Sermons on “Epiphany”
The interaction of our sacred and secular calendars is fascinating. As we walk through the last weeks of Epiphany, we are preparing for Lent, our time of holy reflection and contemplation. Lent is the time when we remember Jesus’ preparation in the wilderness before he began his earthly ministry. We are also approaching the order deadline for palms for Palm Sunday, when the church remembers Jesus’ walk into Jerusalem at the beginning of our celebration of Holy Week.
So how do we prepare for our earthly ministry as followers of Jesus, all as our sacred and secular calendars interweave in real time? Shall we order ECO palms or traditional, long palms? ECO palms are essentially fair trade palms, harvested as whole fronds, with individual leaves fanning out like rays from a center spikey stem.View Sermon
“Let there be light.” God’s first action in creation is calling light into being. In holy scripture, light is the sign of God’s presence.View Sermon
This is the week! We will gather on Sunday after the 10:00 service for our Annual Meeting. I have been looking forward to seeing our congregation gathered since my first day at Emmanuel in September!
It has been a whirlwind little over four months — about 19 weeks — and I’ve gone from trying to learn where all the light switches are to the joy of meeting more and more of you individually, and getting to know you better. This is where the really good stuff is — our connections with each other in Christian community, knowing each other and being known, and leaning into our common efforts here at Emmanuel.
I am thankful for the gift of this Emmanuel community. I have learned that Emmanuel is a wonderful, warm, loving, diverse community, even if we don’t all come to the same service or do the same things when we get here. We are a community even if we don’t all come only on Sundays — or never come on Sundays at all.
We’re the body of Christ in community. As the Apostle Paul says, every one of us is an important part of the body, even though we all do different things. We were all baptized in the Holy Spirit into one body with many members, each one doing its part. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
Let’s join in all our happy diversity at the Emmanuel Annual Meeting this coming Sunday, January 19 after the 10:00 service. We will begin with a festive potluck brunch and continue with the business of our lives together in Christ, discussing our resources, our mission, raising up new leaders, and reflecting on our goals in ministry together in this wonderful community of Emmanuel.View Sermon
Happy First Sunday after Epiphany! Monday we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Magi — also known popularly as the Three Kings, or the Wise Men from the East — follow the star to the manger in Bethlehem where our newborn king lay.
For me, the arrival of the magi to worship the baby Jesus stands out as a really important moment in our story. We don’t know where they’ve come from — just some vaguely stated, mysterious “East.” We don’t know what they do back home, or what their race, nationality, religion, or cultural or economic background might be. We don’t even know what their mysterious expertise is, and why Herod and all Jerusalem with him are so terrified of them when they find out they’re on the move.
All this mystery about who these strangers are at the side of the manger — next to Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and whatever other animals might be gathered around the manger — gives each of us a place next to Jesus at the birth. All this mystery gives all of us — every one of us — a chance to walk along with the magi as they journey toward Jesus and away from Herod’s reign in Jerusalem. No one is excluded from the group gathered around Jesus at the manger, as we have no idea what that group might even be.View Sermon
As we end this month begun with our reading of Martin Luther King Jr., we can give thanks for the witness of Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass and thousands of others who in word and deed embodied Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” May we have the courage to do the same.View Sermon
The celebration of the feast of the Epiphany began in Egypt sometime during the third century and was traditionally celebrated in honor of 3 events: The Epiphany and of the adoration of the Magi; the baptism of Jesus and the first miracle at the wedding at Cana of Galilee. These 3 were all together in the third century’s celebration of Jesus’ divinity. Today we hear the story of the wedding at Cana of Galilee, the first miracle (called a sign) story in John’s Gospel and told only in John. The nearly 160 gallons of the finest wine symbolize God’s abundanceView Sermon
On this First Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany we always celebrate the baptism of Jesus by John in the River Jordan. Since we are in Year C, it’s Luke’s version that we read. As the evangelist most preoccupied with the formation of the church, Luke emphasizes the importance of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit in both his gospel and the history book of the New Testament (also written by Luke), the Book of Acts.
Sometimes, but not always, it is helpful to describe things by what they are not. Let’s try this with our baptisms.
1. Baptisms are not “christenings,” even though the word “Christ” is in its name. We christen boats; we baptize people.
2. Baptisms did not begin with Jesus or John the Baptist. Baptisms were an ancient custom in Judaism for purification of the body Baptism, next to circumcision and sacrifice, was an absolutely necessary condition to be fulfilled by a proselyte, or newcomer, to Judaism.
3. Purification from sins was also not a new idea with John. Baptism was practiced in ancient (Ḥasidic or Essene) Judaism.
4. Baptisms are not about dunking someone in water, though some traditions, ie.,American Baptists, practice full immersion, but usually not Episcopalians- though we can. The water is critical to baptisms, however. Interesting to note that in ancient Judaism, full immersion 3 times in water was a part of baptism.
In addition to naming the Holy Spirit and fire, beginning in the baptisms John performed, the church has used this joining, this “initiation rite, ” to name the child or adult about to be baptized. This too is different from its ancient roots.Names are the first means by which we are set apart.