Sunday 16th January 2022 Epiphany II - a reflection by Canon Dean Fostekew

Under the Tree  by John Mole

At least it s not an oven glove

From Cynthia and Ron - with love.

Affectionate regards - Aunt Grace

Something she broke and must replace.

The shop will not take this one back

To all of you from Uncle Jack.

From everyone here at the Grange

A wrong size Harrods might exchange.

Shapeless, rustling soft and nice

Respectfully - the Misses Price.

When shall I see you? Till then - Jane

In last year's paper used again.

Under the tree, without a sound,

The parcels pass themselves around

And smile inside, not unaware

Of all the reasons they are there.

"Smile not unaware of all the reasons they are there."

By now your tree will have been long gone. The presents? Well almost forgotten except the unexpected one, that was what you really wanted.

The decorations have been put back in their box, in the attic, the cards have been re-read and now recycled, the house seems a bit bare. Yet, Christmastide is NOT over. The 40 days of celebration until Candlemas (2nd February) are still unfurling and we have time and space, again and again to celebrate the Incarnation and to reflect upon the spiritual gifts that God has bestowed on us. 

Last week we celebrated the Epiphany and admired the gifts the Magi brought or handed over. Gold for kingship, frankincense for priesthood and myrrh for anointing. Costly, rich gifts for the Christ child and the template for our present giving at Christmas. Yet, in the frenzy of Christmas gifting we are often apt to forget the presents that God regularly and freely bestows upon us.

St.Paul reminds us today, that we should not be ignorant of the gifts and talents we have each been blessed with. How did you come to discover that you had them? Who helped you to this discovery? How do you use your talents? And are you using them to their best advantage? If not, I suspect that you are feeling somewhat frustrated. If this is the case, then do something about it because not to use your God given gifts is to deny God s creative force within you. You will have been given your talents for a reason; and once you find that reason your talents will flow.

Using our gifts is vital, not only to our own well being but for the well being of our friends, families and communities. For when we use our gifts we spark the gifts of God within others and encourage them to be creative as well. In doing so we learn how to work together and encourage each other in enabling each other to reach our full potential as human beings. St.Paul says:

“To each of us is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’        1Cor 12:7

We are not all given the same gifts or talents nor are any of us given all the spiritual gifts. We are given those which are right for our individual personalities and those which we can share or use with others to benefit our sisters and brothers in God s world:

“All these (gifts) are actuated by the one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.” 1Cor 12:11

None of us have chosen the talents that we hold, they are a gift from our Creator. What we are called to do is to use them to build up the Kingdom of God.  And use them we must. For we have not been given our gifts to ignore them. We are called to use them constructively and in co-operation with each other. But in order to do this we first have to learn:

What our particular gifts are and how we are to use them in conjunction with the gifts of our companions, in this life. To begin with we all discover our particular talents by initially following our own desires and interests or by responding to the suggestions or pushes that others give us.

I am quite a practical and creative person but for years I despaired and mourned my lack of ability with paint, pencils or oils only to discover; when a friend suggested that I give it a go ; that I could paint in threads. I discovered that I could stitch the images I longed to draw. Likewise my passion for cooking has enabled me to sculpt in food. Neither of my two  artistic or creative gifts are the obvious ones I wanted but they give me hours of pleasure and fulfilment. I hope they bring others pleasure as well.

‘No man is an island’ wrote John Doone and he was right. Not one of exists in isolation. Think how difficult it is to get the motivation to anything on your own when you have no one to share it with. Cooking for one, for me is a chore when William is away and I often opt out; deciding that a sandwich will do. How better it is to do things for others and with others.

At the Good Shepherd we are blessed by a wide and rich variety of individual gifts and calls to ministry. How we are to use these gifts in the service of Christ is part of our continual discernment of vocation. Each of us need to ask ourselves and each other what it is that God wants us to do with our gifts and skills and what we are to do as the church  corporately with our combined skills in this bit of God’s Kingdom.

No discernment or questioning process ever easy you have to work at it but also be prepared to be surprised as well. God may have gifts ready to bestow on you that you did not expect to be given and you may be called to use your existing gifts in ways that you did not contemplate.

Listen to God s promptings over the coming weeks and months and then respond to them as you become aware of the reasons why your gifts are there and as the poem says; ‘smile’.