Three weeks ago I preached a sermon about identity matters. It focussed on our individual identity, how God’s love was instrumental in forming Jesus identity, and how God’s love builds our sense of identity.Last week I prepared a sermon for joint worship involving people from different local churches including Burbage Methodist Church, Sapcote Methodist Church, Sharnford Methodist Church, StHelens Church in Sharnford or All Saints Church in Sapcote. Last Sunday morning our internet connection went down and I am very grateful to Di Harrold for reading my sermon with ten minute’s notice! The sermon focussed on the importance of belonging; especially belonging to the local Christian community. It ended with suggestions of how we can continue to stay connected during the challenges of the current lockdown restrictions whilst praying for better times ahead. This morning I am focussing on how we recognise peoples’ identity and how we can recognise Jesus correctly. So, how do we recognise other people? It could be by seeing their face, hearing their voice or in some other way. Maybe you have recognised people on Zoom this morning- maybe there are some new names and faces? I mentioned last week that I joined a gym about 15 years ago. Whilst I was a new member people looked at me and saw a new face. Imagine my surprise when a very tall man walked into the changing room and I instantly recognised him as England rugby world Cup winning captain Martin Johnson. Not a total surprise to see him in a gym. It’s harder to recognise people out of context. A few years back Denise and I were on a train to London. As we approached Euston station a woman walked past us in the aisle. Other people looked at her as she went by. Denise said “That’s Laura Kuenssberg from the BBC news team” I doubted her at first but when I looked again I could clearly see that it was indeed her. Most of us grow up developing good skills in facial recognition. Sometimes we recognise people by their voice- when I phone members of our congregation, people don’t ask me for ID, I introduce myself, they recognise my voice and they know it’s me. How does this relate to our reading from John chapter 1? John is introducing Jesus as the ultimate revelation of God - the true light of the world, the living Word. How many of the human race will recognise Him correctly? The first people to see Jesus would have had questions about His divine nature. This is because the accepted view at the time, formed by the Old Testament teachings, was that a person cannot see God and live. Therefore, could Jesus possibly be divine? Let me illustrate this. Let us think about sunlight. Plenty of bright sunlight has many benefits- It helps us to see what we are doing, it helps build vitamin D immunity in our bodies, it helps us to sleep well at night, it lifts our mood, it helps plants to grow (photosynthesis). and many many other benefits you can think of I’m sure…… We are not able to look directly at the sun but we may be able to recognise some of its benefits. In the same way, we may not be able to look at God directly. However, we may be able to recognise Jesus correctly- the revelation of God with us. And yet many people did not recognise Jesus correctly, according to those interesting words from John chapter 1 verses 10 and 11: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” What John is saying here is that although all human beings have developed powers of recognition, not everyone is able to recognise Jesus correctly. Why is that? A huge question!! A mystery perhaps, which makes it hard for me to answer. However it is there in black and white in John’s gospel! Perhaps you know the saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” I’m not sure why, but it has a ring of truth about it. So too with faith in Jesus. As Christians (on our own or together) we witness to others (whether we realise it or not) but we cannot make others believe- this is the action of the Spirit of God, and up to people to make their own faith decision. In chapter 1 of his gospel, John is also introducing the structure of his whole gospel by summarising the response to Jesus, the true light, in two ways. The people who fail to recognise Jesus feature mainly in the first half of his gospel and those who recognise Jesus correctly feature mainly in the second half of his gospel. This seems to be the central argument to John’s gospel. It is more than a biography of Jesus; it shows a video of how different people respond in different ways to the powerful light that shines from the person of Jesus Christ. For us as Christians there is a wonderful promise of encouragement Verse 12 “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” John is saying here that we recognise Jesus by the eye of faith: We believe and trust in Jesus as Son of God who shines His light and love into our lives. What a wonderful privilege it is to recognise the light of Jesus correctly and to belong to God’s family. There is always more to learn and always more space for the light of Jesus in our lives. But we are members of God’s family through accepting Jesus and believing in Him today. I draw to a close now with some examples of recognising Jesus among us today. Being a small part of God’s family we are able to recognise and celebrate family achievements. We rejoice whenever we see God at work in the world today. An example. This year our local churches have been praying a lot for our local schools in Sapcote and Sharnford. The staff have the extremely challenging task of teaching about a quarter of pupils in school and the rest at home - at the same time! Yet God’s hand is with them and it is going very well, although staff are tired. It is going so well that some are saying it would be a great time for Ofsted to visit! We recognise that this is Jesus at work among us. Being a small part of God’s worldwide family we are also able to recognise when Jesus is speaking to us. Over the years we get to know Jesus voice- remember John 10 when Jesus says I am the good shepherd- the sheep know my voice.( A bit like hearing a familiar voice on the phone). Recently Jesus has been speaking to us through our online worship about staying connected to the local Christian community, spending time with Jesus “under the fig tree” and being dearly loved by God. We recognise that Jesus is speaking to us and helping to build our identity as Christians. This security in our identity helps us through the current rollercoaster of life. Together let’s continue to recognise Jesus at work in our midst, to hear Jesus voice together and most of all continue to correctly recognise Jesus for who Jesus is with the eye of faith. Recognising Jesus as God leads us to worship, adore and bow before the Son of God.
Church of England Diocese of Leicester Sapcote