Reflection – David Pattinson
The Second Sunday of Epiphany – Well-Being Sunday. John 1.43-end
Today has been designated Well-being Sunday- a day for looking at how we might enhance our well-being, something very much in focus as we struggle to live with the pandemic. It’s an appropriate time of the year. The nights are still long and dark. Our mood dips after Christmas and New Year celebrations, muted though they have been this year. Sadly, this is the peak time for suicides. And it is appropriate for the church to particularly reach out at this time, because God wants for us “fullness of life”. God knows us; God Loves us; God cherishes us. As Bishop Donald said in a meditation on today’s Psalm 139 “Our God reaches everywhere.”
Helpfully, the diocese has provided resources for this Sunday and I was particularly attracted to “10 keys to Happier Living” by Peter Harper, a Clinical Psychologist. Let me just list what they are:-
GIVING – Do things for others. DIRECTION – have goals to look forward to
RELATING- Connect with people RESILIENCE-find a way to bounce back
EXERCISING-take care of your body EMOTIONS-look for what’s good.
AWARENESS-live life mindfully. ACCEPTANCE-be comfortable with who you are
TRYING OUT- keep learning new things MEANING – be part of something bigger.
You will see that the first letters of the 10 key words form “GREAT DREAM”. If you want to find out more about these keys to happier living, then just put the title in your computer’s search engine. There is a good video on Youtube as well.
I particularly want to reflect on how some of these “keys” emerge in our gospel reading today, and what they have to say to us about God and faith.
Let me start with AWARENESS. This is the season of Epiphany – Revelation. Awareness leads to Revelation. I like the writer who said “I experience Epiphany in my backyard” (Or back garden if you are fortunate enough.) Our gospel reading is a story of Revelation. When Philip invites Nathanael to meet Jesus he uses the words “Come and See”. And that is not just about being able to look at Jesus, but also about being able to understand who he is. Revelation is not just about seeing but about comprehension as well. This is a season that invites us to pay attention to what is around us – even in our back yard – because if we are aware, if we take the effort to stop and stare, to go and see, then we may see God revealed. I’m currently reading “The Preaching Life” by Barbara Brown Taylor, a priest in the American Episcopal church and a renowned preacher and writer. She says this – “Every created thing is a potential messenger, sent to teach us more about our relationship with God”
And that will take us to a place of TRYING OUT, of learning new things. But here is the territory of transformation. What’s really exciting in this passage are the hints we get of where that “trying out” can take us . For Nathanael the transformation is immediate and life changing. One minute he is dismissive of Jesus – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”. The next “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, the King of Israel.” What a revelation! And based on quite a small thing really – Jesus being able to see Nathanael under the fig tree.
Philip’s transformation is no less intriguing. In this gospel, Philip is the only apostle who Jesus calls directly. Yet the other references in this gospel might suggest that Philip is slow to comprehend, even dim witted, certainly not marked out as particularly gifted. But this is who Jesus calls directly. This is who the church celebrates as apostle and leading saint. I was watching George Clarke’s Amazing Homes last week, and one home he followed was a shepherd hut built by a young farmer’s son of 23. He used rusted and reclaimed wheels and corrugated iron. Where he couldn’t reclaim, he handmade everything, using old fashioned methods; even making his own nuts and bolts. And what he created and re-created was a beautiful thing. God works with us in a similar way if we allow. He transforms us “warts and all”. I love the phrase we have in our collect for today “Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory;”.
And then EMOTIONS – look for what’s good. That’s about looking on the bright side of life – and of people. When Jesus sees Nathanael coming towards him he sees the positive “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Seeing the best in others. That’s the nature of God, and who we are encouraged to be.
And we haven’t explored RELATING; GIVING: DIRECTION or MEANING all of which are revealed in this gospel reading.
The good news about the 10 keys to happier living is this. Listening to an item on East Midlands news on Monday on this subject of mental health, the interviewee said “being your best self for just 4 minutes a day has the capacity to make you happy”. Quite how research arrived at 4 minutes I don’t know, but it brings a good outcome within reach.
Let me finish with another quote from Barbara Brown Taylor. “We are fickle and flawed, but we are more than that, because we believe in a God who believes in us. God looks at us and sees the best: sees beloved children, sees likely allies, sees able partners in the ongoing work of creation. In faith, we set out to see the same thing in ourselves and to live into them trusting God’s vision of us more than we trust our own.” Here lies true well-being – surrendering ourselves into the hands of the God who made and fashioned us; knows us and wants the best for us.