St Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Albuquerque Rev. Kristin Schultz
2nd Sunday after Epiphany Jan 19, 2014
Last February about 30 youth from around the DRG gathered in Ruidoso
for what we call Snow Slam.
We went snow tubing, had a dance with karaoke,
ate and played games and watched movies together.
We also shared worship and prayer, and did skits portraying parables of Jesus.
On the way home, Father Brian Winter was driving a van with about 12 young people.
On the sidewalk next to the road, they saw a man in obvious distress –
lying on the sidewalk, shaking.
Father Brian stopped and went to help.
As the kids looked on, he spoke to the man, and used his cell phone to call for help.
Along with other bystanders, he sat with the man until help came.
When he got back in the van and they were driving away, one of the young people said,
“We were like the Good Samaritan in the story.”
She and her peers made a connection between their own lives, and the story of Bible.
That is Christian formation – the formation of an identity which sees our own lives
in the light of the larger story of God at work in the world.
John the Baptist has been talking to his followers about baptizing Jesus.
He asserts that Jesus is the Son of God,
that he saw the Spirit of God descend like a dove and rest upon Jesus.
So a few of them go to find Jesus, to see him for themselves.
And he greets them with the question:
What are you looking for?
It’s a provocative question, and one that hits close to home for many of us.
What are we looking for we come looking for Jesus?
A sense of meaning and purpose to our lives.
A sense of belonging.
A way to make sense of this story of life we find ourselves caught up in.
When Jesus invites Simon Peter to follow him, he names him,
giving him, along with a new name, a place and a role to fulfill.
Isaiah gives testimony that God chose him and called him –
that God did, in fact, form him in the womb to be God’s servant in a particular way.
Psalm 139 shares this conviction:
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
These words are a comfort and a source of empowering faith,
that we have been known and our lives given meaning in our belonging to God.
As Jesus invited the ones who came seeking him that day long ago,
Jesus invites us to come and follow.
And his gives us, too, a name and a role.
We have received our primary identity in our baptism –
we are children of God, part of the Body of Christ in the world.
We can find meaning for our lives in finding our own lives to the part of the larger story
of Creation and Redemption by God through Jesus Christ.
A part of this identity as followers of Christ is that we are in community.
Like it or not (and some days we like it better than others),
being followers of Jesus make us part of a “great fellowship of believers”
that stretches around the world, 2000 years into the past and also into the future.
When Paul writes a letter to the fledgling community of Christ in Corinth,
he begins with the words,
“I thank my God every time I remember you.”
It might sound like Paul is writing to some ideal community –
the infant church, perfect and pure in it’s closeness to Christ and the apostles.
When we read the rest of the letter, we see that is far from the truth.
Paul chides the people of Corinth for various flaws and mistakes -
for inequities and misjudgments and for outright sin.
Paul has no illusions about the problems in the Corinthian community.
But he also knows that is not the whole story.
Years ago, in my seminary class on Christian Education, my professor led us through a Bible study which I have never forgotten
He asked us to divide a piece of paper into two parts.
On one side, we were to write down how we see ourselves.
We wrote: mother, student, husband, baker, soccer player, musician . . .
many words to describe the roles we play and what we do in the world.
Then he gave us a psalm to read,
and asked us to write on the other side of the paper how the psalmist sees himself.
We wrote: Forgiven. Loved. Saved. Belonging to God.
What difference does it make, our professor asked us,
if we see ourselves as the psalmist does – as beloved of God, chosen and redeemed?
When I read the opening of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians this week,
I thought again of this lesson.
Paul knows only too well the faults and flaws of the Corinthians;
and he does not pretend that they are not there.
But they are not the whole story.
Not the most important part of the story.
Paul starts with what he knows to be true of these folks trying to serve God
and follow the way of Jesus in community:
They are called by God.
They are bathed in God’s grace.
They are rich with spiritual gifts.
They are strengthened by Jesus Christ and by participation in his fellowship.
Paul knows that God has gathered the people into this community,
and that God nurtures them.
God calls them to be more than they are –
to be the Body of Christ in the world, carrying the Light of Christ within them.
So it is with the church in every time and place.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that “the church is not a dormitory for saints,
but a gymnasium for sinners.”
The church is not and never has been a place where people who have it all worked out come together to rest on our laurels.
This is the community where struggling, imperfect human beings come
to be fed and nurtured and called to be something better than we are.
We come to hear that we are indeed a part of something greater than ourselves –
a part of the story of God’s saving love for the whole world.
We come to hear that we are, indeed, special and known and beloved –
made in God’s own image and invited to follow Christ.
There is a community in Denver called the House for All Sinners and Saints –
a Lutheran congregation led by Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber.
When Nadia has a gathering for newcomers to the congregation, she invites each of them to share – what brings you to House? What are you looking for – and what have you found?
Then she tells them: We will disappoint you.
The community with disappoint you.
I will disappoint you.
And when that happens – not if, but when – I invite you to stick around.
Because if you leave when you are disappointed, you risk missing a moment of grace.
We will disappoint you, but God will not.
That is the core of our community – not our own effectiveness or ability or goodness,
but the everlasting faithfulness of God.
As Paul says: God is faithful;
by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
What are you looking for?
If it is a perfect community, perfect priests, perfect organization – keep going.
But if you are looking for a place to bring your brokenness and your gifts,
to share with and learn from the giftedness and struggle of other imperfect people,
you may be at home here.
I thank my God always for you –
for each and every one of you –
for the grace you show me and one another and share with God’s world.
Sermon for Epiphany Sunday
The Rev. Deacon Judith Jenkins
January 5th, 2014
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany: The story of the Magi who traveled from the East --following a star - a story that involves a journey.
We have heard the word Emmanuel - "God with us" during these last weeks and hopefully we have all taken some time to ponder what that real means for each of us! I grew up in a church with the name Immanuel; and I have to admit that as a young child, learning that those words meant "God With Us," I assumed that our Presbyterian Church really did have an edge on all the other churches because we must, after all, have had first dibs on GOD BEING WITH US!!!!!!
The word Emmanuel and the meaning of Epiphany are part of the same wonder to which we are all celebrating. From the Greek word "epiphaeia", meaning "appearance" or "manifestation" we are talking about the appearance into our world- of Jesus. This time was a foretaste of what would become an extension of Jesus' ministry to the Gentiles. Emmanuel, God with us, is truly an epiphany proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Savior of the whole world and that God's promise of salvation to Israel now applied to all the peoples of the earth.
Much Christian folklore surrounds the Magi. The term East is vague, undefined, but it certainly points us to the entrance of a foreign people into our Bethlehem narrative. Why did these people come? Or when? Whether it was six days after the birth of Jesus or months or even years, the beauty of the story is to ask ourselves: What is revealed to us in this story, and how are we to respond?
I'm impressed that the wise men paid attention -- they noticed that a new era was dawning and they were drawn to the "Light" to the star. It's true when we refer to Epiphany we are usually referring to the Feast which marks the celebration of a star appearing to lead wise men to the Christ Child.
However, that is hardly the only epiphany in the Bible. From the very first book -- from the beginning of our history with God, God has been revealing God's self to us!!!!
To Adam and Eve in the garden
To Abraham and Sarah in the desert
To Moses in the burning bush
To Paul in a blinding flash on the road to Damascus
To all of us in a baby born in a stable!
Our God is a God of Epiphany! a revelation of Emmanuel - God with us!
And so it was that God chose a people to be God's people.
God told Abraham that he was chosen so that his family could be a blessing to all people
Through Isaiah, God told the people that they were chosen to be a light to the nations.
Paul was told he was to carry the light of Christ to the Gentiles
Christ told his disciples that He was the Light sent to the world
And, you and I are meant to be the light to the world as well!!!!
Even if we did not ask, God has been clear about why we have been chosen and to what we are called.
The people of God are to be an epiphany! a revelation of who God is and how God loves this world --This is what is revealed to us in this story!
How are we responding to our calling to be a light? (Think back over this last week – these last few months – the past year of 2013!)
Well, it's not always easy to be the light.
When all is going well for us, do we forget sometimes that we are the light that is to shine in the darkness for others --others who are not sensing the light at this time in their lives?
When we are seated around our tables, comfortable in our homes that are warm and safe, surrounded by those we love and who love us, do we forget those who do not have this security in their lives? I was reminded so much of this as a group of us from St. Michael's and San Gabriel shared Christmas day dinner at AOC, a shelter for men who do not currently have a home.
When events in our church community happen in which, we don't feel comfortable or the circumstances in which we find ourselves are not to our choosing, do we neglect our responsibilities to be the ambassadors of Christ's light?
For the last many months it has not always been easy to be a light within our community at St. Michael's or even in the diocese. Sometimes the darkness comes close and touches the people we care about. Sometimes we are uncertain about the journey ahead of us where things feel unfamiliar -- unknown. That's when we remember the journey that the wise men were willing to take --into the unknown- because they were searching for the meaning of the star – following the light!
This is the meaning of the epiphany -- a revelation, a paying attention to the light! and a willingness to allow the Light to be shown in us.
Rabbi Nahum says that when Moses sees a bush on fire which is NOT consumed, it is not that the bush is burning, but rather that Moses NOTICES! The Wise Men noticed the star and they left home, the most familiar of places, where expectations were understandable -- yet they ventured out toward the unknown, the unfamiliar. This was a not unlike the journey of Sarah and Abraham.
Like any journey we all have discovered some rough spots along the way. Our story tells us that the Wise Men paid attention once more -- and then responded to a warning in a dream to not return to Herod, but to go home a different way. I know that when I take the time to have some space – some reflective time – that I’m more likely to pay attention to things that I might just miss otherwise.
Our Wise Men paid attention -- they noticed and then they responded!
A little over fifty years ago, two children rode in a limousine following the horse drawn caisson carrying a flag draped coffin that carried their father to his place of rest in the National Cemetery. Their mother and their uncle walked outside behind the caisson and the children were alone in the limo with their Nanny. Carolyn, just seven years old had just been told about her beloved father's death.
What happened as the procession moved along is the moment when a secret service man paid attention to what might have seemed an inconsequential detail! This agent, walking in the procession -- closest to the limo carrying the children, took notice of a small hand which was suddenly extended out one of the back windows.
Instinctively, this secret service man reached over and took hold of Carolyn's small hand. He held it tightly in his until they reached their destination. I suppose he could have been reprimanded for that act since that was definitely not part of his job description; but nevertheless, this man noticed and responded; and a little girl whose heart was breaking found some measure of comfort in that long walk to the National Cemetery.
We too are an Epiphany People who are called to notice where God is leading us and to respond. Sometime it may be one of us who reaches out the window and needs someone to squeeze our hand-- or other times we may need to be like the secret service man and reach out to care about someone else! Let’s not let people fall through the cracks in our community!!!
We are to be so close to the heart of Jesus that we can’t help but allow the light of Christ to shine in us and through us!.