January 7, 2018, Matthew 2:1-12
Karen J. Bowles, Epiphany and Communion Sunday
The Epiphany with a capital ‘E’ in church time as Karin told us – is the date on which we celebrate the visit of the magi to the stable to witness the babe as ‘God with us’. An epiphany lower case ‘e’ is an insight, a revelation an ‘aha’ moment.
Maya Angelou defined such a moment as follows: “[An epiphany] is the occurrence when the mind the body the heart and the soul focus together and see an old thing in a new way.”…an intuitive grasp of reality through something usually simple and striking. This story of the wise men – the magi – the astronomers or philosophers – they have had many names, this morning, let us hear this story with new ears,. The message this morning is an invitation to see an old story in a new way – an invitation to experience an epiphany about the Epiphany We will hear some from me and then from a poem entitled ‘Epiphany’ by Godfrey Rust that is printed in your bulletin – delivered by Jennifer, Bob and Peggy – and then from me again. Listen, the story is being told once more.
‘The story has been written out over and over again
with the patient rhythms of a pen
painted like a jewel on vellum
carved in dark oak, chiseled in pale stone
glimpsed in a bright window gazing back from an icon
read solemnly from the big book
acted out with laughter in the Christmas pageant
or danced to the lilt of the carol
The light burns bright today
frost whispers, the sky is eager with hidden stars;
listen, once more the story is being told.
Listen, to who is telling the story It is 3 wise ones -traveling astrologers – follower of the stars – three with such fabulous names – Melchior, Caspar and Belthazar –
Listen the story is being told once more.
A stable’s a good place for revelations.
Some of the most profound discoveries
are made in back rooms, half by accident,
by people half-exhausted, looking for something else.
Just as we felt like giving up, when the whole thing had become
and had gone on much too long, and we were blaming
everybody else for our mistakes,
we came upon the unexpected answer
in the most unlikely place:
a speechless, thoughtless, helpless child
who just lay there, needing to be loved.
In this defiance of all natural things
was born the enabling power of sacrifice—
a being whose ambition was to seek
its own destruction and then call upon
his followers to do nothing else.
What kind of way was this to rule a world?
He just lay there, needing to be loved.
It would be stopped. Each Herod would conspire
for its destruction, when they cannot tempt it
with possessions nor subdue it with pain
nor lull it to sleep with alcohol or television.
Here was something we could not buy or cure,
digitise, transplant, promote, update, invest in,
analyse or write a business plan for.
He had no army, text-book, voters’ mandate
or computer markup language
with which to implement this great design:
he just lay there, needing to be loved.
It was the most implausible demand.
Anything else we might negotiate
but not this secret life secured through death:
grace, born out of deprivation,
grace born of the endurance of the oppressed,
grace born of the hardships of the poor,
grace born of the forgiveness of the intolerable,
grace borne in the dignity of silence, grace born
from incomprehensible submission
to the absolute abuse of power.
In the strength of his weakness
he just lay there, needing to be loved.
Karen: Aeons after energy exploded into matter
here in this stable was let loose
a yet more potent power:
shedding the fabric of his former life
like an old coat, reckless that the truth
would prove for all he knew fatal
to everything to which he had thus far clung.
Jennifer, Peggy, Bob:
Our gifts were tokens. There was nothing more to do
but leave the child to his own terrible story,
and return by different routes
to our own countries, strangers to us now,
yet seeing them as if for the first time,
how they just lie there, needing to be loved.
Needing to be loved. An attribute we all share – no matter creed colour or religion.
From Thomas Merton: “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the centre of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. … This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. … I have the immense joy of being human, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
And so let us let these questions claim our attention – be our focus in this new year: When and where do we succumb to a worldview of force, competition and scarcity? In every situation, what is the life giving alternative? In every situation what does it look like to live in a world where power comes in the form of a baby, love is unlimited and everyone has enough? Who are bold, courageous companions to travel with us – those who have also seen the kingdom of heaven and can hold the vision for us when our own memory fades or our imagination fails? T. Daily. Can we increasingly in our interactions and in our actions be one of those one who speaks the truth even when our voice shakes? And while these questions float in your mind this day – take the light of the star, the helpless baby in the manger, love that replaces fear – all anomalies in the existing paradigm, anomalies that point to an intuitive – heart right version of reality, -and let these anomalies that in the coming year may become reality in our lives and modelled behaviour for those who look to us to show the way. Let these answers be our focus in the year to come. Let these answers help to shift the paradigm – so the anomaly becomes the story line –
Reading the headlines, talking across a table
we hear it happening still
In places both far and near
starting where we are
this is the story we need to tell
The story of God down to earth with us Emmanuel
We gather now at Your table.