May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
I hope that you all had a good celebration of Christmas (all 12 days of Christmas!) and a good New Year, despite the Covid restrictions. Once I got through the busyness of our worship services on the 24th, 25th, and 26th, I had a lovely and relaxing vacation last week. A stack of novels, two happy cats, and a fire in the woodstove made for a good week, even though I wasn't able to travel to Ontario to see my family.
And tomorrow, January 6, is Epiphany - the day when we celebrate the arrival of the magi, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. On Sunday, I was able to attend (virtually) three different worship services. My friend, the Rev. Dr. Laura Marie Piotrowicz (St. John's Anglican Church in Lunenburg) spoke about this passage, connecting these gifts to the gifts that we all offer Jesus (remembering that we can see the face of Christ in everyone we meet). The gold, as a precious substance, can represent the material resources that we can share with others. Frankincense was used as a medicinal substance, and so can represent the skills and talents that we can share with the world. And myrrh was used in religious rituals, and can represent the spiritual gifts that we share with others - gifts of love and hope and peace and healing and prophecy.
My prayer for all of us at this time of Epiphany is that we might be empowered, by the Holy Spirit, to share the gifts that we have with the world, so that Christ might be served.
In terms of announcements, I have a couple of important announcements to pass along this week.
I'm sure that it is to nobody's surprise and everyone's disappointment, but today Session made the decision to move our worship back to online only. You will be able to find our worship service on the Two Rivers Pastoral Charge Facebook page at 11:15 on Sunday morning (the livestream will start about 5 minutes before that). I will be e-mailing out the bulletin to everyone at the end of the week, and the prayers and hymns will also be shared in the comments section of the livestream (with deep thanks to all of our volunteers who make that possible).
Despite Covid, it is still Annual Report season! If you owe Elaine a report to go into the Annual Report, this is your final reminder that it is due to her by this Sunday, January 9! Like last year, some reports will likely be short (from committees who haven't been able to be active through 2021), but I also know that other committees were very busy last year.
Bible Study will be resuming next Wednesday morning, but for now we will be resuming virtually, gathered on Webex. I will send out the Webex connection details to everyone who was attending before Christmas, but if you would like to join us, let me know and I will include you in that e-mail. We are going to be doing an overview of the Old Testament this winter/spring - trying to get a sense of the overarching story, as well as wrestling with some of the more challenging stories that we find there.
I am continuing to keep my office hours at all three churches (Tuesday mornings at Summerville; Tuesday afternoons at Westfield; Thursday mornings at Long Reach), but for most of the rest of the week I will be working from home. You can always reach me by phone, text, or e-mail. Elaine is in the church office Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.
This Sunday, we will be reading about the baptism of Jesus and pondering our own baptisms. Why are we baptized? What difference does it make? At baptisms, a series of questions are asked and promises are made - if you were baptized as a baby, your parents or guardians made these promises on your behalf, and if you were later "confirmed" then you re-affirmed these promises on your own behalf. And if, like me, you were baptized as an adult, then you made these promises yourself at your baptism. The wording may have been different, but the questions would have been something like:
Do you believe in God, who has created and is creating,who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, and who works in us and others by the Spirit?
Will you follow the way of Jesus Christ,resisting oppression and evil, seeking justice, and witnessing to God’s love for all creation?
Will you proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,in your words and actions?
Will you join with your sisters and brothers in this congregation to share the life, work, and ministry of Jesus Christ?
I invite you to ponder these questions over the next couple of days; and during Sunday's service, there will be an opportunity to re-affirm these promises. I also invite you to have a glass or a bowl of water handy - since you will be on the other side of the screen from me, I won't have a chance to fling water at you as we remember our baptisms!
As a closing thought today, I want to share with you a quote from Kate Bowler (some of you may recognize her name, since I quoted from her book Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I've Loved) a couple of times last summer in sermons). This is what she has to say about New Year's Resolutions: "So, this year, what if we let ourselves off the hook for becoming someone different? For believing that our best selves are before us, if we just try XYZ. Yes, we are capable of change. But let’s take ourselves off the hook for being GOOD, BETTER, BEST. Perhaps today, it is enough to love and dream and hope and nap and search for beauty and truth and try again tomorrow."
Blessings to you and yours, today and always,
Rev. Kate Jones Two Rivers Pastoral Charge (506) 757-2201 (office) (506) 343-1307 (mobile) www.tworiverspastoralcharge.com Pronouns: she/her/hers "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "You must love your neighbour as you love yourself."