Sunday, January 5, 2020
Epiphany of Our Lord, Year A
Prayer of the Day
Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star. Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands, and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Isaiah 60:1-6 Nations come to the light
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12 The gospel’s promise extends to all
Matthew 2:1-12 Revelation of Christ to the nations of the earth
Title: We Journey on in Faith
As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany today, I have to admit something. I’m envious of the magi. Whether it was three wise men or an entourage of thirty learned ones, I wish I was one of these travelers from the east who followed a star so that they might worship this mysterious newborn king, a baby in a barn. My envy is not because they were rich (we assume they were because of the costly gifts they bring), not because they had fabulous apparel (well, they did if the Christmas pageant at Radio City Music Hall is in anyway accurate), and, though I love to travel, my envy is not for their well-known and celebrated excursion.
No, my envy is for the fact that their journey to find Jesus was a physical one. They employed their senses. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. They reached their goal. And whether they were satisfied with this peasant baby being the one they were seeking, nevertheless, they did find, see, worship, and offer gifts to the one they sought.
And, as it says on our website, “the wise still seek him,” and since we’re here, at least we can be counted among the wise. But ours is a very different journey of seeking. Our journey to find Jesus is one of faith. A journey of spirit that yes, does engage the body and the senses, but ultimately will be satisfied in the spirit. The mystery is deeper. Confusion more likely. And, (perhaps most challenging), our journey of seeking Jesus is a lifelong one. It is not so much a destination as it is a process. The journey itself is the goal. There will always be doubts. There will always be unknowns. There will always be questions. Big ones and small ones. Questions for the very one we are seeking like: Why? Where to now? What now? Why? Are you here? And, did I say, Why?
And while there may have been one or two routes to take to get to Bethlehem, for us there is as much variety in the journey as there are seekers who wisely take on the journey. So this morning, in spite of any envious feelings we might have for these regal, wise and adventurous seekers, in the still infancy of this new year with resolutions still possible, and in the light of this guiding star that leads us to our heaven-sent, eternal king, the question for us who are still on our journey is: how will you seek this new born king? Where will we go to find him?
Of course, one advantage that we have over those original wise ones is that we have the words, wisdom, and teachings of the man that the baby will become. While they journeyed and embraced the potential of God’s Word made flesh in that babe, we journey into the manifestation of the incarnation, we are guided by the expressions of God with us as witnessed in his life, death, and resurrection.
In this year of reading Matthew’s gospel, we will again see and hear the guideposts that offer aid for our seeking. In the Beatitudes, we are reminded that we find Jesus even in the midst of our poverty of spirit, in the meekness of humility, and in the compassion of mercy. In the healing work of peace-making and even in the pain of persecution.
Matthew is the one who assures us that Christ is found even in the gathering of just two or three, when they gather in his name. And in that blessed community, in that fellowship, Christ is found in the forgiveness and love that we show one another.
We are wise to admit that we carry heavy burdens that we cannot bear ourselves. For Christ is found when we surrender those burdens, lay them on the one who is willing and able to take them upon himself. He invites us with the words: Come unto me all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
And of course, Matthew is the gospel in which Jesus reminds us that he is found in those around us who are in need, the hungry and naked, the poor and imprisoned.
Perhaps my envy of the wise men and their journey is quite silly and misplaced when we consider the rich presence of Christ in our midst. For where they searched for and encountered a newborn babe full of promise, we are blessed with the abiding presence of a resurrected savior, a victorious lord, a life-giving friend. We journey with the promise fulfilled.
And whereas the wise men had the star to guide them, we too have been gifted with that which brings us into his presence. The sacraments and our continuing journey into their meaning and blessedness. Those waters of the font that are not just a onetime event washing us into the family of God, but they daily wash us anew, offer us a new start, a new life, Christ’s life that knows no end. And the meal at our Lord’s table offers us the sweet taste of his presence, the gathering of God’s family – here and across time, the power of the Holy Spirit for the living of our lives and the bringing of God’s kingdom.
We are blessed with the gift of prayer – in which we encounter not only a listening God, but a God who communicates with mercy and peace. Gifts to be gained even when, and perhaps especially when, we just stop and sit quietly, resting in the presence of the one we need not journey to find because God in Christ is present wherever and whenever. Regardless of how we feel in any given step.
All these promises and so much more are found in that great guiding star that is holy scripture. The word of God that keeps bringing us to the manger, to the cross, to the empty tomb, to the fellowship of believers, to the Christ who is present.
Yes, Matthew begins his gospel with God’s manifestation of the promise of Immanuel – God with us – in the birth of Jesus the Christ. And he ends his gospel with the risen and victorious Jesus affirming and confirming that promise with the words: And lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.
As we look to this year ahead, in the midst of challenges that we can see and those still to make themselves known, our seeking eyes truly need to be focused with 20/20 vision when it comes to searching for and seeing Christ’s presence in the midst of it all. For it is in the journey itself that is our hope. And perhaps it is in that death-defeating hope that is our assurance that causes those first wise men to be envious of our journey.
And when we do stay focused, when through God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit, our eyes of faith behold the beauty of our journey, then we can rest in the assurance of the robust presence of Christ, find peace and joy in that presence, and thus be strengthened, we can be that light that leads other seeking people to the light that has come. The light that calls us not just to search for his light, but to reflect his light for the sake of the world. Jesus the light, says to us: You are the light of the world.
So, arise, shine, our light has come. It has found us in our darkness. Let us find it in its glory, that all the world might know the life and love, peace and hope that is ours in Christ Jesus, this day and forever.
The Rev. Mark Erson,