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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Strange and Wonderful - 01/07/2018

Epiphany is a noun. As a proper noun, it is the name of a Christian festival observed on January 6, commemorating the appearance of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi. It's also called Twelfth Day.

For many it marks the day we take our Christmas trees down. The Magi have arrived in all our nativity scenes here and now it will be time to put all the greenery and glitter and manger scenes away until next Christmas.

Sometimes we use this day to remind ourselves to bless the spaces where we live and dwell and learn and love and worship …. (Children's message this weekend – we do a blessing  and mark the lintel of the entrance to our worship space – 20+C+M+B+18. It the year with the initials of the magi within it.)

This isn't the only day we can bless our spaces, of course, but it's good to have this yearly reminder. Once again this year, you are invited to take a little bag for house blessing. It contains some information about a house blessing and a simple home prayer to do as you bless your home for the year. This year, I also added a few examples of prayers for specific places in the home … a common area, a workspace, a teenager's bedroom.

And I also want to make myself available for anyone who would like to have a house blessing. I've participated in these before and they can be very nice and range from a very simple affair of just those who dwell in the house, to an opportunity to invite family and friends over to participate in the blessing and enjoy a little fellowship. Consider it and let me know if you'd like to schedule something.

So that is a little on the proper noun definition of Epiphany.

The other way we use this word is to express a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually brought about by some simple, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

I told this story to a couple of you this week, so pardon the repetition. When I think of this kind of epiphany, I think of our youngest child Max. When he was in about 4th grade, he came running out of his bedroom looking for me. “Mom! I've had an epiphany,” he told me with much excitement and gusto. “Really?” I said. And then made some comment about how remarkable he was to be having an epiphany as such a tender age. “Oh, I have several epiphanies a day,” he informed me.

We see epiphanies like this happen in cop shows a lot. The detective is working on solving a case and just when they stop thinking about it so hard and start doing something else like cooking dinner or talking to their kid on the phone, something very ordinary is said that sheds a whole new light on the case and just like that, the mystery is solved, the criminal is arrested and all is well with the world … until the next episode.

The birth of our Savior contains all the ways we can define epiphany, I believe. It is no exception to this juxtaposition of a sudden insight  coming through a simple and humble event. We can see this everyday definition of “epiphany” at work in the manger.  We see it when we remember each year Jesus born to poor and nearly invisible people. It is strange and wonderful news – this bold event that changes everything for evermore taking place in a vulnerable, no-name infant.

… it is the strange and wonderful news that God has come among us to experience the human walk with all its joys and troubles …

… it is the strange and wonderful news that this has taken place through the birth of a vulnerable baby born to people being terrorized and chased from their homes by a king who acts of out of fear and makes a way for evil to come into the world.

… it is the strange and wonderful news that the very first people to recognize the truth of who Jesus is were little known and lowly shepherds, followed by Kings from other lands who are not Jewish, who, if they worship God, likely call God by another name, and who come to know this truth through methods we might scoff at or even call heretical or unholy.

There remains a lot of disagreement about whether this event really happened – whether three magi from another land really visited Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the stable were they had found some much needed shelter. We still don't know for sure of an astrological event that corresponds with the Star of Bethlehem account.

But that doesn't really matter, because that's not the point of this story. As I've mentioned before, the Bible wasn't written to record history, although it does have a lot of history in it. The main purpose of the Bible is to help nurture and inform our relationship with God. And the main purpose of the New Testament isn't to be history textbook of names, places and dates, but rather a way of helping us (plus those who read it before us and those who will read it in days to come)-- help us understand just what God has done in the person of Jesus. It is written so that we may believe, as the Gospel of John calls to us over and over again.

In that context, the story of the magi visiting the newborn King of the Jews goes well beyond some historical data. It proclaims to us that God in Jesus has come among us, is with us and will come again.

It calls us to act differently – than fearful tyrants and leaders of all parties and allegiances in the world – by urging us to see that in coming among us as Jesus, God has redeemed all of creation, not just the Jewish people Jesus was born to then, and not just the Christian people who we identify with now.

And it reminds us that God works in creation in mysterious ways. We are confident that God comes to us now when we gather around this table and share the bread and wine together. And this story wants to stretch our imaginations and increase our capacity to love one another. It wants to magnify our understanding of what it means to be blessed to be a blessing. Because this story also reminds us that God comes to us and others right where we are and in ways we cannot even imagine. And sometimes in ways we would not like to imagine – like through astrological signs read by people who look, live and dream very differently from us, but who are children of God in the creation Jesus saves nonetheless.

I'd like to wrap up with a prayer-full poem by Walter Brueggemann called Epiphany.

On Epiphany day,

          we are still the people walking.

          We are still people in the dark,

                   and the darkness looms large around us,

                   beset as we are by fear,

                                                anxiety,

                                                brutality,

                                                violence,

                                                loss –

                   a dozen alienations that we cannot manage.

We are – we could be – people of your light.

          So we pray for the light of your glorious presence

                   as we wait for your appearing;

          we pray for the light of your wondrous grace

                   as we exhaust our coping capacity;

          we pray for your gift of newness that

                   will override our weariness;

          we pray that we may see and know and hear and trust

                   in your good rule.

That we may have energy, courage, and freedom to enact

          your rule through the demands of this day.

          We submit our day to you and to your rule, with deep joy and high hope.

Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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