First Thoughts From The Rev. Canon David Smith: 

Most weeks Fr. David sends out an e-mail with his first thoughts on the upcoming Sunday readings. These reflections are designed to encourage people to consider the readings before they come to worship which we hope will enrich Sunday worship. People are invited to respond to David with their own thoughts and sometimes interesting ideas and conversations occur that end up in the sermon. If you would like to receive these weekly e-mails e-mail David at  . 


Posted by Emily Sanderson on Friday, January 3, 2014
Hi everyone and a Happy and Blessed New Year to you all. It was a great joy
to worship with you this Christmas season. Here are my first thoughts on the
Bible readings for Epiphany which we will be celebrating this Sunday.

As we are beginning a new year I come to our readings wondering what God is
calling us to do in the Parish Of Marysburgh in 2014. Although our readings
for Epiphany may not tell us specifically what we should do I think they do
shed a bright light on what we are called to be about in general.

Epiphany is about manifestation. It is about God revealing who God is to the
Gentiles, to everyone. It is about light overcoming darkness and about being
drawn to that light. It is about realizing that God is King and that true
peace and harmony follow when humanity recognizes and lives into the reign
of God, like the magi who worship Christ as King.

Epiphany is also about suddenly understanding something. We say we have an
epiphany moment when a truth is revealed to us, as in "aha I get it".
Perhaps I am reading way too much into this but I think we had a corporate
epiphany moment last Sunday at the end of our Living Crèche service at St.
Philip's. Everyone was in the imaginary crèche all dressed up in nativity
scene costumes. Some of us looking a bit more ridiculous than others. When
the final prayer of blessing was offered there was not a collective sigh of
relief that it was all over but rather we broke out into spontaneous
clapping and we wanted a photo to capture the moment. Maybe it was because
we felt we had done a good thing for the children ( which we did) or perhaps
it was because we just had fun ( which we did) or perhaps it was because we
enjoyed how it represented to us that we are a community, a family ( which I
think we truly were at that moment and truly are). But I like to think that
it was also a  moment when we realized that the Christ Child we had
gathered around is really the King , the Messiah the answer to all our hopes
and dreams, the saviour of the world. I like to think that a light bulb went
on and we were saying yes this baby born in Bethlehem is the light of the
world and we were reflecting that light and glory when we clapped.

You will see these themes in all of our readings for Sunday.

Another theme of Epiphany and throughout the readings  is that the words of
the prophets and psalms came to pass in Jesus therefore you will see
references to people from afar worshipping the King and in Matthew that is
exactly what happens when the magi worship Jesus.

Chris Haslam who posts weekly comments on the lectionary readings gives this
overview of the O.T. reading , Isaiah 60:1-6.

"Darius, King of Persia, has permitted the people of Israel to return to
Jerusalem. The prophet tells the people to arise, for joy, prosperity and
salvation ("light") are now in the city; God is with them; they will reflect
the presence and power ("glory") of God. In the Middle East, dawn comes
suddenly: dark almost instantly becomes day. Many peoples will live in
"darkness" (v.  2, gloom, oppression) but Israel will be different: God will
come to them, be present with them and act for them. Many nations will come
to pay homage to God. Only some of the exiles returned from Babylon, but
soon those who scattered during troubled times (e.g. the conquest of
Jerusalem) will return ("gather", v.  4) and form a community. People from
all nations will come to the city to see God's activity among his people.
The returnees will grow in their knowledge of God ("shall see", v.  5) and
will tell others ("be radiant"); they will be joyful because other nations
will make them prosperous.

The wealth of Arabia will come to them on a "multitude of camels" (v.  6).
"Midian and Ephah" were tribes east of the Gulf of Aqaba. "Sheba" may be
modern-day Yemen, the source of "gold and frankincense", gifts the wise men
brought to infant Jesus. All those who come will proclaim God's might.
Jerusalem, destroyed by foreigners, will be rebuilt by foreigners (v.  10).

I have always found it very inspiring and humbling that Jesus gives us a
title that we share with Him. He said that we are the light of the world and
of course He too is the light of the world. In our reading from Isaiah we
seem to have a similar teaching. The people of Judah  are told to arise
shine in other words to be light. But they  are to be light  not in their
own strength but only  because their light has come from the Lord, the glory
of the Lord has risen upon them. And when they do shine nations will come to
their light.

In 2014 we are called to be light. No matter what we do specifically   we
are called to reflect the light and glory of Jesus into Milford , in Waupoos
, into the world.  I think a first step which we are trying to do in our NCD
plan of being On The Vine is to absorb the light so we can reflect it.

When the power went off before Christmas some people used those wind up
flashlights to provide light. I like to think that when we meet for Bible
study, prayer ,and  worship , even when we read and reflect together on the
Sunday readings it is our way of winding up our flashlight. Our times of
prayer and study and worship are the ways in which the glory of the Lord
shines upon us. They are means of receiving  God's grace . St. Paul  in our
reading from Ephesians  says that because  he received God's grace he in
turn  was called to share this grace and Good News to the Gentiles. The
grace and light we receive as we gather together in worship is meant to be
shared with others. If indeed we clapped in church last week because we knew
there is something profoundly hopeful about the Christ Child then we are not
to keep it too ourselves. (Easy to say a lot harder to do in our setting)

I am sure we  say Psalm 72 on Epiphany because it as with Isaiah declares
that Kings will come and worship the real King which of course points us to
the arrival of the magi before Jesus and the irony of the fact that  King
Herod did not worship but rather sought to kill the new King Jesus.

But I think the Psalm  is very important because it speaks of how the real
King will act. It was probably originally used at coronations but after the
end of Judah's kings it became a prayer and expectation of how the Messiah
would reign. The King would be inseparable from God. The King's will would
be God 's will. The King's  justice would be God's justice and his
righteousness would be God's. And wonderfully this justice  would be like
showers that water the earth. This reign would have pity on the weak and
needy and would deliver the poor.

As Christians we see this prayer realized in Jesus who established a reign
just like this and in Christ on the cross we see right is might not might is
right. And I think the prayer of the psalm and the example of Jesus our King
points us in the right direction when we want to figure out how to be light
in the world in 2014. Any effort on our part to work for justice , to care
for the needy would reflect the glory of the Lord.

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians we see how God's revelation and
manifestation to him lead him to preach so that it would be revealed to the
Gentiles that all people are recipients of God's promises.

Matthew's story of the magi declares boldly that Jesus is for everyone
because even these strange foreigners came to worship Jesus as King. We see
that God uses all kinds of ways to speak to people. He uses a star something
the magi were experts in to draw them to Christ. But they need to turn to
Scripture dare I say the church  ( getting help from the Scribes for the
exact location of where the King would be born). Perhaps this is a clue for
how we can be light in the community. We can trust that God will be speaking
to people nudging them on to seek Him and then if people come to us
wondering we can share the hope that lies within us. People are searching
for what it means to be truly human and we have the knowledge of Christ. I
really like the way the story ends. They went home by a different road. Of
course they did this so as not to meet up with Herod thereby  protecting
Jesus but to me it also  means that their lives were on a different path a
different road.  I like to think that our Christian faith puts us on a new
and wonderful road. It is not a road free from dangers and hardships but a
wonderful road nevertheless.

Lots of rambling for this week. I would be keen to hear of your thoughts on
the readings. What would you say if you were the preacher? Do you think I am
on the right track?

Tags: epiphany psalm 72 king ephesians darius persia prophets creche