The Revd. William Taylor,
St John the Evangelist, Notting Hill, London
It is a great honour for me, and for the group representing the Parish of St John Notting Hill, to be with you today to celebrate the Fest of the Epiphany. This is a very special day in many senses. First of all, the Mathieson Music School as a spiritual successor of the Oxford Mission, keeps the feast of the Epiphany as its Patronal Festival. A Patronal Festival is important as it reminds us of the spiritual values by which we live. Secondly, because this day is the death anniversary of Father Matheiosn fifteen years ago. It was at his funeral that the first moneys were raised to begin this school all those years ago. And thirdly, because today we inaugurate a new phase in this school’s development. So an auspicious day in an auspicious season. Thank you to Anup Biswas and all the staff and children of the school for your warm and generous hospitality to your visitors from the West. West and East are of course relative, not absolute, terms. One of the living connections with history, which my own Church and Parish has, is through the daughter of Sir Winston Churchill, who is a member of that church. She reminded me of a conversation between Mahatma Gee and her father, Winston Churchill. Churchill once asked Mahatma Gee “ What is the view on this question in the east?” To which Mahatma Gee responded “East of where?”
That’s the first of three aspects pf this season of the Epiphany, which I briefly want to speak about. Visitors from the East came to worship the child Jesus at Bethlehem. The New Testament calls them magoi. We know that one of the terms for priest of Zoroaster in the Greek language was magoi. So the wisdom of the east (in this case Persia) came to worship Jesus. This is important for all of us, because it emphasises the importance of adoration, or worship. Whatever our age, whatever our background, whatever our faith, as human beings this is our first and most basic human response- worship and adoration. This is shared by all the great religions, and we see it in the daily lives of the people of India. It is s treasure and richness, and as material riches increase, it is often the first thing, which is lost. Do not lose it. As children of God we come before God in worship, adoration, and thanksgiving- magoi from the East.
The second theme of this Epiphany season is the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Baptism is the sacrament, which makes all Christians one as they share in the death and resurrection of Christ. It gives Christians their identity, and it gives them commission to ministry in the Church. So as baptism gives all Christians their identity, so for people of other faiths it is a reminder of the importance of commitment in the faith. Whatever our faith, we need commitment to it to live out our values in a tough and difficult world. Those who have chosen education for their children know that this comes at a cost which will not be seen through without commitment – commitment of the parents, commitment of the children and students to hard work, and commitment by staff and teachers. Without commitment, none of us will achieve anything in life. So Baptism as Reminder of the importance of Commitment.
The third theme of the Epiphany season is the miracle at Cana of Galilee. This was the wedding party at which Jesus was present where he turned water into wine. As a priest, I particularly enjoy wedding parties, and I often remind people that we have no record of Jesus at a wedding ceremony in a religious building, but we do have a record of his attendance at a party. So the wedding party at Cana in Galilee is a reminder for all of us of the importance of celebrations in life. Today is such a day of celebration. And I do not need to remind anyone of the fact that celebrations are always shared – never alone. We all need occasions to celebrate, and our religious faith often gives us such an occasion. Anyone and everyone can and should celebrate- even that most basic of celebrations – the miracle of staying alive another day. The wedding at Cana as a celebration.
So think of these three things- adoration, commitment and celebration. These three things come to us in this Feast and season of the Epiphany. They will help us all- children of the school, parents and friends, staff, supporters and sponsors. Adoration, commitment, and celebration will help all of us through life in our shared pilgrimage together. Please continue to pray for us as we pray for you. May God bless us all.