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Home Who's who Bishops The Bishop of Sherborne Sermons, articles, and media BBC Radio Sermon for Epiphany, Sunday 10 January 2021

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BBC Radio Sermon for Epiphany, Sunday 10 January 2021

by Michael Ford last modified 14 Jan, 2021 05:20 PM

Bishop Karen spoke during the national Local BBC Radio Sunday Morning Service for Epiphany on Sunday 10th January 2021.

The script is below.

(Bright, smiley and really warm)

Hello – I’m Karen Gorham the Bishop of Sherborne, and it’s lovely to be with you this morning.

I live in the beautiful Dorset countryside, and it’s my job to encourage the Anglican churches from the seaside at Lyme Regis to the towns of Poole and North Bournemouth. It’s an amazing place. The stone from its quarries was used to build many a famous landmark and Dorset its rolling hills and countryside is the setting for the stories of Thomas Hardy.

It’s a county of contrasts. We have the hills, cliffs and coasts. An old-fashioned steam railway at Swanage. We have market towns with ancient buildings and churches. We also have industrial estates and even our own oil wells. There are areas of need and areas of plenty.

We might not have any motorways but it’s still a county for journeys: on foot, in cars and coaches, vans and lorries. You can catch a train to the harbour at Poole and board a ferry for the Channel Islands and France. It’s a county for visitors and, yes, pilgrims too…

I now call it home and I love it.

(Pause for change of tone)

Most of us arrive where we are now, not because we planned it that way, but because it’s just how things turned out; because of family, a job or a place we went to on holiday and thought – let’s move there!

We are seekers and searchers. We might not know what exactly we’re looking for, or recognise it when we find it! All of us can travel with expectancy in our hearts. So, let’s hear the story of one of the most remarkable journeys of all time, the journey of the wise men:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet:

‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will govern my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

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In my wanderings around the County of Dorset, I often meet people making a journey, to a favourite holiday destination, a walking spot, or a church or chapel; a place has become very much part of their own life.

During the last year many people have left the towns for the countryside, for exercise and enjoyment. Others looking for rest from a busy life; some want comfort for the sadness they carry, others seeking wisdom in the peace and quiet.

None of us journey alone. We accompany others on their journeys, and they accompany us on ours.

Churches are safe havens for those who feel alone, where people draw comfort from God. People come to remember, to give thanks, to share a burden they carry. For me such places are reminders for all seekers and searchers that God is ready to receive us when we come.

So, what are you seeking? Is a good question today not just because it’s the beginning of a new year but because once again we are in a national lockdown when many people will feel lonely, vulnerable and frightened about what he future might hold.

For the wise men, there was great expectancy. They had long held to the promise that one day a Messiah would come. We believe they were astronomers and studied the stars, so seeing something different in the sky in the direction of Bethlehem, convinced them that this was a sign from God that the time for the Messiah’s birth had come. I’m sure they were eager to discover more and to worship the new King.

Wanting to do the right thing they headed first to Herod, who had his own thoughts and feelings of the news about a King. But, the star continued to lead them, until they discovered what they were looking for the baby at Bethlehem, Jesus Christ.

They must have been full of joy as they bowed down, worshipped, and presented their gifts.

We may have hoped the tough times we experience last year would be behind us, and yes there is hope as the vaccines are rolled out. But it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed just at the moment and fearful at what the future might hold.

There’s a lot we can learn from the wise men.

Their journey must have been a pretty risky business. Life in fullness certainly carries risk, but it also brings opportunity. Why? Because we don’t journey alone. The Bible doesn’t actually tell us how many wise men there were, but we know they travelled together with companionship and trust. God invites us to place our hand in his for the next stage of the journey whatever that might bring.
However complicated or straightforward life may seem the great thing is that we can, like the wise men, offer to God whatever we come with, and God will receive it.

Then trusting and seeking, believing in God’s promises, and journeying with him in faith we too can be expectant that we will discover Christ in new places and in new and surprising ways.

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This is one of my favourite prayers that I find really helpful at the time of year.

Thank you, gracious God for giving yourself to the world, not in the powerful and extraordinary, but in weakness and the familiar; in a baby
Thank you for offering, at journey’s end, a new beginning;
For setting, in the poverty of a stable the richest jewel of your love;
For revealing in a particular place, your light for all nations.
Thank you for bringing us to Bethlehem, where the empty are filled, where the poor find riches, where all who kneel and hold out their hands find you.

Beckoning God, lead us on into a New Year with hope in our hearts.

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As you continue your journey may the Living Lord go with you. May the Lord go behind you to encourage you, beside you to befriend you, above you to watch over you, May the Lord go beneath you to lift you up, within you to give gifts of faith, hope and love and always before you to show you the way.
May the Lord bless you. Amen

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