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 dsmith@ontario.anglican.ca  . 

Reflections on the Readings: Isaiah 60: 1 - 6; Psalm 72: 1 - 7; 10 - 14; Ephesians 3: 1 - 12; Matthew 2: 1 - 12

Posted by Emily Sanderson on Friday, January 2, 2015
Hi everyone and I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day and I continue to send Christmas blessings and wish you a Happy New Year.

Epiphany Sunday Readings: Isaiah 60: 1-6, Psalm 72: 1-7, 10-14, Ephesians 3:1-12,  Matthew 2: 1-12   link to
http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=12;

I thought if you are reading this on smart phone or computer you could get the readings on line. Plus there are some beautiful pieces of art work and prayers and other ideas based on the readings at this link. So from now on I will include this link.

Thanks to, "Feasting on the Word" Year B Volume 1 pgs 194- 217

This Sunday we are going to celebrate Epiphany. Epiphany is a great feast of the church because we mark the manifestation of Jesus to the magi. We are celebrating the fact that God in Christ revealed himself to the Gentiles, to
the whole world represented by the magi from afar. Epiphany is the shining forth of God's glory in human form in the birth of Jesus.  Throughout the Epiphany season each Sunday we will read about Jesus and how in his ministry He reveals  his glory and shines forth this light until we read the story of our Lord's transfiguration an account of glory and brilliance. It is my prayer that  in our worship over these next few weeks we will have epiphany moments when we say, "Aha , I get it!", as something more of God is revealed to us.

I think Epiphany, characterized by light overcoming darkness and the glory of God being reflected off of us the church into the world, is a great time for us to be filled with joy and celebration.  It is also a time for us to have the passion and excitement of St. Paul in our Bible reading from Ephesians to share the news of the boundless riches of Christ.

Miriam went to the movie about Moses with a friend of hers last night.  Miriam was frantic about how Hollywood changed many details of the story but her friend had no idea anything was changed because she had never read or heard the story before. She actually became curious and had all kinds of questions and wouldn't it be wonderful if her curiosity enabled her to see the glory of the Lord. I was at the gym today and in the change room started up a conversation with one of the guys. He said you are a priest?  I said yes. Bewildered that I could possibly have enough to do or make enough money he asked, is that your only profession?  In the course of the conversation he said that he did not believe that stuff about God. I did not follow up but I thought to myself a lot of people are like him and I wonder how I, we, can be God's reflected light to him and others so that they may have epiphany moments.

Epiphany is a celebration for us in the church but our readings demonstrate clearly that it is a season when we particularly draw our attention to people outside of the church.  For example you could not get much further outside of Judaism than the Magi. Yet God revealed himself to them.

On to the readings.

Isaiah 60 is a great text declaring to the discouraged people that God's light is shining. The context is the same as last week's reading.  The elite of Judah had been taken into exile in Babylon and all of the other people were left behind. When the exiles were freed and allowed to return to Judah and Jerusalem things were not in good shape. They were so hopeful to be returning home and what they found was a community whose economic, social and religious life was in ruins. But the word spoken into this situation was, "Arise shine for your light has come. God's light will shine upon them
and their light in turn will draw nations to them."  It is about transformation a total reversal in circumstances where in fact other kings and nations will bring tributes and praise to God. God's favour shining upon them is a gift that will draw others to see and receive.

The imagery of light overcoming darkness is powerful and beautiful and will lead to rejoicing. Epiphany would be a great time to ponder this joy and to live into this joy.

And of course for us as Christians it is so easy and wonderful to see in Isaiah's words a foreshadowing of Christ. As St. John says in the prologue," What has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it" Jesus is our light and low and behold as Isaiah foretold people from afar did come to Him and gave him gifts and worshipped Him. Great joy was expressed by the angel  when the king was born "Fear not for I bring unto you good news of great joy"  Jesus was the kind of king our Psalm for
Sunday describes.

In our Epistle reading St. Paul speaks about his own epiphany experience; of how God revealed to him the mystery of Christ. And of how his ministry is to share this good news with the Gentiles.  St. Paul is being a light to them.  In fact his work of revealing the Gospel to the gentiles has landed him in prison. And St. Paul reminds his readers and us that the church is to be God's instrument of revelation to no less than the rulers  and authorities in heavenly places. An interesting sermon might explore what it means to be a revelation to rulers and authorities in heavenly places but surely it means that our neighbours are included as well. How to reflect the light of Christ in our culture and setting is something we ought to pray about as it is not obvious to me how best to do this in a respectful, loving, and engaging manner as so many people are like the guy I met in the gym. I was very impressed with Stan Whitehouse at the seniors Christmas dinner in
Waupoos. When Stan said grace he gave a short testimony of God's love in Christ that was winsome and touching. He certainly was reflecting Christ's light.

The  familiar Gospel reading  of the Magi have all the Epiphany themes I have been talking about. The theme of light is portrayed by the star. The theme of revelation to the Gentiles is captured by the magi who are from far away  geographically, culturally, and religiously and who travel to the king to offer tribute.  There is the theme of the true King, Jesus. highlighted by the contrast with Herod. There is the theme of praise, worship and adoration of the King  which is closely connected to joy and delight and a generous heartfelt offering of thanksgiving represented by the three gifts.

I am not really sure that Matthew intended for the gifts to represent Jesus' future ministry but many wonderful sermons have focused on how gold reflected Christ's royalty, frankincense his divinity, and myrrh his sacrificial death. A good sermon might do this again.

But I was struck by William Arnold's pastoral perspective on the story. He highlights the discipline the magi used in finding Jesus and suggests that we follow in their footsteps. He notes

1.       The magi studied and so should we study Scripture , commentaries, devotionals, join Bible study groups, meditation groups ect.

2.       The magi not only studied books but they observed what was going on around them.  So can we.

3.       They were willing to seek confirmation by actually following the sign. We too must also put feet to the ground and walk not just study and observe.

4.       The Magi asked for directions and help. We too can ask other people and sources for help

5.       They responded with gratitude when they arrived. Gratitude is key and core to our lives of faith. An epiphany is something to share and inspires generosity.

6.       After seeing Jesus and worshipping him they were still open to further visions and insights so they took the council of the dream and returned home in a safe manner. We too must not become arrogant and think we know all there is to know and be excited about further epiphany blessings.

"Feasting on the Word" Year B Volume 1 pgs 214- 216

I always am struck by the closing line, "They went home by a different road".  I know that on one level this means that they went home another way to avoid Herod but I think there is another meaning and that is that when you meet and worship Christ you cannot help but be changed, you cannot help but to go home a different way nothing is quite the same.

As always I am grateful for feedback and insights but this Sunday Kathleen is going to be our guest preacher so I am curious what her take will be.