Feb 17th 2019 All Saints Church Roydon and St Nicholas, Gayton Norfolk
Readings Jeremiah 17:5-10, Luke 6:17-25
Bless You – That’s my line!
Blessings, God Bless You, Blessed are the poor, the hungry, those who mourn, and those who are hated because of their faith….
What does it mean, blessings, blessed, bless you?
I find it hard when people say that as I think what do they mean? Or do they know what that means.
So, when people say to me ‘Oh, bless you,’ I often reply, ‘that’s my line!’
When it is said in a Christian spirit or as a respect to God, that’s fine but when someone expresses they have no faith I think why are they saying this. Hopefully there is a glimmer that they do think God is there and that is why they say Bless.
So what does it mean…
It actually comes from the Hebrew definition and use of the term, The Hebrew verb barak means to kneel as seen in Genesis 24:11., and it means to show respect (usually translated as bless) as seen in Genesis 12:2.
It can also mean a gift or present. The extended meaning of this word is to do or give something of value to another. A blessing. By giving of ourselves to God as his servants.
It is sometimes seen as a special favour, mercy, or benefit, a favour or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.
Jesus starts his ministry in this way, in our passage from Luke, he is already healing and ministering to people and then; ‘He looks at his disciples and says,
‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God, Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will be joyful
Blessed are you when people hate you because of me.’
Jesus had only just called his twelve disciples and he was talking with them and to others about the good news, which we all share, Jesus was sent to redeem us and set us all free.
Before Jesus had said this, the only people who were redeemed were the Jews and this was through the laws, mainly written in Deuteronomy, long lists of rules and punishments for those who did not obey.
But thank goodness Jesus is different, the good news is for everyone, and especially for those who suffer in any way.
It does not mean that this is the only way, but that there is good news for all of us, even when things are not good, when life has thrown a few nasty tricks at us, when we are down, through illness, poverty, loss of family and friends.
Looking for signs of hope… signs of spring, signs that there is a date for the hospital visit, signs that there is love and friendship.
That is when we call to Jesus and ask him to be with us and the Beatitudes show us that he is there and will care for us all.
So much of Jesus work stems from this point and so much of why he was disliked and feared in his time starts here too.
We are 2000 years on and so sometimes the meanings are slightly different.
But these words give us all courage, and strength, in the knowledge of God’s unconditional love, what else do we need, God alone suffices (Teresa of Avila). The words also give us the opportunity to help and support others, who need help and love. Life can be tough!
‘Bless you, God’s blessings upon us all’ And it doesn’t have to be just my line! It can be yours as well.
Rev’d Sue Martin
Feb 3rd 2019 All Saints Church Ashwicken
Readings Hebrews 2:14-end, Luke 2:22-40
A Light for revelation to the nations, And glory for your people Israel
This is a turning point for the church year. Jesus is taken as a young baby and as the first born son to the temple for presentation and for redemption, a Jewish custom still held today.
We now move from Christmas and Epiphany towards Easter and Lent, a turning point from looking behind to looking ahead, symbolic and preparing ourselves for Easter.
In our calendar we only a few weeks, this year of course as Easter is so late we have 4 weeks before Lent.But Jesus had the whole of his childhood and as a young man before his journey to Easter.
The only thing we hear about his early years and childhood, is in Luke and we hear in the same chapter about his journey to the temple with his parents at Passover.
To me childhood is a glorious time and one to be cherished and we assume that all is well in the family of Mary and Joseph as brothers and sisters arrive.
I think that Jesus must have grown up learning some of the trade of a carpenter as Joseph, I wonder what he made in wood, I imagine him carving and creating. A favourite picture of mine is taken in Avila, Spain and is of a statue over the entrance to a church. It is of Jesus with a saw in one hand and holding his father’s hand as they are walking.
But in our reading, picture the scene, Mary and Joseph arrive at the temple in Jerusalem, which is quite a distance from Nazareth. At the same time Simeon, an old man who had been waiting for years, was also in the temple having been told by the Holy Spirit to go there. He had been told by God that he would see the Messiah before he died.
He takes Jesus to him and says the words we know so well as the Nunc dimittis ,Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen they salvation
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
A light to lighten the Gentiles. And that is why we have Candlemas, to recognise again that Jesus came to be among us and is our light in the darkness.
Simeon also foretells to Mary that sorrow will accompany her. And we know that in Jesus ministry Mary is still following and appearing at the difficult times.
In our reading in Hebrews, verse 16 It is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham, her for us all.
And so we have a picture from Luke of the scene, in the temple with Jesus and his parents, Simeon and of course Anna, who played her part that day.
It is a sombre picture that Luke paints, there are going to be wonderful moments but also times of great difficulties and although everyone was expecting the Messiah to come in glory and all to be well with the world, that is not always as it is.
This was a human life that Jesus followed and he shares with us the pain and the sorrow, the joy and the love, the light and the darkness that it brings.
It is in a way, where the plan for earth and heaven collide, a meeting point. Luke cleverly draws us all in to that story wanting to know more and in a way looking at our own journeys and life’s plans.
Get ready, we have had Christmas, we have some time for reflection ahead in Lent and after that we find ourselves at Easter.
Where can we go with this story? Do we just use it as a stepping stone before Lent? We can use it as time to know that God’s light is still shining and we can hold the candle or the torch for Him.
A light to lighten the Gentiles. Jesus came to be among us and is our light in the darkness. Amen
Rev’d Sue Martin
Photo courtesy from Carstairs street project
Epiphany The visit of the Magi – The Search for a Star
Jan 6th 2019
Readings Isaiah 60:1-6, Ephes. 3:1-12 and Matthew 2 :1-12
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid.
Epiphany starts today, Jan 6th or the twelfth day of Christmas and marks an end to the Christmas period and into the four weeks of Epiphany
Jan 6th, etched in my mind as the day to take down the decorations, the Christmas tree already having shed its needles all over the lounge carpet to be carefully taken outside. On the way to the outside of course the remainder of the needles are deposited on the way
A house full of needles.
Epiphany – When Christ appears to the Wise men from the east. The manifestation of God through Jesus.
Epiphany can also mean a sudden realisation of a great truth. An epiphany moment – a time to shout eureka!
And so Epiphany takes over from Christmas.
In Matthew 2:1 – 12, we have the passage of the wise men from the east, no reference at this stage that there were three. This is the only gospel that makes a reference to them at all.
Wise men indeed from the east, it is thought they would have come from Persia or Arabia. They definitely would have travelled a distance across the deserts, through Babylonia over the river Euphrates, through the Syrian Desert and into Judea, on to Bethlehem (Ephratha), a distance of thousands of miles.
To follow a star and to search for the Messiah.
As magi, they were thought to be Zoroastrians, learned men of the stars, watching constellations, spotting changing patterns, making predictions. Probably working for Kings, to provide wisdom and information.
They were called Casper’ Melchior, and Balthasar. Balthasar has a Persian sound. If indeed these men were scholars from Persia, they would have been familiar with Daniel’s prophecy about the Messiah or “Anointed One.” (Daniel 9:24-27, NIV).
Their gifts were gold, for a king, frankincense, as incense for God, and myrrh, to anoint.
As they entered Judea they went to Herod, to pay their respects and to ask for the way to find the Messiah.
Herod was terrified that the Messiah would mean people would not want him as king anymore. So he asked the wise men to return to him, when they had found the new born baby. And we all know what he had in mind. A very nasty plot that was never to come off!
The star rested at Bethlehem and there they found Jesus with Mary and Joseph. They left their gifts and bowed down to worship Jesus.
But they did not return to Herod as an angel had appeared to them in a dream and had warned them to return a different way.
What a story! It brings the magi and a sense of wonder and awe. This is not just another story of a famous person who did great things. It brings a sense of majesty to an otherwise very humble scene.
We now have Christ with us and as in the first hymn,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid.
And what can we learn from the magi:
They were determined to find the Messiah.
When we seek God with sincere determination, we will find him. He is not hiding from us, but wants to have an intimate relationship with each of us.
Wise men such as these knelt before the baby.
These wise men paid Jesus the kind of respect only God deserves, bowing before him and worshiping him. Jesus is not just a great teacher or admirable person as many people say today, but the Son of the Living God.
So let’s just get on with our lives?
After the Three Kings met Jesus, they did not go back the way they came. When we get to know Jesus, we are changed forever and cannot go back to our old life.
At times it is very tempting to just say,
‘ What a lovely Christmas that was, family to stay, family to visit, time for a rest or time to have a real feast.’
‘Back to normal then now, let’s take down the decorations, tidy up the house, eat up the food…..’
But there is more to do and we have the rest of our lives to do it in.
We cannot ignore what we believe,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid.
We cannot put Jesus back in the manger
He is with us forever and all he asks is that we follow Him;
We live our lives with courage, in peace and in love.
We try to do what he asks; we try to help where we can.
When life gets tough it is not a sign that he is not there for us but that at times we all face problems and with Him beside us we can overcome them.
Putting Christmas away and moving into Epiphany is not the end of Christmas, it is really just the beginning of all that we believe.
So let him Dawn on our darkness and lend us his aid.