epiphany preaching

This Sunday we will celebrate Epiphany. Yes, Epiphany is January 6. But, since we will not gather tomorrow we will mark Epiphany on January8. It means moving our celebration of the Baptism of Jesus - traditionally held on the Sunday after Epiphany - on to January 15. We will catch up with the lectionary of readings on January 22 (leaping over the readings for January 15 in this leap year). It all seems particularly appropriate since our congregation worships in the Chapel of the Epiphany. We, of all people, should be clear on just what "The Epiphany" is and why it is worthy of a celebration.

The lessons for Epiphany are always the same - Isaiah 60:1-6 & Psalm 72 (both of which are responsible for lending the impression that the magi mentioned in Matthew 2 must have been the long prophesied kings from Persia who would arrive with camels), Matthew 2:-12 and Ephesians 3:1-12. It is the latter text from Ephesians that always draws me in, wondering how to find words to proclaim its message.

In particular, I wonder how to recover a sense of the strangeness and power that the early church experienced when it heard the news that the Gentiles are now co-heirs in the family of God. This sounds like such religious language to us. Gentiles? Yes, that's us. Non-Jews. What's the big deal? I am going to wrestle with this original wild new epiphany revealed to Paul - that the unclean, the outcast, the unwelcome, the ungodly are now equal members in the holy people. This can't just be about being inclusive. After all, those who seek to be the most inclusive often use quite exclusive rhetoric to speak of those with whom they disagree - those who are their version of the unclean. And I don't think that it is only about others who seem to us to be beyond the pale. I imagine that it is also about that within us which must surely be outside the borders of the kingdom of God.

I came across this quote from Samuel Rutherford (in Eugene Peterson's book "Practice Resurrection", p.69) which speaks to me about the kind of people formed by the Epiphany of God in Jesus ...

"My Lord Jesus can hew heaven out of worse timber than I am."

1 comment:

  1. I think it is helpful to back up the Ephesians reading to start at 2:11, which sets the 'scene' for 3:1-12. I find 2:12 particularly striking and worth some time to sit with: " - remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." Also, in typical Protestant fashion, I prefer the translation suggestion in the footnotes for the last phrase in 3:12: "...and confidence through the faith of him.

    The church would do well I think to return to more celebration for these next two Sundays!