Christmas 1: Happy New Year!


Christmas 1

Isaiah 62:10-62:3
Luke 2:15-21

Lord Jesus, Light of light,
you have come among us.
Help us who live by your light
to shine as lights in your world.
Glory to God in the highest.

Happy New Year Church Family! Blessing on your 2024. How are we feeling about the turning of the calendar? None of us can be too certain about what 2024 holds. That is either good news or bad news depending on how great your need for certainty is. The world and its various governments are not proving to be much help. Mother Nature is adding to the chaos. We have personal challenges and situations that can make life difficult.

On New Year’s Day 2020 I posted this quote from the American bible teacher and writer Beth Moore on Facebook: ‘We have no idea what the coming year holds but this I can promise you based on the unsurpassed authority of Scripture: our God’s going to be faithful. He’s going to be good. He’s going to love us and be our light in the darkness. He’s going to keep His word. He cannot do otherwise.’

This is still very much true as we head into 2024. Many of us have no idea what is coming. We can be sure though that God will be faithful, He is going to love us, He will be our light and He will keep his word. Amen!

While we may be straining at the lead into 2024, I was rather pleased at the Gospel reading we have this morning. Have we not just heard this story?! We might want to move on and look ahead; it is New Year’s Eve after all! The lectionary wants to keep us grounded in the Christmas story for one more Sunday. What might Mary and the shepherds have to say to us on the cusp of a new year?

Luke in his Gospel, writes about the people who respond spontaneously to a divine message with trust and unselfconscious enthusiasm. Mary is the most supreme example of this. Mary has already been visited by the Angel Gabriel and given birth to Jesus. Mary knew that her baby would be special and different; probably not that special and different until the shepherds appeared.

She is likely beginning to understand all that she has been told and there is much more to come. The arrival of the shepherds forces her to ponder what it all means. What she was told in private is now being made very public.

There is something in how Mary accepts the news she is given; I do not think it was automatic ‘this is amazing!’ Her pondering and reflection indicates that we too, probably more than we should, can ponder and reflect on what God is saying to us. We must live out our faith so that it is evident to those around us. This takes some pondering, reflection and prayer.

The shepherds at first are afraid of the angels. This is the common experience of those fortunate souls who encounter angels. It would probably take a big shock for a shepherd to become fearful; they lived in the outdoors and protected the sheep from predators that sought to kill and eat them. They lived in a constant state of uncertainty. Shepherds would not expect a sky full of angels.

The initial fear of the shepherds is quickly turned into excitement and energy. We learn about them from their reaction: they did not question or disbelieve, or react with cynicism, or drag their feet or ponder. They take the message and they act on it.

How do we act on the Good News of Jesus?

The shepherds hurried to see the baby. Are we in a hurry to tell people about Jesus? The shepherds became the first witnesses as they told everyone in earshot what they had seen and heard. It was as simple as that. There was no great theological debate or treatise. No lectures or sermons. Just a report of what they had experienced. Telling people about Jesus does not need to be anymore complicated than that.

In the world (most broadly) and in many lives (most specifically) there are many people living in darkness. The Good News of Jesus is needed more now than ever before. What difference does Jesus make to you? This might be the question to ponder as we move into 2024. What difference do you want Jesus to make to you in 2024?

Christmas is a time of hope, hope that lasts; hope that is beyond what we can imagine and it overcomes our limited vision. Jesus is the light of the world that overcomes the darkness.

Isaiah 61 is talking about a time when God’s favour will come and a messianic figure (the Messiah – Jesus) will bring freedom and health to his people. There is a vision of a future where every nation shall see the glory of God. God will do great things not only for his people but for the whole earth.

John Pritchard, former Bishop of Oxford wrote, ‘Christmas is that wonderful time when we enter into another world. Just temporarily we bask in a different glow, and old hopes are reinstated, and the world is a little less chilly. But if it’s true that at Christmas we enter into a different world, it’s also true that for Christmas to be authentic another world has to enter us. ‘Where meek souls shall receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.’

As we take a last look at the Christmas story may we know the hope and salvation in the baby Jesus as told to the shepherds by the angelic host. Hold onto that hope and share the message of salvation.

I hope that for New Year’s 2024 we want the dear Christ to enter in. Let us pray to overcome fear and complacency, cynicism and lack of faith. Let us continue to pray for peace and justice in those places where it is so badly lacking.

I will finish by reading Psalm 148 which is set for today…

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!

2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his host!

3 Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!

4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for he commanded and they were created.

6 He established them for ever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.[a]
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,

8 fire and hail, snow and frost
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!

10 Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!

12 Young men and women alike,
old and young together!
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

Christmas Day: Comfort in the Manger


Christmas Day – Set 1 

Isaiah 9:2-7 

Psalm 96 

Titus 2:11-14  

Luke 2:1-20

Lord Jesus, Light of light,

you have come among us.

Help us who live by your light

to shine as lights in your world.

Glory to God in the highest.


It is good to hear that story again! We can read it any day of the year of course. But somehow it feels better, maybe more real on the day.

There are so many moving parts: 

  • The Government: those with power making those without power move around to be registered like cattle, 
  • The loyal and devoted Joseph and the young, heavily pregnant Mary awaiting the birth of their firstborn son
  • The inn and the innkeeper (probably a family home) with no empty space
  • The shepherds living in the fields, watching over their flocks by night
  • The angel of the Lord and the great multitude. Glory to God in the highest heaven indeed!
  • The wisemen came a bit later so don’t get a mention today – this isn’t a bad thing! It helps us to remember that Christmas is a season and not just one day.  

I am not sure which parts of this story warms the cockles of your hearts the most.

Mary & Joseph & Jesus 

I love this little line tucked into verse 6: ‘the time came for her to deliver her child.’ The time came. Again, we can receive Jesus at any time and anywhere, but he was grounded in a time and place. 

Mary and Joseph did not have an easy time but they remained faithful despite all the uncertainty they faced. They believed the angel who visited them to tell them about the baby. They travelled to Bethlehem on the orders of the Roman government. 

We don’t know if they travelled on a donkey or not – but it is a nice idea!     

I do not think that any parent could imagine that the description of their child would include: ‘For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Most babies are cute, good eaters, bad sleepers, or take after mum or dad or great aunt Beatrice. 

The baby born unto us has come to bring us hope and is the tangible sign that God really is with us. Not against us or indifferent to us – but with us. God with us brings us hope. 

With the coming of Jesus to earth, God has ceased to be distant and removed and too awesome to encounter. Instead, with Jesus’ arrival God becomes intimately involved in his creation and in our lives too. And when God is with us then there is hope. 

Angels & Shepherds

I love to picture the angels and the shepherds in the field. The Good News coming to those on the margins, the outsiders first in a burst of light better than any firework display we could imagine. 

There was nothing subtle about this announcement. It was a dark, probably ordinary night for those shepherds. Nothing but a few baas here and a few baas there, the stars for light, each other for companionship. 

Then this great angel appears with the glory of the Lord shining around them. Utterly overwhelming! When was the last time you were truly overwhelmed by something good? 

I know people who have been utterly overwhelmed by bad stuff – at home and abroad. War & violence in Ukraine & Russia, Gaza & Israel. It was sad not to see a Christmas Tree in Manger Square today. Rather a nativity made of rubble. Unemployment, sickness, divorce, death. Many people at Christmas find themselves utterly overwhelmed by the darkness of this world – more than usual. 

Christmas is a time of hope, hope that lasts; hope that is beyond what we can imagine and it overcomes our limited vision. Jesus is the light of the world that overcomes the darkness.

John Pritchard, former Bishop of Oxford wrote, ‘Christmas is that wonderful time when we enter into another world. Just temporarily we bask in a different glow, and old hopes are reinstated, and the world is a little less chilly. But if it’s true that at Christmas we enter into a different world, it’s also true that for Christmas to be authentic another world has to enter us. ‘Where meek souls shall receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.’

Wherever you find yourself in the Christmas story this day – spend some time at the manger, bow a knee and gaze again at the baby who came at the right time and in the right place to bring us hope and be with us.  

Advent 4: Gabriel & Mary

Advent 4 – Year B

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Psalm 89
Romans 16:25-end
Luke 1:26-38

Today is a busy day. It is a relief that the 4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve do not fall on the same day very often! It has gone by way too quickly.

The Gospel readings for Fourth Sunday always revolve around Mary as she completes the picture of our Advent journey. It seems that at this time of the year, we Protestants are okay to talk about Mary and even have a statue of her in church without great resistance!

I was looking back over the lectionary to see which stories of Mary are used on this particular Sunday. Year A is Matthew’s gospel account of the birth of Jesus in which Mary does not speak. Year C is Luke’s recording of the Magnificat. In full voice Mary proclaims the greatness of the Lord who has looked with favour on her lowly self.

Year B (this year) has set Luke 1 which is the Annunciation; when Mary was visited by Gabriel who brings her the good news that she will bear a son. We hear Mary’s voice in this account as she and Gabriel discuss the situation.

One of the many things to appreciate this season is how the story of the first Christmas comes alive. We see it in the pictures on Christmas cards; we hear it in the words of Christmas carols; we see the drama played out in Christingle and Crib services.

Sometimes if or when we pick up the Bible to read it we can lose the sense of awe and wonder. Over the past 4 weeks, a small group of us have been meeting to look at the various characters in the Advent & Christmas stories – John the Baptist, Mary, a bit of Joseph and finally the angels, shepherds and wise men this past week. We have been taking a closer look at the many aspects of these people. Together we have looked at some of the assumptions and shared our own knowledge, thoughts and ideas.

In that spirit I would like to highlight a few parts of this amazing story this morning.

The angel Gabriel. Gabriel is a fascinating character; he is a Messenger of God. In any artistic depiction, Gabriel looks to be tall with huge white, feathery wings. He often has a trumpet or a lily in his hand. Angels are created beings of God as we are. There is no evidence to support angels being recycled souls of our dearly departed; however comforting this notion might be.

Gabriel appears in the Old Testament as he was sent to explain the visions that the prophet Daniel was having. Gabriel has been around for a few hundred years at least. Gabriel is now back on the scene. Six months before greeting Mary, God sent Gabriel to Jerusalem to foretell another unexpected birth to an elderly priest named Zechariah whose aged wife Elizabeth would bear John the Baptist. Prior to these visits approximately 400 years had passed since God had sent any message to earth. Then twice in 6 months Gabriel is called into service with life changing news for the most unsuspecting of people.

Now we move on a few verses and turn our attention to Mary. Mary the Virgin, maybe 13 or 14 years old, engaged to be married to Joseph. He was not a local though as his family came from Bethlehem, the house of David. Bethlehem is about 80 miles (a 2 hour drive or 5-6 day walk) from Nazareth.

How and why did Joseph’s family end up in Nazareth? It was not a particularly desirable place to live. People then did not tend to move around very much; you stayed where you were from. However the Bethlehem connection is rather central to the story.

Gabriel’s opening to Mary of ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you!’ I wonder what Mary was doing at that moment. Was she alone? Was she in her bedroom or our carrying water?

Mary is perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. There is a lot of meaning here: Mary is deeply agitated, she is taken aback, disturbed, anxious. One explanation that I particularly liked was ‘stirred up throughout’ by the appearance of Gabriel.

Some of us here know what it is like to be ‘stirred up throughout’. I know a lot of people who have been stirred up throughout this year. That news that comes unexpectedly that moves adrenaline at lighting speed: good or bad that shakes us to the core.

It is not just by Gabriel’s appearance but his greeting, his words that have caused her reaction. Mary’s reaction could be that she knew that this greeting was coming with an overwhelming challenge.

Paula Gooder in her Advent book ‘The Meaning is in the Waiting’ writes, ‘Gabriel’s greeting is somewhat reminiscent of the ancient Chinese proverb ‘May you live in interesting times’, which can be seen as either a curse or a blessing. In the same way, Gabriel’s greeting can either be seen as good or bad: to be in receipt of God’s favour, especially beloved and granted his presence, can only mean that Mary’s life is about to be turned upside down. She is surely right and sensible to be disturbed by this greeting.’

Gabriel then declares ‘Do not be afraid!’ Yeah okay! The phrase ‘Do not be afraid’ appears 366 times in the Bible. One for each day of the year and an extra for Leap Years. Do not be afraid is then followed with the sweet words ‘you have found favour with God.’ How did she do that? A 13-year-old girl from a poor, backwater town. What was it about Mary?

We can do all the religiousy, churchy stuff in the world but this does not mean we have found God’s favour. It isn’t in what we do; it is in who we are. We were created by God out of God’s love for us. In spite of everything that is unlovely in us. We can still find God’s favour. What we do should be an offering back to God out of our love as thanksgiving for his love.

Mary then gets the news that she is going to conceive and bear a son whom she will name Jesus.

Jesus. This was the first proclamation of our Saviour’s personal name since the beginning of time. Jesus. The very name at which one day every knee will bow. The very name at which every tongue will confess. A name with no parallel in any vocabulary. A name with power like no other name. Jesus.

Gabriel tells Mary, ‘He will be great’. Oh yes he is.

Gabriel then carries on with some details of what is to happen. Mary’s concern is for the practicalities: she obviously knew where babies came from. We see something of her innocence too. Gabriel has the answer for Mary, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you’. Come upon here means ‘to arrive, invade, resting upon and operating in a person.’

For nothing will be impossible with God, says Gabriel. If it is of God then nothing is impossible. Sometimes it is us who need a little more courage or imagination.

It is after she heard ‘that nothing is impossible’ – that Mary says ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ I sometimes wonder what our lives, our families, our community and our world would look like if this was our response to God. ‘Here am I’. And not just when the news is good or happy or the request is something that we really want to do. What about when the news is uncertain or just plain hard, comes with a price tag we do not want to pay. Or the inconvenience doesn’t seem worth it. ‘Here am I.’

As we finish out this Advent season and rush (in a matter of hours) into Christmas:

I hope that you will know the Lord’s favour upon you.

I hope the name of Jesus falls sweetly on your ears and off your tongue.

The Lord is with you. Nothing will be impossible with God.

Do not be afraid – The Lord is with you.

Easter 2: Hope on the Road

Qe Hi – Road to Emmaus

Easter 2
Acts 2:14a,36-41
1 Peter 1:17-23
Luke 24:13-35

As I continue to grow in my faith and ministry, I find myself coming to love the season of Easter more each year. Each new season brings greater appreciation of the early church and the struggles it faced, the decisions that had to be made, and the stories of Peter, Paul and the disciples (now apostles) as they grew and spread the Good News of the Risen Jesus.

This new church faced great conflict, it had to wrestle with the issues of doctrine that we take for granted and it also had to contend with deadly persecution. Christianity could well have died in infancy if not for the bold and brave convictions of the early apostles. Fortunately there is not too much conflict in the Hambleden Valley! Although we do have our challenges and decisions to be made about the future Rector, the building works, how best to spend our time and money.

Over the next few weeks, we will be reading various parts of Acts and all of 1st Peter (hint- hint…if you have got some time and a Bible!).

These readings speak to new beginnings, fresh starts for Peter and Paul and the gatherings of the first church; all underpinned with a sense of hope and purpose. My hope is that we can see links between then and now.

Where is our Hope?

The Road to Emmaus is a familiar story; Luke includes it in his account of that first Easter Day. Cleopas and the other unnamed disciple are walking away from Jerusalem. Walking away from the disciples, away from their faith, their beliefs, potentially their families and jobs. They are without hope and they are sad.
To be a fly on the shoulder of Cleopas for that conversation! There was such overwhelming grief that when Jesus came near to them their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

As I read this passage, the same five words from verse 21 kept leaping off the page at me: ‘But we had hoped that…´ Notice the past tense of hope – they had hoped. Their hope, whatever it was in, was gone. When Jesus died, so did their hope. Many people right now are without hope, ‘but we had hoped that…’ What about you? Have you hoped for something, someone that will not now come through? Where is your hope today?

As Easter people, we are to be beacons of hope even in the most trying of times. As impossible as that might seem. If you find that you have lost or are losing hope; we can take comfort and take heart. Jesus understands. He wants nothing more than to restore our hope.

Before he died, Jesus had expressly told the disciples that He would send the counsellor, the Holy Spirit to be with them forever. All they had to do was wait. It could be assumed that the disciples were meant to wait together. These two have seemingly forgotten about this promise; so instead of waiting are walking away.

Jesus could have washed his hands of them, let them go. But he doesn’t. He meets them where they are at; going the wrong way, down the wrong road. As the disciples talk to Jesus, listen to him, they begin to see beyond themselves, they re-centre from their own issues and problems.

In that meeting with Jesus, Cleopas and the other disciple turn around and head back the right way, back on the right road, back to life. Hope is restored, hearts are burning in the breaking of the bread. Many people need to have their hope restored. Some of us might need to be turned around in our thinking, some might need to ask for strength in the waiting, and many likely need to find their hope again.

How can we find our Hope again?

One of the things I love about Eastertide is the renewal of baptismal vows. There is something in the renewal of promises and the sprinkling of water that makes all things new again and restores hope. For those of us baptised as babies, we didn’t have the opportunity to make those promises for ourselves, although maybe in confirmation we did. Either way it is a restorative thing to do.

Peter, in Acts 2, is calling for people to repent and be baptised. Our sins have been forgiven and the gift of the Holy Spirit has been given. This is the great Christian hope. Wonderful news and a wonderful starting point for reclaiming any lost hope. The first step, according to Peter, is to repent and be baptised.

Remember the promises made:

Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God? I reject them.
Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil? I renounce them.
Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour? I repent of them.

Do you turn to Christ as Saviour? I turn to Christ.
Do you submit to Christ as Lord? I submit to Christ.
Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life? I come to Christ.

Peter is imploring these Christians to love each other deeply from the heart. They have been born anew and nothing can take away the hope of the final redemption and resurrection. Peter knew this first-hand. Peter the one who denied Jesus three times and was restored three times. If anyone thought they were beyond hope, Peter is a prime example. Yet Jesus meets Peter on that first Easter, on the shores of Galilee as Peter too is attempting to go back to his previous life as a fisher of fish. In a conversation with Jesus, Peter is restored.

Remembering our baptismal vows, the forgiveness of sin, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the great love and long reach of God for each of us seems to me a place where we can recover our hope. It was in the breaking of the bread that Cleopas and the other disciple had their eyes opened and recognized Jesus. As we shortly break bread together this morning, my prayer is that hope will be restored and the promises of God will be renewed for each one of us.

Trinity 15: Life That is Really Life

September 25, 2022 – St Mary’s Turville & Hambleden

1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

It is probably something of an underestimation to comment that the impact of these past 2 weeks have brought up so much emotion; especially bereavement and grief for many people. This is on top of the normal ‘everyday’ grief that many people carry around. I hope that it was comforting to watch the State Funeral at Westminster and Committal Service in Windsor. I was reminded that many of the words used for The Queen are used across the Church of England day in day, week by week in funeral services all over the country. There has been a spate of deaths in the parishes recently too.

Both of the readings this morning speak of death among other important topics. Paul’s letter to Timothy begins with the stark reminder that we brought nothing into the world so that we can take nothing out. Paul then goes on to give instruction on how to live out the rest of our lives. We are urged to take hold of “the life that is really life’; beyond all the treasures and trappings of this life.

Luke’s Gospel reading does not make for the most comfortable reading in the best of times; let alone in a period of national mourning. We see in this reading there is a separation after death and not everyone ends up in the same place.
In this section of Luke there is an assortment of rather pointed parables designed to teach about stewardship of money, time and talents; the importance of forgiveness and faith, and the primacy of prayer in a disciple’s life. Time is short with Jesus; he knows this although the disciples don’t.

One of the examples is a rich man who held what seemed to be a godless view of wealth and righteousness. He has died and is being tormented in Hades. Hades in basic biblical terms is a subterranean underworld where souls of the dead went after death. Jesus is explaining that there is a chasm, a separation at the time of death between the wicked and the righteous dead.

Paul, in his letter to Timothy, warns that those who want to be rich will fall into temptation and will be trapped by senseless and harmful desires that ultimately plunge people into ruin and destruction. This is what appears to have happened here. The actor and comedian Jim Carrey said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer”.

Each of these readings, letter and parable, at their roots are about attitudes. Jesus was trying to teach that material possessions are a trust, on loan from God. They are to be used responsibly for the good of everyone. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day held the view of wealth as God’s blessing and poverty as God’s judgement. Maybe we feel this way too sometimes when we look at the culture and world around us.

How is our attitude to the Lazarus’ of our day? They are out there and not so far away.
-What goes through our heads:
-Is it their own fault?
-They have chosen to live like…?
-There are agencies to help?
-They should go and get a job?
-If I give money they will only spend it on drink or drugs?

It is clear that the rich man had ample opportunity to ‘do good’ to Lazarus as he sat in his front garden day in and day out. But he did not. The rich man comes to the end of his life and finds himself in a place of eternal punishment. Not because he did not help Lazarus but because he was lacking a relationship with God. This man’s love of money was the root of all kinds of evil. This is Paul again. The evil was selfishness.

At some point during the rich man’s torment he is able to lift his head and he sees Lazarus in a position of honour at Abraham’s side. A place that the rich man was no doubt used to occupying during his earthly life. What I am really interested in are the requests that the rich man makes of Abraham and the responses he is given. His first request shows that old habits die hard as he asks something for himself. Given his circumstances I don’t think that this is at all unreasonable!

We get a glimpse here of what it is to be judged by our own standards. The rich man was so shielded by his riches to the point where he could ignore Lazarus at the gate. He would have had servants to do the errands, he probably travelled in a carriage or on a horse, so he never noticed him. The rich man took no notice of Lazarus’ physical needs and now no notice is being taken of his.

The man’s second request shows greater awareness for others; as he is concerned for the eternal wellbeing of his five brothers. In Jesus’ time, tales of reversal of fortune in the next life were common. Jesus is not doing anything new here. However, in these tales, when someone asks to send a message back to people who are still alive on earth, permission is granted.

Jesus does not allow for that in this parable. This says something about the nature of death; it fixes our destiny and suggests there is no further opportunity for repentance. The response from Abraham to this second request is that ‘the brothers have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ The rich man knows that his brothers won’t listen to Moses and the prophets as they need a little more excitement or wow factor. Jesus suggests here that humanity is so sinful that it is unlikely even to listen to someone who returns from the dead in this manner.

What were the take home lessons then and now? There is an age to come and our attitudes and actions from this life will catch up with us. At the point of death there is no longer an opportunity to repent or make amends.

This leaves us in the present age! We must take seriously what Paul wrote to Timothy in the closing chapter of the letter: ‘There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called. Do good, be rich in good works, generous, ready to share, storing up the treasure of a good foundation for the future. Take hold of life that is really life. ‘

What is life that is really life for us? We know that this life ends in death. The Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd John McDowell opened his sermon with the “For many of us in the United Kingdom, there were two people whose deaths we could never imagine. Our own and the Queen’s.” I suspect that many of us do not want to contemplate our own deaths. The alternative is to take hold of life, that is really life. Show generosity and love. Pursue righteousness, godliness and faith with endurance and gentleness. Not because it will save us from the torment of Hades but because God first loved us. Ultimately there is no fear in death when we place our trust in God.