03 January 2010

Epiphany - The Journey

Epiphany C ‑ Our Journey

Matthew 2: 1-12

St. Luke’s Church, Burlington

3 January 2009

Today we hear the story of the end of a long journey. The three wise men finally were able to see the result of the prophecy of the star. The word, Epiphany means to 'shine through'. It describes how it was that the Magi were able to travel a great distance to eventually find themselves at a humble village ‑ how, upon entering the humble home they would find a baby born in abject poverty ‑ and how, even in this unlikely setting, they were able to see God's presence there. God's love shone through in this unlikely scene, and the Magi were able to realize this. This was Epiphany for the wise men: the power of God shining through the seemingly mundane.

Each of us have our own Epiphany experiences during our life, or at least we can have them. These are times when God's love shines through and touches our hearts. It can happen for us in the everyday, mundane things of our lives. And we come to realize that the Epiphany experience almost always happens during the seemingly unlikely times. So, I guess, a poor home in Bethlehem wasn't really unlikely at all. The God who created the universe appears to humankind in abject poverty. And our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom all things were made, spent his early years as a refugee in a foreign land.

The three wise men probably had a very arduous and long journey. It was only their faith which kept them going. The irony of it was that the Messiah of the Jews was born among the Jews, and yet throughout Jesus' life and afterwards, it was really non‑Jews, who recognized who Jesus was. The Magi were not Jews, and it was among the Gentiles, that most of the Church was formed after Jesus' death.

This can point out to us that just because we are part of the Christian Church, it doesn't mean that we have achieved all that God expects us to. We might be left behind as others make the discoveries about God, and grow in wisdom.

It was Oscar Wilde who wrote: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

The Jews lived in the same world as the Jews of the time, and Jesus was even born among them, yet it was the Magi who looked at the stars, and followed what the stars told them to find God in the world.

In Matthew's Gospel they were called wise men. I wonder if they were people who understood the value of listening to the intuitive and inner voice, as they took time to search for God and a deeper meaning to life. While others were busy with their labour and their daily lives, these wise men were watching the stars and responding to the signs which came to them from the heavens.

This past month has been a time of busy‑ness for many of us. The weeks before Christmas can be over‑full of things to get done and places to go. The world seems to spin a little faster and our lives get a little more hectic. This seems to be the general flow of our lives each year as well. The pace of life seems to pick up more and more.

Epiphany is about putting ourselves into a different mode. It is about setting out on a journey of faith, just as the Magi did. They started an actual physical journey as they set out to look for the Messiah. Ours is a spiritual journey. It is about becoming aware of the light of Christ in the world around us as we journey to ever greater truths. Even if we do have busy lives, we must be the people who look at the stars.

There are plenty of people around us who know this truth. If we think about it we will probably remember a friend or a relative who seemed to have something about her or him. A way of seeing the world in spiritual ways. Some people have the gift of spiritual insight.

You see, if you are not careful, you can end up living your life just in the rat race. There are many people who do succeed in the rat race. They put their time and their energy into it and they might even rise to the top. The thing about the rat race, though is that even if you win the race, your still a rat! You can forget that living has a purpose and is not an end in itself. Living is about growing and changing and moving in our faith and in our relationships with each other. Life is not about just getting through it.

My father used to have a saying which I'm sure we've all heard before. It goes: "The longest journey begins with a single step."

Of course that single step is followed by another and another. The real trick is to take that first step, and then to keep the steps coming, being aware all the while of God's creation around us and that God has a purpose for us.

It is in the spiritual journey that we have our Epiphany experiences. The light of Christ can shine in the darkness at any turn of the path, and it can appear in even the most unlikely situations. But only if you have your eyes ready to perceive it.

Sometimes I wonder if Christians in the western world have become just a little too comfortable with where we are. Change is a nasty word to so many of us. Yet growth is change and all of life is about change. We as the Church have slowed right down in our journey of faith. I think some of us have stopped the journey entirely.

As we begin a new year and we wonder what the future has in store for us we can be fearful about the changes which we will have to make. It is time to think differently about all of this. It is time to take the courage to move forward ‑ even into the unknown. It is time to shake the dust off our slow moving selves and get those feet moving again. One step ‑ and then another ‑ and then another. Let's make that our New Year's resolution: to move and grow in our faith again.

Here at St. Luke’s we offer plenty of ways to help get the process going: Try coming to one of our Bible Studies or books studies. Or try coming out to learn about contemplative prayer. Or try joining one of our groups which reaches out to help our community.

I wish you all a happy Epiphany. And I wish you all your own Epiphany experiences. Keep looking at the stars in your life to see the signs that God is giving. And let us keep ourselves on the Journey. Amen.

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