Saturday, 19 January 2013

Gifts of abundance!

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Spiritual Gifts
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

John 2:1-12
The Wedding at Cana
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.

It's been a wee while since I've done a "puppy update".
Ruca is 10 months old now - and this picture was taken at Ayr Beach last weekend.
I love the exuberance that is captured in this picture.
The joy of life.
No holding back.
Shaking the water off as she goes.
It struck me as a wonderful visual illustration of our readings today.
Readings that are full to the brim with exuberance.

Exuberance isn't something that we experience so much in the church.
We're too busy following rules, creating order, sometimes ensuring that our faith makes us miserable - isn't that what being Presbyterian is about? :)
And, all the while giving the impression that our resources are in short supply,that we must conserve what we have, that times are hard in the church as they are everywhere else.
Both readings today, however speak to us of abundance.
Jesus changed the water into wine - good wine , much more than was needed.
And the gifts of the Spirit - of which we read in 1 Corinthians, are not rationed but are freely given to be freely used.
I'm not, for a moment attempting to deny that many folk in all walks of life, locally, nationally and globally are experiencing the bite of recession in all sorts of ways.
But I am advocating that, in the church, we are called to buck the trend.
To be counter intuitive.
To go against the grain.
Not by burying our heads in the sand.
But by taking hold of our faith and taking seriously the claims of Jesus who said:
" I have come to bring you life - in abundance. "
That abundant life is what we are called to model for the world around us.
A life lived with faith in the abundant grace of God.

And so to our gospel reading.
The author of Johns gospel has a thing about signs.
Not miracles. - but signs that point to truths much more profound than it appears of the surface.
Signs that are multi layered in meaning.
I'm intrigued that this first "sign" of which John tells us - water into wine, seems such a trivial thing when set against other things that Jesus might usefully have done.
Yes, it was probably a social nightmare for the wedding host to run out of wine, but, in the great scheme of things, was that the best he could come up with?
Water into wine?
So, the actual sign may not be as impressive as it might be.
But what about the message the writer of John's gospel is trying to get across?
The resources of the host have been exhausted - but the party is far from over.
God makes sure of that.
And so it is in our experience.
When we feel we have exhausted our resources, then discover that still more is being asked of us, God fills us with what we need.
And not just the bare necessities.
But an abundance.
Jesus took everyday things that were present in that place where the wedding was being held and put them to use.
Like the gifts of which we read in 1 Corinthians.
Gifts that God replenishes in us - just when we need it most.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

We're taking some time here in Castlehill to think about Stewardship.
To think about the gifts we have and to determine how those gifts can be best used for Gods purposes.
Those gifts are not in short supply although, often, that is how we like to portray things - as though there is a scarcity.
In these times of recession, affecting so many areas of life, the good news is that God continues to say Yes.
Gods kingdom continues to expand.
Th generosity of God knows no bounds.
And we, the people of God, are called to follow suit.

A couple,of weeks ago, when we took a word to lead us into the new year, a word with which to live into the new year, my word was ENCOURAGE.
I want to encourage you today,whatever age or stage you are at in your journey of faith to know that your resources are not exhausted beyond Gods replenishment.
To know that God continues today to equip all of us to give and to serve.
And what's more - to enjoy that giving and serving.
I want to encourage you to follow Jesus example of celebrating as he journeyed through life.
Celebrating every act of compassion he witnessed.
Celebrating every act of faith he encountered.
Celebrating love wherever he found it.
Encouraging us, today, to celebrate as we use the gifts we have been given in abundance.

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Sunday, 13 January 2013

Baptised in water

Luke 3:15-22
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, I baptise you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.
 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brothers wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison.
The Baptism of Jesus
 Now when all the people were baptised, and when Jesus also had been baptised and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

When I was at my mums at Christmas time, she brought a box out of the wardrobe and asked: Do you know whats in here?
I didn't recognise the box but she got me to unwrap it and inside, nestled in loads of tissue paper, was the Baptism gown that both Ruaridh and Zara wore when they were baptised. it was made from my wedding dress. And, together with a beautiful fine shawl knitted by their other grandmother,it was all wrapped up and stored away - for who knows what.
Neither Ruaridh nor Zara remember their baptism, being only weeks old at the time but we have told them about their baptism and shown them photographs. That's one of the promises we ask parents to make when they bring their children for baptism - "Tell them of their baptism and unfold to them the treasure they have been given today".
I can remember a conversation with Ruaridh some years ago about his baptism. We met Neil McNaught, who baptised Ruaridh and when I asked Ruaridh if he could remember Neil, who had by then moved to Alloway,he said: " Oh yes thats the minister that put me under his arm and put water on me. " The stories we told him had clearly got through at some level.
This morning, we read again of the Baptism of our Lord. Though,since we are reading from Luke's gospel this year, details are pretty sparse. However the lack of detail allows what is important in baptism to stand out- The work of God. When Jesus was baptised, the Holy Spirit descended and Gods voice was heard, saying: You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
When we celebrate baptism here in church, we can often be distracted by the peripheries of baptism - by the families gathering to celebrate, by the outfits worn, by the cuteness of the babies, by wondering whether or not we shall ever see the babies and their parents again in worship. As humans, caring, curious, often judgmental, we can't help being distracted by such things. But what is important in baptism is the work of the Spirit of God.
That is why, in our tradition, we baptise infants. Infants who do not understand what is happening. Infants who cannot make their own commitment to faith. Infants who are dependant on others for everything - just as we are ALL dependant on God.
Thankfully baptism is NOT dependant on our goodness or merit or ability to judge the suitability of others. Baptism is dependant on the grace of God.
It is not something that we do.
It is not an honour that we confer on others.
Baptism is the work of God.
In baptism, the Spirit of God descends upon us.
In baptism God declares us beloved children.
Whatever happens to us through life, we remain beloved children of God.
And no matter what else life conspires to tell us, no matter how much we have lost sight of that identity, God continues to treat us as beloved children.
This week many of us were privileged to be present as our former assistant, Mandy was ordained to Holy ministry and then, the following night, as Margaret Shuttleworth was ordained too.
Both beloved children of God.
Both exercising the gifts that the Spirit has bestowed on them and living into the journey on which Gods Spirit continues to lead them and to which they have been called.
The Kirk Session here at Castlehill is encouraging everyone to consider over the next few weeks our calling as the people of God in this place.
People whom God calls beloved.
People to whom the Spirit of God has been given.
What difference does it make in our lives and the the lives of others that we are Gods beloved?
Gods beloved not just when we gather here but as we go about our daily work.
What are we doing with those gifts that God has given us, both here in this community and in the world that we are called to serve?
How do we exercise Gods gifts in our daily lives and with the people we encounter every day?
And what is the cost of living as beloved children of God?
Every time a child is baptised here, we promise to play our part in the nurture and care of that child.
How do we fulfil that promise?
Caring for children and young people is exhausting, time consuming work.
It takes commitment and energy.
We are blessed here in Castlehill with gifted and committed youth leaders, engaged in all manner of activities.
But, always, there is room for more.
Maybe that is not your calling but still there are ways that you can welcome and affirm the young folk who find their way here.
Or offer encouragement to those who are called to serve those young people.
And, if youth work is not your gifting or calling, what is it that you are called to?
Where will you offer your service to God
Last week, we celebrated Epiphany - the visitors from the East catching up with Jesus.
We celebrated the importance of their discovery of the advent of a king and also lamented the mistakes they made in their journey, mistakes that resulted in the slaughter of the innocents.
Not everyone welcomes the good news.
There will always be those who feel threatened.
Herod reacted to the baby Jesus by ordering the slaying of all baby boys.
When Jesus preached in his home town, folk wanted to throw him off a cliff.
And when John the Baptist spoke the truth, the new Herod had him imprisoned.
Sharing good news can be a risky business.
As beloved children of God, we are called to take that risk.

Last week, in celebrating the Epiphany, we celebrated that, though some of their actions were misguided, though they at first misunderstood the nature of God entering the world in Jesus, the visitors from the East were nonetheless welcomed and their gifts were honoured and valued.
And we reflected on how God welcomes each of us and the gifts that we offer because that is the nature of God and the love that God has for us.
Today, as we reflect on baptism, we remind ourselves of all that God has given us and we remind ourselves that nothing can remove our status as beloved children of God.
But we reflect too on how we will respond to those gifts that God has given us.
And the lengths to which we will go to share the good news.
Good news that doesn't always go down well.
We may not remember our baptism - the work of God.
But we are challenged to live into our baptism.
To live into our identity as beloved children of God.
Gifted to serve God in this community, whatever challenges that brings.

What difference does baptism make today?
Baptism ensures that we are called beloved and equipped to serve.
May we respond to those God given gifts by sharing the Good News for the glory of God.

Saturday, 5 January 2013


These are the readings we will reflect on tomorrow for Epiphany

Seeing the light
We can’t be sure there were three of them.
We can’t be sure they were men.
And they don’t seem to have been particularly wise,
stirring up a political storm, causing havoc in their wake and untold grief
at the slaughter of innocents.
Condemning the holy family
to life as refugees
is their gift about which we rarely speak
choosing to focus instead
on the gold, frankincense and myrrh.
And yet perhaps that gift of flight was as significant as any other
in determining the affinity
that God laid down
with suffering, oppressed humanity, unlocking the way
that all might see
that God was, and is,
one of us.

Flight to Egypt
As the Holy Family fled
from the backlash
of a power hungry ruler,
did they have time to reflect
on how the Son of God
was worshipped by lowly shepherds
who journeyed to the stable
just as they were
responding to good news
as only they could.
Abandoning for a moment
their mundane hillside task
to pay homage with all that they had
recognising instinctively
something wondrous
unfolding in their midst.
And yet the star gazers
with all their power and privilege
brought a whole caravan of trouble
stopping off en route
to alert an insecure king
to the possibility of threat,
lured by their heritage
to a royal courtyard
rather than a stable floor.
And if they did
were their reflections harsh
and resentful
blaming their predicament
on the crassness of those
unfamiliar with poverty
and with life at the margins?
Or did they recognise
that to worship the Messiah
was a gift extended to all?
Were their hearts open enough
to welcome the homage
that each brought
from all that they knew best?
To know that each and all
are invited and welcomed
and valued.
To know that each and all
are offered the opportunity
to worship
the Son of God.
In such knowledge is Epiphany.

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