A sermon for Epiphany – 1st Draft

Not the finished product, but its a start.

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Some of you – if you have a good memory – will remember this word – Ubuntu.

It can in part of a story I told about some children in Africa which I told last July, There was an anthropologist who was living and studying the tribe, their customs and behaviours, and as he was leaving he piled up all the sweets and goodies he had left and told the children they would have a race and the winner would get all the goodies, However, instead of all the children racing to the sweets, they all joined hands and went together, and shared out the goodies at the end.

The anthropologist was surprised and asked them why they all went together, when one could have had it all for themselves?

A girl replied, Ubuntu – how can one of us be happy when they others are sad?

How can one of us be happy when the others are sad?

Ubuntu us a term for that humanness, that caring, sharing part of our nature who wants to be in harmony with each other.

And it is a term I’ve been thinking about particularly over these first few days of the New Year.

We all start the New Year with the best intentions. Many make resolutions in the hope that we can make this new year better, fitter, richer, happier. Bit this year feels different from other New Years.

Living and being in such close communities, I don’t think a single one of us can feel unaffected by some of the things that have happened in this area of over these few short days.

Whether it is the loss of young life in a car crash, the effects of the storms what have made so many flee their homes and causing such destruction, the loss of the life washed up on Black Rock Sands, or those others who have lost jobs, and homes and businesses over this season. In community – when one is affected, we are all affected.

Ubuntu – how can one be happy when the others are sad?

For so many in our community, old and young alike – it will be hard for them to see the road ahead with any clarity or where to go next.

Where do you turn to when you feel lost and without direction?

Well…..

The Wise Men turned to the scriptures, for their answer, and the stars for their direction.

We don’t know much about the Magi, thse wise men, the three kings from the orient.

There may have been more than three, we don’t know exactly where exactly where they came from, or when exactly they visited Jesus.

But, in our case, I don’t think the details are important.

What is important is that they made that journey.

They saw the signs, left their familiar surroundings, to a place of uncertainty, and discovered something new and wonderful.

What they found literally changed the direction of their lives.

St Matthew puts it: “They returned home by another way”, The old way, the familiar path no longer worked, they needed a different path, a different way of going forward.

Epiphany is about discovering.

The star the sign they followed to find what they were searching for. The source of salvation.

Our readings are full of references to light.

“Rise up in splendour, Jerusalem” Isaiah cries out, “Your light has come. The glory of the Lord shines upon you.”

There, in those verses, is a sense of being saved, of relief, of deliverance and of hope.

The excitement of the magi comes through in our scriptures, and also I think a sense of relief. We are told: “They were overjoyed at seeing the star”.

For us today, this story is about making the journey – changing direction, going into the unknown, and finding something, or someone to rejoice about.

It’s about finding those signs which will lead us to what we are looking for. Finding them, trusting them and following them.

It’s about what happens to those who are searching and those who encounter Christ.

And whether we realise it or not, its about a kind of conversion.

          It’s about finding another way of walking the journey of life. A way that has been transformed by a sign, by a star, by a light, by Jesus Himself.

Next week we celebrate the baptism of Christ, and swiftly following that we will slip into Ordinary time, the season of Christmas a memory.

But before it does we are asked to do something first.

The season ask us to begin a journey.

To find a sign.

To follow the light.

And then like the wise men, to bring what we have, our gifts and share them – with God and with each other.

As we share in what our community is going through, we can bring our gifts and the spirit of Ubuntu with us.

It may be as simple as a smile to someone you meet in Fox’s or London House.

It might be a tissue – or a panad.

It might be a prayer and a lit candle.

It might be a helping hand with cleaning or repairs –

We are all called to journey personally with God and as a community, and to do that there are certain things we must do.

If you have not made a resolution yet, it is not too late, especially when there is so much need within our community. Use your gift, follow the sign and do what you can for yourself, or community, and the Lord who can to bring us light and salvation.

Amen.

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/north-wales-floods-rooftop-rescue-6465775

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/mans-body-found-blackrock-sands-6463716

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125 years of St David’s Glanadda, and my early vocation

This week I was invited to a celebratory service of 125 years of St David’s, Glanadda, Bangor, where I first found the courage to act upon my sense of calling and formally start exploring my vocation.

It was strange and wonderful to be back. The building is often likened to Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. It’s a barn of a building, tall and dark, but for me there is a warmth that welcomes you in. Your eye is pulled up to the alter and your attention is fixed.

Of course the building holds great memories for me, a lot happened over the 4 years I was there, but with any church it’s the people that are the most important. And in many ways it seemed like nothing had changed since the first time I walked through those doors, the familiar chattering before the service continues as many of the same people go about the same jobs and the faint music from the choir drifts up from the vestries down stairs.

It was strange to be back.

As well as it being the place where I first acted upon my calling, it’s the place that encouraged and nourished me in those early years. I preached my first sermon there, carried out my first home visits, led my first services, and chaired my first congregational meetings. I was able to observe the PCCs and have an active role in organising coffee mornings and fetes.

I learnt so much from my time there. And it is only now, after serving two years in curacy that I am really, truly appreciating all that they taught me and all that I learnt from them.

It was lovely to see the old faces, and really good to see some new. The church was decorated in pictures from the local school, and some of the congregation couldn’t wait to tell me about their family service, and he recent work they had been doing. Except for one funeral, at which I did not hang around to chat, I had not been in the church since I left for college in 2009 and so it was really pleasing to see them encouraged and excited by their ministry and gong out into their community. They are a small congregation, but not without hope in continuing their 125 year calling to bring Christ into the community of Glanadda.

As the ordinations this Peter-tide come closer I’ve been thinking back over the past two years since my own ordination and starting my curacy. But this visit has sent my mind back even further. I give thanks for St David’s, who, without their support and encouragement I would not be where I am today and I wish them every blessing for the next 125 years.

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Identity and Calling

Identity is a huge issue for those in the 21st century world and has become much more of an issue than it ever has before. We all like to fit in somewhere, it’s part of our human nature. From the beginning of our existence we have divided ourselves into family groups and tribes, identifiable to those around us by the land we claim and the customs we adopt. In modern society there is a great pressure to identify ourselves in a particular way and most people tread a tight rope between the mainstream culture and individuality. I’ve recently seen Will Young’s song, ‘Losing myself’ which identifies with falling totally to the mainstream.

Studies have been carried out and it’s thought that the average person can be confronted with up to 3000 advertisements per day, each begging for their attention, each trying to persuade that their product will change their life, make them cooler and sexier and completing all their quests in life.

There is a great concern especially for our young people who are pulled in every direction during those essential years when they are finding out who they are and what they are about. ‘Am I cool enough?’ ‘Funny enough?’ ‘Pretty enough?’ ‘Fashionable enough?’ ‘Likeable enough’

‘Am I enough?’

We seem to be in the generations of people pleasers, all concerned about what other people think about us. We will change our hair, clothes, likes, interests if we think it will make us more popular. Even those who seem to reject society and popular status are still trying to live up to an image. I remember well my ‘emo’ days (we didn’t call ourselves that then, but that’s the label that would be applied to us now), even when we were trying to reject the ‘mainstream’ likes and fashions we were still living up to a certain image by the style of clothes we wore, the bands on our t-shirts and hoodies and the music coming from our MP3’s.

We all want to fit in somewhere, we all need to fit in somewhere, whether it’s in the mainstream of society or somewhere out on the fringes.

Our identity crisis has much more of an impact then just on the individual. We live in a global society but instead of us being more accepting, many have just found new ways to divide ourselves. Last Sunday I preached on 1 Kings 17:17-24 of Elijah and the widow’s son, and Luke 7:11-17 of Jesus and the widow’s son.

I focused on Luke, although the stories are very similar. I explained the situation the widow found herself in when she learnt her only son was dead, because women at this time had to be represented by a man, or they became non-people. Without a male kin she would have no power and no social standing, and although the scriptures were very clear about the care of widows, that they were to be looked after, cared for and not exploited, this was no guarantee of protection in a man’s world.

The act of resurrection moves beyond the physical resurrection of the son, Jesus also resurrects the woman from her non state, broken by society and given a full life once again. She was brought from death to life.

Jesus did not only change people’s lives, he changed social orders. This is the work of God, caring for those that society wants to leave behind. The world is getting smaller with each technological advance, but instead of embracing others, and their traditions and cultures, we use them to divide ourselves further.

Sexuality, religion, ethnicity, language, nation, age, wealth, gender, music, TV the list goes on.

But this is not what God wants for us. God’s action is to restore the social order, to bring those we push out, back into our society. I see Jesus’ example of caring for the widow, and the deaf and blind and the lepers is a calling for us. We are called to be healers in our world, to restore all people with God, and to one another in Christ. We are to take Jesus’ example and be the change we want to see in the world.

If we truly are followers of Christ, then we will refuse to draw boundaries in our own lives, and refuse to exclude those who are different to us. We will work within our lives to right the wrongs and transform unjust social structures. We will welcome all into our churches and communities, and work together so that all people are fed, clothed, housed and cared for.

If we are truly followers of Christ we will work together for our common goal of loving one another as Christ loves us (John 13:34).

Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10)

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