The Epiphany of Our Lord – C
Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12
Greetings from the Office of the Bishop, Rocky Mountain Synod, ELCA. I need, first of all, to express appreciation for the partnership we share, not only with the other 164 congregations of the RMS and the other 10,000 congregations of the ELCA, but additionally for the special witness you bring, that of using imagination in sharing the gospel. I hope you can teach the rest of the church how to think in new ways and walk on new ground, as you are being led by the Holy Spirit.
So today is the Day of Epiphany! The day of “aha,” of new insights, of revelation as to who Jesus is and what his purpose is in the world! And the gospel text for this important day is one most people are pretty familiar with—the coming of the magi. What do you do with a story most people already know? On the Day of Epiphany, hopefully you do something new, insightful, revealing.
Magi in Jesus’ day had no business visiting God’s Messiah. The shepherds were bad enough: smelly, rude, rejected outcasts who spent their time not with other people but with animals. But at least they know who God is. At least they have some sense of worship and God’s ways.
But these magi were about as far from pious Jews as you could get. Magi were not “wise men”. They were everything that a God-fearing person tried to avoid. They were pagan, chicken-bone reading, star-gazing magicians. Their faith was not in the God of Israel, it was in tea leaves or chicken gizzards. They knew nothing of God, nothing of the promised Messiah, nothing of worship.
So they come all this way in order to offer gifts to the young King of the Jews because God brought them by a star. That wouldn’t make sense to good Jewish folk; it might have even been abhorrent. But God reached out to these magi in a way that worked for them, made sense to them. God didn’t call them in a way Jews would respond. God didn’t reveal what God was doing through signs God-fearing people would understand. God didn’t even lead them in any way God had ever used before, in a way that would make pious Jews squirm, like a psychic hotline. It was new, it was different, it was for these foreign pagans, so they could experience the presence of God. That’s how far God is willing to go. That’s how radically inclusive this God is.
So that makes me wonder: is God still calling radically diverse people? Is God still reaching out to people in ways the traditionally religious wouldn’t get? Is God using new ways to reach new people with the good news of love, forgiveness, and grace in Jesus?
I believe that’s where you come in. There are hundreds of congregations in this part of the world that see God calling people in more traditional ways. Lots of churches that use evangelism programs, food banks, and social justice issues to reveal God at work in the world. And good! Those are necessary and wonderful!
But you are new. You are unique. You have ways to share the gospel news with people in this neighborhood that no one else can do. You can discover who the magi in Castle Pines are and be God’s sign to them.
Think about that. In the few years this ministry has been in existence, you’ve not really done anything the “normal,” “traditional” way. Your existence here is a living witness to a God who is willing to lead you in new ways. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that God would lead you to reach new people? If this story of the magi tells us anything, it’s that God is quite willing to do things differently, to break new ground in order to reveal the Christ to all people. You are God’s continuation of that.
And one of the most wonderful things about all this is that God has called a pastor to be among you who isn’t afraid of that. Pastor Michelle, you may have noticed, appreciates trying new things and doing things in different ways. Isn’t that what God seems to be about in this gospel story too?
Sometimes that isn’t easy, and sometimes it may be a bit frightening. This text says “all Jerusalem” was frightened by these strange, foreign pagans who came to pay homage to the king of the Jews. Whenever God does things in ways that are outside the experiences of traditional Christian people like me, it can be a bit unnerving or uncomfortable. But God is about calling all people, loving all people, revealing Christ to all people, forgiving all people. Even people who need to hear things differently. Even people who need different signs of God’s presence. Even people who aren’t the least bit interested in being part of what we would call a “normal Lutheran experience.” And God has called you to be the shining star for them; to be the sign of God’s loving, gracious presence for them. Probably in new ways. Because if the previous ways worked, they’d probably already be part of a Lutheran church, right?
So here’s what I encourage you to do:
- Recognize God’s amazing presence in your own life and ministry.
- Grow in your understanding of new ways God is at work around you.
- Study scripture, paying special attention to ways God works and people God calls that are new or unusual.
- Discover who the magi are in this neighborhood—the people God is calling but who aren’t likely to hear that call through normal church means.
- Recognize your call as a star rising to lead them to Jesus.
This is the Day of Epiphany! The day of “aha,” of new insights, of revelation as to who Jesus is and what Jesus is about in the world. This is the Day of Epiphany, and God is revealing something new in the world. And you, here in Castle Pines, are called to be that sign in this community.