For the wise ones, it began with a hunch. The Magi had been studying the stars and surveying the skies and working the astrology and waiting for what was coming. Their preparation came ahead of the great story. Epiphany, the season of brilliant manifestation and aha! and revelation came first with showing up in ordinary time. A star in the east that they saw as they had been watching the stars.
On this Epiphany Day, we give thanks to God for a mystical season in which God guides wise ones in mystical and incredible ways. God guides the magi to the Christ child by the star and then through the voices in a dream to care well for the wise ones and the holy family, in spite of King Herod’s attempts to do elsewise. In the bitter cold and quiet of winter, these God- sightings among us feel like solid reminders of that the light is here too. Epiphany is the church’s way of impressing on us that discipleship is as much being spoken to as it is speaking, as much adoring as serving, as much perceiving as doing, as much finding as seeking.
Epiphany is the season when God lights a lamp in the dark for us to see by and says, “Come closer, closer. You’re getting warm. Now over here. A little more. Yes, yes. Now do you see…?”
As we begin this new year together, I invite our congregation to walk together in this scripture together; Listen to version from Message: Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.
Our guiding scripture for the year will be from James 1: 22:
Be doers of the word and not hearers only
Too often, you and I have proverbially nodded our heads and waited for someone else to jump in. Too often, we have heard the good news of Jesus Christ and waited for another to take charge. We have liked the idea of journeying to find the Christ child if someone else take charge of the chartering the bus trip.
What is it we are being asked to DO? This is the question we will being answering all year. All year in worship, each sermon will begin with DO and then and then something. Throughout the year, we will also step into three specific challenges for the year:
1. Invite and Accompany a Friend to an Event this Year (Movie Night, Pancake Breakfast, Worship, Trunk or Treat, Sunrise Service)
2. Read and Reflect on the Gospel of Mark
3. Serve God in Mission in one new Meaningful Way
We are called, like the Magi, not just to follow Jesus for ourselves, but to share the light and life of Christ with others. Inviting others and serving others is integral to disciples of Jesus Christ. You and I will spend time this year to DO that work together. I would like to first pause to encourage you to read.
Last year, as we read through the book of Genesis together, we dug deep into the stories of God’s beginnings and found that our stories were there as well. We found that in the stories of the heel-grabber, Jacob; we, too know young upstarts and some of us are young upstarts! This year, as I prayed through, where God was calling us for 2018 and read through the scriptures, I was drawn to the gospel of Mark.
This year, I challenge each of you to read the 16 chapters of Mark this year. We will touch on all sixteen chapters of Mark in worship, but I ask I you throughout the year to read Mark devotionally. Mark was the first written of the gospels. While it shares many stories and passages in common with the other gospels, it presents the timely version of the story for reader with little detail. As Genesis gave us as opportunity to study many beginnings, so will Mark as a gospel. The sixteen chapters of Mark will call you again and again to DO.
I told you there would be multiple things to DO throughout the year, but most specifically, let me share today: I am going invite you to DO one Word.
On Tuesday, our staff had the opportunity to let a star word select them. Star Words are a single word to guide you throughout the year to come. When you come for communion, select a word for the manger. The word will probably select you. And then pray with that word throughout this year. There are multiple copies of the same of the same words in the manger, but there are 100 words. 100 words that I prayed over of faithful journeys of development for this year. I pray each of you will pick one up and put in a place that you will pray that word throughout the year. My word for this was possibility. It is already a part of my prayers, as I am asking God to open me to the possibility that God has for me and for this congregation that I have not yet considered.
As you come for communion today, come for a starword. Come and prayerfully receive a word for this year. Receive, it as a gift. Pray about it and place it in a place where you will see if regularly. Ask God to move through you and open you open to how God is moving through this one word. In a world in which we can be doing many things, we are often asked to multitask. We are often required to be present in many capacities. Do this one Word and do it well.
With singular focus, the wise ones followed the star. They were not deterred with other stars or even with the confusion and distraction from King Herod trying to get them involved in the palace intrigue of who should be the King. They did not engage. They stayed focus on the star.
They star led them to Jesus.
After worshiping the child.
They returned a different way.
We, too, are changed.
May your starword focus singularly on God for 2018 that you return differently than you come.
This is the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
As the wise followed the star, we too, seek Christ.
Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 60: 1-6
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.
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 2: 1-12
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; 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.” ’
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. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Meditations: January 7 – January 13, 2017
Monday: “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” Isaiah 60:3. Using a world map. Pray for the nations of the world that all might see the light of Christ.
Tuesday: “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.” Isaiah 60:5. The glory of the Lord and the light of Christ is to be shared and dine among all. Where are you seeing this vibrancy?
Wednesday:” 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.” Matthew 2: 1-2. The journey of the wise men from the East began with a question and a wandering. They began to follow because they needed answers. Our journeys sometimes too being with questions. Seek Christ in your questions.
Thursday: “When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. “Matthew 2: 3-4. For King Herod, fear drove every move. God uses even the fear of Herod for good. Prayerfully consider God’s redemption in the narrative of Herod’s fear for God’s purposes. Give thanks to God that God is always redeeming everything for God’s purposes.
Friday: “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: 10-11. The Magi offered gifts to honor who Jesus would become. Where is God calling you to offer your gifts to honor Jesus?
Saturday: “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” Matthew 2: 12. God often communicates in dreams and nudges. Listen closely and quietly for where God is urging you to return a different way than you came.