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Worship for Sunday, January 9 (Epiphany Sunday)

Parkview worship bulletin 1.9.22
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A Sermon Reflection by Pastor Adam on Ephesians 3:1-12

When preparing for this Sunday, I faced a conundrum. I had a huge decision to make.

On the one hand, last Thursday was Epiphany, the final day of Christmas and, as we just covered in the little disciples' message, a pretty interesting day in the life of our faith and the story of Jesus.

On the other hand, the first Sunday in the season of Epiphany is Baptism of the Lord. It’s the day when Jesus enters the Jordan and is baptized by John. Also a pretty interesting day in the life of our faith and the story of Jesus.

Now the United Methodist Discipleship website advocates for just doing both! Which isn’t a terrible idea, but is honestly a lot to try and pack in to not only one sermon but one worship service.

Fortunately, we have the epistle reading selection for Epiphany, that passage from Ephesians 3 Lynn read for us. And while of course it doesn’t reference Jesus’s baptism, nor does it recount the arrival of the Wiseman from the East, the Apostle Paul provides a very helpful summary of the themes of Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord.

So we gather in worship today to hear the readings, sing the songs, lift up the prayers that flow from proclaiming that in Christ, both as a full-grown adult but also as a Bethlehem child, we see the manifestation, the shining forth of God.

Epiphany is when we remember with joy and gratitude that God speaks to us, God shows up and speaks clearly and deeply through the one born of Mary and honored by the traveling wise men who are drawn to him through the star shining bright.

Today we celebrate Epiphany and remember that at the heart of the Christian faith, religion, worldview, lifestyle, ethic and church is what is revealed to us by God, not what we have come up with, seek or even do. Faith is a gift we receive, not something we earn or something we create.

For there to be a relationship between God and us, then God must not only create but also communicate. God must reveal who God is, what God is up to, and how we are invited to respond to all that. We couldn’t come up with who God is on our own. God had to show us by being with us.

Paul is emphasizing in Ephesians how in Christ humanity received the most complete and literally down-to-earth revelation about who God is. In turn, humanity has and will spend the rest of history responding to God’s self-revelation in Jesus and communication through his humble birth, brief life, violent death and unexpected resurrection.

Yes, God has communicated through the prophets and holy apostles by the Spirit, but for God’s voice, plan, desires, and love to be known to all of humanity, God shines forth and speaks clearly to us as Jesus. Epiphany! God shines forth among us, and we could say this is in and of itself a proclamation we can call gospel.

And the best news on this good news Epiphany Sunday is that God continues to shine forth in the world and in each of our lives. Epiphany is a season, not a historical moment.

Do you know what I mean? How the gospel, the good news that Jesus embodies and extends, gains new levels in our minds and hearts through events and experiences. God shines forth in our faith and life as often as we are paying attention, seeking after it as if weary travelers from the east following a mysterious star.

God shining forth is not so much understood with mental growth but felt through a holy presence. Through the sometimes mundane and other times miraculous. Through the tragic and triumphs times of life.

Epiphany not only happened when the wise men from the East stopped being led by the star and came alongside the Holy Family. Nor does Epiphany remain locked within the 24 hours each January 6th.

No, no, Epiphany are those moments when God shines forth in the world in your life to illuminate the good news that God is with us.

Which means Epiphany might be that “aha” moment you have at Bible camp as a third grader around the closing night worship service

or a “oh, wow!” moment on a routine Sunday morning in church service as an octogenarian when the words to a familiar hymn hit in a new way.

Epiphany might happen for you at the birth of your first child

or it might be in that moment when you turn from the graveside burial of your beloved spouse.

Epiphany might be when you hear the splashing baptismal waters covering your grandchild

or in the moment the Welch’s grape juice touches your tongue and the words of Communion penetrate your heart.

God shines forth to reveal to us who we are and whose we are, and God will do that, my friends, in each of your lives and throughout your life.

Epiphany! God shining forth is an event and an experience that might sometimes give you new words and insights to share or might leave you speechless and still.

Epiphany! God shining forth is sort of like being snagged by the Holy Spirit because you keep showing up and are ready for a deeper, more intimate and more powerful experience of the God who creates and communities,

who loves and never leaves,

who shines forth in Christ and continues to shine brightly now and forever. Amen.


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