Sunday, February 24, 2013

So much to receive and so much to give

During Sunday's service we shared in Baptism as Susan and Gavin and Zach brought Archie to be baptised. The youngsters from our Transformers Group had shared in the service telling something of the things they had been doing at Transformers.

This is the prayer on the front of our Order of Service sheet.

So much to receive and so much to give

For those who have given us so much
We give you thanks, O Lord
Help us to give in our turn
That others in the fullness of time
May give you thanks, O Lord
For us who have given them so much.
Help us day by day to keep alive
The gifts we have received from you
Strength for the bad days and the good days
Love to sustain and to share
Self-control to guide and restrain

 These are the thoughts I shared in the second part of our service.

I wish I had taken more notice of the stories they told.

But I didn’t.

And I regret it now.

When I was little, and when I was not quite so little too, I got sick and tired of hearing the same old stories my parents would tell.  And when we made those regular visits to when I was very tiny grandparents and then a bit bigger to Aunts I quickly got bored of the same old stories.

I wish I had made a note of them.  I wish I  had taken more notice!

Little things have become more and more important to me as I have grown older.  On the book case in my office – a piece of slate.  Not just any old piece of slate.  I picked it up from one particular quarry in one particular place in North Wales where I knew my Great Grandfather had been a quarryman.

I knew he had grown up on the Marquis of Anglesey’s estate in Anglesey where he had started out as a gardener, before making the crossing over the Menai Straits to work in the quarries of Dinorwic overlooking Snowdon.  Time and again I had heard the story of the way he had seen the first test train go up Snowdon and topple over at the top forcing them to re-design the railway and introduce safety features that have prevented such an accident happening again.

But I didn’t take much more notice of his family story.

I knew we had relatives who were in Patagonia.   But I wasn’t really interested when they visited and met up with my Aunts and my Mum.  It was only after the Aunts had died that it suddenly dawned on me I was the only one in the next generation to speak Welsh and so keep in touch.  I wrote to no avail.

It was with real excitement when I got an email only a couple of years ago from Owen Tudur Jones – whose great grandfather had been brother to my Great Grandfather.  We have been in touch since.  I have learned about the vision Michael D Jones had in 1865 to set up a community where men and women would have the vote, set up on Christian values where Welsh would be the main language.  And they set up their community in Patagonia.  I was amazed to find there are now 20,000 Welsh people in that community, of whom  a couple of thousand still speak Welsh.  It was really exciting in the National Museum of Wales last Sunday afternoon to meet up with someone from Patagonia and chat in the only common language we had – Welsh.

I have come to the point of treasuring the things that have been passed down to me from all those generations ago.  I used not to like my name – Richard.  I knew I was named after my mother’s father.  But I didn’t know the name had been in every generation of my family since the late eighteenth century.  I treasure it now.

And here we are at what is among many other things a family gathering.  Great to have Gavin and Susan’s family here … and friends as well.  And lots of little ones!

It’s a moment to treasure what has been passed on to this point.

But I also think this is a moment for us to think seriously about what we pass on to our children.

What is it we want our children to treasure about us when they get to the age when they look back with fondness at their parents at the adults who were important to them in their growing up?

That’s a question to ask of parents.  But it is also a question for all of us to ask.  Family and friends – what memories of the significant adults in his life will Archie have when he is older.

It is also a question for us in the church to ask.  What memories will Archie have of us?

What is it we want to pass on to our children?

There will be values?  What are the values that we want to hand on?

Question to share

The Bible contains a set of letters written by Paul and those very close to him.  The last three of those letters are written when Paul was getting on in years to a very much younger companion and colleague who was carrying on the work that was important to Paul.  AS the second of his letters to Timothy begins he writes in quite a personal way.

It seems to me he puts his finger on some things that from a church point of view is very important to us in today’s event and says something about what we want to pass on to little Archie and to all the little ones we are involved with.

2 Timothy 1:1-7

From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus.
God himself chose me to be an apostle,
and he gave me the promised life that Jesus Christ makes possible.

Timothy, you are like a dear child to me.
I pray that God our Father and our Lord Christ Jesus
will be kind and merciful to you and will bless you with peace!

Night and day I mention you in my prayers.

I am always grateful for you,
as I pray to the God my ancestors and I have served with a clear conscience.

I remember how you cried, and I want to see you,
because that will make me truly happy.

I also remember the genuine faith of your mother Eunice.
Your grandmother Lois had the same sort of faith,
and I am sure that you have it as well.

So I ask you to make full use of the gift that God gave you
when I placed my hands on you.
Use it well.

God's Spirit doesn't make cowards out of us.
The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control.

I remember the sincere faith you have, the kind of faith that your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice had.

There’s a lovely glimpse of a close family where not just values had been passed on.

Faith had been passed on.

Faith has to do with seeing that there is more to life than just material things.  Faith senses the wonder of the world and senses how much more there is to discover of this world, and how much there is beyond our undersanding, so much more beyond our understanding that there is some being beyond and behind it that makes us the people we are.  Faith looks to God.  And for Timothy as for Eunice, as for Lois that faith found a focus in someone called Jesus who had opened up a way of seeing God not as some superhuman designer of the universe, but rather a God who is in all things, and comes alongside us not least when things go dreadfully wrong and who loves us with a love that will not desert us, such that we can think of this God as Father in the closest possible way.  A faith that discovers God is Love.

At the heart of our celebration of baptism is the celebration of the gift of God’s love – given before we know anything about it, as real as the water.

Paul longs for Timothy to keep alive the gift God gave him – to re-kindle the gift.

Then comes a comment that goes to the heart of what it is that Paul longs for Timothy – and I guess it’s what I would long for those coming after me.

It starts with faith – faith focused on Christ.

Then we have a power, a strength to draw on for the living of our lives.  A strength that sees us through.  One of our older members – Hilda - I don’t know what I would do without my faith.  Not that there were easy answers.  A struggle.  But she did struggle.  And a lovely sense of peace she had in her passing at 97.

Love – a concern for others, a compassion – a care of others that makes a difference.  Not  built on what I can get out of life, but what I can do to make a difference to otherse.

And the final one is an intriguing one.

Self-control.  That capacity to be in control – and not get carried away.  The danger of the crowd.  The danger of being out of control.  An intriguing one.

So what should we do …
I want to come back to where Paul started – I pray that God our Father and our Lord Christ Jesus will be kind and merciful to you and will  bless you with peace!   How important prayer is … and that’s our prayer for children following after us.

The reality is that children like any of the rest of us sometimes have hard times to go through – it’s no bad thing sharing those hard times as we have been doing in  Transformers.

Paul senses it as he writes here.

Night and day I mention you in my prayers.  I remember how you cried, and I want to see you because that will make me truly happy.

So what can we draw on – that brings us back to those promises …

Earlier in the service the youngsters of Transformers had shared with us Promises they have been looking at in Transformers.  This was the reading they shared with those promises in …

At Transformers we have lots of fun and games

Something really nice to eat

And then we come into church

Leading up to Easter we have been looking at a book full of Promises from the Bible.

It’s called ‘The Message Promise Book’.

Sometimes it’s scary in the dark … and the world can be a dark place.

This is a Promise Jesus made.   Jesus said,

“I am the world’s light.

“No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness.

“I provide plenty of light to live in.” 

John chapter 8 verse 12

The period leading up to Easter is called Lent.

Lent is a time to think of all the troubles Jesus went through.

Peter in the Bible makes this promise

“When life gets really difficult,
don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job.

“Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced.

“This is a spiritual refining process …

… with glory just around the corner.”

1 Peter chapter 4 verses 12 and 13

So what do you do with all your troubles?

This is another of the Promises the Bible makes this time in the Book of Psalms

“Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders.

“He’ll carry your load.

“He’ll help you out.”
Psalm 147 verse 3

So what can we do to make the world a better place to live in?

In the Book of Proverbs chapter 11 verse 24 the Bible promises that our world will get  larger and larger when we are generous …

“The world of the generous gets larger and larger;

“The world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.”


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