The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle
Reflections from Rev. John Murray
Sunday 10 January 2021: The First Sunday in Epiphany: navigating the way forward: we can’t control the sea but we can learn how to sail on it.
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Be still and know that I am God’: The risen Christ present with us by the Spirit is our ‘temple’,
our true and lasting place of worship.
Come to live worship on Sunday 10th January
This week has seen us going back into lockdown and churches are closed. As a response, and using what is available to us as a worshipping community, we are using this opportunity to come together in a new way in a live service through the medium of computer audio and video link, called ZOOM. Many of you will have heard of ZOOM, and will know what it involves. We are here to help others use it and if you just have a phone you can phone up a local number and dial in for free (if you have a package with free local calls with a duration of one hour)
And if you would like help in accessing zoom on the internet, or with accessing the zoom phone line, do get in touch.
We will send out the zoom link to all those already on our email lists and if you are not on their lists and would like to receive it just let the Session Clerks know.
From where we are standing this January 2021, we can’t help but having a short view and a long-distance view, and of things in-between. And this is what we have to hold together as we go forward, whilst at the same time being conscious of what lies behind us. Living in faith is believing that we are called to live in the moment, seeing what new things God is calling us to, and what way to take as the route between the foreground and the long distance: as to how to navigate a way: the Christian faith says that it is not so much about us setting goals, but rather us waiting and watching and following God as he gives us light and vision.
Looking to Harris from north Skye
1 I lift up my eyes to you,
to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he shows us his mercy.
3 Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us,
for we have endured no end of contempt.
4 We have endured no end
of ridicule from the arrogant,
of contempt from the proud.
This little psalm is a gem: sitting in an uncomfortable place (read verses 3 and 4: when will it end?+), the psalmist combines an immense length of sight (to heaven), with an intense view of things close by (the hand of the master/mistress). Here is a spirituality for us as we journey on, which acknowledges that in our moments of need, we are transformed in the process of looking for and receiving mercy.
And continuing this idea of what we see having the power to transform…
Exodus 33:18-23 Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory." And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."
What a beautiful thing to look for. Let’s pray that God will put us in a viewing place where all his goodness will pass in front of us. Jesus said, ‘he who has seen me has seen the Father’.
Mark 8:24-25 He (the blind man) looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly
The common theme of all these passages is seeing: looking with our eyes, waiting to see things that will transform our situations. Jesus gave and offers us all transforming sight. All God’s goodness is in Jesus, and it is ours through faith.
A personal prayer time – this is taken from a Tearfund article on prayer.
Be present in the pain: Every area of our lives has been marked by the coronavirus or the restrictions that have been put in place to help keep us and others safe.
The Psalms are full of prayers and songs of lament: of pain and hurt. Of crying out to God in the dark of the night, wondering if the sun will ever rise again. They can help us to verbalise our disappointment, desperation and anger at the world around us. David, who wrote many of the Psalms, even voiced his anger at God himself (Psalm 13, Psalm 79).
Take some time now to lift up to God your hurts and disappointments. You can read the Psalms to help you find the words to bring to God (Psalm 130). You may want to write down your own Psalm of lament. Your own particular one.
Reorientation: As we think about 2021, it is helpful for us to remind ourselves of who God is and what he is capable of. This allows us to build a firm foundation on which we can lay our hopes and expectations for the year ahead.
Declare the following truths out loud three times:
God is in control.
‘In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.’ (Job 12:10)
God is good.
‘Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.’ (Psalm 136:1)
Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
‘No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.‘ (Romans 8:38)
What will 2021 bring? Now, firmly rooted in the truth of who God is, let us look ahead with anticipation over what the new year could bring. Let us bring before God our hopes and dreams for 2021. Begin by thinking about yourself, and then move on to your family and friends, your church, your neighbourhood and then the world.
Don’t rush away – listen to God as he responds to your petitions. Maybe he will have a word or picture for you, or one for you to share to encourage a friend.
You can come back to these exercises as much as you want or need to. By rooting ourselves in prayer, and sharing our all with God, we are able to stand firm through life’s challenges, as well as share in all the goodness too – and bring all the glory back to God
May the light of the glorious gospel of Christ
Shine in your hearts, transform your lives,
And brighten the world
And the blessing of God Almighty
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Be among you and remain with you, now and always, Amen
This week some Reflections centre around the wise men. Epiphany comes from the Greek word meaning. ‘to make visible’. The church festival of Epiphany (6th January) celebrates Jesus being made visible to the Magi. But Epiphany isn’t only a moment to remember the wise men, but an opportunity to generally learn many new things as they are made visible to our eyes by God. Here are a few ways we can follow their example:
1) Know your needs. The magi knew their richness, but they also knew their poverty and their need for a Saviour. We all have needs, and many of those needs can only be met when we enter into communion with other people, and ultimately, with God. Knowing our needs is the beginning of wisdom. We all have needs, and perhaps a blessing of this time is appreciating other people.
2) Simplify your desires: According to G.K. Chesterton, “There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” What good advice! Although the magi surely had the ability to do the former, they chose to set an example of the latter, and prioritized one thing only: setting their eyes upon the Saviour. They left behind what they had and set out on an unknown journey. And, sure enough, they have been remembered throughout the ages not for their wealth or status, but for that journeying spirit, in which their desire was fulfilled and they laid eyes upon the Lord. What will you be remembered for?
3) Look for grace in unexpected places: While we don’t know everything about the magi, their hearts and minds were open enough to recognize and worship a Saviour born among the Jews. God can surprise us. Moments of grace, consolation, and understanding await us in unexpected times and places; we are blessed when we recognize this and are able to accept the many, many ways God can make himself present to us throughout life.
4) Be prepared and have your wits about you: Think ahead. Be prudent and flexible. The wise men arrived bearing gifts fit for a king. They may not have known exactly where their journey would bring them, but they knew whom they sought, and were prepared for meeting him. Likewise, after having met with Herod and sensing his antagonism toward Jesus, they prudently returned home by a different route.
5) Take time to gaze upon the Lord: The journey to God is a combination of your effort and his guidance. Willingness, preparation and endurance depend on you. Moments of encountering the Lord face to face depend on God’s grace. When you sense his presence, through a moment of prayer, a conversation, a silent experience with a loved one, relish the moment and take the time to contemplate the face of God. This is true wisdom.
Adapted from Word on the Streets: 29/12 2020
Lord, I think many things. I have many thoughts. Let me not forget you, nor lose sight of you, even for a moment. Thou, my best thought.