PUC’ers – With the vote to sell the South Building I am tentatively planning a final worship service at that building on January 13 (or January 20 if need be). This will be a time to remember all the good ministry that has happened there in the 55+ years that worship services have been held there and a time to say good-bye. The service will be with communion and will conclude with a decommissioning of the building. I know that this will be a difficult time for many but God is with us and calls us forward into God’s future.
This coming Sunday is Epiphany. The Orthodox Church celebrates the baptism of Jesus but the Catholic and Protestant churches celebrate the visitation of the Magi (wisemen) with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Epiphany always falls on January 6, twelve days after Christmas. Epiphany is that moment of understanding, the “A-hah” moment.
This is also the first Sunday of the New Year, a good time to remember and renew our covenant with God. Once again in both churches we will have a “Covenant Renewal Service”. The verses listed below are for Epiphany and may or may not be used during this service.
Isaiah 60:1-6 – Christians have looked to these verses as the prophesy of Matthew’s story of the Magi. Isaiah, however, was looking forward to a time of the restoration of Israel to its former greatness with God as head. The language recalls God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants will be a light to all the nations. For Isaiah, when God arises all the nations will bring come swiftly (camels are fast) to Israel bearing expensive gifts (gold and frankincense).
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 – The Psalmist prays that God will bless and guide the king in all justice and mercy. He prays that the king will side with the least, lost, and left out people of the kingdom. He also prays that all the nations will pay homage to this king who upholds the rights of those in need. I had to chuckle at verse 9 (not in our reading) and all the versions of the Bible that I checked had “let his enemies lick the dust”. I wonder if that is where “bite the dust” came from?
Ephesians 3:1-12 – This passage may seem to be out of place for Epiphany but if Epiphany is that “A-hah” moment then Paul tells the church what his “a-hah” moment means for them. Because of his epiphany, Paul knew what he had to do: take the gospel to the Gentiles (all non-Jewish people). Paul believes that God’s eternal purpose was the salvation of ALL people including the rulers and authorities. This eternal purpose gives all people access to Jesus Christ in “boldness and confidence through (the) faith (in/by) him.” The Greek here, as in other places in Paul’s writings, simply says “through faith him”. That doesn’t make a lot of sense in English so translators (we) must then supply the words to make sense. Traditionally it has been read as “through faith in him”. It can also be read as “through the faith of him”. Is it something we do that gives us boldness and confidence or is it something that Christ did? To me it make a big difference.
Matthew 2:1-12 – Since we know this story so intimately how do we read it with a fresh understanding? First, read it slowly paying attention to details you may have forgotten or not known. Second, read a different translation version and notice the differences. Then try answering some questions. How many wise men (magi) were there? Where did they come from? Why did they come to Jerusalem? How long after Jesus’ birth did they arrive (see verse 16)? Who was Herod? What did he want the wise men to do for him? Why did they not do his request? Where did they find Jesus (it wasn’t in a stable)?
Did you have your Epiphany?
I pray that the Epiphany from God will come upon us each moment of our lives. Look for God’s a-hah moments.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor