[Last year, January 6th 2015, I had written on all of the lectionary scripture passages that the RCL uses for the Epiphany of the Lord, except Psalms 72:1-7, 10-14. Rather than coming up with something new, I decided to refresh and reuse what I had written in light of this lectionary year’s focus. And add some of the other scripture passages cited for the Epiphany of the Lord and the Baptism of the Lord. But first, a refresh on last year.]
This is the day in the church year that, principally but not solely, the visit of the Three Wise Men is commemorated. It is the recognition of the baby Jesus as the human son of God by the Gentile community, as symbolized by the Wise Men; and the recognition of the grown man Jesus the Messiah by the Gentiles he encountered during his ministry on earth. I, personally, do not consider the Christmas season over until after January 6th at least!
As is the pattern, there is an Old Testament passage, a Praise or Psalms passage, a passage from the Epistles and a Gospel passage. I am using parts of the noted passage of the Old Testament, the Epistles passage, and the Gospel passage. Normally each day I post I would only use one passage, but I wanted to make good use of what the Revised Common Lectionary has. The scriptures used on day that the Epiphany of the Lord is celebrated have the same four scripture passages each year. I think that our theme this year of confession, penance and forgiveness may not be as good a fit as last year’s theme of renewal and recommitment. But it was the hope of all the nations, Jewish and Gentile at that time, and our global community now that came. And whatever the season, we need hope. And hope that our Lord will show mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” (Isaiah 60:1-6)
I am every aware, beloved reader, that these Old Testament passages were written far in advance of the birth of Jesus. While we, and biblical commentators, have the hindsight to see that these verses can refer to the coming of the magi and the recognition of Jesus as Messiah, they were not written with that intent. So if we can bend these verses to being applied to the infant Jesus and the grown Jesus, why indeed should we not heed them as an assurance of forgiveness.
“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him . . .” (Matthew 2:1-3)
The fears of King Herod became the fears of “all Jerusalem”? I do not think so. But as goes the King, so goes the kingdom. Which is why it is so important, beloved reader, to be sure the correct king is ruling over you. Let us continue reading.
“ . . . and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ “ (Matthew 2:4-6)
But it was not just for Israel that Jesus came; but for all people who are called by God. The magi were called through their own study of the stars, skies, and prophecies, just as we are called through various means. But there is more.
“Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:7-11)
Is it not joy to our hearts when we first found Jesus and acknowledged Jesus and God as rulers of our lives? But consider this beloved reader; the magi, the three wise men already knew what they would find. And still in the finding of it (Jesus) they were overwhelmed, and opened all they had and presented it to Jesus. So when we confess our need for Jesus, and find our Lord God all over again, it is right and proper to present all that we have and are to God and Christ Jesus.
“And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (Matthew 2:7-12)
When we have asked the Lord into our lives, we do not carry on with the same sort of life we had. We change our direction and go a different way, journeying on in the Christian life. That the magi returned to their own country does not mean they were not moved and lived their lives any differently. We too live in the same world that we were in before we put on our faith. And even when we renew that faith, we will still live in this world. And still have need of confession, will still be called to penance (a theme I hope to explore this year) and still need forgiveness at times – many times perhaps.
“This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:1-4)
There was, as you may very well know beloved reader, a distinct divide between what was for the Jews and what was for the non-Jews. Even though the Jews may not have followed God very well, the Lord was their God and no one else’s. So it hurt, and it took time for them to share Jesus. But Jesus and our Lord had always intended that the news of God was to be shared.
“In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.” (Ephesian 3:5-12)
As the writer of Ephesians said, God’s eternal purpose was carried out in Jesus. But it is an eternal purpose, one that is with out end. What that means for us is this, even if we go astray from God we can return and be forgiven and through Christ Jesus we have the assurance that is possible. In boldness and confidence we can return to God through our faith in Christ whom God sent to us.
[This is the psalm that last year I did not use for the Epiphany of the Lord]
This psalm was said to have been written by David on the occasion of his son Solomon ascending to the throne. As biblical commentators are want to do, it is presumed that it was actually about the Messiah – which is ironic because Jesus was not exactly what the Israelites/Hebrews/Jews were expecting in a Messiah.
Jesus did all of these things, but not in the way that was expected. And not just for the Israelites/Hebrews/Jews. But then . . . what can you expect from a King born in a stable?
“Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.”
This prayer sounds like what David wanted for himself, and would have wanted for Solomon. It is said that Solomon was very wise, and was devoted to God. And as one bible commentator said, what father would not want this for his son?
“May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.
May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.
For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.” (Verses 10-14)
Do you think, beloved reader, this is what God wanted for the Lord’s son? If the Messiah that was Jesus was not the type of Messiah expected, is it because Jesus was the type of Messiah that God wanted for all of humanity? Interesting to think about.
“Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy splendor.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!” (Psalms 29)
This is the same Voice that said, upon Jesus’ baptism “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” This, beloved reader, is the same Voice that bids us into relationship and communion. May we do so! Selah!