Your weekly update from the Benwell & Scotswood Team
Dates for your diary
Week Commencing Mon 9 Jan
Art Club restarts
Wed 11 Jan
7.30pm - Real Conversations at St James
Thurs 19 Jan
7pm - PCC meeting at St James
Tues 24 Jan
7.30pm - Chris's licensing service (venue tbc)
Services this week
Sun 8 Jan
9.45am - St Margaret's, Holy communion
11am - Ven Bede, Holy communion (parish eucharist)
Thurs 12 Jan
11am - St John's, Holy communion
Real Conversations, 11 Jan, 7-9.30pm at St James
Real Conversations is about bringing together communities to share, celebrate and discuss how faith and community groups have been moved to work within their local areas and the impact they have in addressing some important and big issues.
The next 'Small Conversation' will take place over food on Wednesday 11th January, 7pm-9.30pm at St James' Church.
Sign up and more info here: realconvos.org
or speak to Matt Dobson.
Chris's licensing as Team Vicar for Mission, 24 Jan, 7.30pm
Chris will be licensed to his new role to encourage and lead mission in the parish. Bishop Mark and Archdeacon Rachel will join us to lead the service and we will celebrate afterward.
who by the leading of a star
manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth:
mercifully grant that we,
who know you now by faith,
may at last behold your glory face to face;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Isaiah 60.1–6 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. 3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 4 Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. 5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.
Matthew 2.1–12 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’ 7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they 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. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
How shiny do you feel today? Today we are celebrating Epiphany which means ‘Shining Out’. We are two days late, the Feast of Epiphany falls on the 6th of January after the 12 days of Christmas as referenced in the well-known song. It is traditionally time to clear away your Christmas tree and decorations and any partridges, pear trees, gold rings etc. that you may have acquired. The crib however can stay up a little longer until 2nd February, 40 days after Christmas, The Feast of the Presentation or Candlemas when we remember Mary and Joseph taking the baby Jesus to the temple.
Today we remember a different visit, the visit of the 3 kings or the adoration of the Magi. In some places Epiphany is a day nearly as important as Christmas and a time when presents are given. In fact Epiphany is not just one day, the ‘shiny season’ continues all the way to the 2nd February. During this time we will be thinking about other times when the Glory of Christ shone out, at His baptism, at the first miracle when water was turned to wine, and in the calling of the first disciples.
Glory, shining out can seem a very long way from where we are. When I was at college, we had our own chapel. and on the wall a famous tapestry picture of the visit of the Magi. It is a beautiful object full of wonderful colours and details but all somehow a bit unreal. A fantasy story miles away from the Victorian world of heavy industry and commerce in which it was created. A glorious object but no sense of how that glory connected with the real world.
How about this for a contrast?
Believe it or not this painting, by Martin McArthy, is also entitled ‘Adoration of the Magi’. The Magi remind me a bit of the young people who used to come to the Vicarage and ask me to bless ‘Rosemary’ beads. As for the mum, I’m sure I’ve seen that harassed look somewhere, and it wasn’t in a painting.
McCarthy’s painting is a reminder of the glory that shines out everywhere even where we least expect it. I’m sure I was not the only one deeply impressed by the ‘Something Wonderful’ art exhibition at St James. Petra, or Artep, to use her professional name, and her group delivered what was promised ‘something wonderful’, glorious even. People not used to think of themselves as gifted or talented or having much to contribute, discover their potential. A neighbourhood and a building that can feel neglected or run down, discover a new life and vibrancy. This week St James hosts the second ‘Real Conversations’ event reflecting on our locality and how we might make it better. One of the highlights of the first evening for me was hearing about the work of the art group, and Petra’s motivation, but there were plenty of other examples of how glory can be found in unexpected places.
Epiphany is also called the ‘Manifestation ( i.e. showing) of Christ to the Gentiles.’
God shares His Glory not with one people only, the Jewish people, but with all. The Magi are representatives of that wider humanity, the whole human race. That includes us, all of us. It is not about transferring His glory from one special elite to another but sharing with all. That the shepherds have already been to the crib, reminds us that, if there is a priority, it is not to the powerful and wealthy. The economy of salvation is no trickle-down affair That is not the meaning of the Magi’s visit. What then?
The Magi are not those already in the know, gatekeepers and guardians of knowledge they already possess, but rather seekers- seekers after truth willing to face the hardship and perils of their journey to find it. We can all be seekers.
The magi are bringers of gifts, rare and precious, but we all have gifts that can connect us to them. Gold for a king. We have no gold. Well maybe not, but we have some wealth, and isn’t kingship more than raw power? It is about establishing justice; we can all strive and long for that.
Incense for a God. How small our prayers can seem, how poor our worship. But what does God seek for in worship? Not what we have not got, but what we have, and where we fall short, will he not provide?
Myrrh for the one who will suffer. Sometimes we want to turn away from suffering in others or in ourselves, it’s too much for us to bear. I love the way the little baby in the tapestry looks nervously at these strange visitors and seems to turn to His mother for reassurance and protection. We don’t need to turn away. We can offer our sufferings here. The protection and reassurance we need are here. Here, with this tiny baby whose destiny is not to turn away, but to open his arms on the cross, in an embrace of all humanity. Like the Magi all our searchings and strivings can find their fulfilment here. Journeys end.
Yes and No. Epiphany is about shining. Letting that light burn brighter, spread more widely. There are more Magi out there seeking, wanting to see the justice of God’s kingdom, longing to find ways into a life of prayer, hurting and needing to find relief from pain. Waiting to shine. May the light that we have found, that has found us here, shine still more brightly, that all may come open their treasures and worship Him. Amen
If you would like to add someone to the prayer list please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The name will stay on the list for 1 month unless requested to be long-term.
Prayers for others:
Daniel and Luda
Shno, Dara, Hani and Yani
Shakira, Donna, Sophie and family
Christine, David, Philip, Neil and Steven
Moe and Mary
Rest in Peace:
Post Communion prayer
the bright splendour whom the nations seek:
may we who with the wise men have been drawn by your light
discern the glory of your presence in your Son,
the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord.