This sermon was given by Rev Deborah on Sunday 5 January 2020, and was based on:
Today we celebrate the arrival of the Magi or the wisemen. It is a story that we are familiar with through nativities scenes, stories from our youth and of course Matthew’s gospel, which we heard this more. Last week we reflected on the uglier aspects of this story – Herod, the killing of the innocents, power struggles and tyrants. Today, however, we celebrate the arrival of the kings – if fact some of you many have noticed their movements across the church windowsill in the last few days.
It is also the start of a new year and a new decade. It is the opportunity to reflect on the last year, to give thanks to God for his presence with us both in our own individual personal walk with God, but also as a church in terms of our worship and prayer. It is also the opportunity to think about this new year and some of the things that we can develop here at St. Margaret’s and St. George’s.
So, what are some of the things that happened during the last year? What are some of your memories?
As you know, our mission action plan, as well as on going forms of mission and ministry, has focused on specific themes each year. 2016 was our year of fellowship, 2017 our year of spiritual growth, 2018 our year of mission and last year was our year of celebrating creation, our eco year.
So, what kind of things did we do? I have a bag of objects that reflect of the things we did or achieved last year. Can you remember what these reflect?
Sunday school children to choose items.
- Retreats – Parcivall and the additional retreat to Foxhills (Pictures to unfurl)
- A range of eco activities – including our eco re-cycle area (eco brick)
- Staycation (Set of bowls)
- Eco week (litter picking stick)
- Sunday School fund raising for water aid (glass)
- Bronze eco certificate (certificate)
- Sue was priested (doll of a priest)
- Andrew became our ALM for pastoral care
- Maggie’s music makers (Musical instruments)
- We reached giving out 500 prayer blankets (prayer blanket)
- Angel project (Angel)
God has really blessed us during the past year.
So, this year 2020 has been designated as of year service. The PCC, the ‘way forward’ group, the ministry team together with suggestions from members of the congregation have been looking at some of the ways in which we can serve the community as well as our ongoing activities.
- Looking specifically at loneliness and isolation, including those with dementia and the carers. We are exploring the opportunity of setting up a community group for this on a weekly basis for people to come to and invite members of the community to be involved in the setting up and running of this as well as ourselves
- We are looking at being a dementia friendly church. Andrew G and I have had the training to do this and we hope to have a dementia friends service where those who want to ca be dementia friends. There may also be the opportunity to raise awareness of dementia in our local area and social circle, the deanery and other groups may invite us to share this training. There may also be the opportunity to raise awareness of dementia in school.
- We want to celebrate the contributions our children and young people make to our church and local community and explore how we can increase the number coming to church and make it more accessible. We would like to utilise the skills of the youth worker and the children’s officer from the diocese and we will explore if here is any merit in having a children’s worker – and if indeed, we could afford something like this.
- We also hope to look at being more inclusive. One of the practical things that we need to look at is the microphone system in church, including the loop system. We have started to look at how we can offer large print sheets in our services and want to explore the whole area of inclusivity.
In summary, through our year of service, we hope to make connections with people, to be a welcoming and hospitable church, to bring hope and reconciliation and to engage locally with people.
So, you may be thinking, what has this all got to do with Epiphany, and especially our gospel reading of the three wise men. Epiphany simply means revelation – Jesus being revealed to the world. In simple ways – through acts of kindness, offering support to the lonely, taking time to listen to others and engaging locally with the community, we too can reveal the love of Jesus to others.
Each of us has many and varied gifts, as we have seen through the wide variety of ways that people have helped in various projects through the last year. The wisemen, on entering the house, saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. First and foremost, the wisemen gave homage to Jesus. He was the reason they were there. That is so with us. First and foremost, God is the reason why we are here and why we come to church – to worship him. Then the wisemen offered him their gifts. As we worship God, we offer him our skills, talents and gifts. But most of all we offer ourselves – who we are and all that we are for his service. At the start of this New Year and this new decade let us offer ourselves to God’s service in our own contexts that we find ourselves in, in our churches here at Prestwich and Simister and in our local community.
It can be summed up in the words from the well-known carol, ‘In the bleak mid-winter’.
- What can I give him, poor as I am.
- If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb.
- If I were a wiseman, I would do my art.
- Yet what I can I give him, give my heart.