The text for this sermon is Isaiah 60:5, “Then you shall see and be radiant…” Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on January 9, 2011, the congregation’s celebration of the Festival of the Epiphany.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome to the Season of Epiphany. This is the Season in our Church Calendar between the end of Christmas and the Beginning of Lent. Often we call this the Season of Light, because we remember the Star that God sent to lead the Wisemen of old to the Christ Child, and , we focus on God’s plan for bringing light to the whole world through Jesus Christ. As the spreading of this light is happening through us and all Christians, the words of Isaiah come true: “Then you shall see and be radiant…”
I am very pleased with the selection of the three lessons for today. These are the ones for the Festival of the Epiphany and are used by many denominations that use the lectionary. The lectionary is the set of lessons that purposely follow the church calendar. These three scripture lessons for today fit together well and really help us understand how the light and the star fit into God’s plan for the salvation of the world. Our first lesson from Isaiah 60 was given 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Listen to how close these words come to describing what happened with the Wisemen: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn…Then you shall see and be radiant…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.”
Our second lesson is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, written just a few years after Jesus had returned to heaven. Paul believed sincerely that Jesus called him to take the gospel to the Gentiles, in the spirit of ever-expanding the reach of the good news of God’s Love for the whole world. He writes: “…the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…Although I am the very least among 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…”
Let me pause for a time in this retelling of scripture to reflect on two words we just heard St. Paul give us: “eternal purpose.” I might have just breezed by those words in an earlier time, but now at Resurrection we are engaged in creating a purpose statement and a set of guiding principles for our congregation’s ministry. This might be just the right time to see how our purpose statement stacks up with God’s purpose as revealed in scripture.
As you know, the purpose statement involves using the letters of our names: RLC, Resurrection Lutheran Church. Here is the proposed Purpose Statement that you and I will be voting on at the Congregation Meeting on January 30:
God’s Purpose for Resurrection Lutheran Church is to:
Reflect the Love of Christ by Reaching, Loving, and Caring.
God’s Work…Our Hands.
One of the most important words in that statement is “Reflect”. It is not our light but the light of Christ that comes to us first and we simply are reflecting back that light to others.
What are the guiding principles, those biblically-based values we intend to live by? Here are the seven:
1. Jesus is Lord and Savior – in all that we say and do we serve Jesus, for by His grace we are saved through faith.
2. We trust in the Lord –through God all things are possible.
3. We call on God.
4. We invite and welcome all people.
5. We share God’s blessings generously as we are generously blessed.
6. We proclaim the Good News of the love of Christ in word and deed at all times and in all places.
7. We participate in a global communion of churches as ecumenical Lutherans.
What about those Wisemen of old? What does their story, their experience have to do with us now and our celebration of the season of light? Matthew places the account of the visit of the wisemen, the magi, immediately following his account of the birth of Jesus. It’s as if to say: followers to Jesus, he came not just for the House of Israel but for the whole world. They came from afar, probably from what is today Iran and Iraq. They came first as all sojourners and inquirers do: to see for themselves and to pay respect. The word is “homage” means showing respect to a king or person of high rank. They didn’t know when they set out that they would be encountering an infant. The gifts they brought didn’t seem to be appropriate after they arrived. But their gifts turned out to be wholly appropriate. The gold was a gift worthy of a king. The frankincense was often used in ritual worship to a deity or god. The myrrh, how prophetic, was an oil used at the time of death.
People of Resurrection, let us be people of the light. May we indeed reflect the love of Christ in in all we say and do. May the true star of epiphany bless us his little reflectors.