Sermon at Epiphany 3 by Mrs Wendy Waters
17 January St Marks 1 Cor. 12: 1 – 11 John 2: 1 - 11
God of the living word, give us faith to receive your message, the wisdom to know what it means, and the courage to put it into practise. Amen
I wonder if any of you still make ‘New Year’s Resolutions’? If so whether 17 days later you have been strong willed enough to have kept them? I gave up making them some years ago, but I still try to pray afresh for guidance on what God wants of me in the coming year. The start of a new year, a little like Lent, can be an ideal opportunity to ponder and pray about how we might serve God in the year ahead. Whether he might want us to change something in our lives, take a new direction, or even give up something we may have been committed to for many years, perhaps to give ourselves space, or in order to do something new.
We don’t generally witness such miraculous instances of change as we hear in the miracle of Jesus changing water into wine at a wedding. A miracle which John, and only John, records as Jesus’ first miracle at the beginning of his active ministry. But be assured God is still changing us today; changing and challenging us to use the gifts he has given us; gifts we have yet to be aware of; gifts we may be called to use in his service. Gifts we may have put to one side, just as we may have done with Christmas gifts; those we think don’t quite suit us, or we won’t make use of. God may have other ideas.
As it states in the publicity for an Archdeaconry Vocations event, to be held locally next Saturday:
‘There are all kinds of ways in which we can serve Jesus in our everyday life. We can serve him at home, at work, at school or college, in our leisure time and with our friends – as well as at church. We are all called by God to be his followers and to serve him and his world by using the gifts he has given us. Our vocation – God’s call to us – can take any number of forms. We may be called to teaching or marriage or a life of deeper prayer or helping people in our community (or indeed more than one or even all of these). Some will feel a call to public ministry in God’s church, either as a Reader or as a priest, or to a leadership role as church warden, youth worker or Sunday school teacher. If you would like to find out more about what public ministry in the Church of England entails, this event is for you.’ The details can be found in Partnership News
In the Christian context a ‘Vocation’ is a ‘Call of God to the people of God’, this might be to an ordained, or licensed ministry, but more widely as in Luther’s doctrine: ‘that all Christians have a divine calling’. It is not uncommon to dismiss a sense of vocation in thoughts such as: ‘surely not me, I’m not clever enough’; ‘there are others more able than me’; ‘I’m too busy’; ‘I’m too young or too old’. Even Jesus, as we heard this morning, said to his mother ‘my time has not yet come’! In the OT first book of Samuel we read in a most stirring account, of how both the wise priest, Eli, and the young Samuel failed three times to realise it was God calling Samuel. I know! I put off exploring God’s call on my life for some 10 plus years. Some people are fortunate to get a specific sense of what God wants of them, for many much soul searching and discussion with others is required before discerning the path to take, once on that path we may find there are diversions, paths blocked and new paths opening up. Next Saturday is an ideal opportunity to perhaps step out onto that path and see where it takes us, for without that first faltering step we don’t know where others may lead.
Equally we may have valid reasons for not exploring God’s call to this depth, but there are many and varied ways to serve God within the Partnership, or in the wider church or community. Ways in which we can use the different Spiritual gifts as Paul writes in his letter to the Christians in Corinth:
‘There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.’
The gifts listed here are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing by that one Spirit, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Paul points out that all these are to be used for the ‘common good’, not for giving themselves status and significance. Later in this letter (V 28) Paul lists more gifts as; apostles, teachers, helping and guidance. Perhaps these are ones which resonate with you.
One of the delights of 5 years of Messy Church is that over this time, some 20 plus people, have exercised and continue to exercise, their own many and varied gifts with commitment dedication and diligence for the common good of the families who attend and of our team. They use their God given gifts, skills and talents, often in very demanding circumstances, unstintingly in their desire that their own knowledge and experience of God in their lives may be passed onto those who might otherwise not hear of his laws, life and love as shown through Jesus. Such is the popularity of Messy Church that we are always praying that others will feel called to join the team. Age, young or old is no barrier, until recently George Burton who was in his 90’s, but sadly died two weeks ago, was actively enjoying helping us by setting up tables and chairs and generally being around where needed. If this is something you feel God is calling you to become involved in please speak to me or Richard.
To encourage you to be alert to God’s call I leave you with an actual, fairly recent, example of someone in this church who, in one Sunday morning service, heard God’s call and by the same afternoon responded positively to it. That person is Linda, who now enthusiastically leads our Junior Church, even though at the beginning she did not have any experience of craft work with young people. And as we have seen, by the varied and colourful crafts produced which reinforce the teaching, and the enthusiasm that our young people have for Junior Church, God’s Spirit has truly been working through Linda and can work the same in us if only we take the risk.
There is an essential ingredient undergirding all our Christian ministries which is Prayer, without prayer before, during and after all we do, our efforts will at some point fail to flourish and eventually fold. Prayer is a ministry we can all do which is not dependant on any mental or physical ability, something we can do on our own in our own homes, in groups, as we go about our daily activities and of course in church. A gift for us all which we can use for ourselves, for others, for our church and for the wider world. Amen