Saturday, 31 January 2009

Sunday 1 February 2009 The Presentation Malachi 3:1-5, Luke 2:22-40, Melanie

We pray that God would meet us where we are and move us on to where he would have us be

And so we have our two readings ;
the one from the end of the Old Testament.
The other from the beginning of the New.
One concluding what has gone before.
The other pointing ahead to a time to come.
It is a clue for us today
about this very special day in the year.

Picture the scene for Mary and Joseph :
the move from Bethlehem
the place of birth, of new beginnings
to Jerusalem, the place where
in just over thirty years where
a life would end.

Birth and death
suddenly brought together.
Both a looking back
and a looking forward.
A time of new beginnings
and a time of endings

Then Simeon waiting in the temple,
constantly waiting for the Messiah

Mary, only just having given birth,
still unclean in Jewish eyes.
Now 40 days after the birth
coming to the temple ;
arriving for ritual purification,
being able to worship once more
in that most sacred of places in Jerusalem.
Her time of uncleanliness ended
and her entry back into Jewish society marked.

Anna, now an elderly lady of 84,
night and day ;
longing to see the child who held the future

Joseph bringing the sacrifice of the poor :
two turtle doves or pigeons.
And the child, the child of poverty,
yet to all around, the light of the world

And what about the child
so recently safe and secure in his mother’s womb.
Now facing a world that would both love and hate him.
Being presented in the same temple
where in his adult life he would be rejected.

It is that point when beginnings and endings meet.
When we are suspended between
looking backwards to Bethlehem
and looking forwards to Jerusalem

When the church moves out of Epiphany
and begins to look to Lent.
When any Christmas decorations
are finally taken down
and we move into a new season.

When traditionally candles are blessed in the church
in preparation for the coming year.
When in the world outside
preparations are made for that great US celebration –
Groundhog day
The day when the weather is predicted
for the coming year.

Perhaps it’s a similar point for us today between old and new years.
Remember the moment
when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st ;
when we are suspended between what has gone before
and what will be in the future.

Or those turning points in our lives
when we exist
neither in one space or the other ;
The moment in the delivery ward
where new life is suddenly made visible.

The moment in the hospice
when life is at an end.
That moment of timelessness
when words seem inadequate
and all that we can do
is gaze in silence.

It’s also that time between jobs ;
Between relationships ;
Between phases of life ;
Neither in one place or the other
suspended as if in space ;
out of control,
and at the mercy of outside elements.

Perhaps more true now than ever
in a world that is constantly turning upside down.
Traditional structures and institutions
now frighteningly vulnerable.
Human power seemingly unable to stop
natural courses of events.

Whenever it happens,
it is a precious moment,
rare, scarce, and often fleeting.
Yet here is holy ground
that place where we must take off our shoes
and tread with care
for this is the place where we meet God.

This is the place where we come face to face
with divinity.
Where humans suddenly seem powerless
in God’s transforming light.

That place of suspense in the temple ;
the place that Simeon and Anna recognised
that holy moment
is also there for us.
In those moments between times
in the unmeasured spaces

Here is the mystery of God
The joy of the meeting place with God.
And yet it’s a place where we also see
the sorrow and pain of reality,
the sword that would pierce a mother’s heart.

Yet it is a place that we all recognise.
It is wordless
and yet utterly known.
The stillness of eternity.
If any of us should find it,
Let us take care ;
let us take off our shoes,
for we tread on Holy ground.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

SUNDAY 25 JANUARY 2009 FEAST OF ST PAUL Acts 9 : 1 – 22 Matthew 19 : 27 – 30 ROBERT

Today we celebrate St Paul – one of the greatest of the Christian saints and martyrs. We are also still in that season of the year we call ‘Epiphany’.

Epiphany is a Greek word which speaks of ‘revelation’ – the sun’s rising that lights up a dark world; the drawing back of a proscenium curtain to reveal a bright stage set; entry into a dark room and turning on the light, when – in a flash – everything is revealed. And hence, of course, it means also that moment of mental or spiritual revelation - the Eureka moment - when our understanding lights up like a light bulb, and we understand what was (until that moment) a dark puzzle.

Originally, it was associated with Christ’s Baptism. John is baptizing one person after another, and suddenly there stands in front of him a man he has actually known since childhood, and in one of those dazzling moments of revelation, he sees the Expected Messiah, about whose coming he has been preaching. And the Holy Spirit comes down on Jesus in the form of a dove, and God acknowledges him from heaven. The look on John’s face must have been quite extraordinary.

It then became even more firmly embedded in Christian tradition, especially in the east, as associated with the visit of the wise men, who followed the light of a star until it rested over the place where Jesus was. They had a light leading them by night (like the Israelites of old as they travelled through the wilderness), but they were driven also by a light in their heads, which inspired their journey.

As Paul travelled to Damascus, he was fighting an inner darkness, long before he was physically blinded. He had been deeply troubled by the testimony and then the death of Stephen, who died under the hail of rocks while seeing a vision of God with Jesus at his right hand, and with words of forgiveness on his lips.

Paul’s mind converted his confusion into blind rage, and he lashed out at any Christian within reach, but, as he travelled to Damascus, his mind wrestled with a huge puzzle, until the Eureka moment when (like John the Baptist) he saw Jesus (now in his risen glory), and a light so brilliant that it blinded him and threw him to the ground, flashed like lightning both outside and inside his head. That epiphany utterly transformed Paul’s life, and the entire Christian mission to the world.

I want to look very briefly at two questions which I hear buzzing around at the moment. The first is the charge that Paul had such an original mind, and was so powerful in the young emerging church, that he transformed the original message of Jesus into something different.

On the side of the prosecution is the fact that he ends up as the author of about two-thirds of the New Testament, and some of his most radical letters pre-date the writing of the Gospels. That he clashed violently with many of the existing Christians (including Peter), there is no doubt – he says so himself. In essence, the young emerging church saw itself as a renewal movement within Judaism – much like the Reformation in 16th century Europe, which broke away from the existing catholic church, but only on the grounds that it represented the true gospel, not that it was replacing it with something different. Those first Christians did not see themselves as starting a new religion. They saw themselves as the new Judaism, which had been fulfilled and transformed in Jesus.

For Paul, it was top priority (and the specific mission with which he had been commissioned by Christ), for the Christian gospel to break out of its Jewish constraints, and liberate it for everyone. Jesus had died for the sins of the whole world. The message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ was for everyone, of every race and class and creed, male and female, Jew and Gentile (see Galatians 3:28).

Of course, he was not the only one to have this vision. Peter had had his extraordinary dream at Joppa (see Acts 10), and then had seen the Holy Spirit descend on the family of the Roman centurion Cornelius. Following this, the council of Jerusalem had been persuaded that the Christian Gospel was for everyone, Jew or Gentile (see Acts 15).
But for Paul, it became the central plank in his mission, and it can be argued that, if it had not been for Paul and the vigour of his mission, which broke out of its original roots, Christianity would not have spread across the world and so to us.

But to do this, Paul had to distil the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, into terms which could be universally preached and understood. It took him many years to think this through, but the result is truly faithful to the Gospels. Paul never, for one moment, loses sight of his original encounter with the risen Christ, and the fact that he (above all people) is a forgiven sinner, saved by the grace of God, and through personal faith in Jesus. He remained ever faithful to his Lord, and the original message in the Gospels. Far from supplanting Jesus and the message of the Gospels, he has expounded and liberated that message for the whole world. The debt we owe him is incalculable, and we celebrate him, his faith and his achievement, today.

The second point on which I want to offer a comment is this. In nearly every discussion we have in groups, I have noticed that (one way or another), the topic crops up about a personal encounter with Jesus. Many who have come to Christian faith dramatically, often call this their ‘Damascus Road experience’. This, in turn, causes difficulty to others who are clear that they are Christians, but who have never had anything approaching such an experience. When such people hear dramatic stories of how someone came to faith through a personal experience of Jesus, it’s easy to feel somehow excluded from a privileged inner circle who appear to regard themselves as better Christians than you. This can lead to much mutual misunderstanding, even resentment, not to say division, within the church. What could be more unhelpful?

I believe the answer is not to dwell on the past. You can imagine that, over more than 40 years in parish life, I have met many people who have told wonderful stories of their Damascus Road experiences, and have later gone off the rails entirely both in their faith and in their private lives. I have equally encountered many who could never point to a particular day or experience, but whose faith and Christian life have steadily – and manifestly – strengthened over the years until they became church leaders whom God honoured and used to his glory.

The focus, therefore, needs to be on the present, not the past. Not what happened at some time probably long ago, but where – in relation to our faith in Jesus Christ – we are today. We do not celebrate St Paul today because, one day long ago, he had an intense experience on the Damascus Road, but because he went on to devote his life (often under great hardship) to the mission of the church.

May I offer you as a text for today, as we celebrate his life and ministry, these pungent words which he wrote in his letter to the church at Philippi, and which are as relevant to each one of us now, as they were the day they were penned:

“One thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too, God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”

That ambition is well expressed in our church mission statement. It is to “Encounter God and grow in Him”. If each one of us will make it our prayer as we come to communion this morning, and our own personal daily prayer in the coming week and months, God will honour our prayers. Whatever our past experiences, we will encounter God personally and as a Church, and we will grow in Christian maturity and faith. And if that is our genuine ambition, God will do great things with us as He guides us forward into the future.
To finish - as we began – with Epiphany, let our prayer be that the wonderful light of Christ may shine ever brighter in our lives and in our church this year.
Do you think your Christian faith is the same as it was one year/five years ago? the same? stronger and more vibrant/weaker and more doubtful? Can you describe some of the reasons? What are your expectations for this year?
How do you plan to “encounter God and grow in Him” in the course of this year?
As you think about St Paul, his life and his mission, do you think he has a particular message for our Church now?

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Sunday 18 January 2009 Epiphany 2, John 1:45-51, Bruce

Epiphany is the time when we remember the revealing or manifestation of Christ’s glory. We have seen this in the adoration by the wise men, in his baptism, and this week we see it in the encounter that Jesus has with Nathanael. This is our third visit to this text recently. Robert preached about Nathanael, who is also known as Bartholomew, on 24 August last year, and I have printed off copies of his sermon on yellow paper as it repays careful study. This passage also cropped up on St Michael’s day last September, I think because of the reference to angels.

Nathanael is not impressed at first. We have had the big build up. In the beginning was the Word ….. He came to his own, but his own received him not. John the Baptiser has recognised him as the Lamb of God, principally through what happened when he baptised Jesus. Andrew has met Jesus and introduced his brother Peter to him. Jesus has found Philip and invited him to “Follow me”. Philip has found Nathanael and breathlessly announced: “We have found him! The one Moses wrote about! The one foretold in the writings of the prophets! And his name is ….. Jesus, the local carpenter, and he’s from Nazareth.” After that big build up, it’s like saying the next president is revealed as the local handyman, who lives in Mytchett.

So Nathanael’s first response is a bit of a put down. He’s a bit prickly. Philip, you have got to be joking. Pull the other one. Nobody significant can come from that tiny hamlet (Nazareth, not Mytchett!). World saviours do not turn up on our doorstep. But Jesus wins him round.

Jesus has seen Nathanael under the fig tree, in a place of contemplation; is that what impressed him? Or was Nathanael meditating on the story of his famous forebear? He comments that Nathanael is a true Israelite, one in whom there is no guile or cunning, nothing Jacob-like.

There is something here about the Old Testament character called Jacob, who has his name changed to Israel (just as Peter has had done to him a few verses before). You may be familiar with an advert for an insurance company that tells us that Richard Starkey became Ringo Star, Walter Willis became Bruce Willis, Vincent Damon Furnier changed his name to Alice Cooper, Eleanor Gow became Elle McPherson. The name Jacob implies a tricky customer, a Ulysses, someone who will cheat you. He spent his life looking for a blessing. After he cheated his brother, he had to flee for his life, and it was then that he had the dream of seeing a ladder up to heaven and angels ascending and descending. Later he wrestles with an angel through the night, and clings to him as the dawn approaches; the angel wounds him, but also gives him the new name Israel, which means “God Wrestler”.

All of this is alluded to in the brief words that John reports to us of the conversation between Jesus and Nathanael. The whole gospel is about those who believe in Jesus, and those who choose not to. After a shaky start, Nathanael has become a believer. He can recognise God at work, present in this man in front of him, Jesus. He has had an epiphany.

Look for God in the ordinary. This is a recurrent theme in John. It comes up again when Jesus compares himself to the supernatural food that fed the children of Israel when Moses was leading them through the wilderness, the Manna. His hearers say “How can he call himself the bread that came down from heaven? We know his father and his grandparents. He is one of us.” (John 6:42). This, however, is the point. We believe in the Incarnation, that the fullness of God inhabited an ordinary, human body.

I make again the distinction between a true encounter with God, and the religious practices that we engage in to help that to happen. We are sometimes tempted to dismiss aspects of every day life and church life as the mundane, the ordinary, completely separate from anything spiritual. We wrestle with matters of organisation and finance almost as if they were on a different world. And yet we can perhaps glimpse the presence of God, through the corner of an eye, in moments of weakness and sickness, in problems of making ends meet, in worrying about how to make and keep this building fit for purpose. Look for God in the ordinary.

And look for God in his word. If, as it seems likely, Nathanael was meditating on the story of Jacob/Israel from the book of Genesis, then he was led to an amazing encounter with the living God, though Jesus. This is not automatic. Later, we read that Jesus castigates some of the Jewish rulers because they diligently search the scriptures but refuse to come to Jesus to receive life. It is good for us to know what the bible says; we need also to deliberately look to submit our lives to what we believe God is telling us through the bible. This is something we can do individually, and something we can also do together. Hence the mixed approaches in the programme: 40 Days of Relationship, individual study, hearing the sermons together and joining a group.

The whole of John’s gospel is about the epiphany, as the glory of Jesus is gradually revealed. The book goes into chapter 2 with the story of water changed to wine at Cana. We have focussed today on the encounter that Nathanael had with Jesus. Jesus promises him that he will see heaven opened and the angels ascending and descending. Look for God in the ordinary and in his word. Look for him also in praise and worship as we lift our hearts and voices together.

Discussion Starters
1. Nathanael was surprised that the promised messiah was so local. What has been the most surprising thing that has happened to you or that you have learned in your Christian life so far?
2. Nathanael was thinking about the story of Jacob/Israel. What bible story has been most significant for you, and why?
3. “You shall see angels …” What help would you most appreciate with your life of prayer and worship? Are there ways that your group can help you?

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Sermon for Sunday 11th January 2009 – The Baptism of Christ Acts 19:1-7, Mark 1:4-11 Kim

In her book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dilliard opens a chapter with this story:
“When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always ‘hid’ the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions. After I learned to write, I labelled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer- by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny. “
God, in a similar fashion, has, for centuries, been trying to help us discover the free gift of grace. As Annie Dilliard did, God has been drawing lines to the gift. Regardless of our merit, God seems to have this impulse to save us.
Moses and the prophets were the first to offer the pathway to God, through the law. For the past two millennia, God’s lines have been clearly drawn through Jesus, the Christ.
Today, we observe the baptism of Christ. As we remember his baptism, the lines to grace become clearer. In Acts, we read of the importance of the church. Genesis says God’s Holy Spirit has been active since creation. And in Mark, we recall the act of Jesus’ baptism, and the claim Jesus understood that God had on his life.
In Ephesus, Paul discovered twelve disciples who had not been baptised “in Christ.” They had received the baptism of repentance of John the Baptist, but they had not received the Holy Spirit by being baptised in Christ. Acts draws the lines of grace clearly. The line from John the Baptist points to Jesus. He is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit. Only through Jesus can we experience the “power” of the Holy Spirit.....the power of God. The story emphasises the corporate nature of salvation. It is the Body of Christ, the church, that continues the line to grace. We cannot be “In Christ,” without being in the Body of Christ. Upon baptism, we are recognising the baptised as a member of the “family of God.” It is an adoption, not a choice. The action is God’s, not ours. It is the responsibility of the church to “go” and baptise in the name of Jesus Christ. The lines are clear.
Baptism, however, does not guarantee our life will be without strife. On the contrary. Jesus’ life was far from perfect following baptism. In fact, the turmoil was just beginning. What it does mean, though, is that our anchor will always be God. God, through Christ, will be the calm in the storms of life.
The story of creation is an example of the role of the Holy Spirit in chaos. In the beginning, God brought forth order out of chaos. Interestingly, the chaos was water, and that which brought order was God’s “wind” or the Spirit. These are the same two elements of baptism.
For centuries, we have been trying to understand the coexistence of good and evil. Recently, some are beginning to understand they may not be opposites. Their creative tension may be necessary.
One of my reading books in training was on the chaos theory. Chaos theory uses higher order mathematics to study ever-changing and complex systems. It tries to understand the universe through biological system models, and understood in this way, the chaos in life is not evil, but a necessary part of creation.
In our own lives, we often find order out of chaos. In fact, it may be that our most difficult times have produced our greatest achievements and growth. One example may be Tom, who had long tried to forget time he spent at Washington University. In the fall of 1936, Tom registered for an English course in play writing. The professor was animated and well liked, but Tom just didn’t fit in. He was shy and sat in the back of the class. The highlight of this class was that each student was to write a one-act play. Three of the plays would then be selected by an independent jury to be produced by the university drama club, and from those three, another jury would select the overall winner. There was a great deal of pride and prestige involved in this contest. While the students were working on the plays, occasionally the professor would read portions of the plays to the class.
One day, the professor chose to read Tom’s play. It was a dark Russian melodrama full of war and infidelity and evil. The play was simply bad. It was so bad that the class laughed when it was read. Tom’s play was not one of the three chosen to go before the jury. Upon hearing this, Tom rose slowly with his face indicating rage and he left the room. He also left Washington University.
Today....Tom doesn’t even remember being a student at Washington University, although class rosters from 1936 will verify it. What we remember, though, is the way that Tom....”Tennessee” Williams....overcame those difficulties and gave us the gifts of Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and A Steetcar Named Desire.
We really don’t know our potential until we face difficulties in life. It is often through turmoil that we discover our skills. Chaos and order provide a creative tension in our lives and the thread that brings order out of chaos is Jesus. It is the power of the Holy Spirit we experience through Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Mark’s version of the baptism of Jesus helps remind us of “whose” we are. In Mark’s story, the Holy Spirit is present at the river Jordan, along with a voice from heaven proclaiming, “You are my Son, the Beloved.”
As we remember our own baptism today, we, too, are reminded of our own identity. We are part of the family of God, and part of the Body of Christ......the church. The voice also offers an affirmation to Jesus, “with you I am well pleased.” Our baptism is a recognition of the same affirmation from God. God has chosen us, and is pleased with us. We are God’s.
The grace offered to us through Jesus Christ is the order in our chaos. Like Annie Dilliard, God is trying to move us toward the free gift He offers. The line is drawn through Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit leading us on. Even when life seems hopeless, the creative tension with the grace of God through Christ will lead us to that “SURPRISE.”

1. What do you think is the importance of Christian Baptism?
2. Do you know what gifts you have? What are they? Do you use them or do you save them for a rainy day?
3. If God asked you to do something for him today that you have never done before – would you immediately say ‘With the help of you Lord – I will’. Or would you need to think about it and come up with 101 reasons why you shouldn’t do it? What would help you to immediately respond?

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Sunday 4 January 2009 Isaiah 6:1-6, Matthew 2:1-12, The Epiphany, Bruce

Why I am a priest (strictly speaking, a presbyter) in the Church of England today.

At the age of 18 I wrote off the Church of England. In the church and choir in which I grew up, it seemed more like a social club than anything else. We sang beautiful music, and worshipped in a lovely building, but there seemed very little of God in it all. I came across a church which was quite shocking; they believed in a fervent and simple way that God was real, and would intervene in their lives. So began a ten year sojourn in the Pentecostal church.

What moved me on was getting engaged to Jane. As she came from a Catholic family, and my family had not much interest in Christian faith at all, we found ourselves in touch with the vicar of Tilford, and made arrangements to be married there. His sermon at Epiphany made a big impact on me. An epiphany is the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something, a moment of inspiration, clarity, when it all suddenly makes sense … It gets this meaning from the Greek word, which means a revealing, a manifestation. Christians use it to talk about the revealing of the glory and majesty of Jesus Christ, most notably when foreign star gazers appeared to worship him as a young child. Matthew tells his story skilfully, showing how the creation (the star) and the scriptures (prophecy) point the way to the birth of the new King Of Israel.

For Anglicans, Epiphany is the missionary season when we celebrate that Christ is for all people. Note that the travellers seem to lose sight of the star and so head first for Jerusalem and the court of King Herod. The birth of the new king must first be announced to his own people, the Jews; they search the scriptures and are able to pinpoint the place where the Maji must continue their search. There is no indication that the scholars in Jerusalem want to engage in the search themselves. The story continues as the Maji set out again, and the star leads them to the promised place, and Christ is revealed to the Gentiles, to people of every race and time, to us.

So Epiphany is one of my favourite seasons. Next week we see how Jesus is revealed at his Baptism, the week after Christ reveals himself to Nathanael, and finally we have the Conversion of Paul. All the while we are centring on Jesus, and particularly that God is reaching out through Jesus to share his love with the whole world.

So what might we learn from studying these wise men a little more?

First, that God meets us where we are. The bible generally condemns astrology. Christians do not need to consult the stars, we rely upon God’s guidance and good common sense. But these wise men, however, were part of a numerous priestly caste familiar throughout the near east and originating in Persia, modern day Iran. Dreams and the heavenly bodies were the language they understood, and God spoke to them in the way that they were most open to.

Are you searching to know God better? I hope so. Our whole reason to be is “To Encounter god and Grow in Him”. But we often feel ill equipped and wonder how to get to know him. Fear not, for if you are seeking him, he will be found by you. He will reveal himself in a way that makes sense to you.

Second, be prepared for change. These wise men had to put their lives on hold, facing challenges and danger for upwards of four years. They expended time, effort and money in their quest to find and worship the newborn king. And were they the same when they eventually arrived home? So we also, if we are serious, open ourselves to the work of God’s Holy Spirit, to make us more like Jesus. There is an internal journey for each of us.

Third, we each need our own personal Epiphany. This is where we reach beyond religion. There are many things that we do to encourage and promote an encounter with God and growth in our knowledge of him. We build and maintain beautiful buildings; we sing hymns and songs and read the scriptures. We bring out crib figures and set up little statues of wise men. These are all good and helpful if they are pointing us forward to that true, heart knowledge of God, a personal relationship with him. An epiphany is the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something, a moment of inspiration, clarity, when it all suddenly makes sense …

This will be personal, unique, individual to each of us. We may start from a pagan background, as the Maji did. We may have an experience like that of one religious person who said: "About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, 'Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?'” We may even have been brought up in a Christian home and undertaken work in the church, before having an experience like one Christian leader: “while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

This can be gradual and almost unnoticed, or it can be sudden and all consuming. We have already noted that the Maji were involved over several years in their search. I am not suggesting a ‘flash in the pan’ experience to you. Rather, I am inviting you to throw yourself open to a lifetime of exploration and growth.

We use the language of:

“Encounter God and Grow”: it is a personal journey of relationship and discovery.

“A Growing Community of Faith”: we each are invited as individuals, but find that we are brought into relationship with God and our brothers and sisters, growing in numbers and our understanding of his purposes.

We seek to be “Open for All”: God invites every single person in this world to worship his Son, and each of us seeks to be open to his purposes in our lives.

We are Christ centred, even when not knowing all the details or understanding everything.

We are each disciples: we take responsibility for our own growth and development in Christ.

We each engage in ministry: each of us has gifts and energies that we can use to bless others.

We each take part in building community: acknowledging that we do not always have things arranged to suit our own preferences.

We each take part in evangelism: we take seriously the missionary impulse that is imbedded in the gospel, and which we see lived our in the adoration by the Maji. The way that we live and work, and respond to the enquiries of others, can help others to come to their own Epiphany.

In the coming weeks, and especially during Lent when we will do a programme called 40 Days of Relationship, we shall explore different ways that we can make progress. I recommend the Praise Evening later today, the Day of Prayer on 16 January and the Quiet Day on 21 February. And this morning, as we celebrate the Epiphany, let us open ourselves afresh for all that God has for us.

Suggested Discussion Starters
1. What is your favourite season of the Church’s year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, etc), and why?
2. What part of the Christian story does your favourite season remind you of?
3. How have you known Christ to be revealed in your life? Has your experience been of the more gradual kind, or can you recall definite steps forward?
4. What are the ways that you would like help to encounter God afresh, and to grow in your knowledge of him?