As those of you who have followed the various updates on this blog or who have wandered around Epiphany Island will know there have been several changes on the sim. We have two new chapels in the Cathedral, a new North Door, newly designed Community Center, a Peace Garden (shown above) and a new labyrinth. It seemed a good idea to do a prayer walk commissioning service for these features; this took place on Sunday at noon SLT. At each place we listened to a short piece of Scripture and a reflection and then prayed. For those who couldn’t make it I am reproducing the Scriptures and reflections.
THE LADY CHAPEL
Luke 1:26-28, 30-31, 34-35, 38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
Mary must have known the implications of saying ‘yes’ to God. The talk around the wells and in the market places would be of her lack of virtue as people noticed her pregnancy. It’s ironical when you think that Mary’s virtue is probably what commended her to God. Doing as God asked meant that there would be a question mark when it came to Mary’s reputation for the rest of her life. Mary was prepared to trust God who knew the truth. Do we rely on what God knows of our heart or are we more concerned about our reputation with other people?
THE JOSEPH CHAPEL
Matthew 1:18-21, 24
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.
I imagine Joseph had quite a nasty shock when he found out that Mary was pregnant. Although they were only betrothed, she could have been stoned for adultery. Joseph was prepared to waive his rights to protect her from disgrace because he was righteous. When spoken to by the angel he went even further and accepted her as his wife. It’s likely that his friends and family may have considered him foolish rather than merciful but he was prepared to follow what God asked of him. Trusting God rather than our own judgement takes a lot of courage.
THE NORTH DOOR
I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and for evermore.
Doors are used for entering and leaving a building but the idea of a door can also be used as a metaphor for times of change or opportunity: ‘As one door closes another opens’ for instance. The psalmist assures us that God watches over us in these times of transition in life, in times of going out and coming in. He is a constant when life seems changeable and uncertain. He guards us and equips us to cope. As we come into this building to worship and pray, we gain strength to go out and serve others in God’s name.
THE COMMUITY CENTER – Middle Floor
‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
So many people come to SL because they are struggling in RL. They may be lonely or lost, suffering guilt or low self-esteem, or need to escape for a time. Often opening up to people in RL is too challenging but here it’s possible due to the anonymity. As we welcome residents new or old we are welcoming Christ. When we offer a place in our community, a sense of belonging, a feeling of being loved, a listening ear, we are doing that to Jesus who comes to us in the guise of the least, the lonely and the lost. A simple ‘Welcome to Epiphany’ expressed to those we meet here is a very important ministry and one in which we can all engage. Have you said ‘Welcome’ to Jesus in the guise of a stranger today?
THE COMMUNITY CENTER – Top Floor
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
Often those who are not Christians think of us as miserable people who only want to ruin everyone’s fun with a list of do not’s. If we are created in God’s image then laughter and fun must be part of God’s character also. If you listen to Jesus’ teaching you can tell that he has a sense of humour. We owe it to those we meet to demonstrate that we know how to enjoy ourselves, to dance, to laugh, to joke as we can do in this wonderful space. We are commanded equally to rejoice with those who rejoice as to mourn with those who mourn.
THE PEACE PLAQUE
Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—
in peace because they trust in you.
Trust in the LORD for ever,
for in the LORD GOD
you have an everlasting rock.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
Peace. Something that is often hard to come across in the often noisy worlds we live in. Even if our surroundings are quiet, our minds are often still chattering as we think of the next dozen jobs we need to do. Peace does not come when the sounds of the world are silenced, though being in beautiful peaceful surroundings can help. Peace comes by trusting in God. It has a different quality from worldly peace. Knowing God is there as our ‘everlasting rock’ allows us to experience peace regardless of circumstances.
THE PARISH GARDEN
And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Who hasn’t had their breath taken away by the beauty of the world! So many wonderful things are available for us to enjoy: things on a grand scale like mountains and lakes; things on a small scale like tiny butterflies and delicate feathers. All come from the hand of the Creator for our enjoyment. We just need to stop for a little while to appreciate the wonder that is everywhere we look, even in the most unpromising places. If we find ourselves unable to pray all we need to do is look and thanksgiving should flow from us as we observe God’s handiwork.
This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.’
With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes.
With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth.
I delight in the way of your decrees
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts,
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
It’s possible to read the Bible and have none of it impact us at all. It can simply flow over us. Reading it out loud helps to overcome this problem. Reading it and studying it with others is also a great help. From Christians in the past we are beginning to rediscover the value of meditating on the word, of staying with a verse, phrase or word and letting it enter our being and feed us. Only as the word of God truly enters us can it begin to affect how we behave, how we think, the decisions we make. Time taken to let the word dwell in us richly, as St Paul says, is time well spent.
Helene Milena – Lay Pastor