“In every change, he faithful will remain”
I was looking at some intercessions I prepared for a year ago, and they reminded me of the changes that would be happening:
The appointment of a new Bishop...........The advertisement for a new Vicar
Twelve months on, and Bishop Christopher has arrived, and Kevin has been appointed as Vicar.
We were also praying about those suffering in Haiti following the earthquake.
Often reviewing a diary or calendar reminds us of events, and changes which have taken place in the previous year- and we can often see progress and growth- in families,
and Church life.
Some Christians keep a journal, in which they log both significant challenges and encouragements- words of scripture, quotes, prayers and answers to prayer.
One of my favourite quotes is by Gerard Kelly:
“Give me grace to not be, gracefully, the parts I am not called to be,
and to play with elegance the roles I am given”
During one of the evening services last year, the sermon I had planned and for which I had chosen the hymns, “morphed” into something else, Instead of a sermon on separation and bereavement, it became one on a change of leadership- Elijah to Elisha
and I was concerned that the hymns would no longer be a good fit.
In fact two of them spoke to me very deeply that evening, and both were about change:
from Abide with me- “change and decay in all around I see
O thou who changest not, abide with me”
from Be still, my soul, the Lord is on your side
“Leave to your God to order and provide
In every change, He faithful will remain”
I am someone who doesn't relish change- I tend to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into something new- yet here is God's assurance
that the one who does not change abides with me, and you
and that in every change, He faithful will remain.
In the Orthodox Church January 6th (oue Epiphany) is celebrated as the Theophany literally the appearance of God- at the Baptism of Jesus, when each person of the Trinity is involved : Christ the Son is baptised by John; the Holy Spirit descends as a dove; and the Father's voice is heard from Heaven.
Christ's Baptism marked a significant point of change
1)A change of location
Jesus moves from Nazareth in Galilee to the north, and arrives at the river Jordan in Judaea, close to Bethany, presenting himself to John for Baptism, along with the many Jews from Jerusalem.
In this crowd were included Tax Collectors and Soldiers (according to Luke) and they were told how repentance would be shown in their lives: by not collecting more money than was necessary; by not extorting money, and by being content with their wages.
Seems fairly appropriate for today .
Also represented were the Pharisees and Sadducees eager to see what this new phenomenon was about- why crowds had come from Jerusalem and Judea in response to John's preaching on repentance, and his call to baptised.
Jesus leaves the obscurity of Galilee, to publicly present himself to the world.
2) A change of occupation
Up until now Jesus has been faithfully working as a carpenter, following on Joseph's trade in Nazareth.
God honours the work of honest occupation, and reveals himself to those so employed.
Jesus was no less in His Father's will as a carpenter until the age of thirty, as he was when he began his itinerant and public ministry.
God sent Angels to Shepherds watching sheep
Revealed the news of a new King to those who studied the stars in the east
Called Fishermen from their nets to be his first disciples...
Wherever we are employed or occupied, whether paid or unpaid, we can honour God
by faithfully doing it to the best of our ability just as Jesus did as a carpenter:
Poem: The Carpenter- written a couple of years ago... shortly after, I saw a sculpture at East Cowes Convent, of Jesus as a carpenter- sleeves rolled up, tools in his hands...
From His Baptism onwards, Jesus would no longer be the carpenter from Nazareth,
because this marked the beginning of His public ministry of calling disciples, preaching the Good News, teaching, healing and deliverance.
It marked a change from quiet manual labour, to public ministry and popularity which would ultimately attract the opposition and jealousy of the religious leaders, and result in betrayal and crucifixion.
3) A change of identification- a clarity in who Jesus was and what he came to do
a) The Messiah
Jesus' Baptism marked the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies that God would send his servant, anointed by the Holy Spirit... a servant who would suffer
At His baptism, the Holy Spirit, third person of the trinity, descended upon Jesus in visible form, as a dove, identifying him as God's anointed- the Messiah- the Christ..
He began his ministry in the power of the Spirit, and was able to stand in the Synagogue
unrolling the scroll of Isaiah, and read these words:
the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor..
to bind up the broken-hearted..
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release for the prisoners..
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour..
to comfort those who mourn in Zion..
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning..
a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair...
rolling up the scroll and giving it back to the attendant, he said “ Today the scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” ie in Himself
b) The Son of God
As Jesus comes up out of the water, Heaven is opened and there is a voice identifying Him as the Son of God:
“This is my Son.. whom I love.. with Him, I am well-pleased”
Up to now, he had only been known as the Son of Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth,
but here on the banks of the Jordan, dripping wet from his Baptism, the Father's voice from Heaven identifies him as the Son of God.
We know from all the other scripture references, that he is co-eternal with the father; co-creator of the universe, the divine logos (word) yet made flesh that first Christmas as a tiny baby boy- born in pain and noise and smells of a stable.
Now publicly, God identifies him as His Son.
This is the manifestation.. the appearing.. the epiphany.. of God the Son on the public
stage of our world in first century Israel.
c)The Lamb of God
It is John's Gospel that includes the revelation given to John the Baptist, that Jesus was
“The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.
Up to then Jewish sacrifices had been made, particularly at Passover, by the High Priest
for the sins of the people; But this had to be done annually.. a sacrifice had to be made for the priest's own sins too.. and it only involved the Jews.
Now, in the person of Jesus was a lamb, who as Hebrews makes clear is offered once for all- never to be repeated- for the sins of the whole world- Jew and Gentile alike.
The Jews had been trusting in the security of their descent from Abraham- that he was their father; now all need to have their sins forgiven by faith in the one Lamb of God.
I wonder what the Pharisees and Sadducees made of this phrase- the upholders of Jewish law and sacrifice, from among whom came the High Priests- no wonder their
opposition to Christ was so soon aroused.
A change of location- from Galilee to Jordan
A change of occupation- from carpenter to public itinerant ministry
A change of identification- no longer just the son of Joseph from Nazareth, but..
... Messiah.. Son of God.. Lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world.
What about us?
We may have experienced change in the last year, and there may be change in the coming year-
a new sphere of service or ministry.. with new opportunities
a change in employment- a new job or retirement, perhaps redundancy, especially among those working for the council- our libraries, Ventnor Botanical Gardens etc..
Changes in finances – due to Government cutbacks- increases in petrol, heating, food.. perhaps we will have to make cutbacks, and as a Church look towards supporting the most vulnerable who are always hardest hit .
Changes in health and caring responsibilities- small children going to school.. growing teenagers.. elderly relatives.. we may lose some responsibilities and gain others. How will we adapt to their needs or to our own?
For Jesus, the changes he experienced were made possible because he knew who he was- God's well-loved Son..with whom God was pleased... because he had the Spirit's anointing..because he knew his divine calling in History
We need these certainties too- that we are loved by God.. that we are called and equipped by the Holy Spirit to fulfill our personal calling.. and that in every change,the unchanging God will remain faithful... “Be still my soul”
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