First Sunday After Epiphany
Gospel: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Afterthoughts: Slowing or Growing?
Last Sunday I talked through the way the manifestation of Jesus caused a great revelation to all of humanity.
For Herod, it was the reality that a powerful and brutal leader wasn’t as powerful as he thought he was.
In fact, the visit of the Magi drew a reaction from him that Matthew records in his Gospel,
“When King Herod heard this, he was frightened.”
It can be a scary thing to see ourselves as we are after misleading ourselves for so long about who we believe ourselves to be.
COVID has reminded us that we are not in control.
The recent snowstorm and power outages have showed the same.
As much as we worry,
or even trust that things will be okay,
the reality is that the God of the universe is in control
and we are not.
For some, this could be a cause for feeling down.
We like control.
We like the predictable
We like turkey on Thanksgiving,
Carols at Christmas,
Hearts on Valentines
Bunnies on Easter
And fireworks on the Fourth of July.
But life is anything but predictable.
Some clergy friends of mine were speaking about this today.
A few years back,
we would have never thought we would be where we are at today.
Sans COVID, this is still true for me.
Life is messy.
It wanders a bit.
It takes you on a scenic route when you wanted the quick and easy.
But it is also lovely.
The epiphany of Jesus tells us that.
It reveals God’s love for the world.
A visit by some Zoroastrians from the East (the Magi).
An apostle called to preach to the Gentiles
(Paul in the reading from Ephesians).
God’s mission is to love the world
and this is seen in the birth of the Messiah.
But, we have to choose to see it this way.
And there are many who don’t.
There are people that don’t allow the manifested love of God
to help them navigate through life’s unpredictable moments;
The detours of life.
And so, we should ask ourselves,
“Are we slowing or growing?”
Are we allowing the unpredictable things in life to slow us down
or are we seeing these things as a path to growth?
Paul had many things happened to him that were not planned
and writes about it:
[I have been] imprisoned, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.”2 Corinthians 11:23-27
But after all of this, Paul still says,
For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.Philippians 1:21-22
If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me;
and I do not know which I prefer.”
Paul saw these “unscripted” moments
as opportunities to strengthen his faith and to grow in righteousness.
Faithfulness in the midst of life is our call. It is our inheritance. As Paul writes in the letter to the Ephesians,
“[We] have become fellow heirs.”
Heirs of the call to be salt and light
in the midst of a “crooked generation.”
A beacon to all that the God of the universe loves them.
And that we love them.
And that salvation in life is available to all.
Brothers and sisters,
Let us continue to choose to grow
Into that which God has planned for us.