SERMON: Epiphany Day C
January 6th, 2013, St Petri
SHARE THE GIFT
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.
We gather for the first time in this new year and the Lord hits us with an epiphany moment – a moment of true wonder and enlightenment that pushes us beyond our normal day-to-day confines into a different place where the day-to-day concerns of our life are arrested and the wideness, grandness, depth and significance of a great mystery now made known to us in God’s Word. He captures our imagination and our attention….
The moment is centred on these “wise men from the East”; strange people to appear right at the start of the account of how God changed the world in his Son, Jesus. Jesus is a completely Jewish man with a Jewish background, context and story. And yet, here are these Arabic, Asian and/or Indian people coming out of the blue to complete an act of homage to the new King whom they now recognise by star and by the Scriptures.
And these easterners are mostly noted for their gifts. They bring gifts of high value; gifts that are hard to get and precious in everyone’s eyes. They give up these precious gifts in an act of humble adoration and homage to the new start rising – the new king Jesus – and this is not done begrudgingly but freely and with great joy, Matthew tells us.
This treatment of precious gifts and the giving of them away reminds me of the chair I told you about – the chair I got for Christmas.
It is a beautiful chair – a wonderful gift, freely given to me by another for my joy and comfort and good rest a recreation.
The chair has already had some use. I love this gift. I love this chair. I love what it has done to how I spend my time on the back patio and how it has revolutionised my reading and thought time as I sit so comfortably on the back patio hearing the birds, watching the backyard cricket, and when that is finished, knowing the sway of the trees on a warm summer’s night…
But something interesting has also happened around this chair. Two of my mates helped themselves to the use of my precious gift over these new year days. As a result, I had an epiphany moment – an “Ah ha” moment where something hidden was revealed by God….
See, at first the sight of other people using my gift was hard. They might break it. They might not realise the special value this gift has for me and my life. They might not be able to use the complex reclining mechanism on this chair and so, might inadvertently break that and the chair and all that is currently gives to be would be lost.
It is hard to share a precious gift that has been given to you. Even though the gift has been given freely, my human heart then wants to possess it, control it, and protect it from outside or unthinking use.
My tendency is to keep the gift a secret so that none of these other things can happen to the gift.
My tendency is to let it be known that this gift is mine and so by extension – not yours.
My tendency is to be the expert in the use of the gift and so by implication say to others that they are not experts in the use of the gift; actually sending the message that you are quite ignorant when it comes to this gift: Saying “stay off my chair lest you damage it or break it”.
But then the ‘Ah ha’ moment came. Seeing two of my buddies relaxing in my chair and enjoying the gift actually became better than having the chair all to myself! Seeing another person come to know what I know and experience the goodness that I experience as a result of this great gift was a real tonic – a challenging and yet critical moment of personal growth in the art of sharing the gift….
Can you see where we are going on this Epiphany Day?
The gift we have is more than a chair. It is life for another year (God willing). The gift is a new leader for another year who shares his whole being and his world with us. He is a leader who serves – the Leader whom we know and have come to love for his suffering, his dying, his mighty rising and his calling of us into his holy community called the Christian Church. He is Jesus and he is our precious gift.
He is the Mystery now revealed by the Spirit of God to us. Yet, WE are the mystery made known too! The uncovered mystery of which Paul speaks is him and us!
In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (3:5-6)
By God’s uncovered grace we are now fellow heirs in the ancient story of God’s dealing with humanity – first with his chosen people, the Jewish people, and now with people of all languages, cultures, skin colours and places – Gentile people.
And he gives us the gift of life together for a purpose……
…. to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (3:9-10)
The reason God gave us the gift of life In Jesus is to show the world his grand wisdom to not only fellow human beings, but all created things, even spiritual powers who seek to keep the gift a secret from people, lest they all come into the joy and life of this Gift – Jesus.
So, we begin this year together knowing we both have received the gift of life in Jesus and are the gift of life for our place here in the Valley.
Because we have the gift of hope and life and love beyond all loves, we are the gift of hope and life and love beyond all loves.
God challenges us now to share the gift even more. Like I have learned to share my chair with whoever would want to experience its grandeur, so you and I are called to share the gift of Jesus’ love and hope with people who still can only see him as a distant mystery. They won’t break him or us. They learn and grow together with us. We can learn and grow together in the use of sharing THE Gift.
In 2013 you and I continue to be handlers of the Gift. We are with Paul who have had that “Ah ha” moment when we understood that the gift is meant to be shared not horded or hidden.
Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power.Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, (3:7-8)
Of this good news of the gift of life and hope for living in Jesus Christ WE are servants – servant to him and for each other and for the stranger.
So, at this new beginning kind of day, with our epiphany moment of sharing the gift, we end up with the eastern travellers who joyfully honour and pay homage to the wisdom and love of God in giving his son to the world, and with Paul as we simply have to pray for each other and our year together ahead;
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)