Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Epiphany 2021

How Does God see Me?

“Toy Story 4” is a children’s film and is surprisingly thought provoking.  A little girl Bonny is full of loneliness and anxiety on her first day at Kindergarten.  Using a plastic fork, pipe cleaner and a base, she builds a little friend who she calls “Forky,” (see below) and he becomes a source of comfort to her.

When mixed with the other “real” toys, Forky has an ontological crisis – (What am I, why do I exist?) and keeps throwing himself in the garbage.  When rescued he returns again and again to the bin, claiming that as a one-use plastic fork, he is garbage.  In the picture,  Woody, the cowboy toy, is trying to convince him he’s not garbage.  Woody argues that Forky helped Bonny to be happy, and so he is a toy.  Bonny loves him and he’s not for throwing away – His identity comes from her love!

Old Testament Reading – Isaiah 62. 2-4

“Nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.  You will be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, a royal diadem in the palm of your God. No longer will you be called Forsaken, nor your land named Desolate; but you will be called Hephzibah (My delight is in her), and your land Beulah (Married); for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be His bride.”

God’s Promise to Make Me all I Need to Be

In this beautiful passage from Isaiah, the LORD’s promises form an endless stream of flowing love. He will give us a new identity, He will make our lives beautiful, like precious gems.  It’s all here!  The LORD will remove those feelings of isolation and worthlessness, and cause us to know His intense love for us, and the safety of an everlasting relationship with Him.  There is no longer a crisis of who am I, and what should I be doing with my life. As one old hymn cried out:  “Thy love alone can heal the broken heart.  Thy love alone can set the captive free….”

How Being Loved Releases our Identity

When I was at a church in Warrington, a regular visitor was an Austrian minister called August Pokorny.  When Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938, the teenage Pokorny told of his strange dramatic experience of joining the Hitler Youth. 

One night, he and others were led by torchlight, into the Vienna woods, and at midnight, before a huge picture of Adolf Hitler, lit by fire, they swore an oath of allegiance to the Führer and the Fatherland, and then each received a ceremonial dagger emblazoned with a swastika. 

Pokorny was then given a secret mission to infiltrate a group of suspicious Americans working in the city.  His job was to find out what they were up to and to report back to the leadership.  For the first time in his life he felt he really was somebody -and somebody with a mission.

The Americans were giving free English lessons, using the Bible as an English text.  When he attended he was very taken with their affection and sincerity.  In fact, they were Christian missionaries and, over several weeks, they simply loved him from the power of darkness into the Kingdom of God  and a young August Pokorny gave himself to Jesus.  He escaped to Wales, where he  himself trained as an evangelist, and then returned to Austria…with a new mission.

Perceiving and Receiving the Best  from Others

In the Book of Judges (Book no.7 of the Old Testament) there is man called Gideon, visited by an angel, who gives him a mission from the LORD.  The passage shows Gideon’s own view of himself; his lack of self-belief and self-esteem. At that very moment, he was so afraid of enemies, he had managed to conceal himself in a wine press to thresh the grain!  This is how he portrays himself:

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

(Judges 6.15)

The LORD’s reply is simple: eh-yeh imakh – “I will be with you.”   God literally speaks into Gideon a new identity, and a new trust: the certainty that the Lord is always with him to enable him to be all he needs to be.

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;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen.