12.31.2008

Epiphany

Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12


Here we are again, on the edge of a new year, revisiting a story that we as Christians revisit year after year after year. But, as often happens, our context today is different from year before, and the year before that, and the year before that. We do not stand still. Our lives continue to change and evolve. The philosopher Heraclitus said, "On those stepping into rivers the same, other and other waters flow." We have more experiences, more joys and more hurts under our belt each time we revisit the coming of Emmanuel. Life can have that strange sense of deja vu...mostly because we probably have, indeed, been in a place similar to this before.

This week, the lectionary gives us glimpses of the Prophets and the Seekers. And we also glimpse the Unaware between the two. And the question that we have this week is simple – where are we on this spectrum? Are we Prophets? Seekers? Unaware?

The prophet Isaiah is speaking of the prophet's own time, of political events unfurling in the context of the people's return to Judah after the Babylonian exile. These are people who have seen hardship and are envisioning a new future. Historically, the rebuilding of the Temple has begun. There are visible signs of hope and stability. Arise, shine, for your light has come... And in the context of the history of Israel, this moment will be repeated again and again. And if you pause to think about it, there have probably been these moments in your life as well – times after a storm when there seems to be a return to stability, a return to comfort and a return to the familiar. Maybe you have heard the Prophets yourself and are now Seeking the peace you have longed for.

The psalm this week is a petition for the justice, stability and righteousness of a new king. It's a little uncanny to read right now, because it is set here in the lectionary cycle because it eludes to a new reign, much like the birth of Christ was heralded as a new era. But we also notice the strange resonance with the changing of the political scene here in the US. This is a prayer that could be offered up for a new administration. Many feel a great deal of hope today for a changed landscape at the hands of a new group of leaders. Perhaps those seeking thousands of years ago were similarly hopeful when they saw a star rising in the eastern sky.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he is speaking as a Prophet, sharing vision and revelation with a community that he hopes will Seek as a result of what they hear. He is expanding the audience - casting a broader net and extending Jesus’ message into a broader community. What do you suppose it takes to move a community from Unaware to Seeking?

The passage from Matthew shows us a full range of Prophets, Seekers, and Unaware. These mysterious men (Seekers) from the East come following a star and a message they heard from Prophets. We cannot be 100% sure of their motivation--they were from “the east” and we have no evidence they were Jewish --all we know is that they came to worship and pay homage to a new king. And in the process they expose and stir up some folks who are Unaware. We see how King Herod and his trusted advisors are caught Unaware that the birth of anyone touted as a New King had happened. But this new information then turns them in to Seekers themselves.

And the question that we have this week is simple – where are we on this spectrum? Are we Prophets? Seekers? Unaware?




Across the vein of night
There cuts a path of searing light
Burning like a beacon
On the edges of our sight
At the point of total darkness
And the lights divine divide
A soul can let its shadow
Stretch and land on either side.

Wealthy the spirit that knows its own flight
Stealthy the hunter who slays his own fright
Blessed the traveler who journeys
the length of the light.

In a spiral never-ending
Are we drawn towards the source
Spinning at the mercy of an
unrelenting force
So we stare into the emptiness
and fall beneath the weight
Circling the Nexus in a
fevered dance with fate --

Wealthy the spirit that knows its own flight
Stealthy the hunter who slays his own fright
Blessed the traveler who journeys
the length of the light.

The Nexus, Dan Fogelberg

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