith. And the water of the baptistry that emerges the one who is baptised bears no symbol of cleansing or the mark of a new beginning if it is not followed by commitment to live with Jesus Christ. 

We symbolically shared in the death of Christ when we were baptised, but will we share in the resurrection of Jesus Christ if He is not alive in our own hearts and visible alive in us for others?  

Baptism is the mark of a life with Jesus Christ at the centre. To be loyal to Him Who is the source of life, in good and in less good times. Baptism on its own doesn't mean much if it isn't followed by walking together with our living Lord in a way of righteousness and loyalty to God our Father.

Happy New Year and many blessings for 2021

2020 is behind us and 2021 is the future. It is like a new beginning with the past not having gone yet. It will be a new year full of challenges and opportunities being still amid a pandemic, but with Brexit finally done.

Both the challenges and opportunities of this pandemic and Brexit might bring fear and uncertainty, but at the same it opens the way for a new era and moving forward through changing times and for new initiatives for prosperity and peace for all.

Now 2021 has dawned upon us the question arises of how we could approach the year ahead of us in this peculiar but unique moment in our history. As a guidance we might look to a particular hymn that was most popular to Winston Churchill which is the well-known: ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…..Glory, Glory Hallelujah.’

The first line in the third verse of the hymn, which was also sung at Churchill’s funeral, represents not only Churchill’s character, but also that of the character of the English nation as a whole: ‘He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat.’

Going backward is not the way into the future and as this nation has shown through the ages, it will be able to face the future with courage.

I hope we take heart not only because of the words of a hymn, but even more so because they refer to a living Lord, Who has been victorious over sin and death and Who will be our guide, our strength and support to move forward into 2021 without retreat in serving Him and one another.

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