Epiphany of Our Lord—Year C—January 6, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the mediations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.
What brought you to church this morning?
Was it a yearning deep inside for a connection with God?
Or one directly through the gathered community?
Was it a hope to hear good music and an uplifting sermon?
Was it a feeling of obligation or routine?
Did you simply follow a star?
What brought you the side of the manger to worship and offer gifts?
For the wise men…they did follow a star, a bright shining star in the sky.
But if you stop and think about it, things are a little more complicated than that. If a bright star appeared out of nowhere, would you notice? Would you follow it?
I do not really even know the constellations well enough to notice if a new star appeared or if one was out of place. If I did happen to notice a brighter than normal star in the sky, I would probably guess it was a planet or a comet and go about my life.
But the wise men did not just go about their normal routine, because the night sky was a major part of their lives. Scholars cannot say for sure exactly how magic, and dream interpretation, and astrology played a part in these men’s lives, but it is clear that they did, so they did not simply ignore the phenomenon, they set out on a long journey to follow it.
God revealed the mystery of the messiah’s birth to them through means that made them sit up and take notice. God unleashed an epiphany on the world through some guys from the East. We can assume they were not even Jewish, and definitely not Christian, and we do not read that they converted either, yet the location of the King of the Jews was revealed to them. They followed God’s leading in ways that made sense to them: watching the night sky, interpreting dreams, and listening to scripture, even when it was not their own sacred scriptures. God met these men right where they were, in their own context, utilizing their gifts and interests, to spread the good news and illustrate the enormously wide reach of that good news.
All nations, all peoples, we are directed by that same light. At times, we do not even realize what is happening, but the light is shining on each and everyone of us, shining on all the nations of the world.
God shines that light on us in many different ways. God relates to us in many different ways. “God seems to do whatever it takes to reach out to and embrace all people. God announces the birth of the Messiah to shepherds through angels on Christmas, to Magi via a star on Epiphany, and to the political and religious authorities of God’s own people through visitors from the East. ”
So if God’s revelation happens in so many different ways, so that we can get it, why isn’t everyone in church this morning, and every Sunday morning? And for Bible Study during the week? At fellowship event and service events? Why do they resist the good news, resist the relationship, resist God?
Part of it is that we are given free will, so people can and do say “no.” But others, we might think they are saying no, but that is because we are judging their response to God’s light, their relationship with God, by how we relate to God. We use our experience and preferences as norms. But not everyone relates to God in the same way. For some people, good music is required, and for some people they define that as classical, while others as traditional German Chorales, and others as contemporary praise music played by a band. For others they hear God’s leading best in the midst of silence.
Just because someone’s way of basking in God’s light and then sharing it with the world is different than yours, or doesn’t conform to your expectations, doesn’t mean that it is wrong.
For me, the organized church is an important part of my relationship with God, and I would venture to say that the same is probably true for you too, since you are sitting here. But I know that I am not moved deeply by worship every week. Some weeks I encounter God in a profound angel standing in front of you way, or have the devotion of the shepherds and wise men kneeling by the manager, but other times I am distracted by worldly things, and it seems as if I am just going through the motions.
I cannot just walk into any worship service and have an epiphany moment, have it be clear to me where God is leading. But that is no reason not to attend, because you never know when it will happen. You can say that you do not like how a certain pastor preaches or a certain organist’s tempos, but God can still speak through their ministry, directly to you, and overwhelm you with light and love. Maybe not every time, but you cannot rule out the possibility that God will work in you in a different way from week to week, or that some seed from the service will be planted deep inside your mind only to grow into the epiphany God moment years later.
And another reason to attend anyway, as often as possible, is because you never know when someone else might experience the light of God through you, even when you are totally unaware that it is happening. That is part of how community works, how the body of Christ works. We are not just gathered here as a bunch of individuals who happen to be sitting in the same room; we are connected, bound together through God. Maybe you were led to this community to worship this morning not for your own gain, but so that God could share the light with someone else through you. At any moment, we can be the medium through which God shares the good news and leads someone to know God’s love in a deeper more profound way. You never know when you are going to be the star, guiding someone to the light and love of Christ for the first time or the millionth. And this can happen through any of your daily activities, through your mundane talents, or your extraordinary passions.
Not only are we, and all the nations, blessed by God, but we are also blessed to be a blessing to others. We are called to share the contents of our treasure chests to the glory of God, whether they be gold, frankincense, myrrh, or a simple song played on a drum. No matter whether we are wise men & women, kings, little drummer kids, nurses, secretaries, parents, salesmen, bankers, or students, God’s light shines on us and through us to the whole world. As Paul says, it is “through the church [, through people, that] the wisdom of God in its rich variety [is] now […] made known.”
So I encourage you to use the story of the wise men as reminder that God can communicate the good news of Jesus Christ in many and various ways, but also, even when you are totally unaware, can use you and your life in just as many ways to share that love and light with others, with the world, all the nations. As a pastor friend of mine put it, “whatever brought you here, God can us it to open you to see Jesus,” so do not “put a limit on where God’s light might shine—or where [or who] it might shine through.” Because chances are…its you! Amen.