The 3rd Sunday after The Epiphany

Sometimes you just have to smile when people are surprised – maybe a little perplexed or uncertain – to see me outside where I ‘should be’; when I seem out of place. So when I turned up at a local pub one evening for some ‘Christmas drinks’ after Christmas there was a momentary surprise that I had actually accepted the invitation. I was warmly welcomed and it was a lovely evening. I’m used to people apologising for swearing, wondering whether I actually drink (alcohol), and being surprised that I have children … and 5 of them is another story! Many in society seem to have a Christian stereotype and a ministerial one that suggests that Christianity is about austere seriousness and clergy are the moral police. Put simply, laughter and a good time seem not part of the religious ‘package’ for many people.

Of course definitions of ‘good times’ vary! In essence I think they can be categorised as those enjoyed where we seek to achieve good times for all those around us and those ‘enjoyed’ at the expense of those around us.

Do we associated Jesus with laughing and good times? Perhaps … but I’m guessing that for many people the stereotypes of Jesus won’t include laughing and good times high on the list. The films and pictures don’t help for they usually portray Jesus as ‘intense’, ‘sublime’, ‘otherworldly’ (until you get to cleansing the temple and the crucifixion). I remember as a teenager seeing a film about Jesus in which he and the disciples were playing a version of rugby in the wheat fields – two teams trying to catch a ball – and Peter catches the ball and before he can throw it Jesus tackles him. Peter is stunned on the ground – surprised that Jesus got him – while Jesus gets the ball, laughing his head off, and throws it. I think Jesus smiled a lot. Sure, he was unhappy and grieved and angry when people hurt themselves and others and sad when people pushed God and his grace away but that God is living and created life and chose to rescue us is encapsulated in the reason Jesus said he came into the world – that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10b).

Jesus gives us his life – life with him – and this gift is to be both enjoyed and shared. I’m not suggesting we minimise problems, sins, injustice, our bad behaviours with a plastic smiley face but that we learn and grow in what God’s grace and love is about and the truth that Jesus is with his people always. That means that following Jesus can simply make you smile. With Jesus we have a life to live that has good times bound up in it and he helps us live in this world – he forgives, guides, feeds, and blesses us – and then we can go into every corner of this world – so that those around us may also have good times – and that’s the point – that we share the good times together not as the world says but following Jesus. With Jesus there is life in all its fullness. Truly. It can make you smile. GS

And these bulletin notices made me smile … 

  • Thursday night: Potluck Supper – Prayer and medication will follow.
  • Don’t let worry kill you – let the church help. 
  • The sermon this morning: Jesus Walks on the Water. The sermon tonight: Searching for Jesus. 
  • The pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, “Break Forth into Joy”.