Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Glory of God

Epiphany II+B        16, January 2015       
The Reverend Robert R.M. Bagwell+
1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)                                                                                                                        Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
What would have happened if on the first Christmas, there had been three wise women instead of three wise men?
They would have: asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby cleaned the stable, brought more practical gifts, and made a casserole.
I don't know if you thought about the collect we just prayed so I want to look at it again.

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, .... Amen.

We have just asked God to let us shine out like Jesus Christ shines out.  Even more so that our lights may shine because we have been illuminated by God's word and sacraments. What will be the result of this?  We prayed that people seeing Christ in us to the four corners of the globe, may worship and obey Jesus.  Think about that for a moment.  Through us and our lives God is calling out to others.  If you look at my Facebook page you will read these words of Paul to the church at Corinth: :For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:6  This is the season of "theophany". Theophany is the "manifestation" of God to the human 5 senses.  The events: the wise men, Christ's baptism with the Holy Spirit descending like a dove, the changing of the water into wine,  and may I add, with our Baptist brethren's song: when Jesus came into (our) hearts.

Jesus isn't just the good news, we are called, (there's that word again) to be lights of good news to those on this planet around us!  We are in the season of the year of Manifestation, we call it Epiphany.  You are called, I am called, but why Jesus said in another text: You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5

Wait a minute:  I thought that Jesus was the Light of the world.  In Colossians chapter one we read: "

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Christ in you.  Christ in me. Glory.

In our first reading we have the story of the calling of Samuel.  Samuel also had a miraculous birth, similar to John the Baptist. His mother, Hannah, was much loved by her husband but she was childless, a point of dishonor in her day.  She was mocked, talked about and put down by the other women and she lived with shame.  But she cried out to the Lord and in her older years prayed for a son and swore to give him to God if he would but answer the prayer. .  The Lord heard her prayer and she had a son a year later. She named him "Samuel" a name that means "name of God."  Hannah was saying that God was the child's father in a sense. When the child was old enough she took him to the tabernacle and presented him to the priest Eli.  Today, this young acolyte is sleeping in the same chamber where the ark of the Lord was kept.  outside where the seven branched candlestick burned perhaps to make sure it did not go out, when God called. It is important to note that although Samuel was around the things of God, his whole life was devoted to God and you might say his "business" was God, he had never heard from God to this point. I think many of us go to church, perhaps read our Bibles and pray, but do we ever expect to hear from God?  Perhaps God is trying to speak to us even now, but we're not expecting it and so we really don't listen. The United Church of Christ started an evangelism campaign several years ago with the headline "God is still speaking", and he is, but are we hearing?  Are we listening?  Over and over the Bible talks about a "call", calling and the "called,  but somehow we don't get the message.

Jesus calls out a people unto himself.  The Greek word is "ekklesia" which the English translators translated as the word "church".  It means "the called out ones" in the original language.  That is us!  In the gospel text we read more about calling .  Jesus calls Phillip and immediately he goes to find Nathaniel, both had been followers of John the Baptist and so the proclamation of the gospel begins.  As it has always been as Phillip said "come and see".  Nathaniel on the other hand seems somewhat sarcastic, a person of extremes. He responds: "can anything good come out of Nazareth". Prior to the birth of Christ, Nazareth was not an important part of the national and religious life of Israel.  It had a bad reputation in morals and religious life. 

But Phillip is not dissuaded.  How many Christians give up when they get a turn down, a 'no' or a "I was taught not to discuss politics or religion".  Had the disciples had the timidity we manifest, the gospel would have died in Israel.  Jesus however, is the Light of the world.  God calls, God invites.  When Nathaniel approaches, Jesus manifests his God-likeness in his knowledge of Nathaniel.  , "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you." Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"! Nathaniel is essentially dumbfounded.  He now only begins to see the glory of God in Jesus the Messiah. Rather than suspicion of Jesus, he embraces him in a profound way.

Do we?  Or has the gospel story become "ho hum", everyone knows that, but everyone doesn't.  Jesus and his church are not called to be "a religion" but a life.  Jesus is life.  He calls, we listen, he transforms us and then we received his glory, his manifestation.  Each day we must remember that.  The Reverend Tullian Tchividjian, the pastor of the famous Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft Lauderdale says: "we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day because we forget it every day." When you screw up, remind yourself, when you make the same mistake over and over again, when we lose our tempers or gossip or whatever pet sin we live with and wonder why, remind yourself of the gospel.  It is not us in Christ that is the hope of glory, but Christ in us!  When Christ said "it is finished", he meant it!  We can not add or subract from His finished work.  We can only engage in His work for those who have not been called yet, or heard yet or been asked to 'come and see' yet--those who have yet to see his Epiphany glory.

One of my favorite Epiphany hymns reads as follows:

Songs of thankfulness and praise, Jesus, Lord, to Thee we raise,
Manifested by the star To the sages from afar;
Branch of royal David’s stem In Thy birth at Bethlehem;
Anthems be to Thee addressed, God in man made manifest.
Manifest at Jordan’s stream, Prophet, Priest, and King supreme;
And at Cana, wedding guest, In Thy Godhead manifest;
Manifest in power divine, Changing water into wine;
Anthems be to Thee addressed, God in man made manifest.
Manifest in making whole Palsied limbs and fainting soul;
Manifest in valiant fight, Quelling all the devil’s might;
Manifest in gracious will,  Ever bringing good from ill;
Anthems be to Thee addressed, God in man made manifest.
Each day may God help us to manifest his glory, may we remember who we are and what God has done for us and in us.

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