Sunday, January 6, 2013

Epiphany

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

Today’s Reflection:

More than two thousand years after Christ’s birth, we still revel in his revelation to us. The night of his birth, the locals experienced the arrival as he was revealed to the shepherds. Today at Epiphany we celebrate the revealing to the remainder of the world: Gentiles, symbolized in the magi, traveled to worship him. Even though we “know” him, we can always learn more by spending time in the scriptures. Our childhood Sunday School lessons do not always prepare us for the tough lessons of the adult Christ.

 

The familiar story in Matthew of the wise-men or magi coming to the Christ-child after following the star is requisite for this season. Of course the typical, “There Was No Such Star” headlines came in the science sections of various papers this week. I agree, there was no “star” in the way we would define an astronomical body. Had there been, Herod’s astronomers would have been all over it and he would not have sent the wise men to go find the baby and then report back to him. He would have beaten them there, swords drawn. Just as God provided a pillar and a fire for the Israelites, God is quite capable of creating a shining anomaly that moves as a guide for wise men from another region. The kind of star or astronomical alert provided to the wise men is irrelevant; what matters is that God revealed his son to all the peoples of the world, not just the Jews.

 

The other passages today also reveal Christ and his actions through the Church. Isaiah particularly addresses the Church and the way the Church should be seen in the world – with all people coming to the Church as a beacon of light and right in the world filled with darkness. Sadly, there is too much strictly enforced dogma, “believe as I believe or you are going to Hell,” in many churches around the world today. Instead of light, that darkness of hate and fear drives the world away from the Church. Too many have become self-focused churches rather than Christ-focused churches. Without Christ in the church, there is no light. Those churches that attempt to enforce a legalistic code on the world around them completely miss the point that Christ died on the cross to replace the legalistic code that had not worked with God and the Jews since the giving of the law through Moses.

 

In the Psalms passage, the author keeps returning to the care of God for the poor, the needy, and the weak. Who among us is poor, needy, or weak? We all are for we have sinned. We all need his righteous judgment, defense, and deliverance. One key point about the God of these passages (and the Bible in general) is that he keeps watch for the oppressed peoples. He never looks after the wealthy and powerful unless it is to bring them down as happens repeatedly in the prophets. When the rich and powerful fail to care for the poor and powerless, God steps in and does it for them at their expense. We all need God to look after us in our failures, but we also want to be certain we are doing the things to look after those more needy than we are or God’s visit to us will not be what we expected.

 

The Ephesians passage reinforces the Christ who came for the entire world. This savior was for all the world and through him all who believe in him have access to God and the salvation he offers. The zeal in this passage contrasts with much of Paul’s writing which tends toward the legal and pedantic, but here he excitedly proclaims the expansion of God’s kingdom to the entire world.

 

This Epiphany, as we celebrate the revelation of Christ, let us take time to examine what he truly revealed to us through his life and his teaching. Are we truly being the people he expects us to be? Being Christian, being Church, to the entire world sometimes forces us to move out of the traditions with which we are comfortable and truly examine his calling for us. We have to move away from the dogmas that limit our vision of Christ and draw toward the lessons taught through the Holy Spirit. As we make our way through the Epiphany season, may we open our spirit to the Christ who reveals himself to us more than the Christ we are told exists.

Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org