New Year letter from the Dean

Dear Friends

The first weekend of the New Year happily coincides with Epiphany which marks the end of the Christmas season and celebrates the visit of the Magi/Wisemen to the infant Jesus. Epiphany is a festival which reminds us that the grace of God reaches beyond the narrow confines of a particular people to the whole world. The Magi were probably the scientists of their day – astrology was highly regarded as a science – particularly by the Zoroastrians of Persia. God does whatever necessary to reach out to embrace all people and in Jesus demonstrates that no-one is beyond God’s embrace. It embraces even you and me.

Epiphany also calls us, through the gifts the Magi offer – gold, frankincense and myrrh – to reflect on the gifts we bring to Christ in response to this gracious all-embracing love of God.

Gold – the gift of their wealth and possessions. Even in our own time, gold represents that which is most precious and valuable as the Gold Souk in Bahrain demonstrates.
At the beginning of a new year, let us determine to give what is precious to God through our giving. The Bible gives us clear guidelines:
*our giving should be thoughtful, not what we happen to have in our wallet or purse when it comes to the offertory;
*our giving should be proportionate to God’s blessing of us – The OT encourages tithing (10%). Jesus in the NT speaks more of our motivation and heart response, but it’s hard to believe that would be less than the OT.  That’s a challenge, but one I learnt so much as a volunteer teacher in Kenya in the 1970’s and tried to apply since. It helps when you see it as the first responsibility, not the last!
*and our giving needs to be regular, which is why we use the offertory envelopes; they are a reminder that in the times when we are away, the ministry and mission  of the Cathedral and Awali goes on and needs our continuing support.

Frankincense – represents their worship: “they bowed down and worshipped him” we are told. Our worship is a reflection of what we put first in our lives. Jesus said: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…” Do that and everything else begins to fall into place.  Being at the Lord’s Table in the Lord’s House on the Lord’s Day (Friday/ Saturday/ Sunday?) is a rhythm that helps to build the right priorities into our lives. The early Christians changed the Sabbath from Saturday the last day of the week, to Sunday, the first – a signal that we give the first and our best to God- not a bad definition of what worship is!

Myrrh was perhaps the strangest gift to Jesus. It was used for burial and one of the spices mentioned in Jesus burial. As such it surely reflects Jesus wholehearted commitment to the will of his Father and for us the wholehearted commitment to the amazing grace of God that enfolds us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was executed in 1945 for his part in the Confessing Church, which opposed Hitler, wrote a book The Cost of Discipleship. He begins: Cheap Grace is the deadly enemy of the Church. We are fighting for costly grace….Costly grace is the treasure hidden in a field: for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has….It is costly because it calls a man to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. Myrrh is the reminder that our gifts to God are sacrificial – whether in time, in the use of our gifts and talents, or through our gifts of money – but as someone has said the offering of sacrifice is only giving back to God what belongs to him in the first place.

All this speaks of a response to God that is wholehearted, generous, joyful and committed. Let’s all look forward to 2013 our Diamond Jubilee year and give our best to God as He has unconditionally given His best to us.