Greetings in Jesus’ name on the Feast of the Epiphany!
For your prayers: Melvin Peters’ family: Melvin’s brother-in-law, Rufus Frank, who lived in their household, passed away yesterday. Pray for Melvin and his family.
Timothy Nsereko, one of our layministers, is very sick in Uganda. Unable to even sit, he has been bedridden for this past week and the doctors cannot work out how to treat him as all his tests come back negative.
Please note: In keeping with government regulations we are not holding services at St Pauls on Sunday 3 and 10 January.
I offer a short reflection on the Gospel reading for today from Matthew 2:1-12. [The Old Testament reading is from Isaiah 60: 1-6]. Then there will be a prayer at the end.
I start with the Collect for the Day:
O God, by the leading of a star
you revealed your Son Jesus Christ to the gentiles:
grant that your Church may be a light to the nations,
so that the whole world may come to see the splendour of your glory;
though Jesus Christ, the Morning Star;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Today we celebrate the Epiphany – the revealing of God in Jesus to the world. In the gospel reading we hear of the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. And the focus is on Jesus’ coming for all nations, for the whole world. While being born into a Jewish family and rooted in that tradition since birth, with his circumcision and Presentation in the Temple, Jesus’s life is one that is lived for all people, people of every culture.
We got an insight into this last week, when we heard the words of Simeon spoken over Jesus, that Jesus would be a light to the nations, meaning the Gentiles, the non-Jews. God’s plan of salvation is for all people. The Magi are an illustration of this. Travelling from the East beyond the boundaries of Judaism, they bow down before Jesus and bring gifts in honour of him.
Though not able to gather as the church again we still remain the church. The witness of the church is to be compassionate and caring towards all people. This pandemic has led to many barriers and boundaries being crossed as people work together to save lives and provide hope. I have come across people of different faiths praying together in the same whatsapp group for a person’s recovery from Covid. While still distanced from one another this crisis has led us to a greater awareness of our neighbour and the needs of those beyond our immediate circle.
In our New Year’s messages there was a sense of renewed hope. We all wish for something better. We need a new start. But at the same time we are aware that we enter another difficult year.
Many of us have much to be grateful for in this past year. We have experienced the light: the love and support of family and friends and the way in which people have responded to the challenges: the courage of people who have risked their lives for those who were sick and for the outpouring of generosity towards those who have struggled financially. People’s resourcefulness and resilience are to be celebrated and will be needed again this year.
While we may have a sense of gratitude some of us cannot help moving between hope and hopelessness. Let us not believe there is nothing we can do to make a difference. Through our despair and doubts let us lament the suffering that is taking place around us – face the stark reality we find ourselves and our world in. This may help us to try to find meaning in what is going on around us. As individuals and as the church let us look for signs of hope – of bravery and self-giving. Let us let us build hope together through our own small actions of showing understanding and expressing kindness. This will provide a beacon of light to the world. And let us be disciplined and take responsibility for our own behaviour that will keep others and ourselves safe.
God comes to us in Jesus. Let us never forget that the light of Jesus shines in the darkness and the darkness has not put it out. God is with us on the journey, we do not walk alone.
We conclude with a prayer by Katryn Reid of World Vision, first offered by Revd John Aitcheson.
Jesus, during your ministry you showed your power and caring by healing people of all ages and stations of life from physical, mental, and spiritual ailments. Be present now to people who need your loving touch because of Covid-19. May they feel your power of healing through the care of doctors and nurses.
Take away the fear, anxiety, and feelings of isolation from people receiving
treatment or under quarantine. Give them a sense of purpose in pursuing health
and protecting others from exposure to the disease. Protect their families and
friends and bring peace to all who love them.
Dear Lord, we lift to you our concern for people who are more likely than others to become severely ill from Covid-19 — the elderly and people with chronic health conditions. Protect them from harm and be their comfort in this time of uncertainty and, for many, preventive isolation from loved ones.
God, as more people get sick, healthcare workers and first responders are working longer hours with fewer supplies and with more risk of contracting the new coronavirus themselves. Renew their energy and sustain them on long shifts. Bring your protection upon them as they work with patients. Multiply their supplies so they have the protective items needed to stay safe on the job. [God], we seek your wisdom daily.
Be with people making decisions that affect the lives and futures of our families, communities, countries, and the wider world. We pray that they communicate clearly, truthfully, and calmly — with each other and with the public — and that their messages are received and heeded. May truth and empathy be the touchstones of people setting policies for our protection.
In Jesus name we pray.
During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426