Prepared by Carl Schaefer
Sunday, January 3, 2009
Church of the Cross
Introduction: (#1Slide) The first slide to be visible during the reading of Isaiah text.
(#2Slide) Epiphany is the great day of celebration for all Christians – it not only completes the 12 days of Christmas, but more importantly it is the festival of the manifestation of God’s Word (Jesus) made flesh, honored by the gifts from all nations and peoples. The central images are those of the images of the three Magi who bore the gifts to the manger. This Sunday places emphasis on the joining of the whole world in adoration and self-giving.
Hear this from “The God Who Comes” by Carlo Carretto
“God presents himself to us little by little. The whole story of salvation is the story of God who comes.
It is always he who comes, even if he has not yet come in his fullness. But there is indeed one unique moment of his coming; the others were only preparations and announcements.
The hour of his coming is the Incarnation. The incarnation brings the whole world into his presence. It is a presence so complete that it overshadows every presence before it.
God is made human in Christ. God makes himself present to us with such a special presence, such an obvious presence, as to overthrow all the complicated calculations made about him in the past. “The invisible, intangible God has made himself visible and tangible in Christ. (If Jesus is truly God, everything is clear; if I cannot believe this, everything darkens again.)
How existential is this beautiful description “What our hands have touched.” Yes, Jesus, God on earth, was touched by human beings, handled, and gazed upon.”
Reubon Job, in concert with Norman Shawchuck, add this one more sentence that complete the mystery yet sends us on what seems a perilous journey of faith that has now witnessed “Emmanuel” – God with us, “As we watch and wait in the light of Christ, we begin to see the unfolding drama of the Christ child becoming a prophet, healer, teacher, and Savior. Much of the story is still to be told (after the Season of Epiphany), but already we are being reminded of the direction in which this one sacred life is moving” – the cross.
(#3Slide) The text of Isaiah proclaims: “…the Lord rises upon you, his glory appears over you, nations will come to your light; gifts will be offered, proclaiming the praise of the Lord.”
Can you feel the excitement in Isaiah’s words– the coming of the Christ child –the great anticipation - the greatest example of God’s intervention into our time – kronos time, as He revealed Himself most supremely to us – took on flesh – Emmanuel, God with us.
(#4Slide) With this moment in time – our time, comes a certain sense of urgency – the very message of John the Baptism when he said in Matthew 3: 2, “…Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near,” and as Jesus announced in the synagogue, quoting Isaiah, “…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The urgency with knowing that God has intervened and with great sacrifice, He was giving us a second chance – the rest of the love story recorded in the Bible.
(#5Slide) It is the moment when God’s time, Kairos, was you can say superimposed upon our time – Kronos, the current “time” of chronology of history, watches, and alarm clocks. That Plan initiated in the stream of time – the alpha and Omega – from which God launched His timely plan – we could say that ours is the time of “now.”
Our time of kronos, “now,” is the time between the dates of birth to the date of death, is calling us out of our complacency to recognize the light of the world has come, like the hymn: “Arise, Shine the light of the world has come – and the glory of the Lord rises upon us.” And as per Isaiah, this light is also a call to the nations to come to the light.”
(#6Slide) So “Now” the “n” stands for this moment in time or now, “o” stands for our ownership, and “w” stands for why? Is this so important that we should respond? When Joshua stood before the people at the end of his life, he said in so many words, now is the time for you to choose, “…then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” He said “this day,” not tomorrow or some day in the future; the time for choosing is “now.” Yes for us that feel that there is no end of tomorrows, God is saying to us, “you only have this day, this moment” – every other moment is (Kairos time) God’s time, and only His to give. We can understand “this moment in time” through Paul’s letter to the Romans 5: 6 where it is recorded, “You see, at just the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Just the right time – God’s moment – his plan, superimposed into our time – “NOW.”
We unfortunately approach the subject of our response to God like we approach our finances. Charge now, pay later. We delay the moment of “paid in full.” We have been living in a period of consumerism/materialism, and leveraged ourselves like the day of reckoning would never come. Then the bubble burst, and we had to pay up. That erroneous thinking can leak into us thinking that God will never ask us to pay-up – We only have “now.”
(#7Slide) So Joshua asked the people to take ownership, the “O” in NOW. When he said, for me and my house, he was taking ownership of his response, “…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua had claimed his obedience to God who had lead the people out of bondage and delivered on the promise Land – all the promises made to Moses. It is that same reality that Isaiah owned as prophesy and John the Baptist owned as proclamation and it all pointed to an immediate response.
(#8Slide) So for us in the post-modern era, Epiphany presents to us once again His plan for salvation for all of us that brings us to the “W” in NOW, or the “Why.” It is the revelation that “God so loved the world (John 3:16),” that “This is how we know what love is, and that Jesus laid down his life for us (I John 3:16). This is the promise kept – the Epiphany of God’s love that God wants us to claim, or own NOW. And we can grasp the urgency of the moment by owning the response that Paul suggested in Romans 10: 9 “That if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” No one can declare that for us, it must be our own revelation of God’s loving salvation plan made real in the incarnation in Jesus Christ.
A brief review of history there are those who missed their moment to “own” their obedience to the God who had revealed himself to them: Adam and Eve mismanaged their “time” in the garden; David mismanaged his life in response to God’s covenant with him; Solomon lost his way as the successor to the covenant, and Judas, one of the chosen 12 would misunderstand the promise and surrender God’s plan for an immediate reward. Even the chosen Nation of Israel, would be led astray and choose not to trust in God’s promise. And today athletes, politicians, musicians, even pastors have lost their way in thinking the time God gave us was theirs to control. In the end, we must be the masters of the here and “now.”
(#9Slide) In conclusion, we have come to understand the “N” of now declaring that this is the moment; second we know that the revelation of Christ is ours to claim the “O” of now; and finally, we must claim the “W” of now, the love that would lead His incarnation in Jesus Christ to the cross. The “NOW” then is the context behind the Epiphany of the love of God’s salvation plan.
We must address God’s invitation “now,” we must own the response, and surrender to mystery of God’s love and like Joshua say, “for me and my soul, we will serve the Lord.” We must align God’s time with our time. We must connect eternity with the here and now. We must become a part of God’s revelation.
And now we can powerfully participate in visible presence of God with us in celebrating the meal he gave us to remember Him.