January 19, 2020

Thoughtful spot – 8.00 am – Epiphany 2 – Revd Michael Beesley

“Thoughtful Spot” 19th January 2020 – “Epiphany 2”

Isaiah 49 vv.1-7: The prophet declares that God chose him before his birth to bring God’s word to the nation of Israel. He had to tell them to live as a faithful people and be an example for all other nations. He says that even though he knows he will be rejected, God will justify him before all nations.  

1 Corinthians 1 vv.1-9: St Paul greets the Christian community in Corinth, saying they are blessed by their faith in Jesus. He gives thanks for the way they show, through their knowledge and words, how much they are committed in their faith. He asserts they will continue to be strengthened by God in their fellowship until they finally meet Jesus.        

St John 1 vv.29-42: John the Baptist sees Jesus walking towards him and declares He is the One for whose coming he had been preparing the people. Two of John’s disciples followed Jesus and stayed with Him for a day.     One of them was Andrew, Simon’s brother, to whom he said “We have found the Messiah!” He brought Simon to Jesus who renamed him Peter, the Rock.

Today is the second Sunday in the season of Epiphany, when we remember with gratitude and celebrate how the light of God flooded the world with His love when Jesus was born.

Our readings today celebrate the Light of God shining into the world through Isaiah, St Paul and John the Baptist as he declared Jesus to be the expected Messiah.

Isaiah recalls how he was chosen by God to bring God’s word to the nation of Israel, calling them to return from their rejection of God and become faithful again; and so be an example for all other nations.

St Paul greets the Christian community in Corinth and thanks God for their faith in Jesus which he says was evident in their knowledge of Jesus and the way they expressed it.       He says he is sure that God will strengthen their fellowship of faith until they finally meet Jesus in this life or the next.

Then, we heard in St John’s Gospel how John the Baptist encountered Jesus and realised and declared He was the One sent by God to neutralise the power of sin, which is the ultimate force of evil in the world.

Two of John’s disciples spent a day with Jesus. One of them was Andrew, who was so inspired by Jesus that he goes to find his brother, Simon, and says “We have found the Messiah!”

Andrew takes Simon to Jesus, who changes his name to Peter, meaning “The Rock”, because he will become the solid foundation of faith on which the Christian community down the ages will be built.

And this Peter is, of course, the St Peter after whom our church is named.

What positive role models we see in these readings: Isaiah staking his reputation and perhaps even his life on his commitment to God’s word; St Paul affirming the light of faith shining in the Corinthian Christian community; and John the Baptist recognising hope for the world in Jesus; and then, of course, Jesus Himself, transforming the life of Andrew and Simon Peter, who would become two of the most powerful apostles of the Christian faith, despite their failings and weaknesses when Jesus was arrested and most needed their support.

Down the ages, God called individuals, like the prophets, to be His messengers of His Word to guide all nations, until the final coming of Jesus Himself, the ultimate expression of God’s being in human form.

Jesus’ divine words, actions, perfect commitment to His Father which led to His crucifixion,         His dying and resurrection brought God closer to us than any human being could do.

Then, we see people like St Andrew, St Peter and St John inspired and empowered by God to light the fire of faith in Jesus in individuals and communities around the world and down the centuries.

The Epiphany light of faith has shone down the ages and into our generation through individual women and men who are for us role models or beacons of faith in God and Jesus.

I wonder who comes to mind for you as a person who, in your lifetime, has been a role model of faith in Jesus; and through whom the Light of God has shone for you and encouraged you in your faith.

Perhaps, as I describe two faith role models for whom I thank God in my lifetime, you will bring to mind people who’ve inspired you in your faith.

First, I was deeply moved in the 1960s by Martin Luther King.

He opposed the evils of segregation in the USA. His powerful commitment, as a Christian pastor, gave him the courage and determination to challenge it. His powerful message of non-violent protest and action inspired thousands to join him. He, like Jesus, paid the ultimate price when he was assassinated; but, his example and inspiration played a great part in President Lyndon Johnson’s decision to outlaw segregation. His faith was summed up in these words: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that”.

Another person who has been for me an influential role model is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She was a nun who made the decision to leave her monastery to care for the poorest of the poor on the streets of Calcutta. She formed a new sisterhood called The Missionaries of Charity - from the Latin word Caritas, meaning “love”. It was love which she, and the sisters and volunteers who joined her, sought to bring in a very personal and practical way to people who had no-one to care for them. In the 1950s and 1960s, she set up a community for people suffering from leprosy, an orphanage, a nursing home, a family clinic and a string of mobile health clinics.

One of Mother Teresa’s most well-known sayings is “Do Something Beautiful for God”.    This is her enduring invitation and challenge to the world. It’s not an abstract invitation but a deeply personal and intimate one. She said God cares so much about what’s happening in the world and what’s happening within our own hearts, minds, and souls that our simplest response to her invitation, “Do something Beautiful for God”means…. to Love as God loves us.

So, in a time of silence, bring to mind someone who has been a faith role model for you, and thank God for the way this person has enriched your faith.

Finally, with the following words, thank God for the light of our faith role models which has shone through the centuries:

For all the saints, who from their labours rest;
who to the world by faith their Lord confessed,
your name, O Jesus, be for ever blessed:
Alleluia, alleluia!                                             (William Walsham)