A reflection for Candlemas Sunday 30th January 2022 by the Rev'd David Warnes

The Presentation Luke 2:22-40

The turn of the Millennium now seems a long time ago. For me, one of the highlights was an exhibition at the National Gallery in London. It was put together by Neil MacGregor and its title was Seeing Salvation. In the introduction to the book that he wrote to accompany a television series about the exhibition, Neil MacGregor quoted words from today’s Gospel:

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”

He went on:

“With these words this book begins and ends. They were spoken by the old priest Simeon as he took the infant Jesus in his arms and saw in him the Saviour. In this child, Christians believe, the boundaries of the human and divine were permanently redrawn for us all.”

The book closes with a meditation on Rembrandt’s Nunc Dimittis, which can be found in the National Museum in Stockholm. It is a work of his later years. The picture is tightly-cropped. We see only Simeon, the Christ child whom he holds in his arms and, over Simeon’s left shoulder, the face of Anna, looming out of a dark background. The old man’s eyes appear, at first glance, to be closed, and it is only when one looks again that one sees that his hands are coming together in a gesture of prayer, and that his eyes are directed downwards towards the child in his arms who is the Son of God. The expression on his face is rapt. His mouth is slightly open, and his whole countenance is filled with a quiet wonder and worship.

Only two parts of the picture have anything approaching a finished quality – the prayerful face of Simeon and the right hand, chest and face of the infant Jesus. It is as though the baby is the only fully realised reality, a source of light in the picture, a reality that is perceived by the old man and a light that is reflected in his countenance.

Neil MacGregor writes of Rembrandt’s Simeon:

“…although he appears to be blind, he sees the essential. He intuits divinity and he knows all will now be well….“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”

Seeing Salvation is not always, perhaps not often, easy. It ought to be easier for us than for Simeon and Anna. They waited in expectant hope, trusting God’s purposes but ignorant of how those purposes would ripen. We believe and know that God has intervened decisively in history in Jesus Christ, that the boundaries between the human and the divine have been redrawn. We view that intervention in and through Resurrection light. Yet we still find it difficult, especially when life confronts us with painful realities.

Today’s Gospel speaks to us of that spirituality that enables us to see Salvation with the clarity, the certainty and the joy of Simeon and Anna. How balanced Luke’s narrative is. The two people who are able to see salvation are a man and a woman, One of them, Simeon, is in the Temple that day because he has been guided there by the Holy Spirit. The other, Anna, is a person whom, we are told, never left the Temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. It is almost as though Luke is telling us that what we would call two very different kinds of churchmanship, the one charismatic, Spirit-led, inspirational, the other disciplined, regular, almost monastic, both confer the gift of recognition, the ability to see salvation. But they have two important things in common. Firstly, both are devout. Secondly, it is in the Temple that they have the encounter in which they see salvation. That ability to see is something that we can cultivate, both in the private prayer which creates the space in which the Holy Spirit can speak to us and in the joyous discipline of public, corporate worship which builds us up in faith and love.

To return to Rembrandt’s painting:

The baby is the only fully realised reality, a reality that is perceived by the old man and reflected in his countenance. Candlemas – the Feast of the Presentation – offers us the opportunity to reflect on the coming of Christ into the world, the coming of the light that the darkness has not overcome. It is also a reminder that our calling is to reflect that light on a world sorely in need of illumination. As we turn away from Christmas and move towards Lent and Easter, we will be exploring what that means.


Sunday 23rd January ecumenical worship in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Extracts from the joint worship

and a reflection by the Rev'd Russell Duncan

Brothers and sisters, we are united today with fellow believers throughout the world as we gather to pray for the visible unity of the Church. This morning our prayer inspiration comes from the churches in the Middle East – that part of the Body of Christ geographically linked to the story of the coming of the Magi. The Magi reveal to us a unity of nations as desired by God. They travel from far-off countries and from different cultures, driven by the same hunger to see and know the new born king. This leads them to gather in the little house in Bethlehem for the simple act of giving homage and offering gifts. In our own multi-cultural society we can see some expressions of that rich variety. At this time of year, some of us may feel we have moved on in our worship from the crib and the story of the coming of the Magi from the East. Yet Christmas-tide does not end until the 2nd February with the celebration of Candlemas (Jesus’ presentation in the temple). Our sisters and brothers in the Middle East invite us to focus on the story of the Magi anew. Uniting with them and journeying again with the Magi, may our time together allow us to come face-to-face with our God in Christ. May our worship bring a sense of joy and wonder

and allow us to respond as we go on further in our own journey of faith. Let us come into God’s presence in solidarity with all who are sick, suffering, marginalized, displaced and oppressed, knowing that our darkness can be dispelled by God’s light. As we pray today for the unity of the Church, may we all journey together to meet Jesus the Saviour, the light of the world.

Glory be to you Father Almighty, for you have revealed yourself

through your creation and invite all people to gather in your

presence. We have seen the star of Jesus in our lives and have

come to worship him just as the Magi did. We offer him ourselves

today and we ask for the presence of the Holy Spirit among us.

Unite us as we come to worship the king, all glorious above. Amen.


Gospel Reading Matthew 2:1-12

Matthew 2, verses 1 and 2

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

The Magi saw the star and were so moved by its appearing that they left everything and crossed the world to follow it, to find the child to whom the star pointed.

Glory be to you Father Almighty, for you have revealed yourself through your creation and invited all people to gather in your presence. We have seen the star of Jesus in our lives and have come to worship him just as the Magi did. We offer him ourselves today and we ask for the presence of the Holy Spirit among us.

As we pray today for the unity of the Church, may we and our communities also be lights that guide others to Jesus the Saviour.

“Unite us as we come from every corner of our community to worship you, our heavenly king. Amen.”

Matthew 2, verses 3 to 6:

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

The seekers have come so far guided by the splendour of the universe. But to find their final destination, they need the help of others and the guidance and insight of the Scriptures. They discover that God’s word “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”. [Psalm 119:105]

“Lord, we thank you
For those who have helped us on our journey that led to you.

Lord, we worship you
For lighting our path through chaos and doubt by your Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 2, verses 7 and 8:

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

On our journey, at times we have to encounter people who do not have good intentions. The Magi were asked to meet with Herod in the secretive corridors of power. Herod wants only to protect his own interests and ultimately to destroy whatever he sees as threatening them. We too have to contend with voices and messages that pretend to respect the good, but end up being destructive.

“Lord, we have damaged our common home through endless consuming.
Like Herod, we seek to protect our palaces
rather than sharing the riches of human dignity. Light our way
as together we seek the path to a better future for

Matthew 2: verses 9 to 10

When the wise men had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.

God our heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the gift of joy in our own lives and in the lives of all who know and love you. We pray that as we journey towards the goal of Christian unity, our lives together may give a luminous and joyful witness that leads others to know Christ.

We praise God, united in joy.

Matthew 2, verses 11 and 12

On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

They enter the little house and see face to face the one their hearts were seeking. They worship and, opening their treasures, offer their gifts. Having encountered the Saviour, the Magi return to their countries by a different way. Similarly, may the communion we share in our prayer together inspire us to return to our lives, our churches and our world by new ways, changed by meeting the Lord.


Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews? For we have observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage (Matthew 2:2)

One of my favourite actors, Martin Clunes, who plays the rather grumpy doctor

in the TV series “Doc Martin” has a new series entitled “Islands of the Pacific”.

Some of you may have seen it this week. He embarks on an epic ocean wide

adventure in search of the real Pacific. At one point, he goes

sailing with a young but experienced fisherman who tells him that he

follows the stars in order to navigate around the numerous, scattered islands.

Unlike many of us, he doesn’t have or use google maps on his mobile phone.   

Matthew’s gospel introduces us to “wise men” who travelled from the East following a star.  However, in the Bible there weren’t three, and they weren’t kings. Matthew doesn’t give us a number. Legend subsequently deduced that there were three because they gave three presents – the famous gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Only later were they called Kings. The reason they are referred to as magi is because the word used is taken from Old Persian, and is the job title of the astrologers of the Persian royal court.

One of the early depictions in Christian art is a mosaic in the Basilica of St Apollinaris in Ravenna, Italy which was decorated in the second half of the sixth century.  Already the magi are three. In order to show them as wise men from the East the Byzantine artists who made the mosaic based their figures on the most exotic Easterners they knew.

Matthew wants to demonstrate that the birth of Jesus fulfils Scripture while  Isaiah the Prophet, predicted the birth of the Messiah who would be witnessed by the people of all the nations of the world, who would come to pay tribute.

Scripture tell us nothing about the personal details of the wise men, although their gifts are well known.  However familiar their journey  is to us it does seem strange that they left everything to follow a star. We are not told how long their journey took;  how they felt about going out into the unknown or why they felt compelled to make this particular  journey.

In his book “An Advent Book of Days” Bishop Gregory Cameron comments that “When the medieval Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral was opened in 1864, the remains of three men were found – one old, one middle aged and one a youth. We may be allowed to be sceptical as to whether these might actually be the relics of the magi who visited Jesus, but it does reflect another ancient tradition in the Church – that the three Kings each reflected an “age of man”; youth, maturity and old age”.

In this season of Epiphany and in this week of Christian Unity which unites us  visibly together, may we like the wise men -  who rejoiced at seeing the holy child -  continue to follow that same star. May we allow the Light of World to shine in our hearts and minds whether at present it is shining bright, flickering on the horizon or appearing to have disappeared altogether.

O God who by the guidance of a star,

Revealed your only-begotten Son to the nations;

Grant that we, who know you now by faith,

May at the last be led to see your glory face to face

Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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’.

Epiphany reflection by Canon Dean Fostekew Sunday 9th January 2022

'We look for a star' Anon
Saviour and Son, the star the Wise Men knew Led them to thee: at Christmas now, we too look anxiously into the silent night,
Lit by God's stars, where man's own satellites Spin between the shining spheres:
O Christmas Child, let hopes, not fears
Upon the aching world prevail,
That we, who set our smaller suns to sail
In the bright firmament of thy design,
Seek out a star divine
To follow - and on Christmas night,
Find grace and peace in sight.

As a historical event the feast of the Epiphany is hard to prove. It is only recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew. In that account we are told of the visit of the Wise Men or Magi from the East and after initial references to them Matthew does not mention them again. Was Matthew making the whole thing up and if so why?

Matthew's Gospel narrative is the most Jewish of the four accounts and he seems to be writing in a way that will convince the Jews that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. For example the Gospel begins

with a very Jewish genealogy of Christ, tracing his origins through David, Solomon and Abraham and drawing upon Isaiah's prophesy that:

'..a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son ..' Isaiah 7:14.

Matthew uses the account of the visit of the Magi - gentiles from the East - to emphasise to his Jewish audience Christ's ‘Jewish-ness’. The Magi are searching for the 'King of the Jews' and in stating that Jesus is the King of the Jews Matthew shows his readers that Jesus Christ is their Messiah and that he comes for both Jews and the gentiles, for as he writes, it was the gentiles who first recognised him for who he is. The Magi those representatives of the gentiles came and worshipped the new born king. The Jews represented by Herod were afraid and sought to destroy the child. In the visit of the Wise Men we also see Christ revealed to the whole world as its Lord and saviour. Yes, Jesus was born a Jew but he was not born for Jews alone.

This day also has another poignant symbol associated with it, the Star. Astrological research seems to suggest that there was a comet in the heavens at approximately the time of Christ's birth, and the comet is thought to have been so bright that it would have stood out from the other stars.

The Magi were probably astrologers and possibly magicians. Matthew is at pains to emphasise that from the point of the birth of Christ the Magi’s powers are made redundant. In finding and accepting the Christ the Magi obviously abandoned their magic and divinations. For magic is a means of getting something done when the doer lacks the strength to do it alone. It depends on the belief that in order to achieve that which the individual cannot do alone, there are forces that can be called upon to help - good or bad. What magic does is to extend one’s will and the power one has over a situation and other people. In recognising the Christ and accepting his ways one has to do away with self- will.

We are called to love our enemies, to do good, to put an end to self-centredness. Like the magi who left the tools of their trade - gold, frankincense and myrrh in Bethlehem, we too have to leave the tools of our self-will in that stable as well if we are to become true followers of Christ.

Matthew uses the story of the Magi's visit as a means of encouraging us to say farewell to all the

tricks we use to get our own way – the flattery, the deceit, the lying. We are warned to be suspicious of the magic of our personalities and to adopt as our role model the God who loves us unconditionally and indiscriminately.

The Magi were led to the one with power greater than their own, to the one who put away the need for magic. The child whom Herod feared was more powerful than any of us could ever comprehend for his influence is always good. At the visit of the Magi to the Christ child the world learned that Jesus was born for all God’s people regardless of who they are; Jew or gentile, male or female, black or white for all without exception.

Eternal God
who by the shining of a star
led the Wise Men to the worship of your Son; Guide by his light the nations of the earth, that the whole world may behold your glory. Amen.

A reflection by the Rev'd Russell Duncan for Christmas II 2nd January 2022

Luke 2:41-52

Jesus said to his parents “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them (Luke 2:49-50)

How many times have we asked the question “Did you not know?” to  family, friends and colleagues and vice versa? Did you not know that I would be away?  Did you not know that they had died?  Did you not know that I have never spoken to them? immediately come to mind.  I am sure that we can all think of such occasions, such questions and how we felt.

Years ago when I began my legal traineeship I dealt with my first executry sale. An elderly client had died with no immediate family. All was going very smoothly until the day before the transaction was due to settle. For some reason I decided to go along to the house and check that everything was in order.  In particular that it had been cleared of all its furniture and personal effects. Much to my dismay nothing had been done. There had been a lack of communication. The executors had assumed that the lawyers were dealing with this. I had assumed that they were.  Thankfully we were able to instruct a removal firm at short notice.  Everything settled on time. A great relief. Ever since, in similar circumstances, I have always made sure that someone took responsibility and confirmed that it had been done. A lesson, however unexpected,  had been learnt.

Our gospel from Luke marks an important point in the life of Jesus. It was laid down by law that every adult male Jew who lived within fifteen miles of Jerusalem must attend the Passover

Professor William Barclay reminds us that “it was not through carelessness that his parents did not miss Jesus. Usually the women started out much earlier than the men. The two sections would not meet until the evening encampment was reached when they realised in horror that Jesus was not there”.  After rushing back to Jerusalem it took them three frantic, anxious and no doubt harrowing days to find him in the Temple.  We are not told who looked after Jesus during this period, who fed him, where he slept, how he felt  or if he was concerned in any way. All we know is that Jesus seems genuinely surprised that his parents would not have known that he was in “his Father’s house”.

Professor Barclay comments further “See how very gently but definitely Jesus takes that name “father” from Joseph and gives it to God. At some time Jesus must have discovered his own unique relationship with God. At this first Passover, with manhood dawning, there came a sudden realization that he was, in a unique sense,  the Son of God”.

At the beginning of this new year may we not only ponder and treasure, like Mary,  the question raised by Jesus “Did you not know?” but take encouragement and hope from Isaiah when a similar question was asked about God:-

Have you not known?

Have you not heard?

The everlasting God, the Lord,

The Creator of the ends of the earth,

Neither faints nor is weary.

His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,

And to those who have no might He increases strength.

Even youths shall faint and be weary.

But those who wait on the Lord

Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.