January 2024

Sunday 28th January 2024 - Martin Mowat

Readings: Lamentations 3:19-26 (NLT) & Genesis 39:1-6

We’re studying the life of Joseph, and at this point in time he is still a teenager, a teenager who had been bullied and brutalised by his brothers, ripped from his family by force, and sold as a slave to foreigners. 

When you were 17, with your whole life ahead of you, you were probably excited. 

Joseph, however, was probably anything but excited, as he lived the absolute horror of what was happening to him. As his brothers would later recall “We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we just wouldn’t listen;” 

The verses that we just heard from the book of Lamentations could have come from Joseph’s lips, “The thought of my suffering and my homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time …..” But they didn’t, they were written many years later, probably by Jeremiah when he was bemoaning the sacking of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and the forced deportation of most of its population.

We finished up last week remembering what Paul said to the Romans in Romans 8:28 that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Joseph may have been getting further and further away from his earthly father with every step that he took, but his heavenly father was still with him, more so than ever before, if such a thing were possible. He was safe, even if he didn’t know it? 

The Midianite traders had done a good deal when they bought him. He was quite an asset, young, fit, strong, attractive, intelligent, well behaved, …

When they arrived in Egypt, they headed straight for the slave market, where they were sure to make a really good profit on their investment. Their motives were entirely selfish and mercenary, but God had been using them to rescue Joseph from the murderous intentions of his brothers, and to deliver him to the richest, most powerful country in the world at that time.

A slave auction wasn’t anything if it wasn’t ugly, distasteful, humiliating and cruel. Paraded in full view of a leering crowd, possibly stripped naked, being felt and prodded by potential buyers, Joseph was offered for sale to the highest bidder. 

Exposure to this kind of humiliation would have ripped into the core of Joseph's being. Imagine the pain and confusion he would have been feeling. He was a captive in a foreign country, unable to understand a single word of what people were saying to him or about him, struggling to know what fate lay before him.

But he didn’t have to wait very long to discover what that fate was to be. Bang! The hammer went down, his fate was sealed, his new owner was a man called Potiphar.

To put this man’s position in a modern context, he was effectively the chief of Pharaoh’s secret police. He was in charge of putting down any political insurrections. Anybody thought to be plotting against Pharaoh would be taken into his custody, tortured mercilessly, and then never heard of again. 

What was Potiphar looking for when he went to the auctions that day? Did he find what he was looking for? Was someone like Joseph what he needed or did he buy him on the off chance, just because he was young, clean, good looking, out of the ordinary, special even? 

Skilled at interrogating people he would have been able to tell what sort of a person someone was. Maybe he could tell that Joseph was different, one in a million. 

Potiphar was a powerful and ruthless man. To say that Joseph’s new situation was less than ideal would be an understatement. When he realised who had bought him he might well have said to himself “Oh …. sh-bother.” Things just seemed to be going from bad to worse. 

Stories like this beg the question “why does God let terrible things happen to his people?” The answer is not simple or straightforward, but part of it can be found back in our passage from Lamentations. He wants us to draw close to him, to depend on him, to put our hope in him.

Jeremiah, despite the starvation and depravation that was going on around him, said “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.

To wait quietly for salvation from the Lord is exactly what Joseph needed to do at this precise moment in time, although he was probably made to work from the moment he woke until the moment he collapsed, exhausted, onto his mattress, if he even had one.

But that would have been easier said than done. When you are faced with a life situation like that, what do you do? Sit and wait quietly for salvation from the Lord, for the situation to change in God’s good time? Or do you take things into your own hands and try to find ways to make things better yourself, to change the circumstances if only for a while, which is what I tend to do. 

If Joseph got a moment to himself, he would have looked back at his days in Canaan. How much time, I wonder, had he spent with his grandpa? I’m sure that Isaac would have told him all about the amazing things that had happened to him during his lifetime, and also during the lifetime of his Joseph’s great grandfather, Abraham. He would certainly have told him the story that we can read in Genesis 22, of how, when Isaac was about 12, his father Abraham had woken him early one morning and told him that they were going on an adventure, how they had saddled the donkey, loaded it with firewood, and along with two of their servants set off on a three day treck to climb Mount Moriah and make a sacrifice to the Lord. Isaac would have described how he had asked his dad why they hadn’t brought with them an animal for the sacrifice, and of how Abraham had assured that the Lord would provide one when they got there. 

He would have told him in graphic detail how, once the alter was built and the wood for the fire made ready, his father seemed to go mad, grabbed him, tide him up, placed him on the alter and stood over him with a huge knife, ready to plunge it into his breast.

“At that very moment”, Isaac would have told Joseph, “we heard the angel of the Lord calling ... from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham! Don’t lay a hand on the boy! Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your only son.”

Isaac had learnt several important lessons that day, lessons that he would certainly have tried to teach Joseph, that God sometimes puts us to the test, but when he does he gives us the way out, if we trust, if we listen, if we respond to his call.

In Joseph’s case he wasn’t being protecting him FROM his circumstances but he was being protected IN his circumstances. 

But sometimes the problem is not so much in the circumstances as it is in ourselves. We can’t run away from ourselves, but we can change, or at least allow God to change us. 

The story of Joseph is not only a shining example of God’s providence at work, but one of how God used his circumstances to build his character, and we’re about to see one of those incidents play out as he gets noticed by Potiphar, and trusted, promoted, and given significant responsibility. But that’s a whole story in itself that we’re not going to get into that this week.

Sunday 21st January 2024 - Martin Mowat

Readings Genesis 37


Last week we started a new series of messages about Joseph, and we began by looking at his family background, which wasn’t all that it might have been, from Joseph’s perspective.   In fact, by the time he was 17 Joseph had seen more of the ugly side of family life than most of us see in a lifetime.


When Joseph set out that fateful day to visit his brothers, dressed unwisely in his beautiful multicoloured coat that was a testimony of his father’s affection and favouritism, I wonder how he felt.  Was he happy that he was going to see them? Was he apprehensive about the welcome he would get? Or was he perhaps dreading it?

 Either way, I’m sure he wasn’t expecting  that he would end up in a hole, both physically and metaphorically.  


You’ve perhaps seen Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical, Joseph and his Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat. Our son Matthew starred in an amateur stage production of it in London some years ago. If you haven’t seen it, I’m sure that you will have heard the soundtrack.


The interesting thing about the coat was not so much it’s colourfulness, or it’s significant value, but what it symbolised.  Effectively the coat put Joseph in a class apart. It not only spoke of favouritism, but also of leadership, a leadership that wouldn’t naturally fall on the second youngest member of the family.  Rightfully that position belonged to Reuben, but he had forfeited that position when he violated his father’s trust by sleeping with one of his concubines. So then, perhaps, it should have been conferred on Simeon, the second oldest. By giving him this lovely coat Jacob was inferring that it would go to to Joseph, over and above any of the others, and that is what really riled his siblings.


That helps us to understand what we heard in our readings just now that “when his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him”.  Then, when he told them his dreams “they hated him all the more” and “were jealous of him”.


Was Jacob aware of how deeply his elder sons loathed their younger brother, or did he just put it down to sibling rivalry? If he did realise it, then sending Joseph off that day was definitely another “wobble”.  Had he known that the back of Joseph’s head was the last that he would see of his favourite child for 20 years, he would doubtless have sent one of his servants instead.

It’s ironic that Reuben, who had even more reason to hate Joseph that all of them, was the one that tried to save Joseph’s life.


Let’s not take his life,” he said. “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” He was suggesting to his brothers that Joseph be left to die of dehydration and starvation, but the text tells us that he said this so that he could come back later, when the others weren’t watching, pull him out of the cistern and take him back to his father safe and sound.


A cistern, by the way, is like a well, but different.  A well has porous walls so that the water in the soil, or rock strata, filters into it.  A cistern is different in that it has a waterproof lining and is designed to both catch and store rain water.


Happily for Joseph this particular cistern was empty, Genesis tells us that there was no water in it, so that at least Joseph could sit on the floor rather than having to stand in water up to his waist, and lean against the wall.


All he could see when he looked up was a circle of blue sky. All that he could hear was his 10 elder brothers trying to decide how best to do away with him, and dreaming up a stack of lies to tell their father, Jacob.


I think that if I were in that situation, I would be swearing revenge in the event that I ever got out of there alive. But not Joseph. He seems to have had a growing awareness that he was the object of God’s providential care, which expresses itself in wonderful and often unusual ways. I’ll come back to that in a minute, but God was about to shine the light of his salvation into that dark hole.


In passing, let’s note three interesting similarities with the life of Jesus :-


         It was on account of envy that Joseph was handed into slavery.  In the same way, Matthew tells us in his gospel, that Pilate “knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.


         As Joseph travelled the 65 odd miles across the hill country in search of those who would reject him, so Jesus “came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.


         As Joseph was despised and rejected by those that he would one day rescue, so Jesus experienced rejection, only to become the gateway to life for all who would believe.


Moving on, for some reason Reuben wasn’t around when the decision was made, and the deal struck, to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders. He seems to have been genuinely distraught when he came back, looked over the edge of the cistern and called down “you alright down there?” Only to find the cistern empty.  What had been his motivation, I wonder? Was he scheming to try and regain his father’s favour, to express his regret for the events that we can read about in chapter 35?  Or was he just a much nicer person than the others, we just don’t know.


As we see the story unfold, a story that we’ve all heard before, it’s easy just to see it as part of the historical account of the people of Israel, from Abraham to Moses and Joshua.


But these were real people, with real challenges, real feelings, real motivations.  We are seeing sexual misconduct, jealousies, competitiveness, selfishness, and so on.  These are things that each one of us this morning may have fallen foul of one way or another at some time in the past, maybe even now, as we head into 2024.


Why do we do the things we do?  Why do we say some of the things we say?

What happened out there at Dothan that day beats our comprehension.  It was ugly, it was brutal, it was cruel, it was callous, it was dishonest, it lacked any semblance of integrity.


This has nothing whatsoever to do with the story, but can I suggest to you that, as we look at our world today, it is the absence of integrity that causes more damage than any other single thing. 


When poor Jacob heard the lie that Joseph had succumbed to a lion, he “tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.


I have been fortunate, so far anyway, not to have lost any of my children or grandchildren, but try as I might, I cannot begin to imagine the pain, the grief.  We expect to lose our parents, we run the risk of losing our siblings and our spouses, but we never expect to lose our children. 

Our wobbly friend Jacob was stricken - he wanted nothing more than to die. 

Unbeknown to him, Joseph’s life had been spared. He was bound for a new life in a prosperous country, albeit at the bottom of the pecking order.  He couldn’t possibly have imagined what was in store for him, to spend the rest of his days building pyramids, perhaps. 


As he trudged for days on end with the Ishmaelite caravan, did he, I wonder, remember those dreams he had had, his brother’s sheaves of grain that gathered around his and bowed down to it, the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to him? 


It’s 700 or 800km from Dothan to Egypt, depending which way they went, and would have taken three or four weeks, maybe more. I don’t know whether he was given an animal to ride, or whether he was made to walk.  But he no longer had his precious coat of many colours, that we do know.  From now on he was just a nobody, and the only friend he had left was God.


Little did he know that this was the beginning of an amazing story.  Sometimes it’s when we seem to hit rock bottom, when things just can’t possibly be any worse that the unexpected happens.


In conclusion, Romans 8, one of my favourite chapters in the whole Bible, tells us in verse 28 that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Did Joseph perhaps have that quiet reassurance that somehow, all would be well? If he didn’t, his life was certainly one that proved Paul’s statement to be true, over and over again.


This is a promise from God that we are not hapless victims of life, at the mercy of fate or chance, that we are not driven along by some blind, impersonal force. On the contrary, we are all objects of God’s providential care, under his guiding and protecting hand, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

Sunday 14th January 2024 - Martin Mowat

Readings:  Genesis 28: 1  -4, 10 - 16.    Genesis 30: 1 - 11, 22 - 24

The road from Plaigne to Mirepoix starts in the Aude and comes into the Ariège.  For years there was no central white line on the Aude part of it, but this last autumn they painted one.  That’s all well and good, but it wobbles.  It’s quite off-putting really. It’s as if the operator of the painting machine was drunk, or falling asleep at the wheel when he did it. 

It made me wonder whether there was an object lesson that I could draw from it, and I realised that although it wobbles, it does get there in the end.  

We wobble too, don’t we? Especially in our Christian walk, we wobble.  Well, I do anyway. Jacob wobbled too.  It might surprise you my saying that but it’s true.

Today we’re starting a new series, not about Jacob but about Joseph, and I expect that you’re thinking that you’ve heard the story a thousand times, all the way from Sunday School. That may be so, but let’s see what it might teach us today.

Joseph was one amazing guy. He didn’t wobble but I have to say that was no thanks to his family.

Let’s start by taking a look at his family background.  Families can tell us so much about people, can’t they.  Did Joseph, I wonder, have the sort of family that we might expect to have produced a person of such exceptional character and ability?

Jacob was his father, Rachel was his mother, and of course, he had eleven brothers and one sister - can you imagine their mealtimes ?

So who was Jacob, exactly?

He was the grandson of a man described by the apostle James as “God’s friend”, Abraham no less.  That should have given him a head start.

Abraham, and his wife Sarah, were convinced that they would die childless, until one day three visitors wandered into their camp and announced, to their utter surprise and amazement, incomprehension almost, that within a year they would have a son.  Sarah was about 90, Abraham about 100. 

Isaac was born, but before he was even a teenager, about 12 we think, God told Abraham to sacrifice him. On our journey to England last week, heard an absolutely fascinating discussion, between two theologians, about, among other things, the importance of sacrifice. It’s something we all do, often without realising it, mothers for their children for example.

On our way back down on Friday we listened to the first part of Michelle Obama’s autobiography, in which she describes, graphically, her parents sacrifice for her brother and for her, throughout their childhood and even into adulthood. But that’s another matter. 

Isaac was spared, as you know, and went on to meet and marry the beautiful Rebekah, and, although it took them twenty years of trying, they eventually had two healthy sons, twins even, Jacob and Esau. That was when the trouble started. 

Esau was born first with Jacob second, apparently grasping his brother’s heel.  This is perhaps how he got his name, Jacob, which actually means, can you believe it, “deceiver” or “chiseler”. He was aptly named because he was skilful at manipulating people and events to make circumstances turn out the way he wanted them to. Years ago I read a book about him, entitled  “The schemer and the dreamer” by the Argentinian born American evangelist Luis Palau.  We just heard about his amazing dream.  

As for being a schemer, he “chiselled” his elder brother out off his birthright, he deceived his father into conferring upon him the blessing that should have belonged to Esau. To escape his brother’s wrath, his parents sent him to Rebekah’s brother Laban, who, perhaps tarred with the same brush, deceived him into marrying both of his daughters, Leah and Rachel.  Seven or more years later he got his own black when he and his whole household escaped in the night.  We’ll doubtless touch on some of these stories as we move forward. 

Joseph’s mother, on the other hand seems to have been different.  I imagine her as a beautiful, poised, gentle, loving person. She loved her husband, despite

all his imperfections, and was desperate to give him sons.  That was important in that culture and in those days. Sons meant prosperity and security.  Sons worked, they fought, they defended, and they provided for you in your old age.

But Rachel, poor girl, just couldn’t. To make matters worse, her wretched elder sister just seemed to pop them out without any apparent difficulty.  In desperation she passed the job on to her maidservant, and later Leah followed suit. 

But then, one day, the seemingly impossible happened, and Rachel became pregnant with Joseph. I am sure that she must have loved that child so much, cared for him night and day, made sure that he had everything he could possibly need. His father too, it seems, loved him too, more in fact than any of his other sons.  Was Joseph just a tad spoiled I wonder? We shall see.

We don’t know exactly but Joseph was perhaps only 6 or 7 when Rachel died giving birth to his younger brother Benjamin.  What a shock that must have been for him. It’s not surprising that there was such a bond between those two brothers.

Joseph was now on his own, no mother, a baby brother to care for, one elder sister and 10 big scheming, bullying brothers breathing down his neck. 

I can relate to how he must have felt because I have a younger sister that I love dearly, but I also have an elder sister and brother, 9 and 11 years older than I am, they don’t bully me, well not any more, but my relationship with them is entirely different, so I can tell you confidently that as a child, dealing with those 11 older siblings, Joseph had his work cut out. 

The feeling, it seems was fairly mutual.  His brothers were jealous of him, hated him even. The reason being that because he was the oldest son of their father’s preferred wife, his beloved Rachel, with whom he had been head over heals since the very first moment he set eyes on her, Jacob treated him differently, better than any of them. 

These feelings of resentment got to such a pitch, that when Joseph was only 17, they conspired to kill him, but fortunately ended up only trafficking him, which was bad enough.  

That’s where the story of Joseph really begins, in a hole in the ground in the middle of a desert. That’s where we will pick it up next week. It’s rich and dramatic and I think it’s going to be both fascinating and illuminating.

So, in conclusion I think that it’s safe to say that Joseph didn’t inherit his character from his dysfunctional family. All he got from them were hard knocks left, right, and centre.  The university of hard knocks isn’t such a bad place for learning about life, you might think, and I’m sure that it taught Joseph a lot about what not to be.

But Joseph was a man of principle and integrity, he was self controlled and generous, big-hearted and forgiving.  He didn’t learn that from his father.  

Jacob was not a good model of integrity. He did poorly when it came to decisiveness, he was slow when it came to action, he tended to avoid issues rather than face them, in short, he wobbled.

His brothers, all except perhaps one, seem to have been a band of no-gooders. His sister, well, all we really know about her is that she was very beautiful, and that, poor girl, was raped by a man called Shechem son of a the prince of a neighbouring tribe ,the Hivites, and with catastrophic consequences for that tribe. 

So where did Joseph get it all? That’s one of the questions we’ll be answering in this series. Let’s pray …

Sunday 7th January 2024 - Jess Jephcott

Readings: Matthew 2: 1 – 6, Luke 2: 21 - 35

Good morning and a Happy New Year to you all. I am standing-in for Martin, who is taking a well-earned break at the moment. The theme today is, of course, Epiphany. It’s not a word that is commonly used, I think. An epiphany moment perhaps, when something suddenly comes to mind? I looked it up on the internet and it gave me - insight, inspiration, realisation, revelation, enlightenment, vision. Isn’t language wonderful?

On a more theological basis, Epiphany refers to the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12), the three kings of biblical tradition. It is a Christian feast day commemorating the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana. Its holy day is the 6th January, but we now traditionally celebrate it on the first Sunday after the 1st January.

I also learned more about the French tradition of the Galette des Rois, the King’s Cake, normally celebrated on 6th January, a cake much loved by French children for the game that is played and the fève that is hidden within the cake. Of course, the king part refers to the Magi and the fève to the Christ Child.

Eastern tradition sets the number of Magi at twelve, but Western tradition sets their number at three, probably based on the three gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11) presented to the infant. The bible doesn’t actually mention how many kings came to find the baby Jesus.

So, before I take our story further, let us pray a short prayer.

Father God, as we begin this New Year, at this time of the Epiphany, we give thanks to You, for all we hold dear: our health, our family and our friends. Let us live each day in the most loving ways, the way that our Lord Jesus has taught us. Amen.

So, what are we leaving behind us, and what is our vision and hope for the year ahead?

2023 seems to have released us from the Covid worries, although we are still hearing of cases among us, albeit, thankfully, not life threatening. The attack on Ukraine and its people, continues, now joined in our minds with the more recent attack on Israel. We can only hope that a peace of sorts can be achieved soon for the suffering people of those countries, as also with so many other countries in conflict at the moment.

The UK is gearing up for a general election this year, the once triumphant Boris in the UK having been removed by his own followers. America has its own election worries with the Biden/Trump saga and shenanigans that unfold daily, all bringing out so much hatred and ungodly rhetoric. Such is politics today.

Reading Martin’s sermon notes from a year ago, he commented how 2022 was, ‘an intense, challenging and, in many ways, and unforgettable year’. So too, was 2023, in its own way, although the threat of Covid now, as good as gone, we hope. Our church here in Mirepoix has seen change, something that I feel sure Martin will address next week, on his return to us. We have all seen our upside down village signs, here in France, just one indicator that there are problems in France too. Monsieur Macron has had a tough year, as have the people of France generally, our genial and stoic hosts.

We have lost so many famous people in 2023 too. Personal icons that many of you will know, such as Henry Kissinger, Tina Turner, Ryan O’Neal, Henry Sandon, Joss Ackland, Roger Whittaker, Harry Belafonte, Raquel Welch, Benjamin Zephaniah, Michael Gambon, Tony Bennett, Paul O’Grady, and so on. You will all have your own memories of people that have shaped your life, your thoughts, your interests, your faith, that have left us this past year. We are all mortal and, just as with those mentioned, don’t we all make our mark in some way or other, during our lifetimes?

As we say goodbye to the old, we welcome the new. The birth of Jesus, all those years ago, is celebrated for the new beginning that it brought, an epiphany.

The readings that we have just heard, will be familiar to you, having been used recently by Martin, but which are particularly relevant to this time. We rely on the two gospels of Matthew and of Luke, for an insight into what happened in Bethlehem, over 2000 years ago. It had been prophesied to happen, as we heard in our first reading from Matthew’s gospel, read for us by Marie-Hélène. King Herod, with clear evil intent asked where the Christ was to be born. Matthew tells us that the reply was, ‘In Bethlehem, in Judea, for this is what the prophet has written’.

For centuries, the Jews had been focused on waiting for the Messiah. The chief priests and scholars knew all the signs to look out for, and they could quote the prophet Micah, that the Messiah would come from the line of David, would be born in Bethlehem, and would be a good shepherd to rule Israel. Had they blinked and missed it? Did they really need foreign stargazers to inform them that the Messiah had arrived?

All the Magi needed to know was where to find Him. The Magi followed a star to find the baby Jesus, where they worshipped him, they left presents for him and they left, without tipping off King Herod as to the precise location. Indeed, the passage that follows the reading from Matthew, tells that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, warning of the danger from Herod, whereupon the family escaped to Egypt - and so was fulfilled what the Lord said to the prophet, ‘out of Egypt I called my son’.

Our second reading, from Luke’s gospel, read to us by Briget, spoke of how, at the age of 8 days, the baby was named Jesus and was taken to the Temple, to be presented to the Lord. Whilst there, a righteous man named Simeon, as we heard, took the baby Jesus in his arms and thanked God for sending the child for him to praise, saying, ‘my eyes have seen your salvation’. Simeon prophesied, ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.’. How right he was.

We learn from the Bible how Jesus grew up to become a man, often vexing his parents by slipping away to hear religious teaching at the temple, with his active participation in discussion. Luke tells us of how they returned to Galilee (from Egypt) to their own town of Nazareth, and there, Jesus grew, became strong, and was filled with wisdom. He worked as a carpenter, with his father - perhaps other siblings too. We can only imagine how his life was at that time. Was he a geek, an oddball, teased by his contemporaries for his studiousness, or for his familial illegitimacy? Was he admired and respected by his teachers? Did they see what was special about him?

We know that Joseph and Mary had at least six children, as, according to Mark 6:3, Jesus had four brothers (and two sisters): "Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon?” So Jesus had brothers and sisters to interact with and to learn social skills. Sadly, we know very little about them, as indeed we know very little about the life of Jesus, until he reached about thirty years of age and becomes known as a teacher - a rabbi, to use the Jewish term for teacher. The Messiah had come and he was causing a storm, a storm that has continued ever since, shaping our lives in Europe and beyond. Our personal names, our buildings, our literature, our art, our culture. So different to other cultures across the world, yet also the same in so many ways – mostly, instinctively decent people, raising their families in peace, mindful of and caring for others. Sadly, it is the minority that are the warmongers, the unscrupulous, dishonest people, who seem to get most of the headlines and who perhaps lead to us having a jaded view of life. We mustn’t allow that to happen within ourselves. We are better than that, aren’t we?

So, what of the future?

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? I gave that up many years ago, when I realised that life seldom turns out as expected. The flesh is weak, as they say. I sure would like to be lighter, weight-wise, to be fitter, to be able to do the things that I know I no longer can. Can we release our grudges, our anger and our pains, for, surely, they are but binding chains, a weight around our necks?

I admire those who vow to give up smoking, lose weight, get fit, run a marathon. I admire those who give up their time for others in need. I feel sure that you feel the same way too.

The Kingdom of God, Jesus said, is our ultimate goal. It is here and it is now – not somewhere else, not some time in the future, not for after we are dead. The way is clear. Let us live our lives as God wishes it, being kind to others through word, thought and deed.


Let us pray,


May Christ Jesus dwell within us,

keep us from all harm,

and make us one in mind and heart,

now and forever. Amen.