Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – 29 January 2017

The word “blessed” in Matthew 5 is often translated as happy. It’s a word that sometimes in our culture has the sense of a superficial and fleeting emotion, something not quite worthy of serious pursuit. It can, however, have a deeper sense about it.

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coiffed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. “I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”

She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”

And with a smile, she said: “Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

  1. Free your heart from hatred
  2. Free your mind from worries
  3. Live simply
  4. Give more
  5. Expect less

If we take happiness to be a deep sense of joy and something that we want for others and ourselves how can we shape our lives and our communities to be joyful, happy and blessed places?

Third Sunday after Epiphany – 22 January 2017

DISCIPLESHIP THOUGHT

Sometimes our language betrays us. When we use the word ‘church’ our minds so often go to a building, and if you ask any child to draw a church they will most likely draw the same. We know that the church is the community of the faithful gathered together. We know it and we know that we know it. So we forget to tell each other that we, together, are the church and we drift into lazy thinking about buildings and clergy and denominational structures.

The house of the Lord is a world of welcome, safety and freedom for all creatures. It is for this world that we offer our resources and ourselves. How can we use language more carefully in our community in the future to ensure that we remind ourselves that we are the community of God, we are the church and that together we are the house of the Lord?

PRAYER
God of abundance, for the opportunity to participate in your great work of healing and restoration of the earth we are grateful.
May all that we give, our time, our treasure and our hearts be given so that this good earth can be the house of the Lord for all.

Second Sunday after Epiphany – 15 January 2017

DISCIPLESHIP THOUGHT

When Jesus says in this week’s text, “Come and see” to his prospective disciples, he does so at the beginning of his ministry, the beginning of the great, life-changing adventure for his disciples. These prospective disciples wanted to know about Jesus, who he was, where he was staying. They wanted to understand more about him and his ministry. In inviting these prospective disciples to come and see, the gospel is inviting all readers to do the same, and in some ways, the rest of the gospel is the playing out of that coming and seeing. We see the love and generosity of God everywhere if we open our eyes. God’s love is extravagant. Our world is filled with grace. May we live with generosity and grace sharing the love we have received with others.

In what ways can we make our communities of faith places that invite and encourage people to come and see?

Baptism of Our Lord – 8 January 2017

How do you think someone new arriving might experience our faith community? How much would it be the kind of community where, even before we know anything about the person, they experience welcome, love and respect? Surely this is the kind of community suggested in our Matthew text? How would our communities flourish if we regularly said these words to each other, “You are (name) the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Years ago, at a Cursillo weekend we were reminded that each one of us bears a little of the Christ light within us … so rather than pass the peace with one another, we were to look into the eyes off each person we greeted with the words “I love the Christ I see in you”. To begin with, it was confronting and felt a little uncomfortable but, nonetheless, incredibly moving? It certainly forced a change in attitude to one another with the realization that each is a beloved child of God.

Why not try one of these greetings, at least inside your own head next time you meet anyone, a family member with whom you live, a friend or colleague or a stranger.

May we always give of our love and respect for all of God’s creation and may we receive in humility and gratitude.

Epiphany – 1 January 2017

Wow. What an auspicious beginning to 2017? New Year’s Day and we begin the year with worship! I guess it’s a little too early to know how the year will pan out? Still as I have contemplated the last 12 months and considered the possibilities of the year ahead, I kept being drawn to Martin Luther King’s words in his well know speech … “I Have a Dream” delivered on 28th August 1963, in which he called for an end to racism.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!

There were many obstacles to face. He did not see his dream come true but was moved to say … “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”

On 3 April 1968, the night before he died, he was under threat but he was able to say …

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

I came across a lovely little children’s book called “God’s Dream” by Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams. God dreams of a world full of people sharing and caring for one another, regardless of our differences – not because we have to but because we recognize each other as children of God. “Each of us carries a piece of God’s heart within us. And when we love one another, the pieces of God’s heart are made whole.”

I am sure that we all share God’s dream and the birth of a new year gives us the opportunity to renew our efforts towards bringing that dream to fruition. This is my DREAM also, and I trust the Lord to see it through!