3rd Sunday After Epiphany C- 27th January 2013

This week I have had the honoured, but painful task, of officiating at the funeral of a long term close friend. Stewart was in training for ordination with me at St Johns College at Morpeth in 1991/2. He is, perhaps, the longest term “formation” student I know of, having spent years training for ordination in 3 dioceses.

His call to vocation was discerned in parishes across all three – Melbourne, Newcastle and Brisbane – yet he was never ordained. He jumped through hoops but his wavering health was probably the biggest sticking point. Still, he continued in service as a Lay Assistant, EfM mentor and listening ear despite the pain of rejection. WHY? Why, when despite years of hard work and faithful service he was rejected (never by congregations) by those who make these decisions?

I think Grace Wilson was onto something one day when she was heard to say… “I ate Jesus body… It’s delicious!” Her simple words have impacted on me and reverberate through my mind as I consider what it is to be a person of faith in the complexity of life.

Jesus said “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) My friend was fed by the bread of life. He found it delicious and sustaining and he continued to eat of this bread till his sudden death last week. His legacy is the “faith, hope and love” of 1 Corinthians 13.

I know I have asked this question before but it is a question which can enable a rethinking of our focus and direction in life… “Have you eaten of the body of Christ? Is it a delicious taste in your mouth.” I pray that this is your experience of our Lord and God, the Bread of Life.

Many Blessings

Reverend Shan

2nd Sunday After Epiphany C -20th January 2013

Over the last year or so we have begun the practice of praying together in small groups, on the last Sunday of the month. This came about as a consequence of the findings of our first NCD survey held at the end of 2010 which indicated that there was little sharing of prayer, or discussion of our deepest needs or dilemmas within the faith community at St Paul’s.

Many have grown, in faith and community, and found comfort as a result of this practice. Some have even chosen to gather intentionally, on other occasions, to share in prayer for the parish and individuals. While this has bound us more closely together, and has certainly borne fruit, it has nonetheless discomforted some members of our community, such that they do not join us for worship on that Sunday.

As I reflected on this I wondered how best to satisfy the needs of all.

Firstly, let me say that no one should feel compelled to share in this way. For some, sharing our prayer needs is a deeply emotional experience, and places us in a position of vulnerability. It requires are very deep confidence and trust in those gathered together… and it is not always easy to allow our deepest selves such public expression.

Secondly, I note that some of our groups have become unwieldy. We have a limited time frame in which to share and pray so that sometimes people miss out on sharing their need. So, I suggest that groups of no more than 2, 3 or 4 would be preferable… in order to give time for each participant to be heard… and included in the prayers.

And, my final point about these prayer times is that those who feel unable to share, for any reason, should be allowed the freedom and space to spend their time alone – in quiet reflection and solitary prayer. We are all different … yet equally; we are all children of our loving God. Let us be sensitive to each other’s needs so that no one feels excluded as we gather together.

Love and Blessings

 Reverend Shan

Baptism of Our Lord -14 January 2013

As I write I am also contemplating taking down my Christmas tree, and putting away the Nativity Scene and all of the trappings of Christmas. I know that, officially, the Christmas season concluded after Epiphany but we had a lovely Christmas and I am still savouring the moment, a little reluctant to move on and face the reality of 2013.

There is a strong part of me longing to stay with the babe in the manager, the angels, shepherds and wise men… contemplating the wonder of God with us!

But this Sunday we are suddenly swept forward some 30 years! The babe is now a man, about to embark on the mission of his life! Zap! Just like the snap of our fingers, childhood, childlike innocence and simple wonder are all gone! In their place, the sorrowful realisation of flawed humanity and the pressing call to active, painful, intervention!

Life is like that! Childhood… Zap! Leaving  school with the world your oyster… Zap! Love and Marriage… Zap! Children… Zap! Children grown… Zap! It is really so very important to slow down and savour each moment instead of rushing headlong into the next. The future comes soon enough on its own.

For Jesus, this moment of recognition (this new Epiphany) and true communion with God, revealed in word and the presence of the dove, is worthy of contemplation, or savouring. This is a moment of promise which will surely give strength, courage and reassurance for the days ahead…

We also have such moments of clarity and realisation of the presence of God… and a need to slow down to savour them lest they slip away … Zap! Lost to our consciousness! When we take time to ponder the wonder of the presence of God in our lives, in creation, in our friendships and loves… we allow the power of God to be manifest in our lives. We create deep and abiding  memories to which we can return in moments of fear, disappointment and doubt.

May God be clearly present in your life this week, and may you find time to contemplate and savour Gods presence!

Many Blessings

Rev Shan.

Epiphany – 6th January 2013

Today we remember the original gift bearers to our Lord and king… Jesus. We are never really told how many were present, but we do know that they gave expensive gifts, befitting a King… Gold and Frankincense and Myrrh!

I wonder how many people considered what sort of a gift they might offer to our King? The little drummer boy, in the carol, says “I have no gift to bring, that’s fit to give the king,” but, “I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum 
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum” 

We have many friends who, of late have celebrated significant birthdays, and, especially with those who are celebrating later in life, we are invited to the party but asked for our “presence not presents.”

In reality, I am sure that our presence is far more important to Jesus as well… like the little drummer boy we are to give the best of ourselves, our hearts and our souls… but how many offered even a thought for Jesus on the day when we celebrated his birth?

Sadly, presents seem to be the priority of many as testified by falling church attendances at Christian festivals over the years… although ours have remained pretty static… Worse, I note that shops are already selling hot cross buns! While the post Christmas sales are still in swing, the reason for the holiday is forgotten as the commercial sector gears up for the next string of festivals, mindless of the Christ child and  the great gift of love wrapped up in swaddling clothes – God become human!

But, if I am saddened, and others are shocked, distressed (and depressed) about this trend, I wonder what our God must feel about the total disregard shown by so many of His children.

Let us pray that hearts may return to our God and that we may find new means to share the gospel with those who have turned away and seem to have forgotten the way home.

Christmas blessings

Reverend Shan