Pastor's Weekly Newsletter

Each Friday, Dr. Daniel Hagmaier posts his weekly newsletter. Catch up on what's happening and plan ahead.

Matthew 2:1-12| Epiphany

EPIPHANY

MATTHEW 2:1-12

JANUARY 7, 2018

 

 

 

LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT A MALADY MINISTERS SUFFER IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING BIG HOLIDAYS IN THE CHURCH.

 

WITH EXTRA SERVICES, SPECIAL EVENTS, AND ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES TO SPEAK, AND SPEAK THE FAMILIAR WORDS OF, SAY, CHRISTMAS, AND EASTER, AGAIN… BY THE TIME ALL THAT’S OVER, MINISTERS ARE TIRED OF HEARING THEMSELVES TALK!

 

IF YOU THINK YOU’RE TIRED OF HEARING US SPEAK, AND TEACH, AND PREACH, AND TALK – YOU OUGHT TO HEAR WHAT’S GOING ON INSIDE HERE!

 

SO, FOR THE MONTH OF JANUARY, I AM USING ONE WORD SERMON TITLES, TO CUT DOWN ON THE NUMBER OF WORDS YOU HAVE TO HEAR ME SPEAK!

 

IT’S NOT THAT MY SERMONS WILL NECESSARILY BE ANY SHORTER, BUT WITH ONE WORD SERMON TITLES I’M TRYING TO ECONOMIZE.

 

(THE OFFICE STAFF ACCUSED ME OF DOING IT TO CUT DOWN ON THE TIME IT TAKES ME TO PUT UP THE SIGN OUT FRONT!)

 

SO, OUR WORD FOR THIS MORNING IS “EPIPHANY”.  YESTERDAY WAS THE DAY OF EPIPHANY IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH.

 

THAT HIGH AND HOLY DAY IN THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH, WHICH IS FAR MORE COMPLICATED THAN YOU MIGHT THINK, OR CARE TO LEARN ABOUT;

 

BUT SUFFICE IT TO SAY, EPIPHANY MARKS THE END OF THE CHRISTMAS SEASON.

 

THE DAY BEFORE EPIPHANY IS THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS (YOU CAN THINK OF THE SONG – THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS) AND TRADITIONALLY IT HAS BEEN CELEBRATED BY REMEMBERING THE VISIT OF THE WISEMEN.

 

THE ENGLISH WORD EPIPHANY IS ROOTED IN THE GREEK WORD EPIPHENEIA.  AN EPIPHANY IS A REVELATION, A MANIFESTATION.

 

ALL SIX OCCURRENCES OF EPIPHANIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT’S ORIGINAL GREEK LANGUAGE REFER TO CHRIST’S COMING.

 

NOTABLY, NONE OF THESE OCCUR IN MATTHEW’S ACCOUNT OF CHRIST’S REVELATION TO THE MAGI, BUT HERE WE ARE.  THAT’S ONE OF THE COMPLICATIONS WITH EPIPHANY OF WHICH I SPOKE A MOMENT AGO.

DESPITE THIS, THE STORY OF THE WISEMEN PORTRAYS THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD IN PERSON.  THE MOST HIGH IS SHOWN FORTH IN THE LEAST LIKELY, AND HUMBLEST GUISE: THAT OF A BABY.

 

HOWEVER, IT’S NOT SO MUCH THAT EVENT, OR THE MAGI, OR AN END TO THE CHRISTMAS SEASON I WANT US TO THINK ABOUT THIS MORNING, BUT RATHER THE IDEA OF EPIPHANY IN OUR OWN LIVES;

 

THE WAYS IN WHICH GOD CONTINUES TO REVEAL, MANIFEST GOD-SELF TO US.

 

IN THIS MONTH’S PRESBYTERIANS TODAY, OUR DENOMINATION’S MONTHLY NEWS MAGAZINE, MINISTER RACHEL SRUBAS, TELLS THIS STORY:

 

“CASSI, A MEMBER OF MY CHURCH, ONCE DREAMED A DREAM SO VIVID, SO COMPELLING, THAT WHEN SHE WOKE UP, SHE WAS SURE SHE KNEW WHAT GOD WAS CALLING HER TO DO WITH HER LIFE.

 

THAT DAY, SHE ENROLLED IN A FOSTER PARENT TRAINING COURSE.

 

AFTER MONTHS OF PREPARATION AND MOUNTAINS OF PAPERWORK, CASSI INVITED A FRIEND AND ME TO HER NOW CHILD-READY HOME.

 

IT WAS THE SIXTH OF JANUARY, THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD, ALSO KNOWN AS THE FEAST OF EPIPHANY OR THREE KINGS DAY.

 

I BROUGHT TWO ITEMS WITH ME: A CANDLE AND A STICK OF CHALK.

 

WE LIT THE CANDLE TO SIGNIFY THE LIGHT OF CHRIST THAT ONCE SHOWN BRILLIANTLY IN THE HEAVENS, LEADING THE MAGI, WISE STAR-WATCHERS FROM THE EAST, TO FOLLOW ITS BEAMS ALL THE WAY TO BETHLEHEM.

 

THERE, THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW TELLS US, THEY FOUND THE YOUNG SAVIOR WITH HIS MOTHER.

 

NOW WHY THE CHALK?

 

A CENTURIES OLD EPIPHANY TRADITION MORE COMMON IN EUROPE THAN IN THE UNITED STATES IS KNOWN AS ‘CHALKING THE DOOR.’

 

ON EPIPHANY, GUESTS GATHER AT A HOME TO INVOKE THE MAGI’S BLESSING UPON IT.”

 

DRAWING FROM THE STORY OF THE MAGI’S VISIT TO THE BABY JESUS, THOSE GATHERED MAY READ A BRIEF, RESPONSIVE LITURGY, OR SAY A PRAYER.

 

ALTHOUGH MATTHEW NEVER MENTIONS THE NAMES OF THE MAGI, TRADITION HAS IT THAT THEY WERE CALLED CASPAR, MELCHIOR, AND BALTHAZAR.

 

THE INITIALS, THE FIRST LETTER OF EACH OF THEIR NAMES, C M B, ALSO ABBREVIATES A LATIN HOUSE BLESSING, CHRISTUS MANSIONEM BENEDICAT, MEANING ‘MAY CHRIST BLESS THIS DWELLING.’

 

CHALKING THE DOOR ON THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY INVOLVES WRITING – WITH CHALK – THESE THREE LETTERS, INTERSPERSED WITH CROSSES, AND FLANKED BY THE NUMBERS OF THE PRESENT YEAR, ON THE LINTEL OF A HOUSES’ FRONT DOOR.

 

(SO NOW YOU UNDERSTAND THE CHRISTIAN GRAFFITI THAT WELCOMED YOU TO THE FRONT OF THE CHURCH THIS MORNING.  WE PUT IT THERE YESTERDAY, ON EPIPHANY, TO GREET YOU, AND BLESS YOU, AND TO BLESS OUR CHURCH HOUSE IN 2018.)

 

BY THE WAY, BACK TO OUR STORY FOR A MOMENT, CASSI’S DREAM AND THOSE EPIPHANY PRAYERS FOR HER, AND FOR HER HOME, WERE ANSWERED LATER THAT YEAR, WHEN AN INFANT EXPOSED TO DRUGS IN THE WOMB, WAS PLACED IN CASSI’S CARE.

 

BOTH THE BABY AND THE FOSTER MOTHER FLOURISHED!

 

IN ANOTHER SECTION OF THAT SAME ISSUE OF PRESBYTERIANS TODAY OTHERS HAD WRITTEN IN TO TELL OF THEIR OWN EPIPHANIES OVER THE YEARS.

 

THOSE TIMES GOD HAD REVEALED SOMETHING SPECIAL TO THE BELIEVER, AND HOW THOSE BELIEVERS HAD ACTED UPON THOSE DREAMS AND REVELATIONS.

 

ONE PERSON DREAMED OF A FARM CHURCH, WHERE PEOPLE COULD COME TO WORSHIP IN A BARN, IN AN ORCHARD… SUNDAY SCHOOL WITH THE CHICKENS… FOLKS COULD DELIVER FOOD FROM THE FARM TO OTHERS ON THEIR WAY HOME…

 

FARM TO FOOD PANTRY… FARM TO SCHOOL CAFETERIA… FARM TO PRISON…

 

AND BEN JOHNSON-KRASE, BECAME THE CO-FOUNDER OF FARM CHURCH IN DURHAM, NC.

 

TAMARA JOHN, HAD A SIMILAR, BUT DIFFERENT DREAM, AND SHE FOUNDED, AND NOW DIRECTS, THE HOPE FOR LIFE CHAPEL RV MINISTRY OUT OF HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA.

 

A MINISTRY, AS THE NAME WOULD SUGGEST, TO TRAVELERS AND CAMPERS STAYING OR LIVING IN THEIR RV’S AS THEY TRAVEL CROSS COUNTRY.

ANOTHER PERSON, UPON OBSERVING A JAPANESE MAPLE IN HER FRONT YARD, SCRAGGILY, MISSHAPEN, BRANCHES GOING THIS WAY AND THAT, LEAFY IN SOME PLACES, SPARSE IN OTHERS; AN “IMPERFECT TREE;”

 

CAME TO THE REALIZATION, THAT LIKE THAT TREE, SHE DIDN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO BE A BELIEVER;

 

IT WASN’T SOME IMAGINARY IDEAL FOR WHICH SHE SHOULD BE AIMING, BUT, INSTEAD, TO LIVE OUT HER OWN CRAGGY LIFE AS FAITHFULLY AS POSSIBLE.

 

ANOTHER LEARNED FROM HIS OWN YEAR OF PAINFUL LIVING AFTER NUMEROUS BACK SURGERIES, TO BE MORE EMPATHETIC TOWARDS THOSE LIVING IN PAIN.

 

ANOTHER, AT THE BIRTH OF HIS SON, AND THE REALIZATION OF HOW MUCH HE LOVED HIM, WITHOUT CONDITIONS, WITHOUT MERIT, WITHOUT VIRTUE, CAME TO UNDERSTAND HOW IT IS THAT GOD LOVES US.

 

STILL ANOTHER, AN OLDER ADULT, THINKING SHE WAS BEYOND HER PRODUCTIVE YEARS, WITH LITTLE LEFT TO DO, OR THAT SHE COULD DO;

 

WHILE SCROLLING FACEBOOK, AND SEEING ALL THAT WAS GOING ON IN OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES; AND ALL THAT THEY WERE DOING; AND ALL THE PLACES THEY WERE GOING – INSTEAD OF FEELING JEALOUS AND EMBITTERED…

 

DETERMINED THAT SHE WOULD COMMIT HERSELF TO PRAYING FOR EACH ONE OF THEM, AND FOR WHAT THEY WERE DOING, AND NEEDING; AND IN SO DOING, SHE HAS FOUND GREAT JOY AND PEACE IN HER NOW MOSTLY-SEDENTARY LIFE.

 

ALL THESE PEOPLE, ALL THEIR STORIES, ALL THESE EPIPHANIES POINT TO THE FACT THAT GOD IS ALL AROUND US, AMONG US, WITH US, AND WITHIN US;

 

AND THAT WHAT WE MAY NEED TO DO, MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, IS TO BE OPEN TO GOD’S REVEALS.

 

TO CATCH THOSE GLIMPSES AND GLANCES OF GOD IN EVERYDAY LIFE.

 

PEOPLE SPEND, AND WASTE, MUCH OF THEIR LIFE, THEIR LIVING, WAITING FOR GOD TO GIVE THEM SOME SORT OF SIGN;

 

WHEN THE FACT IS, GOD’S REVELATIONS ARE ALL AROUND US, IN US, WITH US, IN THE MOST ORDINARY OF WAYS.   “THE REMARKABLE ORDINARY” FREDERICK BUECHNER CALLS IT.

 

WHAT EPIPHANIES, REVELATIONS, MANIFESTATIONS OF GOD, HAVE COME YOUR WAY?  WHERE?  WHEN?  IN WHAT?  DO YOU SEE GOD?

I DON’T KNOW IF THIS IS JUST ME OR NOT, BUT SOMETIMES WHEN I AM DRIVING THROUGH THE KEYS TO GET OUT OF HERE, OR TO GET BACK HERE, I’LL BE DRIVING ALONG, AND I CAN’T REMEMBER WHERE I AM.

 

HAVE A I DRIVEN THROUGH ISLAMORADA YET?  DID I MISS IT?  IS IT COMING UP?  HAVE I PASSED LONG KEY?  AM I IN TAVERNIER OR KEY LARGO?

 

SO MUCH OF IT LOOKS THE SAME; THOUGH MUCH OF IT IS QUITE BEAUTIFUL;

 

ONE OF THE TEN DRIVES IN AMERICA TRAVEL EXPERTS SAY YOU MUST DRIVE IN YOUR LIFETIME;

 

BUT, IT CAN ALSO BE VERY ORDINARY; AND TIME PASSES; OFTEN, QUITE SLOWLY, BEHIND THE RUBBERNECKERS, AND I’M NOT SURE WHERE I AM; WHERE I’VE BEEN; WHERE I’M GOING.

 

PART OF IT IS ALSO BECAUSE I GET LOST IN THE INNER DIALOGUE THAT’S GOING ON IN MY HEAD; THE CHATTER; THE THOUGHTS, THE IDEAS OF CONSEQUENCE; AND OTHER THOUGHTS ABOUT, MOSTLY, NOTHING AT ALL;

 

AS I SAY, THIS MAY JUST BE ME, BUT SOMETIMES LIFE FEELS THE SAME WAY.

 

IT’S NOT THAT I’M LOST, NOT EVEN WANDERING, I’M JUST NOT ATTUNED TO MY LIFE; TO MY SURROUNDINGS;

 

AND CERTAINLY NOT ATTUNED TO WHATEVER EPIPHANES, REVELATIONS, MANIFESTATIONS, GOD’S TRYING TO REVEAL; TRYING TO SHOW ME.

 

SOMETIMES I’M JUST LOST IN THOUGHT; OR THE CHATTER THAT HAS GOTTEN THE BEST OF ME.

 

BUT THERE’S GOD, AND THE THINGS GOD’S USING – TO SAY TO ME – “HEY, LIFE’S REMARKABLE – EVEN WHEN IT’S ORDINARY – WAKE UP!”

 

ABBY KING-KAISER WAS ANOTHER OF THOSE WHO TOLD OF AN EPIPHANY IN THIS MONTH’S PRESBYTERIANS TODAY.

 

“MY EPIPHANY CAME IN THE GARDEN.” SHE WRITES.  “IN MY FIRST SEASON, I MANAGED TO HARVEST ONE CUCUMBER THAT COST ME ROUGHLY, $112, DUE TO THE COST OF BUILDING THE GARDEN.

 

IT WAS A VERY TASTY CUKE.

 

MY HARVEST HAS GROWN, BUT I STILL HAVE PROBLEMS I CAN’T SEEM TO SOLVE.  MOTHS EAT MY HARDY GREENS, AND MY ZUCCHINI MADE BEAUTIFUL BLOSSOMS BUT NO FRUIT.

AS I STRESSED OVER THIS, IN THE NICHES OF MY YARD, A MIRACLE SPROUTED IN MY DRIVEWAY.  A STALK OF CORN – COMPLETE WITH SILK, AND EAR, AND KERNELS – GREW OUT OF A CRACK BETWEEN THE STONES.

 

HOW?  SOMEONE SEEMS TO FEED EARS OF CORN TO THE SQUIRRELS, AS I OFTEN FIND COBS DROPPED IN THE YARD.

 

BUT HOW CAN A KERNEL TAKE ROOT IN A CRACK IN MY DRIVEWAY, BUT MY HEALTHY VINE HAS ONLY PRODUCED TWO CUCUMBERS?”

 

“THIS,” SHE SAYS, “IS WHAT MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD FEELS LIKE.

 

I AM BUSY WORKING IN MY NEAT LITTLE BOX, SOMETIMES HARD, SOMETIMES LAZILY, WHILE MIRACLES ARE HAPPENING ALL AROUND ME.

 

AND OFTEN, THE GREATEST EPIPHANIES COME FROM SOMETHING I THOUGHT WAS TRASH, SOMETHING SO USELESS AND MEANINGLESS.

 

IF I STEP BACK AND LOOK AROUND, WHO KNOWS WHAT MIGHT GROW,” SHE ENDS.

 

SO, WITH EPIPHANY THIS YEAR, I AM RESOLVING TO DO A BETTER JOB OF KEEPING MY EYES OPEN TO GOD’S REVELATIONS AND MANIFESTATIONS IN THE REMARKABLY ORDINARY OF LIFE; EVEN IN THE ORDINARY, ORDINARY.

 

I’M LOOKING FOR WAYS TO QUIET THE INNER CHATTER THAT GOES ON INSIDE ALL OF US, AND BEING MORE OPEN TO WHAT GOD IS TRYING TO SAY TO ME.

 

SOMETIMES, IT SEEMS, I WON’T LET GOD GET A WORD IN EDGEWISE.  MAYBE, IF I’D SAY LESS WORDS, I MIGHT HEAR GOD’S WORD MORE.

 

I DON’T KNOW WHAT HELPS YOU QUIET YOUR LIFE; SILENCE THE CHATTER; FIND PEACE.

 

I’VE FOUND READING, CAN DO IT.  SO, CAN ART.  AND MUSIC.  AND SILENCE.  AND PRAYER AND MEDITATION.  AND USING LESS WORDS.

 

IT MAY ALSO INVOLVE SOME SORT OF TURNING OFF OUR DEVICES!

 

THOSE MAGI OF OLD, WHILE DOING THEIR JOB OF WATCHING THE STARS, JUST HAPPENED TO NOTICE A NEW ONE; A DIFFERENT ONE; ONE THEY’D NEVER PAYED ANY ATTENTION TO BEFORE; OR THAT WASN’T THERE BEFORE;

 

AND A LIGHT WENT ON – A SIGN FROM GOD – NOT ONLY IN THE SKY – BUT INSIDE THEM – AND THEY WENT TO FIND THE CHILD, WHO HAD BEEN BORN KING OF THE WORLD.

 

 

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Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

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