The Anglican Connection Connecting Gospel-Centered Churches in North America Mon, 27 Mar 2023 00:00:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The weekly podcast is a Mid-week Bible Reflection that includes Prayers drawn from an Anglican Prayer Book, Bible Readings (typically from the New Revised Standard Version), and a Bible Reflection given by an ordained minister of the Church. Each podcast session is introduced and closed with Music (and may occasionally include a song).<br /> John Mason: Speaker and writer. President of the Anglican Connection; Commissary to the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney in the USA. clean episodic John Mason: Speaker and writer. President of the Anglican Connection; Commissary to the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney in the USA. (John Mason: Speaker and writer. President of the Anglican Connection; Commissary to the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney in the USA.) The Anglican Connection Word on Wednesday: A Mid-week Bible Reflection and Prayers, including Music The Anglican Connection TV-G Weekly 177772188 ‘The King…?’ Tue, 28 Mar 2023 14:00:00 +0000 The post ‘The King…?’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


Royal events attract the attention of millions around the world. It is estimated some 4 billion people watched the funeral of her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II – more than twice the population of the world when she was born.

How different was another royal occasion, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the acclamation of the crowds calling on him as God’s King.

A King’s Welcome. The Gospels tell us that Jesus deliberately set the scene for his entry into Jerusalem that day. Riding into the city on the back of the foal of a donkey, he was fulfilling a prophecy about the Messiah made by Zechariah some 500 years before (Zechariah 9:9).

When Jesus prepared to ride the donkey, the disciples threw their cloaks on its back, and Luke records that as Jesus rode down from the Mount of Olives people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. His entry into Jerusalem had the hallmarks of a king entering his city (Luke 19:35f).

Indeed, Luke along with other Gospel writers wants us to feel just how much of a royal procession it was: As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!…” (Luke 19:37f).

The crowds were singing one of the festival psalms for the Passover Feast (Psalm 118:26). It’s a song of victory, a hymn of praise to the one God who never loses his battles and establishes his kingdom.

Peace was another theme: “…Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” they sang. Peace was the angels’ song at the announcement of Jesus’ birth. Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people… the angels had sung (Luke 2:12).

However, there was an irony here that the crowds in their enthusiasm seemed to have missed: this king was not riding a warrior horse. It was no royal or presidential motorcade with an armed security.

And there is another element to that first Palm Sunday which Luke records: As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. …  because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God” (Luke 19:41-44).

As Jesus came over the top of the Mount of Olives and saw the city, it is clear that uppermost in his thoughts were his suffering and the destruction of nation’s capital, David’s royal city. Yes, he was the king coming ‘in the name of the Lord’ as the people sang. But he knew he was not coming to take up David’s throne at that time as everyone expected. Rather, he foresaw the city of Jerusalem – a smoking, desolate ruin.

Why would this happen? Because Jerusalem failed to recognize the One who had visited it.

On that first Palm Sunday there were joy, acclamation, and tears. Yet, five days later the unthinkable occurred: Jesus was put to death by crucifixion. The contrast between the first Palm Sunday when crowds acclaimed Jesus as king and the day he was strung up on a cross, could not have been more stark. One day the crowds were saying he was God’s promised king; within a week the dying Jesus was exposed to the vulgar frivolity of the Roman soldiers as they offered him wine and made a party of it. “If you are the king of the Jews,” they mocked, “save yourself” (Luke 23:37).

The events of that Thursday evening and Friday had moved swiftly. Jesus had been betrayed, arrested, brought to trial before the Jewish religious leaders, before Herod, and before Pilate. Herod and Pilate had declared him innocent of the charges against him. But the Jewish leaders were adamant he should be put to death.

And when Jesus was nailed to the cross, Pilate the Roman governor in Judea had ordered, as was the custom, that the charge against Jesus be nailed above his head – ‘King of the Jews.’ With Jesus’ resurrection and his conquest of death, Pilate’s notice was prophetic.

Why then did Jesus die? Jesus himself answers the question. In Luke chapter 19, verse 10 he says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost”.

The whole of the New Testament and the voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts tells us why: he died for you and for me. As we read in Romans chapter 5, verse 8 the punishment for our sin was laid on him. Indeed, when he was dying, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Everyone watching the scene that day knew he was innocent. The them he was praying for are all who shut their minds to the voice of truth, the voice of the Spirit, and the testimony of their conscience. He was praying for the Roman soldiers and the Jewish leaders; he was praying for the crowd and his followers. But he was also praying then for you and me, for none of us has perfectly honored him as we should.

And isn’t it also true that although we have heard the story of the cross, there are times when we have refused to let it change us? How often have we failed to reckon that our indifference or arrogance towards him contributed to his pain.

How encouraging it is to reflect on the twin themes of Palm Sunday and Good Friday. As we consider their significance, we need to ensure that our own relationship with the king is secure. And when the joy of that really touches us, surely we’ll want to share it with family and friends as well as many others.

A prayer. Almighty and everlasting God, in tender love towards humankind you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take our nature upon him and to suffer death on the cross, so that all should follow the example of his great humility. Grant that we may follow the example of his suffering and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.  Amen.

© John G. Mason

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‘The Dead are Raised…’ Tue, 21 Mar 2023 14:00:00 +0000 The post ‘The Dead are Raised…’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


The subject of death is not something we usually discuss. It’s too personal and confronting. Yet it’s the ultimate certainty we all face. It’s why literature, film and philosophy so often dwell on the themes of our mortality. But it’s rare that anyone claims they can do anything about it. Death is assumed to be the inevitable end for everyone.

In John chapter 10 we learn that life had been heating up for Jesus in Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders had attempted to stone him for his apparent blasphemy (10:31).

So Jesus left the city for the region east of the Jordan River. There he learned that his friend Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary, was dying in the village of Bethany, near Jerusalem. Then learning that Lazarus had died, and against the advice of his disciples who feared the Jewish leaders, Jesus returned to Bethany where he was first met by Martha.

In the course of their conversation where she said to Jesus that if he had come sooner her brother would not have died, he made an amazing assertion: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

His words are astonishing, for in saying, “I am the resurrection and the life…” Jesus wasn’t saying, ‘I promise resurrection and life’. Nor was he saying, ‘I procure,’ or, ‘I bring’ but ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’

Furthermore, in saying ‘I am’ he uses the very words God used when he disclosed his name to Moses. Unless Jesus is equal with God his words are nothing short of blasphemy.

“I am the resurrection and the life…” he says. “Do you believe this?” he asked Martha.

John records that Jesus then met Martha’s sister, Mary who fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Once again Jesus was rebuked for not having come sooner. But unlike Martha Mary allows her grief to flow. John tells us then that Martha and Mary weren’t the only ones to grieve:

Jesus wept (11:35).

These words constitute the shortest verse in the Bible. How poignant, how stark it is.

The word wept that John uses speaks of a deep anguished cry of grief. It’s the cry of heartfelt loss, the kind of grief that explodes from the depths of our inner being.

Why did Jesus react this way? He didn’t weep like this when news came that Jairus’s daughter had died. Certainly Lazarus was a close friend but Jesus knew he was going to pull him out of that tomb.

Jesus wept. I suggest he was grieving for our human plight. No matter how successful we are, how good and compassionate we are, death awaits us all.

Men and women, created in God’s image, are now broken images and broken images cannot endure the pure light of God’s perfection and glory. Jesus was grieving for what we as men and women had lost. As in Adam all die, Paul the Apostle writes in First Corinthians chapter 15.

At Lazarus’s graveside, Jesus felt the full impact of this and wept. But there is a sense in which Jesus grieved at what our loss would mean for him. It would mean that he himself would have to die. Only through his death could he conquer death and raise to life anyone who turns to him and believes in him. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22).

Could it be true? The witness of Jesus’ own resurrection, the New Testament, the evidence of history, the existence of the Christian church, point to the conclusion that Jesus’ words were the truth. Apart from Jesus Christ we have no certainty about the future.

And if there is a future life, how can we be assured that we are good enough to achieve it? Most people are aware of their failures – failures that we don’t want to talk about, let alone tell anyone about. It’s one of the reasons John Newton’s Amazing Grace is so well known: it speaks to our sense of lostness, our need to be rescued and our hope for the future.

John’s record doesn’t stop with Jesus’ words to Martha and Mary. He went to the tomb and asked that the stone be rolled away. We can only imagine the scene. A graveyard, a cave in a hillside, filled with bodies and bones. The stench of rotting bodies as the gravestone was rolled aside.

And then, standing at the entrance of the tomb, Jesus called, “Lazarus, come out!”

For a moment everyone must have thought he was mad. But then, a sight to behold emerged: still in his grave clothes Lazarus appeared.

Voices around us today insist that because we now know the laws of nature we can be sure that miracles like this can’t happen. To which Dr. John Lennox, emeritus professor of mathematics and philosophy at Oxford University, responds, ‘The laws of nature that science observes are the observable regularities that God the creator has built into the universe. However, such ‘laws’ don’t prevent God from intervening if he chooses. When he does, we are able to identify the irregularity and speak of it as ‘a miracle’’.

Men and women have come a long way in understanding and harnessing quantum chemistry, physics and medicine, but nothing compares with the naked power that Jesus wielded at that moment.

The scene is a picture of a time yet to come when Jesus will once again appear on the stage of world events. On that day he will cry out in a loud voice, “Come forth,” and all the dead from throughout time will rise.

The question Jesus had asked Martha that day was: “Do you believe this?” Let me ask, can you say with Martha, “Yes Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world?”

Death is not the end of our story. Rather for all who turn to Jesus and believe in him, death opens the door to a new beginning of life that is everlasting.

A prayer. We beseech you, almighty God, to look in mercy on your people; so that by your great goodness we may be governed and preserved evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

© John G. Mason

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You may want to listen to Christ Our Hope in Life and Death from Keith and Kristyn Getty and Matt Papa.

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‘The Blind See…’ Wed, 15 Mar 2023 01:35:57 +0000 The post ‘The Blind See…’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


In our troubled world many long for the days of the great revivals – perhaps the days of the Wesleys and George Whitfield in England and in the US, or the years of Billy Graham, or the days of great revival in East Africa.

Let me suggest we shouldn’t be discouraged. Jesus himself began with a small group of men and women and look what happened: by the 4th century AD the influence of God’s gospel had had spread throughout the Roman Empire. This hadn’t happened through armed conflict but through the work of God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

Come with me to the events that unfold in John chapter 9 – a chapter that reads like a drama in three Acts.

Act 1. As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me’ (9:1-4a).

A blind man begging on the side of the road was a familiar sight. But this man hadn’t contracted blindness through the dusty, disease laden air of those roads. He had been born blind, and the question Jesus’ close followers asked reflected Jewish theology: ‘Who sinned? This man or his parents?’ they asked. People often ask a similar question today when things go awry: ‘What have I done to deserve this?’

Jesus’ response was unexpected: ‘Sin hadn’t led to this man’s blindness. Rather, it was to reveal God’s power’. Consider the simplicity of the drama that followed. Jesus doesn’t look for any expression of faith, he simply acts. And like all the gospel miracles, he wields the creative power of God. It’s a miracle which speaks of the uniqueness of Jesus. Jesus is a unique man doing unique things.

He spat on the ground, made clay and anointed the man’s eyes. ‘Go and wash…’ he commanded. The man obeyed and returned seeing.

Just think how this simply stated drama would be written up today. There’d be a detailed description of what Jesus said and did. There’d be interviews with people who witnessed it, together with the inevitable question: ‘How did you feel?’ The gospel record almost seems flat and disappointing. But what mattered was what was done, not what was felt.

A marvellous miracle had occurred. Now what?

In Act 2 five very different conversations unfold, revealing that the man had not only been physically blind but also spiritually blind. The first conversation was with confused neighbors. ‘I am the man,’ he said. ‘The man Jesus healed me’ (9:8-12).

But signs of tension emerge with a second conversation. The Pharisees disputed the credentials of someone who had healed him on the Sabbath (9:13-17). No one from God would heal on the Sabbath; how could a sinner do such signs? ‘What do you think?’, they ask the man. ‘I think he’s the prophet,’ he responded.

In a third conversation the Pharisees spoke with the healed man’s parents. In response to their questioning, they insisted their son was born blind but could now see. Anyone who said the man who had healed him is the Christ, would be excommunicated, the Pharisees warned. ‘Don’t involve us,’ the parents said. ‘Ask our son. He is of age.’

And when the Pharisees spoke with the healed man, they aggressively observed that he had been born ‘in utter sin’. ‘Keep quiet and all will be well,’ they said. But the man wasn’t shaken. He knew that he was born blind and that now he can see. He was also beginning to see that these revered leaders were blind to the truth.

‘We know that God has spoken to Moses,’ they said, ‘but as for this man, we don’t know where he is from’. ‘You call Jesus a sinner,’ the man responded. ‘If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’

The fifth conversation is one of the most beautiful found in the Bible (9:35-37). The man has just been rejected by the religious leaders, but Jesus seeks him out. ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’, Jesus asks. And the man’s response is honest and open: ‘I would believe if…’ Jesus’ response is stunning: ‘You have seen him. With your own eyes you have seen me, the Son of Man, And now I am speaking to your mind and heart, reaching the depths of your soul with who I am.

Lord I believe,’ he responded. And he worshipped Jesus as though he were God.

There are few mountain peaks higher in John’s gospel. The man began by calling Jesus a man (9:11); then a prophet (9:17); and then, ‘this man must be from God’. Now he worships Jesus as Lord.

It’s a road that many people travel as they awaken to their understanding of Jesus: he did live; he is a prophet; he must be from God; He is God – He is my Lord.

But there is a Third Act as Jesus draws out the meaning (9:39-41). “For judgment I came into this world,” Jesus said, “so that those who do not see may see, and so that those who see may become blind”.

Whenever Jesus spoke, he created tension within people. This continues today, for every time we talk about Jesus, people will react in one of two ways. Some will want to find out more and in time, come into the light of faith. Others will choose to be drawn into the darkness of unbelief – a terrifying thought.

But there is a very positive side to the healing of the formerly blind man. Through the miracle Jesus performed, through his own testimony, and through the testimony of the healed man, John reveals that Jesus is truly the man from heaven.

Furthermore, the miracle is a parable. In the healing of the man born blind, God shows us his greater purpose: to give us spiritual sight – something he alone can do. We can’t get it by our own efforts. God opens eyes, drawing us to the truth and a living faith in the Lord Jesus.

A prayer. Almighty God, grant that we, who justly deserve to be punished for our sinful deeds, may in your mercy and kindness be pardoned and restored; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

© John G. Mason

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‘Happiness…’ Tue, 07 Mar 2023 14:07:00 +0000 The post ‘Happiness…’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


In his Pensées Blaise Pascal, the 17th century French mathematician and philosopher wrote, ‘Everyone seeks happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. They will never take the least step but to this object…’

John the Gospel writer tells us of a woman at a well in Samaria two thousand years ago who would have agreed.

Like us, she longed for happiness, but it had eluded her. Five failed marriages testified to that. Thinking that love and sex and marriage would give her life meaning and happiness, she thought that each new man would be the answer. But each time she made the same mistake. Her life was a mess. She felt insecure, lonely, and dissatisfied.

An unexpected conversation. But there came a day when her life was transformed through an unexpected conversation with a Jewish man.

Ignoring social, cultural and political taboos, Jesus initiated a conversation with her through a simple request for water from the well. He didn’t talk about her life or matters of faith – at least to begin with. Rather he spoke then, as he speaks to us today, with concern and respect, meeting us where we are.

However, it wasn’t long before he took the conversation to another level by speaking to her about living water. This provided a natural opportunity for her to open up about her hopes.

It happened this way. Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:12-15).

Jesus offered her water that would satisfy her deep inner spiritual thirst. He was saying that he is the answer to the emptiness and the longing for happiness that gnaw at our souls.

Most of us aren’t willing to acknowledge this and the woman that day was no exception. We pretend we’re doing well but the reality is that we often live closer to despairthan we admit. So, we endeavor to offset our sense of emptiness by filling our social calendar, making money, being a success, even pursuing sexual adventure. But it never works.

No matter how successful we are, no matter how intense the emotional relationships we might experience, nothing can be a substitute for the relationship with God for which we are made. But if we’re going to find Jesus’ answer to our longing for happiness, first we have to admit our need.

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet…”(John 4:16-19)

Suddenly she realized that Jesus, whom she had taken for a progressive Jewish man, was nothing less than a prophet with supernatural knowledge of her life. She knew enough about religion to realize that she was being challenged to sort out her relationship with God.

The big question was where to do this – the temple in Jerusalem, or a house of worship in Samaria? Jesus’s response is, in today’s world, politically incorrect: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:22-24).

Jesus isn’t saying that it doesn’t matter what you believe so long as you’re sincere. Spirit and truth are not just synonyms for sincerity. When Jesus speaks of truth, he is talking about the inner reality of God’s being which becomes visible to us through him.

True worshippers must worship the Father in spirit and truth. This can only relate to who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Later Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

The woman responded, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us”.Jesus’s response is breath-taking, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you” – literally, ‘I who am speaking to you, I am’ (John 4:26).

Twelve hundred years before, God had revealed his name to Moses: “I am that I am that is my name”. Jesus was not just claiming to be the Messiah but to be one with God.

The water that Jesus promised the woman that day would not just quench her thirst for real life but would bring her into a deep, satisfying and eternal friendship with the one true creator-redeemer God.

Four centuries later, Augustine, the Bishop of North Africa wrote, ‘Our souls are restless until they find their rest in Thee (God)’.

The eternal life that Jesus talks about, the water that will truly satisfy us, isn’t found in the acquisition of the latest phone or some new sexual experience. Indeed, the answer to our cry for happiness isn’t in a new religious experience. It involves a personal, mutually committed relationship with Jesus. Jesus is God in the flesh. He gives us life by giving us himself.

Consider what the woman did. Leaving her water jar John records (4:28). The symbol of her emptiness now lies abandoned at Jesus’ feet. She had found the living water for she had found Him. Things would never be the same again.

There are tens of thousands of people like that woman, with empty lives. We don’t have to wait for anything special to happen to start a conversation with them. Rather, we need to be praying that God will open our eyes to opportunities to stimulate curiosity, awaken an awareness of need. It could even start with a question, ‘Have you ever read the real story about Jesus?’ followed by an invitation to look into the first eighteen sentences of that story over coffee (using TheWord121 – a very accessible annotated version of John’s Gospel).

A prayer. Almighty God, we confess that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: keep us outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, so that we may be defended from all adversities that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

© John G. Mason

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‘God so loved the world…’ Tue, 28 Feb 2023 23:42:56 +0000 The post ‘God so loved the world…’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


In today’s world, God is not so much dead as cancelled. He is not to be spoken about. If he does exist, there’s nothing good to say about him: he is grim and uncaring.

How different this is from what the Bible actually says about God. Consider the most well- known words in the Bible: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

They occur in the context of a conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus, a Jewish leader who had come to see him late at night. Nicodemus was one of the thousands who had been impressed and he wanted to meet Jesus for a personal chat.

Jesus’ rise to stardom had happened very quickly and his popularity was enormous. He said the most amazing things and backed them up with the most extraordinary actions: he healed the sick, raised the dead to life, and overcame the powers of evil. No matter what confronted him, he was always in control. His person and presence had so great an impact that he is also mentioned by other historians of that era – such as Tacitus and Josephus.

God’s love. The Bible tells us that God’s essential nature is love. In Psalm 145:8-9 we read: The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.

The theme of the love of God permeates both the Old and New Testaments. What is more, we find that his love is not sparked by something attractive about us. God loves because love is at the very heart of his being.

Now it’s important to note that our English word ‘love’ translates four Greek words (the language in which the New Testament was written). One word is eros, from which we get our word erotic. It’s a word associated with intense emotional feeling. It’s a word that pagan religions have long used in part as a reference to the mystical experience of the supernatural. One form of yoga in Hinduism exploits sexual intercourse as a technique for achieving spiritual enlightenment.

But nowhere does the New Testament use the word eros. It uses a rare word in the original Greek: agape. There are no rapturous, mystical experiences associated with agape. Rather, agape is committed to serve the best interests of the ones who are loved.

Furthermore, John tells us, God so loved the world that he reaches out to all men and women. This is breath-taking. God could have shut humanity down at the moment of their rebellion. We deserved nothing less. But God in his love had a bigger and very costly plan in mind that would benefit a world that rejected him.

God’s gift. He gave us his Son…

John is not saying that God loved world enough to give his Son. Rather, it was out of God’s love for the world that he gave his Son.

These words are amongst the most famous in the Bible. Consider what they say about Jesus. He is ‘the one who came down from heaven, the one and only Son of God’ (John 1:14).

Being from God, the Son personally reveals to us what God is like. As Jesus says later, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). More than ever we need to hear him and respond to him.

But significantly, God didn’t give his Son just to shine his light into a dark and troubled world. God so loved the world that he gave his Son to rescue it. The gift would come to its climax and fulfillment when the Son was crucified.

t was with Jesus’ death that we discover the immeasurable depth of God’s love. For it was through Jesus’ voluntary, sacrificial death that God opened the door once and for all whereby he could forgive men and women who had shown no love for him.

God’s offer. John tells us of the offer that God holds out: Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Eternal life is contrasted with perishing. John doesn’t tell us what perishing is but he does tell us that it will be a most unwelcome experience. Elsewhere we learn, mainly through Jesus’ own teaching, that it is a very serious thing to refuse God’s gift. Perishing won’t mean perpetually partying with friends. Everything that is good, beautiful, and true will be lost. T.S. Elliot put it this way, Hell is oneself. Hell is alone…

Life eternal will be a life of perfection and beauty, where there will be no more pain or suffering, self-absorption or injustice. It will be fullness of joy in the glory of the Lord.

God’s beneficiaries. John tells us who will benefit: Whoever believes in the Son… We can’t achieve eternal life by our own efforts or merits. We are totally dependent on God’s generous gift. To turn to Jesus, the Son of God and to trust him, is the key to our benefiting from God’s precious gift.

In our natural state we don’t want to accept God’s offer because we know it would mean a radical lifestyle change. And we don’t want to change. We would rather stay in the dark than move into the light and admit what we are really like.

I’ve wondered how long the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus recorded in John chapter 3, lasted. Nicodemus had arrived late at night. Could it be that as he left there were the first glimmerings of dawn on the horizon? And as he saw the rising sun, did he smile with joy at the dawn of a new day, or did he turn his eyes back upon the darkness of the night?

This is the choice that confronts you and me, and indeed the world.

A prayer. Almighty God, we ask you to look on the heartfelt desires of your servants, and stretch forth the right hand of your power to be our defense against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

© John G. Mason

Support the Word on Wednesday ministry here.

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‘Ash Wednesday’ Wed, 22 Feb 2023 05:06:14 +0000 The post ‘Ash Wednesday’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


Human relationships on the personal and international level must rate as the greatest challenge for the world’s future. As I remarked this day last year, the invasion of Ukraine reveals an unspoken issue that confronts us: humanity is flawed.

The Russian author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once commented, If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent that continues through to the day before Easter Day. You may find it helpful to use the six weeks of Lent as a special time for daily Bible reading, honest reflection, and prayer.

Indeed, the prayer for Ash Wednesday and for Lent, focuses on God’s forgiveness of the repentant person and spiritual renewal. The Lord Jesus challenges us to know the Scriptures, reflect on them and to pray, not just in Lent but throughout the year.

However, such is our flawed nature that we can all deceive ourselves. We can say one thing and do another. We may read the Bible and pray, attend church, and give to the poor, but our hearts can remain unchanged in our relationship with the Lord, as well as with one another.

Consider Jesus’ warning against hypocrisy in his Sermon on the Mount: “Beware of practising your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

Knowing better than we, how deceitful our hearts can be (Jeremiah 17:9), Jesus warns us against using our faith to win the praise of others and make a name for ourselves.

In a world where religion is publicly decried, we may not win popularity in the wider community. However, it can be a different story within the life of the church. Preachers and church leaders, musicians and generous givers can generate praise if they work at it. And social media can easily be used to promote this.

It is against this that Jesus warns us. Professing Christians who long for the accolades of others will miss out on the true reward that comes from the living God. All they have is an empty faith, with no lasting value.

Consider what he says about giving and prayer.

Giving. Look at v.2: “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others.”

Trumpets may be a metaphor: we shouldn’t sound our own trumpet or boast about our giving to the needy. But trumpets may also have a literal meaning. In Jesus’ day the Temple trumpets were sometimes blown, calling on people to make a special donation when there was a pressing need. Anyone watching would see who responded.

Giving to support the ministry of God’s Word and providing assistance for those in need is biblical. Here Jesus is saying that to give so others know what we’re doing, whether in church or at a charity function, is hypocritical.

Hypocritical religion is not from the heart. It’s motivated by self-interest. Jesus is saying here that hypocrites give in order to be honored by those around them. And, he states, “I tell you they have their reward.

“But when you give alms,” he says, “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your father who sees in secret will reward you.”

To ensure that we’re not proud or smug about our generosity, Jesus uses a vivid metaphor: the right hand should not know what the left hand is doing. No one, apart from God, will know about this private giving. He will see our real motives.

To be rewarded by God is the best kind of blessing. Approval by others is transient. Approval from God is eternal.

Prayer is another area where we can be tempted to look for human recognition. Look at verse 5: “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward…”

Prayers in the synagogues were typically led by a synagogue member. To be invited to lead the prayers was a mark of distinction. But again, Jesus knows how easy it is for anyone leading prayers to draw attention to themselves – perhaps through the literary quality of their prayer or their tone of voice.

Significantly, Jesus focuses on private prayer. He isn’t critizing public prayer, but he well knows that who we are when we pray in the privacy of our room is who we truly are. In praying privately, we can be nothing but genuine and honest before God. And uncluttered, heartfelt prayer is what God hears.

How important it is that on this Ash Wednesday – and every day – we heed Jesus’ warning: “Beware of practising your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” God delights in our honest and heartfelt, loving and loyal relationship with him.

A prayer for Ash Wednesday: Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, so that we, lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain from you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

A prayer for peace. God of the nations, whose kingdom rules over all, have mercy on our broken and troubled world, especially the people of Ukraine and other war zones. Shed abroad your peace in the hearts of all men and women and banish from them the spirit that makes for war. We ask this so that all races and people may learn to live as members of one people and in obedience to your laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A prayer for all in need. Almighty God, we commend to your fatherly goodness all who are in any way afflicted or distressed, especially the people of Turkey and Syria suffering from the catastrophic earthquake. May it please you to comfort and relieve them according to their needs, giving them patience in their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. All this we ask for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

© John G. Mason

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‘The Hope of Glory…’ Tue, 14 Feb 2023 14:00:00 +0000 The post ‘The Hope of Glory…’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


Aspects of Christianity can seem far-fetched to our 21st century minds. The miraculous elements can make it feel like the story of Santa Claus or fairies at the bottom of the garden. But before we dismiss the supernatural events of the Bible as fiction, it’s worth remembering GK Chesterton’s words about truth and fiction: ‘Truth must necessarily be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind and therefore congenial to it’.

I make these comments because today we turn to an extraordinary event recorded in the writings of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

In Matthew chapter 17, verse 1 we read: Six days later,… Matthew wants us to be in no doubt that, just as the previous conversation had occurred when Jesus had asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (16:15) so did the event that he now records.

Eyewitnesses. Matthew is specific. Jesus took three of his close followers, Peter and James and John, to a high mountain. Unlike what we find in other religions, there was more than one eyewitness to times of supernatural revelation. In this case there were three eyewitnesses to this significant moment in Jesus’ life.

And what an astonishing occasion it was. Jesus was transfigured, literally, metamorphosed before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light (17:2).

The dazzling white light of the sun is Matthew’s metaphor for the brilliance and purity of the bright light that emanated from Jesus. In both Luke and Acts the reference to clothes as white as light speaks of supernatural glory.

Furthermore, two of the great prophets, Moses and Elijah – representing the law and the prophets – were present and spoke with Jesus. (17:3).

In a conversation six days earlier, Jesus had asked the disciples who people thought he was. They had first responded, ‘John the Baptist or Elijah, or one of the prophets.’ And when Jesus had pressed them for their own view, Peter had replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16).

But here on the mountain it was obvious that Peter had not yet worked out what this meant for he said to Jesus: “Lord, if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (16:4). Peter had no idea what he was saying.

God’s voice. But before he could burble on with something else, a cloud enveloped them all and they heard a voice, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (17:5). God the Father was speaking! Overcome by the awesome scene before them and the words they heard, the disciples fell on their faces and were terrified (17:6).

But Jesus, seeing their fear, told them to get up and not to be afraid. Furthermore, walking down the mountain that day, he commanded Peter, James and John not to tell anyone what they had witnessed until after he had been raised from the dead (17:9).

God the Father’s words confirmed Jesus’ identity as his unique Son. That day Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus’ majestic glory – the glory that reveals the utter holiness and power of the eternal Son of God who had taken on human form.

Much later, Peter writes of the event in his Second Letter: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ but we had been eye-witnesses of his majesty (1:16).

God’s words not only confirmed for the disciples the divine status of Jesus and his supreme power and authority, but also assured them of the authenticity of all he taught and promised.

Significantly, the scene also revealed that there are at least two persons in the Godhead. The event also unveiled the extraordinary humility of God in his willingness to serve us in our greatest need. God’s Son was willing to put aside his true glory and come amongst us as one of us.

And so we should heed God’s voice and listen to the Son. In the midst of the myriad of voices today it is so easy to get distracted and depressed because we neglect to read and meditate on God’s Word.

As we look at Jesus’ transfiguration through the lens of his death and resurrection and ascension, we begin to see its greater significance. Imagine if Jesus had just disappeared after his resurrection and ascension. The transfiguration is a preview of Jesus in his ascended and kingly glory. It also gives us a glimpse of his glory when he returns.

The transfiguration confirmed Jesus’ status as he prepared for his coming arrest and death. It also informed and inspired the disciples in their mission and their preaching and ultimately, in their writing.

The hope of glory. And there are further implications. The day will come when all of God’s people will share in the glory of Christ! In his Letter to the Romans, Paul the Apostle writes: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God (8:18).

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis puts it this way: ‘If we let Him – for we can prevent Him, if we choose – He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for.  Nothing less.

A prayer. Father in heaven, whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain, and spoke of his suffering in Jerusalem: give us strength so to hear his voice and follow him, that in the world to come we may see him as he is; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

© John G. Mason

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You might like to listen to Christ Our Hope in Life and Death, from Keith and Kristyn Getty and Matt Papa.

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‘Freedom…’ Tue, 07 Feb 2023 21:16:26 +0000 The post ‘Freedom…’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


“This world has no importance and whoever recognizes that wins his freedom. And that’s just it—I hate you because you are bound. I alone am free. Rejoice, for you finally have an emperor to teach you freedom…” So speaks the Emperor Caligula, in Albert Camus’ play of the same name.

But did Caligula represent true freedom? History records he used his power in self-indulgent extravagance, no matter how cruel or disgusting. He did whatever he pleased.

Many consider freedom is the ability to do whatever you want without external restraints. For the extreme capitalist it means no market controls; for the extreme socialist it means the power of the collective to impose its will on the individual without restraint; for the extreme hedonist it means the license to follow the lusts of the heart.

In his highly respected Sermon on the Mount Jesus lays out the pattern for living that he expects of his people. Significantly, he doesn’t simply set out a list of do’s and don’ts. Rather he opens up the real meaning of love for God in loving our neighbor. Let me touch on themes we read in Matthew chapter 5, verses 21 through 48.

Anger (5:21, 22): “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’

‘You shall not murder’ is the 6th Commandment of the Ten. But consider Jesus’s words: “But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment”. He is saying that our angry and hateful thoughts are just as problematical as the actual action of murder.

“…And,” he continues, “if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

Anyone who thinks or says to another, Fool or Idiot, says Jesus, is subject to the fires of God’s judgment – separation from God and from all that is true and good, a separation he likens to the fires of Gehenna, the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem where the city refuse was dumped and burned. The judgement we think is reserved for the literal murderer, also hangs over everyone who is angry, bitter or contemptuous.

“So, when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23). DA Carson comments, ‘How easy it is to substitute ceremony for integrity, purity and love; but Jesus will have none of it.’ Before going to church, Jesus says, ensure your relationship with others is sorted out.

Lust. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’” Jesus continues (5:27). Society often turns a blind eye towards adultery, undercutting marriage as a lifelong commitment. However, Jesus sharpens the focus: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (5:28). By labeling lust adultery, he reveals a deeper level to the 7th commandment in terms of the 10th which prohibits covetousness.

Jesus is not prohibiting sex: the sexual relationship between a man and woman in marriage is a God-given gift. Nor is he prohibiting the normal attraction that exists between men and women. His issue is with the desires of our hearts controlling our thoughts and behavior.

Oaths. “You have heard that it was said in ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord…’” Jesus says (5:33).

There are Old Testament references permitting oath-taking, even in God’s name. For example, in Deuteronomy 10:20 we read, You shall fear the Lord your God. Him you will serve, to him you will cleave, and you will swear by his name. There are also references in the New Testament: Paul swears on God’s name and calls on God to be his witness – as we read in Romans 1:9;  2 Corinthians 1:23; and 1 Thessalonians 2:5. We also find God swearing oaths – that he will not flood the world again (Genesis 9:9-11); that he will send a Redeemer (Luke 1:68, 73); that he will raise his son from the dead (Acts 2:27-31).

All this swearing points to its real purpose – the importance of telling the truth. As one commentator has noted, swearing an oath makes the truth all the more solemn and sure.

Why then does Jesus speak about swearing falsely? Jewish commentary on the Old Testament law in Jesus’ day set out to define what oaths were binding and what were not. One rabbi taught that if you swore an oath by Jerusalem, you were NOT bound by your oath. If, however, you swore an oath toward Jerusalem, you were bound by your oath.

The swearing of oaths became a game you played. Depending on how you played it, you could get away with lying and deception. It was against this kind of casuistry that Jesus spoke.

By relating every oath to God, because everything is ultimately under God’s direction, he presses the point of truthfulness. Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’. Who hasn’t distorted the truth – for example, to put others down and to push ourselves up? Or who of us has said we will do something and then reneged on the commitment?

Rights. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth…’” (5:38) – words of the Mosaic law found in Exodus 21 and Leviticus 24.

The law is both prescriptive and restrictive. If an assailant knocked out another person’s eye, one of the assailant’s eyes is forfeit – but not the second eye. The law provided justice but at the same time it prevented the escalation of feuding and bloodshed.

Into this scene Jesus now introduces a radical response: “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person…” Does this mean Jesus’ followers shouldn’t take up arms, enter the police force or become sentencing judges and magistrates?

Commentators agree that Jesus is speaking about personal abuse towards his people. In times where we might suffer because of our faith, we should nevertheless stand up against evil for the sake of our neighbours.

Love. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (5:43).

Behind Jesus’ words lies the deeper truth about God: how good and gracious he is to both the righteous and the unrighteous – he makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. If God is like this, what would our world be like if God’s people prayed for all who oppose God?

Perfection. “Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48).

People used to say how much better the world would be if everyone got back to the basics of the Ten Commandments. But this isn’t what Jesus is saying. His diagnosis of the human dilemma isn’t a matter of do’s and don’ts. Rather he sees a much deeper problem – the desires of our hearts.

Indeed, under certain conditions the muck at the bottom of our hearts, surfaces. We all need God’s help and, amazingly, this is something God is willing to provide.

We get a glimpse of this where Jesus continues: ‘so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…” (5:45). God wants to work within us, to pass on his moral genes. He wants us to bear the fruit of the Spirit – fruit that reveals the work of God’s Word and his Spirit in our lives.

Jesus is telling us that our broken relationship with God has consequences: judgement and the fires of Gehenna. But as we read on in Matthew and the rest of the New Testament, we learn that Jesus himself has paid the penalty of our self-absorption.  Yes, we all like sheep have gone astray, but the Lord has laid on Jesus the penalty we deserve. He did this because God’s nature is also to have mercy. When Jesus died, he took the penalty for our hatred, our deceit, our lust, our insistence on our rights, our lack of love – indeed for all our imperfections.

Where is our hope for freedom – in a long list of do’s and don’ts? Or is our freedom found in confessing our broken relationship with Christ and in a heartfelt desire to honor him?

Camus’ Caligula seemed free to do anything he wanted. But was he really free? The play concludes with Caligula facing his murderers, saying: “I have chosen a wrong path, a path that leads to nothing. My freedom isn’t the right one…. Oh, how oppressive is this darkness!”

True freedom is not the licence to do as we like, but the liberty to do what we know is right.

A prayer. Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much our own ways and the desires of our own hearts, and have broken your holy laws. We have left undone the things that we ought to have done, and we have done what we ought not to have done. Yet, good Lord, have mercy upon us; restore all those who are truly penitent, according to your promises declared to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. And grant merciful Father, for his sake, that we may live a godly and obedient life, to the glory of your holy name.  Amen.

© John G. Mason

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‘Salt and Light in a Troubled World’ Wed, 01 Feb 2023 04:27:55 +0000 The post ‘Salt and Light in a Troubled World’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


Loud voices today insist there is no God, leaving us adrift on the ocean of life without an agreed moral compass. Persuasive voices appeal to our basic, albeit unthinking instincts, while the profounder, wiser voices that speak to the depths of our souls are drowned out.

Into this world of confusion and noise, anger and division, Jesus’ timeless words to all his followers stand out: “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14).

Jesus’ metaphor of salt is double-edged: his followers are to bring out the flavor of what it means to be men and women; we are also to act as a preservative, slowing down the decay of society. Both a tall order!

He has in mind the impact of the counter-cultural lifestyle he has just identified in his eight beatitudes – the ‘blessed’ who would experience the incomparable joys of God’s kingdom (Matthew 5:3-12). They are the people who understand their spiritual poverty before God, who mourn their failure to honor God and who grieve for a world that turns its back on God; they are ones who, instead of engaging in the power play and deceptions of the world, walk the tougher path of humility and service, truth and peace.

Indeed, it was because Jesus knew humanity without God would always spiral away from truth and goodness, that he called on his followers to be the salt of the earth. He expects everyone of us who has turned to him in repentance and faith, to live in a way that exemplifies the beauty, goodness and joy of Godly living, and slow down the rot of self-interest and greed, of injustice and the unchecked power-play of social elites. Today’s world either ignores or simply rejects the reality that none of us is good. We’re all flawed.

As Jesus was all too aware the world needs good and godly examples pointing to him and his kingdom. But this will only happen when his followers don’t become insipid. That’s why he warns against salt losing its saltiness: “…if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13b).

NaCl is a stable compound. However, in the ancient world, salt was obtained more from salt marshes and contained many impurities. The actual salt could be leeched out, leaving a substance that tasted salty but in fact was worthless. ‘Watch out,’ Jesus warns, ‘that you don’t become insipid, wishy-washy fools’.

How do people view you? Do you claim to be a believer, but your life remains unchanged? Is your lifestyle directed by the culture or by the Bible? Are you just as greedy, unforgiving, and as selfish as everyone around you? ‘If you call yourself a follower of mine,’ Jesus says, ‘let your life be transformed by my words, for “You are the salt of the earth”’.

In his Letter to the Colossians Paul the Apostle writes: Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time… Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone (4:5-6).

Salt here is a metaphor for sparkling conversations that trigger questions about life. Have you considered ways you could use news items and opinion columns to ask questions and spark conversations about the goodness of God and his good news?

“You are the light of the world…” Jesus continues (Matthew 5:14). Negatively he is saying that there is a darkness about our human existence – something we easily forget because we live in an age that has turned away from God’s compass bearings.

Up until the 1970s morality in the West was grounded in the Judaeo-Christian ethic. But now all has changed. Few leaders anywhere would challenge the prevailing assumption that there is no morally binding objective authority or truth above the individual.

Some 700 years before Jesus was born, Isaiah wrote of the birth of God’s King. In chapter 9 he speaks of the people walking in darkness and seeing a great light: On those living in a land where the shadow of death falls, a light has dawned. A child will be born. He will be called “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Indeed, in John chapter 8 we read Jesus’ electrifying words: “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life”. God, the source of all true light, has come into our world in person. Jesus, the light who reveals God, calls us out from the darkness of our own ego into the light.

But how will our world today come to know him? “You are the light of the world,” Jesus says. “A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house…” (Matthew 5:14f).

‘Everything you are, everything you do,’ Jesus says, ‘must reflect all I have taught you.’ He expects us to reflect the light of God in our lives to the world. Yet do we? Do we endeavor to live out what he teaches in his Sermon on the Mount? Or do we hide the light of our faith?

“Let your light shine before others,” Jesus says, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:16).

‘Live your life in the light of my words,’ he says, ‘and others will be drawn to my light and love’. It’s an awesome thought. We’re all involved. When we’re tempted to despair at the moral decline around us, we need to ask ourselves, ‘How do my family and friends, my colleagues see me? Just like everyone else, or as someone who knows the hope and the joy of God’s gospel?’

Jesus calls us to two tasks – to be salt and light. As salt we are to play our part as Godly examples of what it means to be men and women and so slow down society’s decay. As light we are to awaken people to God’s truth, with its hope and joy. Beware therefore of sin or compromise that reduces your Godly influence as salt. Beware of hiding the light of your faith through laziness or fear.

How are we to do this in a world that thinks it has all the answers? Ask questions. Ask if there is any real and long-lasting hope in the noise of today. And look for ways to show how good God is.

Pray for God’s grace that the light in your life will shine for everyone to see – in your kindness and care for others; in the way you cope with the challenges of life. Jesus will use our good works and our words to draw people to his light so that on the last day they too will glorify God. “You are the salt of the earth,… You are the light of the world.”

Prayers: God, our refuge and strength, the author of all godliness, hear the prayers of your people: and so grant us that whatever we ask for in faith we may surely obtain; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Teach us, gracious Lord, to begin our works with reverence, to go on in obedience, and finish them with love; and then to wait patiently in hope, and with cheerful countenance to look up to you, whose promises are faithful and rewards infinite; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

© John G. Mason

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‘The King’s Speech…’ Tue, 24 Jan 2023 14:00:00 +0000 The post ‘The King’s Speech…’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


Great leaders are remembered for their speeches as well as their accomplishments – George Washington for his Inaugural address as President, Abraham Lincoln for his iconic Gettysburg address, and Martin Luther King for his Washington Speech, ‘I have a dream…’.

Today we turn to the introduction of a most memorable speech – Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount recorded in the Gospel of St Matthew, chapter 5, verses 1 through 12.

In chapter 1 Matthew introduces Jesus as God’s long-promised king, a descendent of the great King David (1:1). Foreigners, the Magi, came from the East and worshipped him as king (2:1-6). At his baptism Jesus is called God’s ‘Son’, a title reserved for the kings of Israel (3:14-17; cp Psalm 2). And by the close of chapter 4, we learn that people have come to hear Jesus from the reaches of the vast empire that David and Solomon had ruled in the golden age of Israel’s history some thousand years before (4:23-25).

But there is something unexpected about the opening chapters: Matthew doesn’t record one word from Jesus himself. It seems deliberate. Matthew wants us to know that when we do hear from Jesus, we are not simply hearing from a ‘nice guy’, but from the great king. The Sermon on the Mount, we could say, is the King’s Speech!

Matthew chapter 5 opens on a new scene. A huge crowd had gathered on a hillside and Jesus used the natural amphitheater to address the two groups of people present – followers and a large crowd of onlookers. And despite the diversity of his vast audience, Jesus’ words are electrifying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”

Known as Beatitudes each line in his introduction begins, Blessed are … Blessed is sometimes translated happy, but that identifies just one aspect of the meaning. To be blessed is to receive God’s approval and as this is God’s universe, God’s blessing is the greatest honor anyone can receive. From the outset Jesus’ words challenge us. Do we want the blessing that comes from celebrity status because we are perceived to be successful? Or do we truly want, above everything else in life, God’s blessing?

The first beatitude reveals that the really blessed are the poor in spirit. Jesus isn’t speaking here of the materially destitute or the psychologically impoverished, the spiritual elite or the prayerful mystics. He’s referring to the spiritually destitute.

Poverty in spirit is exemplified by the tax collector in Jesus’ story in Luke 18:9-14. Over against the pride of the Pharisee, the tax collector humbly and honestly prayed from a corner in the Temple, ‘God, Be merciful to me, a sinner’. Poverty of spirit is the admission of our failure to love and honor God first in our lives.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”, Jesus continues. These people grieve for personal failure before God. They also mourn because, even dimly aware of God’s purity, they see how the world without God lives in darkness. They weep because of the erosion of truth, because of the greed, cynicism, and lack of compassion evident everywhere.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (5:5). Meekness isn’t a reference to the weak or insipid. It is a strong word, referring to the deep, selfless resolve to serve the best interests of others. Meekness is not insisting on your rights. It’s thinking of others before self – and hence not being on the front foot with criticism. No one of us is perfect. Jesus himself is the supreme example of true meekness.

The meek learn to look at life from God’s viewpoint and are content. Their egos are not so inflated they think they must always have more. In Christ they see themselves as possessing everything (2 Cor 6:10; cp 1 Cor 3:21-23). Furthermore, a billion years into eternity (if we can speak of eternity in terms of time), God’s people in the new heaven and the new earth will still be rejoicing that this beatitude is literally true. They will be grateful that by grace they learned to be meek during their initial threescore years and ten.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness” (5:6). Hunger and thirst are vivid images of desire. Righteousness suggests justice and truth. To hunger for righteousness is to long that our lives reflect the mind and will of God. There’s an inner longing for heaven where righteousness and justice will prevail.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (5:7). Mercy embraces forgiveness for the guilty, and also compassion for the suffering and needy. The promise isn’t mercy from others but significantly from God himself.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (5:8). Throughout the Bible the heart is the center of our being – of who we are. Purity in heart is indispensable for our relationship with God, or to use Jesus’ words, for seeing God.

Purity of heart isn’t outward conformity to rules. Rather, our heart, our thoughts and attitudes need to be pure. ‘What do you think about when your mind slips into neutral?’ Jesus asks. ‘What dominates your private thoughts? Do you let your mind linger on sights that have tempted you? Is the real inner you expressed in your outward words and actions?’

Psalm 24 asks, Who shall ascend unto the hill of the Lord? They who have clean hands and a pure heart,… and in The Letter to the Hebrews we read, Make every effort… to be holy;  without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

The pure in heart are blessed in that they will see God. While this will be especially true in the new heaven and the new earth, it’s also true now. Our perception of God and his ways, even our fellowship with him, depends on the purity of our heart.

“Blessed are the peacemakers” Jesus says (5:9). Jesus isn’t talking about those who yearn for peace, but all who work at making peace. Jesus is the greatest peacemaker ever – through his cross, making peace between us and God by removing the stain of sin that separates us. His death also makes peace possible amongst all men and women.

Jesus isn’t only speaking about gospel peacemaking. He is also saying that his followers are to be peacemakers, seeking solutions to ease tensions, to reduce conflict, and to ensure that people understand one another. This isn’t easy, especially when we personally have been hurt by others. It’s very easy to forget that ‘a soft answer turns away wrath’, and that we shouldn’t allow ‘the sun to go down on our anger’ (Ephesians 4:26). To be a peacemaker means that we don’t bear grudges or nurse our anger.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:10-12). Jesus here restricts the blessing to all who suffer persecution because of righteousness — people who are determined to live as Jesus lived. Persecution can take the form of physical hardship, torture, imprisonment, death. But there are more subtle forms: mocking and personal rejection. This beatitude is potentially the most searching, for if we never experience some kind of rejection for our faith in a fallen world, are we truly a follower of Jesus?

Who then are the truly blessed? Jesus expects our lives to change radically. Instead of self-sufficiency in our relationship with God, we need to understand our poverty. Instead of dismissing unbelievers, mourn for a world that ignores God. Instead of playing for power to achieve kingdom ends in a fallen world, walk the tougher path of humility and service. Hunger for truth and righteousness. Show mercy, pursue purity, and work for peace. Reckon on the reality that life won’t always be easy for God’s people. But, Jesus says, stay with me.  It will be worth every bit of it.

Prayers. Lord, you have taught us that whatever we do without love is worth nothing. Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you: grant this, for the sake of your only Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Almighty God, we thank you for the gift of your holy word. May it be a lantern to our feet, a light to our paths, and strength to our lives. Take us and use us to love and serve all people in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

© John G. Mason

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John Mason: Speaker and writer. President of the Anglican Connection; Commissary to the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney in the USA. 135 The King’s Speech… 12:41 31047