Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. Year B

Speaking with Authority

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

During the season of Epiphany, we have explored the many ways and times that God calls us, not only on a personal level, but also as a Church, and as a nation. The readings this week continue the theme of call, as they explore how God speaks to us through other people. They speak to us of authority. How do we determine God’s truth? How do we determine who is speaking with integrity?

I came to a new realization about what authority meant a number of years ago when I participated in a healing circle. I was the only non-aboriginal person in the group. We sat in the circle and when we wished to speak we picked up a stone from the centre of the circle and as long as we held the stone we could speak. Many people spoke of their past hurts and anger. I picked up the stone and found myself talking about my experience teaching in a residential school, about my sincerity and sense of mission in going to the north, and at my hurt and confusion and anger at the injustice of it all. I said that I expected that they would feel nothing but contempt and anger for me. I put the stone back. The Elder, an old woman, picked it up. She went back and sat in silence for some time. Then she let out a whoop and returned the stone to its place. Another woman began to speak. She told me that the Elder spoke for all of them. They could hear the authenticity of what I spoke, that it came from the heart, and that I was their sister. It was an ‘aha’ moment for me as I realized that in that one rather primal yell they had recognized her authority.

The question of authority was critical for the people of Israel. Prophets and priests claimed to speak and act in accordance with God’s will, and yet conflicts and disputes arose. They grappled with how God speaks us. They settled on certain criteria. The prophet needed to be an Israelite. He was called to speak as God commanded, and then what was spoken had to be realized in the events that ensued. It needed to be confirmed.

We sometimes have the wrong idea about prophecy. We think that it is about foretelling the future. But it is far from that. The word prophecy comes from the Greek, προφετεσ, "one who speaks before others." It is a translation from Hebrew meaning “one called to speak aloud". The prophets were called to speak aloud, to speak what had been discerned through the closeness of their walk with God. A prophet was one who listened to God. Their call was to speak with authority. The root of the word, authority, is literally “to make to grow”. What they said should help people grow in the way in which God intended.

Perhaps a look at the prophets of our age can give us some insight. In my first parish was such a person. He worked in a much-maligned occupation. He was a meteorologist who worked at predicting the weather. I recall an interesting story that he once told me.

It seems that when the Pope was planning his trip to Los Angeles he wanted to know what the weather would be like. A weather consultant was hired by the Vatican to make some recommendations. He looked at the last thirty years of weather in Los Angeles at the same time of year as the Pope's visit was to take place. He came back and said to the Pope, "At the time of your visit it is likely to be very hot and dry." The Pope made his plans accordingly and the trip went off as expected.

Farmers' Almanacs work on the same premise. They look back about thirty years and make a prediction based on reasonable expectations. Of course, with Global warming bringing with it violent storms and unpredictable weather, it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict with any degree of certainty.

Parents do exactly the same thing. Your child comes to you asking 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?" However, it will more likely be twenty years later when they are dealing with their own children.

Scripture too looks at past history. So often the story begins with God recounting to a 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.

Authority on ethical decisions comes about in a similar way. For example, the people of Corinth, including the Christian community bought groceries in the little shops in the market. Much of the meat was the produce of the local temples. The sacrificial animals and birds were sold. That presented an ethical dilemma for the Christians. Should they eat meat that had been dedicated to a pagan God? They tried to reason. Idols are not real. Nothing has happened to the meat. Just eat it! What difference could it possibly make? Paul gives them a reason to reconsider. If it is a stumbling block to someone, then your decision is a bad one. Ethical decisions should result in doing the loving thing. If your action causes someone to feel a sense of guilt, then you need to reconsider so that the person is not hurt by your decision. A good example might be in the use of alcohol. If I am with someone who is an alcoholic and I drink, then I may be contributing to that person’s problem. I would be better to refrain from drinking. Even though what I am doing is perfectly reasonable, I should limit my freedom for the better good. I should do the loving thing.

Jesus was known as one who could speak with authority. Hearing him speak in the temple gave people an understanding of their potential, of the possibilities. He did not talk down to them. He treated them as friends and equals. He taught them to be realistic about themselves. He helped them to know that God had called them to greater things than they could imagine. His authority made them do what all authority should do. It helped them grow.

Sometimes the person who bears authority is misunderstood. It was so with Jesus. A demented heckler shrieked at Jesus at the top of his voice. Jesus confronted the situation. He healed the person.

This scene is not as foreign to us as it seems. It is played out in our modern world. Jesus was saying something new. New things are often exciting, but at the same time they can seem threatening. Those who bear the prophetic word, those who advocate change, are often rejected or even attacked for their beliefs. The attack on such people can become quite personal. A spirit of open communication is essential in living out our life as a church community.

So what does it mean to this parish as you say goodbye to your priest? What is the prophetic word that you need to hear and share? What disappointments and brokenness does this parish face? What fears need to be assuaged? Our lives are filled with such times. God does not stay away from us because of our challenges and shortcomings. God uses them to come closer to us, to draw us closer. So let us look outward at the brokenness we see in our families, in our friends, and most of all in our congregation. Let us ask ourselves how God might be choosing us to work through us to bring new life into the situation. God continues to use us to further God’s kingdom. Thanks be to God!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Third Sunday after Epiphany, Year B

Fish Stories

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

I was visiting my sister many 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 my niece 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. Only then did my niece get up and do as her mother demanded.

Confronted with calls for action from God, we can find all sorts of excuses. “I didn’t hear you!” “I don’t understand what you want!” “It’s too hard!” “Find someone else!” “ I’m not the right person for the job.” “You couldn’t possibly mean me!” All along, the real reason is more likely to be “I don’t want to” or “ I will never help that person” or perhaps to give the benefit of the doubt, “I’m afraid of what you are asking me to do”.

Consider the story of Jonah. And to do so we need to look at the whole story, not just the part that is assigned as the Old Testament reading for this Sunday. Jonah was a prophet – not a very good one as it turns out – but a prophet nonetheless. God called him to action. He was to go to the people of Nineveh to give them a message from God. It is important to understand that as far as Jonah was concerned, Nineveh was the archenemy. It was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, a brutal occupying force, the destroyer of Israel. In his estimation it was unreasonable that God would ask him to do anything for the people of Nineveh. Yet here was God wanting to send him to tell them that he was going to overthrow them because of the evil things they had done. He was being sent to give them a chance. As far as Jonah is concerned it would be just fine if they fell off the face of the earth. It would be an end to the problem. 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. In fact, he ran in the other direction as fast as he could.

Fortunately for Nineveh, God did not give up. God went to great lengths to move Jonah to action, to allow him to answer God’s call. A huge storm arises and threatens to sink the ship that Jonah is on. The crew casts lots to see who might be responsible for the storm. Jonah confesses that he is actually running away from God. The only way to save the ship, he tells them, is to toss him overboard. As the situation becomes even more hopeless, they finally do exactly that. They throw him into the sea. The sea immediately quiets down.

But God is not done with Jonah. He has him swallowed by a great fish and thrown up on the shores of Nineveh. Still Jonah is reluctant to act. He sulks for a time, but when he sees that it is doing no good, he begrudgingly does what God has asked of him. He begins his walk through the streets of Nineveh. “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” he cries out to the people. And, much to Jonah’s astonishment, perhaps even disdain, they hear and believe. They repent. They change their ways. They proclaim a fast and everyone puts on sackcloth. The whole of Nineveh’s society gets involved in changing their ways. God spares the people.

It is not just the people of Nineveh who are called to repentance in this story. Jonah also needs to repent. There is no doubt about it. He is being racist. The Book of Jonah was a prophetic word to its time. It challenged the nationalism that limited God’s love to one people. It is a prophetic word to our time as well. In our day and age, we need to ask what Nineveh’s we are called to minister to. It is a challenge to those who would define God’s grace by their parochial boundaries. 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. Do we 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! How do we work together to hasten the kingdom of God?

It is a challenge during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for us to put aside denominational boundaries. But it is an even greater challenge in the multicultural, multifaith world in which we find ourselves to put aside our racist attitudes and embrace all of God’s people. What transformed ways of being together do we seek?

Perhaps the answer lies in a different fish story, the one we hear in today’s Gospel. Jesus calls the disciples to leave their nets, follow him, and begin their ministry of fishing for people. It is amazing how immediate the response it. It seems unreal. And yet on reflection, I can see how it could happen. Some people 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.

I think sometimes when we see what is going on in the world we would just like to get off. That is what Jonah wanted to do. “Stop the world’ I want to get off!” he is saying to God. “I want to hide out and ignore every terrible thing that is going on!” That is what we are like when we hearken back to what we consider to be better times, times when churches were full; Sunday Schools were burgeoning with children. Or when we latch onto the latest fanatical movement! Jesus, in calling us to be fishers of people does not make it comfortable or easy for us. He does not give us permission to opt out of society. Rather he calls us to follow, to serve and to accept the consequences. I have found in my own life that to do so results in a sense of security that cannot be eradicated by tragic events.

God calls us, not once, but again and again throughout our lives, to renewed life in Christ. It is a call to choose new priorities, to leave behind the things that impede our discipleship, to find new ways of serving God and humanity. Like Jonah, God calls to us through the crises of our lives. God may even call us to seek out the Nineveh’s of our world, the last place or the last person on earth that we feel called to serve.

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. Amen.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B

Is God Among Us?

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 come over the telephone. These days we do not leave home without our cell phones. We are constantly in communication with family and friends, not just with a call, but even more likely by text. 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 God to get through to us.

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 misbehaviour, and was in disfavour with God. He may have been in disfavour, but the lamp of God had not gone out in his life. When the child, Samuel heard God speak, Eli was able to help him understand that it was God speaking. As Samuel lay in the dark of the night he heard his name spoken. He went in to 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.

Not that it was easy for Samuel, for God told Samuel about his displeasure at the behaviour of Eli and his sons. It is difficult to be a prophet, to speak the truth that God wants us to speak. It is even more difficult to speak it with grace and love. And so we are told that Samuel became a trustworthy prophet, one who “let none of his words fall to the ground.”

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.

That means that the church, this church, St. George’s in Newcastle, must be a place that shows the love of God in action. Do they look at us and say “I know they are Christians by their love”? Or do they see us wrangling and fighting amongst ourselves and run in the other direction? They need to smell God on us. People are hungry for God, for that sense of peace that comes with a relationship with a God who is Emmanuel, God-with-us. It may take some soul searching on our part. It will certainly take the healing presence of God amongst us.

“There is a story told about a famous monastery which has fallen on hard times. Once a great order, it’s many buildings had been filled with young monks, but now it was nearly deserted. Visitors no longer came there to be nourished by prayer. A handful of old monks shuffled through the cloisters and praised God with heavy hearts. It was just a matter of time until their community would die out.

On the edge of the monastery woods, an old rabbi had built a little hut. No one ever spoke with him, but the monks felt somehow assured by his prayerful presence.

As the leader, the Abbot of the monastery agonized over the future, it occurred to him to go visit the rabbi. Perhaps he could offer some word of advice. So one day after morning prayers, the Abbot set out to visit the rabbi.

As he approached the hut, the Abbot saw the rabbi standing in the doorway, his arms outstretched in welcome. And the rabbi motioned the Abbot to enter.

They sat there for a moment in silence, until finally the rabbi said: “You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts. You have come to ask a teaching of me. I will give you this teaching, but you can only repeat it once. After that no one must say it aloud again.”
The rabbi looked straight at the rabbi and said, “The Messiah is among you.” For a while all was silent. Then the rabbi said, “ Now you must go.” The abbot left without a word.
The next morning, the abbot called his monks together in the chapter room. He told them he had received a teaching from “ the rabbi who walks in the woods”, and that after he told it his teaching was never again to be spoken aloud. Then he looked at each of his brothers and said, “ The rabbi said that the Messiah is among us!”

In the days, and weeks, and months that followed, the monks pondered this riddle, and wondered what it could mean. The messiah is among US? Could he have possibly have meant one of us here at the monastery? If that is the case then which one of us is it? Do you suppose that he meant the Abbot? If he meant anyone then he must have meant the Abbot. He has been our leader for more than a generation.
On the other hand he might have meant brother Thomas. Certainly brother Thomas is a holy man. Everyone knows and respects brother Thomas’ keen spirituality and insight.
Certainly he could not have meant brother Elred. Elred gets very crotchety at times. But, when you look back on it, Elred is almost always right, often VERY right. Maybe the rabbi did mean brother Elred.

But surely not brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive, a real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he has a gift for somehow always being there when you need him. Maybe Phillip is the messiah.
As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect, on the off chance that one of them might actually be the messiah.
As time went by there was a gentle, whole-hearted, human quality about them which was hard to describe but easy to notice. They lived with each other as people who had finally found something. But they prayed and read the Scriptures together as people who were always looking for something.
Now, because the forest in which it is situated is very beautiful, it so happened that people did still occasionally come to visit the monastery. They came to picnic on the lawn, to wander among the paths, even now and again to go into the dilapidated chapel to meditate. Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery more frequently – to picnic, to play, to pray. As they did so, even without being conscious of it, they sensed this aura of extraordinary humility and respect that now began to surround the old monks, and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the place. There was something strangely attractive, even compelling about it. They began to bring friends to show them this special place. Before long, people were coming from far and wide to be nourished by the prayer life of the monks.

Some of the younger men who came to visit started talking to the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join them. Then another. And then another. More and more young men were asking, once again, to become part of the community. Within a few years, the monastery had once again become a striving order and, thanks to the rabbi’s gift, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in that area.”

God is among us. What difference does it make in our lives? Do we see Christ in those around us? Do they see Christ in us? May we hear and respond to God’s call! Amen.

Friday, January 5, 2018

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

Yesterday the Feast of the Epiphany, the visitation of the Magi to the Holy Family, and the Sundays that follow it celebrate the revealing of God's incarnate self to humanity, the unfolding of the great mystery of the Incarnation. It is an unfolding, not only to the people of Israel, but also to the whole world.

Today we are focusing on the Baptism of the Lord. It is a fitting celebration as we bring Isaac into the body of Christ through baptism and renew our own baptismal promises. 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 baptized. 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, an epiphany, 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 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 forever.

So I want to remind the Harper’s as they bring Isaac for baptism, that from today on there is a marker in his life. I want to 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 and that carries us throughout our lives.

In one of the parishes I served, I baptised a four year old. He came to the preparation. One of the things that I showed him was the oil of chrism that I would use on his forehead. I said that it would become a marker in his life, a permanent reminder of his baptism. That made an impression on him, for a couple of years later he showed me his forehead and asked if I could still see the marker. 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, a beginning of our ministry.

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 naïve or to certain denominations. Oh! We trot the Spirit out at Pentecost! But we are suspicious of people who are overly 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, Isaac. As his parents and sponsors promise on his behalf, 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.

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 ...