Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Fourth Sunday of Epiphany, Year B

Called to Be Prophets

Readings: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28

I was leading a study group some years ago. The topic for discussion was how can we as individuals or as a community serve as prophets to one another? One person in the group replied. "Oh that's easy. We're Anglicans. It's a non-prophet organization." Although she was not serious, I think that it is easy for us to really believe that. We are not certain exactly what prophecy is. We think it has something to do with foretelling the future. Surely to be a prophet is to be at best strange and at worst fanatical. It brings to mind people such as the group in Waco, Texas. Ordinary people just don't do that.

But I have news for you. We are all called to prophetic ministry. And I know, you'll protest. "I'm in business. I'm no prophet." Or "I'm just a housewife." Or "What do we pay clergy for anyway!" And so we need to take a look at what prophecy is. What is it that God is calling us to do?

The word prophecy comes from the Greek prophetes, "one who speaks before others." It translates a Hebrew word which meant "one called to speak aloud". Often it has been taken to be some kind of ecstatic speech, but in Scripture the prophet is a person who is totally grounded. One who is speaking what has been discerned through a close walk, a close relationship with God. The prophet is one who listens to God and then passes the prophetic word on to the people.

There are prophets in our time. Perhaps a look at them can give us some insight. I have a friend who worked for many years as a prophet. He was in a much maligned profession. He was a meteorologist and worked at predicting our weather. He explained to me that weather predictions are based on past experience. The weather is tracked for a period of thirty years, and predictions are made based on the norms of the past. Farmers' Almanacs work on the same premise. They look at the past and make a prediction based on reasonable expectations.

As parents you do exactly the same thing. Your child comes to you asking for permission to do something. Based on your own experience you know what will happen. You say no and give a reasonable explanation about why. There are the usual arguments. And if you do give in and the outcome is as you predicted, with any luck your child will come to you and say: "How did you know?" Mind you, don’t hold your breath. It is unlikely that it will happen for about twenty years.

Scripture too looks at past history. Have you ever noticed how often the prophetic word begins with God recounting to the prophet all that God has accomplished for God's people in the past? "Wasn't I with you at the Red Sea? Did I not provide you with manna in the desert? Now go and tell my people...” and the prophet is able to speak with authority. "Thus says the Lord…” The prophet is able to challenge the people on a moral level. He is able to speak what needs to be heard in the light of past experience. The people listen, change their ways, the dire warning is heeded and they renew their relationship with God.

The prophetic word was critical to the people of Israel. They were travelling in uncharted territory. They had grown up in the region of the desert around the Nile Valley. When Moses led them to the Sinai, the new surroundings struck them with awe. A thunder storm among mountains sounds very different from one in flat terrain. It echoes from peak to peak. This intensifies the volume of the tempest. The people became frightened and pleaded with Moses to protect them from the blasts. He agreed to act as a mediator with God. He also told the people that God would send others like him, prophets to fulfill this same function.

Prophets and priests claimed to speak and act in accordance with God’s will and yet there were times when they became conflicted. How do you determine God’s truth? They decided on three criteria. The prophet must be an Israelite. He must speak as God commands. Finally what is spoken will be confirmed by the events that follow. So it was that the people accepted that God would communicate to them through the prophets.

Today's Gospel reminds of the power of God's voice. Jesus speaks in a loud tone to drive out a demon. He is the ultimate prophet, the one who speaks with authority. When Jesus is teaching in the synagogue people are astounded at his wisdom. The ministry of Jesus was on its way. People were beginning to understand that he was extraordinary. It is in healing the demented heckler that he is really marked for who he is. The man shrieked it out at the top of his voice. Those in the synagogue witnessed the touch of God healing a demon-possessed man. That marked him as someone special.

Let’s face it! For us in our time it is a somewhat troubling story. How do we explain the unclean spirit? Is it one of those ‘used to thinks’? People used to think that the world was flat. Now they know it is round. They used to think that the sun travelled across the sky each day. They also used to think that sickness was caused by demons. Whatever the cause, Jesus was able to deal with the problem. His authority overcame such illnesses. That is what marked him as unique. That is what is important to know in our faith journey.

So what about now? The people of today need to hear the prophetic word spoken to them, in real life, in their troubles, in their sorrows, in their weaknesses, in their frustrations. It needs to come from one who knows, from one who lives in the real world, who struggles with all that life brings. God needs us to keep trying. Not to give up, but to struggle on, to prophecy again and again, to renew our effort. God needs our gifts, our talents. They must be offered so that we and those around us can be truly alive in Christ Jesus.

Those who prophesy speak to other people for their up building and encouragement. The prophetic word builds up the church. So yes! We need prophets. We need those in our day and age who are the encouragers, the ones who cause the church to grow. Your witness may be by your actions. It may be by your prayers. It may be by your love and concern towards others. Or it may simply be by your open invitation to come and see. Our call is to be instruments, channels of God's blessing in ways which best use our talents and our gifts.

So you are not just in business. You are not just a housewife, or a secretary, or a truck driver, or a teacher, or a nurse. You are a prophet.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Third Sunday after Epiphany, Year B

Finding Excuses

Readings: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:6-14; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

God calls us, not once, but again and again throughout our lives. God calls us to renew our baptismal covenant, to renew our life in Christ. Sometimes we are called to choose new priorities. Sometimes we are called to leave behind the things that have been keeping us from God, things that impede our discipleship. Sometimes we are called to make changes in our lives. Often a call comes to us when we are facing crises in our lives, for those are times when change is not only necessary, but even welcome. Whatever our call, it is a call to action. What is happening right now for us as individuals, as a church, as a nation? More importantly, how will we respond?

I was visiting my sister a number of years ago. I was sitting in the living room with my then teenaged niece. We were chatting, getting caught up. My sister called her to come and help with setting the table. She ignored her completely and kept on talking to me as if she had heard nothing. My sister called again a little louder. Once again it was as if Deirdre had not heard a word that was said. I asked her, “Why aren’t you answering your mother?” Her reply: “She isn’t mad enough yet?” Of course, my sister did eventually really lose her cool. Then Deirdre got up and did as her mother demanded.

Confronted with calls for action from God, we can find many excuses. “I didn’t hear you!” “I don’t understand what you want!” “It’s too hard!” “Find someone else!” “You couldn’t possibly mean me!” The real reason is more likely to be “I don’t want to” or “I’m afraid.

Consider the story of Jonah. God called Jonah to action. He was to go to the people of Nineveh to give them a message from God. God wanted him to tell them that he was going to overthrow them because of the evil things they had done. Jonah was their last chance. And you know! He refused. Like my niece with her mother he heard what God was saying to him. He ignored the message. God went to great lengths to move him to action. He even had him swallowed by a great fish and thrown up on the shores of Nineveh. Still Jonah was reluctant to act. Finally God got through to him. He began his walk through the streets of Nineveh. “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” he cried out to the people. And, much to Jonah’s astonishment, perhaps even disdain, they heard and believed. They changed their ways. They proclaimed a fast and everyone put on sackcloth. The whole of Nineveh’s society got involved in changing their ways. Nineveh was spared.

The story of Nineveh is a prophetic word to its time, challenging the nationalism that limited God’s love to one people, the people of Israel. It is a challenging message to the modern day Church in which Ecumenism seems all but dead. This is the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Last Sunday night in our area a handful of people gathered to celebrate our unity together. It was a wonderful, uplifting service. The speaker was engaging as she spoke of her dedication to the Ecumenical movement and her work in the World Council of Churches. Her message came to the converted. How do we get others to understand that “one church, one faith, one Lord” does not mean “my church, my faith, my Lord”? What a tragedy it is that we cannot eat at the same table? What a tragedy that we allow differing traditions to stand in the way of unity! In our own situation here in the Church Centre, what a tragedy it is that we allow petty differences to destroy our common life. We do not meet together for worship. We do not share a common vision for ministry. How do we change that? How do we transform this place, not so that we become one congregation worshipping in one particular way, but so that we share a vision of what it means to be church? I have to tell you, I struggle with it. I dream of being in a building of our own. It is simply too hard to work this way, to deal with the tensions that exist. Yet God has called us to be the church in this place. God has called us to share ministry? How do we work together to hasten the kingdom of God?

A wave of change swept across the whole world this past week as we all watched the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States. In a world that focuses on the differences between people, a world that divides itself culturally, racially, nationally, barriers came down. It is there in his message, “This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.” What a radical change it is! What an amazing moment it was in the history of the world! There is no doubt in my mind that it is a response to God’s call on the part of a nation.

The call of the disciples is a story of how ordinary people are called to serve God. Jesus comes to Galilee with his message of the coming of the kingdom of God. Like John he calls for the people to repent and change their way of life. It is a call to action. He calls them to turn their whole lives around and act on the good news that is being proclaimed. He calls the people to radical change. Sometimes it is a call to leave the comfort and security of one’s livelihood. That is certainly the case as he calls the disciples away from their nets.

It is as he passes along the Sea of Galilee that he sees Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea. Jesus simply says to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

It is a memorable line in scripture. It speaks to each of us. We find ourselves drawn into the story. At the same time, we wonder how we might respond, or even if we would respond. Most of us would be reluctant to do as Andrew and Simon did. To simply drop what we are doing and change the course of our lives! That kind of change takes planning. It takes careful consideration.

Yet can we see how it might happen, how they might immediately respond to Jesus’ request? Some people respond to the call of conversion immediately. They receive some flash of insight, a moment of enlightenment or awakening, and they become different people. Perhaps they are just sitting on the edge of life waiting for the call to something worthwhile. If the right person comes along with the right call they are up and away. They have been secretly longing for it. Life has prepared them for it. They did not choose it. It chose them.

The truth about following the call of God is that we cannot let our fears and insecurities about what might happen hold us back. We need to discern that it is indeed God calling us. We need to discern what it is that God is calling us to do. We need to bring it to God in prayer. If it rings true, then the way forward, the way to respond, will emerge. We can be sure that we are all called – called to repentance, called to transformation, called to be the people of God, called to be witnesses to the love of God in Christ Jesus, called to be.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B

Our Inescapable God

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51

During the season of Epiphany the theme of call is a recurring motif. Today’s readings are no exception. There is the story of God’s call to the child Samuel in the Shiloh temple. Then the psalmist reflects on God’s infinite care of all of humanity. There is a sense in the psalm that there is no way to avoid God’s call, for our God is inescapable. Even when we are developing in the womb God knows us. God sustains us throughout our lives. At night when our problems loom in the darkness, God is with us. From birth to death, God is there, sustaining us. In the New Testament Paul reminds the Christian community in Corinth of their call to abide by God’s law. It is a call to holiness, to live our lives differently from the way the world lives, to be accountable to God. And the Gospel focuses on Nathanael, called by God even though he scorns the very idea that Christ or Christianity could have any bearing on his life. In all of them, there is that sense that our inescapable God continues at every stage of our lives to call us into relationship.

We are used to calls, at least the kind that comes over the telephone. These days we do not leave home without our cell phones. We are constantly in communication with family and friends, not only by phone but also by email. But when it comes to talking to God, to being in communication with God, we don’t even understand what it means. To be called by God! What does it mean? How does it happen? The answer is of course, in as many ways and through as many people as it takes.

The call of Samuel is a wonderful example of how God uses others to help us respond. When Samuel was three years old his mother Hannah took him to live in the Shiloh temple fulfilling her promise to God. Eli had two sons who served in the temple. However, their greed had given the temple a bad name. Eli had not spoken out about their behaviour, and was in disfavour with God. He may have been in disfavour, but the lamp of God had gone out in his life. However, it is the child Samuel whom received God’s call. As he lay in the dark of the night he heard his name spoken. He went into Eli to see what the old man needed. “I didn’t call you,” Eli told him. “Go back to bed.” It was not until the third time that Samuel came into him that Eli realized that it was the voice of God Samuel was hearing. Eli’s sight may have been dim, but he still had insight. “If God calls you again,” he said, “you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Samuel responded to God’s call and became a faithful servant.

But of course, that is then and this is now. God speaking directly to a little boy! Could that possibly happen in our day and age? I do not know whether this story is true, but it rings true. A young woman was sitting in an airport terminal, waiting to board a plane. She saw a stewardess pushing a wheelchair. In it sat an old man. He was unkempt, his long white hair in a tangled mess. God spoke to her. “Go and brush that old man’s hair.”

She tried to ignore the voice, but it kept nagging at her. She went over to the man and asked if she could brush his hair. He was rather hard of hearing, so she had to ask several times. By this time, everyone waiting to board the plane was watching. She was embarrassed, but she knew it was what she had to do, and so she persisted.

He agreed that she could brush his hair. She realized that she had no brush. The old man said to her, "Look in the bag hanging on the back of my chair, there is a brush in there." She began to brush all the tangles out of his hair. As his hair was being brushed, the old man began to cry.

He said to her, "You know, I am on my way home to go and see my wife. I have been in the hospital recovering from surgery. My wife couldn't come with me, because she is so frail herself." He said, "I was so worried about how terrible my hair looked, and I didn't want her to see me looking so awful, but I couldn't brush my hair, all by myself."

As they were boarding the plane the stewardess said to the young woman, “What made you do that?” She explained that God had spoken to her. She had simply responded.

But you know! My experience is that God is not always that direct. God finds other ways to get us to respond. Take for example, the call of Nathanael! Nathanael’s first response to Jesus is scorn. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” It could very well have ended there. However, Philip invited him to come and see, to find out more about this Jesus he serves, to change his mind about Nazareth. Philip did not argue with him. He did not preach at him. He knew the good that is in Jesus. He also knew that no amount of arguing could ever change Nathanael’s mind. Instead he issued an invitation. “Come and see!” See for yourself. Nathanael’s curiosity was piqued. He accepted the invitation.

It is an invitation to do more than just come for a visit. It is an opportunity to gain insight into the mind and purpose of God. For Nathanael it was truly a miracle, an epiphany. Nathanael opened up his heart to the grace of God. He came into relationship with God. It was an epiphany that apparently changed his life, for he was one of the disciples who was there as a witness to the resurrection.

That invitation is so vital. So often the message of Christianity is a negative one. It really is not difficult to get people to hear a message of repentance. If you shout loud enough and long enough people will hear. The question is will they really come and see? If we want our church to grow, people need to hear and respond to the call of God. The call to ‘come and see’ needs to be a personal invitation. If people are not interested in responding to God, are we as a church going about it in the right way? People will respond if they see something in our lives that speaks to them about the love of God. They want to see something of God’s love and power in our lives, in the things we say and do, in our love and concern. They want to see that we are living our lives in an authentic manner.

When has God spoken to you? Are you like Samuel, uncertain about whether God is actually calling you? Are you like Nathanael, scornful of the very idea that Christ and Christianity has anything to offer? God will keep calling. God will use every resource available. God calls each of us, no matter who or where we are. How easily we can miss God’s call! We can attribute it to something other than God. We can fail to make the connections. Let this season of Epiphany be a time when we make those connections. Let us listen for the voice of God speaking to us in the quiet of our hearts. Let us listen for the voice of God speaking to us through the actions of others. Most of all let us be the voice of God for a world that so badly needs that connection. Let us respond to God’s call.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Season of Epiphany

There are several things that catch my eye in the readings this week.

In the Old Testament what strikes me most is, "The lamp of God had not yet gone out". Our vision may grow dim from time to time. Our sense of the presence of God may be low. But somehow we know even at those times that God is present with us. We may not know God the way we should. We may not even know God at all. Just going to church does not ensure that we know God. And yet God keeps calling us.

In the Psalm there is a lovely line. "I come to the end. I am still with you." That says so much about our relationship with God. If I am restless at night still carrying the burdens of the day, I find myself most aware that God is indeed there.

Corinthians is such a reminder that we are accountable to God for everything in our lives. One of the lay people in our congregation said that she loved our church because it is "Not just a Sunday Church!" We need to have that sense of God present with us everywhere we go.

Finally there is the Gospel and that lovely invitation to come and see. That needs always to be our invitation to others. Isn't that the key to church growth?

Where is all this leading? Not sure at this point, but it will be about God's call and our relationship to God.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Baptism of the Lord, Year B

The Spirit Working in Us

Readings: Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11

During this season of Epiphany we focus on how God is made known to us. Today we read in Scripture of how God is revealed to us through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In the Old Testament reading, the spirit is revealed as “a wind from God which swept over the face of the waters.” The creating spirit of God hovered over the waters, the source of life. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul points out to the people of Ephesus that the Holy Spirit should have been the great gift of their baptism. He is surprised to find their lack of understanding at how God is revealed. He wants them to experience the Holy Spirit in their lives as a gift of grace. Finally in the Gospel, God is made manifest through the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.

The Jews were constantly looking for God’s revelation. But they came to a time in their spiritual life as we all do when God seemed not to be present with them. As God became more and more absent in their lives, they looked back with yearning to the days of the prophets when God had been very much a part of their experience. They felt as if the Holy Spirit had been absent since those days. The voice of God which had spoken to the prophets was heard now only as an echo. They looked for the time when the sky would be opened and God would once more speak directly to the people.

And then it happened! Jesus came to John to be baptised. The heavens opened. The dove hovered over him. God called out words of affirmation. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Clearly in Mark’s Gospel the voice is Jesus’ personal experience. The onlookers are unaware of what is happening. But we who read the Gospel are to understand it as a revelation, a manifestation to us, the people of God. Through it we are to understand Jesus’ unique relationship to God, and his call to ministry.

But we are called to understand far more. For this incident in our Lord’s life is within the experience of each of us. We are intended to experience that same descent of the dove in our own lives. We are to experience God’s presence in our lives. How is God revealed to us? Where for us is the deep sense of peace, the sense that our wills and that of God are in harmony? Where is the sense of a presence from whom we receive affirmation of our call to ministry?

When I was leaving my teaching position to prepare for ordination my colleagues had a farewell for me. One of my good friends gave me a lovely gift, a glass swan on a mirror. She explained that it was intended as a ‘marker’. Her mother had always marked special occasions in her life, graduation, changes in her job and so on, with something that she could treasure and keep. She wanted me to have such a marker for my own life. I do treasure that keepsake that she gave me. Yet I know that in my life is a far more significant ‘marker’, one that in pursuing ordination I was attempting to live out. For at my baptism I was marked with the sign of the cross and made Christ’s own for ever.

In our Baptismal preparation we remind parents of that marker in their child’s life. We remind them first of all that baptism is a sacramental act. There is an outward and visible sign, the water that is used to remind us of our need to be renewed, to be cleansed, to die to sin, to be reborn. But there is also that invisible ‘marker’, that inward and spiritual grace that is given that carries us throughout our lives. As we are baptised we become part of the new life in Christ. We share in Christ’s power through the baptismal covenant. We are called by baptism to serve. It is, in effect, our ordination.

At baptism we are promised God’s gift of grace working in our lives. However, like the Ephesians we may not even be aware that there is a Holy Spirit at work in our lives. What is more, our lack of commitment to spiritual things may make it difficult for others to see God in us. We separate the Spirit from our mainline faith traditions, relegating it to the na├»ve or to certain denominations. Oh! We trot the Spirit out at Pentecost! But we are suspicious of people who are enthusiastic about the faith. We are suspicious of people who study scripture, who pray, and who share their faith. Or we think that we simply do not know enough about our faith to share it with anyone and we are certainly not going to expose our lack of knowledge by attending a Bible Study or a Prayer meeting.

How do we recover that sense of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit as the source of our gifts? We need to experience the Holy Spirit at work in us with the understanding that such encounters with God are God’s gift to every Christian. We need to expect that God will meet us in our everyday lives. God is constantly revealed to us and in us to others. Each new discovery takes us deeper into relationship with God. It is not about knowing everything there is to know about God; it is about knowing God. What a great thing that is to experience in our lives!

No matter at what stage of our Christian life we may be, there is possible a deeper encounter with God who waits to enter our experience. We must be prepared to search and to be open to such a possibility. We cannot be self-satisfied. We must journey into a maturing and deepening spirituality. Each new discovery takes us deeper. It becomes a new beginning, a new birthing, a renewal of our baptism.

In a few minutes we will welcome into the body of Christ our newest member, Andrew. As he commits himself to Christ, we will renew our baptismal covenant. May it bring to us that deep sense of peace, that sense that our wills and that of God are in harmony, that sense of the presence of God in our lives, and our willingness to become all that God calls us to be. May it be a time when we understand that we are beloved children of God. May it be an epiphany for each one of us. Amen.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Feast of the Epiphany

By Another Road

Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

We are at the beginning of a new year. It is an exciting time as we consider all the possibilities that this year may bring. As we ponder the challenges of the past year, we may be overcome with fears and anxieties, or we may be filled with hope and anticipation about what this year may bring. It is a time during which we make resolutions to follow new paths, new goals, new attitudes, new motivations. What paths are being opened up for us as we enter a new year?

Matthew tells the story of a path made through the desert and of a change of path as travellers find a new way home. The story begins with a new star appearing in the sky foretelling a child born king of the Jews. Its appearance was noted by wise men from the East. They were seekers, these Magi, searching for something, for someone, willing to follow the path wherever it might lead. You do not scan the sky night after night unless you are searching. They were hoping for something new and wonderful. They packed their luggage, saddled their camels and followed the star. It was a struggle, the road long and tedious through desert and storm. They slept by day. By night they scanned the skies. They had no exact directions; they simply followed a pinpoint of light in a dark sky. It was a journey fraught with difficulties. But they followed the star through the dark nights and at the end of the journey they met Christ. God, the God of Israel was revealed to them, and ultimately to the world.

It is a beautiful story of seekers willing to leave everything behind to follow a dream. It is a story too of missed communication, for the Magi follow the signs but miss a turn in the road. They find themselves in the court of King Herod in Jerusalem. It makes perfect sense to them that the child would be born into a royal household, and Herod, though not of royal lineage is king. He is a king who rules through fear and intimidation. The time of King Herod is for the people of Israel a time of oppression, suffering, brutality and fear. When he hears about the birth of a young king he is filled with rage at the thought of his power being usurped. In his devious ways he convinces the Magi to return to him with news of where the child is born. But God intervenes. God speaks words of warning to them through a dream. They go home by another road, saving the child from the wrath of the king.

The question is what do we hear in this story? How do we connect ourselves to it? We would hope, I suspect, to be the Magi, traveling from distant lands, on a long journey as we seek out the son of God. We see ourselves following God’s lead. We see ourselves not counting the cost, but journeying on seeking the Christ child. We see ourselves kneeling in awe before the infant king, worshipping the one revealed to us as the Son of God. As we kneel there we offer the richest and rarest of gifts that we can imagine. We offer our very selves to God.

Are we also Herod? In our desire for power and wealth do we simply forget about the needs of the poorest of the poor? As Canadians we overuse the good things of the world. We are careless of our beautiful natural resources. In our quest for material goods, we dirty our waters and produce mountains of garbage. We build up debts, living beyond our means. We allow our government to implement oppressive policies that hurt the most vulnerable of society.

How do we hear the story in its many facets? It is the story of how a newborn baby can terrify a mighty king. It is the story of how God uses the most unlikely people, the outsiders to bear the message of salvation to the world. It is about how God uses them even when they miss the road. It is the story of how God’s grace can extend beyond our human imagination. It is a story of transformation and change. It is the story of how light has come into a world of darkness.

The magi were transformed by their visit to the manger. They went looking for a king. Their searching and yearning turned to fulfillment as they discovered in the infant Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. The gifts they offered were rich and exotic and rare. But the real gifts they offered were themselves. The seekers became believers.

In what way has my life been transformed? Do I continue to walk in old paths, in old ways? Then what has Christmas accomplished? What paths are being opened up before me as I enter a new year? Am I a new person? How has my encounter with the Christ child affected my life, my way of living? What is God trying to accomplish in me at this very moment?

The New Year is a time to reflect on the changes that we wish to make in our lives. What will this year bring? It is time to go in new directions. It is a time to make resolutions that we will try to keep throughout the year. Let us not focus on the latest fad diet or using our membership at the gym more often. Don’t get me wrong. Those are good goals. Let us think instead about the gifts we bring to Jesus. What loving actions can we offer to help spread God’s realm? What can we do to help transform our own lives and the lives of those we touch? Let your loving actions be a part of your prayers for them and for others.

There is a lovely hymn in our hymn book written by Georgina Christina Rosetti. The last verse in particular speaks to the gifts we bring.

What can I bring him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man I would do my part.
But what I can I give him, give my heart.

We are not poor. God has given us such wonderful gifts, gifts that we can share: the gift of love and compassion, the gift of grace, the gift of prayerfulness and spirituality, the gift of good health, the gift of wisdom, the gift of joy. Let us resolve to affirm the gifts that we see in one another, and most of all let us resolve to offer our gifts, as insignificant as we may think they are, to God.
Jesus comes to us as a little baby, drawing us closer to God. As the wise men bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, so we bring our gifts of love to God. And in so doing we reach out into a needy world with the light of Christ, a light that transforms all of creation.

The way lies before us. Where will the road lead? Let us move forward with confidence that God, Emmanuel, will lead the way.

The Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year A

Come and See Readings: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42 Invitations come in many shapes and sizes. They ...