WORSHIP THIS WEEK: This Sunday, February 25, Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, to take up the cross, and follow him. That’s a daunting prospect, but we do not do it alone. We’ll reflect together on what it means to live with sacrificial love. Join us in our physical sanctuary at 300 Shunpike Road or in our digital sanctuary here: https://www.youtube.com/live/w70xbyn23Io?si=YZj7fxvVniJ1nrcW
January 7, 2024
Pastor Mary Jane Hastings
Grace and peace to you in the name of our risen Lord and Savior…Jesus the Christ. AMEN
The readings for today are for the Epiphany of our Lord, which was yesterday, January 6. The Epiphany of our Lord is when the Wise Men, also known as the Magi or the Three Kings, were led to the baby Jesus by a star. They came to pay homage and bring gifts to God’s Messiah, the King of the Jewish people.
In fact, we had some Wise Men and even the Star right here at Gloria Dei on December 17. We also had shepherds…angels … Mary and Joseph … and baby Jesus. The children did an excellent job of telling the story of Jesus’ birth.
The Wise Men’s importance to this story is significant. The star is significant because it’s the way God communicated with the Magi. These men came from the East. They understood stars. That’s what they did for a living. They studied and looked for signs in the stars, and they understood what the signs meant. So it’s important to note that God came to them where they were (at work) and in a way in which they would understand (a star).
These men came from the East. They weren’t Jewish. They were foreigners … strangers … outsiders. The fact that they weren’t Jewish is a clear indication that God’s love and presence are not only for the Jewish people, but for all people – even Gentiles, even outsiders, even pagans. But more importantly it’s a statement that God’s salvation, which would be manifested through that baby Jesus,
is for all people, even the lowest dregs of society. And that God will actively make known this revelation.
And just as God met the Wise Men where they were, studying the stars, God meets each one of us where we are. In the midst of our anxiety, our joys, our sorrows, our sinfulness. God meets us in all the ordinary – and extraordinary – moments of our daily lives.
We think of an epiphany as an “AHA moment.” All of a sudden you understand something that eluded you up to that point. So the Epiphany of our Lord is God taking on our human nature so that we might have a better understanding of God so we are better able to relate to God to wrap our minds around the God we cannot see.
Not to say that because Jesus lived on earth some two thousand years ago, and we have some recorded details of his teachings and miracles and healings, that we now have a clear understanding of God. God is still a mystery. Faith is still a mystery.
Jesus embodied the very heart of God. Showing us the love, compassion, caring, empathy, and forgiving nature that is God. The God who is revealed through Jesus Christ gives us the reason, the ability to have faith, and to believe that somehow all of this is true. All of this is real.
I love the first verse from our reading in Isaiah. “Arise … shine … for your light has come … and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)
I’m sure that is what God says to us at our baptism. As the water is poured on our heads, and we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. That verse also might be a good way to begin each day. As you get out of bed, hear God say to you: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”
You are now ready for another day. A fresh start. A new beginning. It’s an intimacy between you and God. You carry the very light and the glory of God wherever you go. God chose you to be that light!
The awesome part of all of this is that God is present in and through each one of you. You make God alive in this world. You bring God into this world. You are God’s epiphany in the world. It’s not simply an event that happened some two thousand years ago when men from the East traveled to Bethlehem to pay homage to a baby revealed as God’s Messiah. No, it’s an everyday occurrence – here and now – which happens over and over again.
Through you God fulfills God’s promises. Through you God participates in the life of this world, in the life of this congregation. Through you God brings hope, healing, compassion, and love to the people whose lives you touch. Through you God appears to people who don’t even know God: to strangers … foreigners … outcasts.
How awesome that God invites us into the work of God’s kingdom. Not only allowing our hands to do God’s work, but empowering and inspiring our hands and our hearts to do the work of God’s kingdom. In this way God makes each day a new epiphany of our Lord – a new revelation, over and over again, day after day.
And each day God is revealed to you through the people God places in your life.
God not only invites us into the work of the kingdom and empowers and inspires us for this work but God commands us to do this work! God enables us for this work. God enables us to be Jesus Christ in the world.
God gives us a fresh start each morning, forgiving us and renewing us for God’s work in the day ahead. In spite of who we are, what we have done, or what we will or will not do. God makes us good enough for this work!
I’m sure there are so many times each day that we are the conduit of God’s love, grace, light, and glory, and we don’t even know it. How awesome that God can work with, in, and through us without us hindering God’s work and purpose.
As you go through this week, slow down. Stop … and hear … and see the ways that Jesus Christ is revealed to you and through you. Open your eyes … your ears … your heart … and your mind … and recognize for yourself the Epiphany of our Lord.
So: “Arise … shine … for your light has come … and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”
Now go out into the world and be the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ, allowing God’s love, grace, light, and glory to shine through you!!
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Join the fun this summer as we experience the ride of a lifetime with God!
Rafters will explore how to serve God and God’s mission for their lives. Rolling River Rampage VBS is for children who will be 4 years old by October 1, 2018 with the oldest completing Grade 5 in June.
Monday through Thursday, July 16-19, 9:30 am – 12:15 pm
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