Epiphany arrives on Friday Jan 6. Traditionally, Epiphany was celebrated in grander fashion than Christmas. But time has seen the Christmas feast eclipse the festival of Epiphany. In our modern culture few churches will offer Epiphany services on Friday and Sunday will see us choosing to follow the lectionary to travel beyond the arrival of the wise-guys to the Baptism of Jesus. But for those who enjoy a moment to reflect upon the changing of the seasons, here are a few of the Epiphany sermons I have preached over the past few years.
You are the Light of the World here
The Journey of the Magi never happened and yet it is always happening. here
Don’t Forget the Mystery of Our Faith here
Wisdom Seeks Wisdom here
The readings included John 1:1-9; the Gospel of Thomas 70, and Matthew 2:1-12 You can listen to the sermon here
This year, in addition to all of the many holiday festivities that we are accustomed to enjoying over the Christmas holidays many of us added the time-consuming guilty pleasure of binge-watching. Binge-watching is a relatively new phenomenon which results in hours and hours spent watching entire seasons of a TV series in one or two days. Thanks to things like Netflix, Apple TV and YouTube there are a so many TV series available but one that has me in its grip at the moment has more power to demand my attention as a result of a passion that developed in me when I was but a child.
When I was just ten years old, we lived in Newmarket for less than a year. By that time I had already lived in Birmingham, England, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Toronto and Newmarket. I was in grade five and I went to J.L.R. Bell public school. My teacher, Mr. Jones, was a particularly gifted storyteller. Mr. Jones had the ability to hold our little class in the palm of his hand simply by weaving tales of the world beyond our little lives. I can still remember the wonder and excitement that he generated when he announced that we were going to begin to study the explorers. I had no idea what an explorer was, but the globe that Mr. Jones spun on his desk as he explained that for years and years and years everyone believed that the earth was flat and that if you travelled far enough you ran the risk of falling off the edge, well I was hooked. Then he pulled down a large display map that was suspended on what looked to my ten-year-old eyes to be a window-blind and pointed to what looked like a funny shaped boot and told us that our study of the exploration of the world would begin in Venice, Italy in the year 1384, with the birth of Marco Polo.
I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Venice, Italy, 1384, Marco, Polo, none of these words meant anything to me except for one, so I was hooked. What was a Venice? What was Italy? What could he possibly mean by 1384? Whatever was a Marco and what on earth did a Marco have to do with a Polo? Polo’s were the little mints that my Nannie kept in her purse.
At the tender age of ten, Mr. Jones launched me upon a grand adventure, which would lead to my life-long love of history and of words. For days and days and days, Mr. Jones wove fabulous tales of the discoveries of Marco Polo as he traveled upon the Silk Route to China where he met the fascinating Kublai Kahn whose very name summoned up both mystery and danger. The adventures of Marco Polo had me hooked on history but Mr. Jones didn’t stop there, no. Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, John Cabot, Jacque Cartier, Henry Hudson and a host of others who Mr. Jones taught us about with only the globe and that mesmerizing map of his to aid him, all served to open me up to ideas and concepts that turned me into a student of history and a lover of stories.
I had to leave Mr. Jones class before the end of term because once again my family was on the move. We were right in the middle of following Thomas Cook to the shores of what would eventually become my home on the west coast of British Columbia, when I handed over the atlas that Mr. Jones had lent me. I was trying hard not to cry as I bid, the man who was at that very moment my favorite person in the whole world, good-bye. It was when Mr. Jones encouraged me to continue my journey into the past that I had what I know recognize as an epiphany. With that great big wall map as a backdrop and the globe in front of me, I knew that I too was an explorer. What I didn’t know, what that particular epiphany didn’t reveal, was that I was also a storyteller.
Epiphanies are marvelous, miraculous events that have the power to reveal the very depths of who and what we are. Strictly speaking an epiphany is a flash of insight. The word epiphany comes from the Greek for the appearance of the divine. When the word was first explained to me, my teacher suggested that the word epiphany could be used to describe that moment in a cartoon when the light-bulb appears above a character’s head. A flash of insight! A moment of discovery that enlightens the mind and can change a life, open up a whole new world, herald a new way of being, unravel a mystery, or reveal the Divine in our midst.
It is hardly and any wonder, that the celebration of the Epiphany, was once second only to Easter in the church year. The recognition of God in our midst, no that’s something to celebrate! Over the years, Christmas has eclipsed the celebration of Epiphany. We won’t even bother coming to church on Tuesday for the feast of Epiphany. These days most Christians don’t even wait until Epiphany to take down their Christmas decorations. Yesterday, I saw Valentine’s Day decorations in the grocery store. The world scarcely pauses to notice. Perhaps the wise-guys are to blame. Continue reading
The readings included John 1:1-9; the Gospel of Thomas 70, and Matthew 2:1-12
You can listen to the sermon here
An Epiphany Sermon, preached in 2008. I had just read “The First Christmas” by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg. Our congregation played host to Dom Crossan a month before I wrote this sermon. So, Dom’s insights run through this effort. But the heart of this sermon beats as the result of a sermon preached by Bruce Sanguin a self-proclaimed evolutionary christian who is a United Church Minister (Canadian Memorial Church, Vancouver). I had the privilege of meeting this modern mystic while on sabbatical this summer and his compelling way of unlocking the scriptures using the wealth of the christian tradition together with the insights of modern science and psychology borders upon the poetic. This sermon was anchored by Sanguin’s words (Epiphany 2007). Sermons are a “live” event. So, this manuscript is an approximation of what was actually preached.
Just five days before Christmas (2008), The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Doctor Rowan Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion started a firestorm. During a BBC interview, His Grace was quoted to say that the story of the “three wise men is a legend”. The Archbishop was also heard to say that he remained unconvinced that there was indeed a star that led the legendary trio to the birth place of the Christ Child.
If that wasn’t enough to send folks off the deep-end, it has been revealed that the Presiding Bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church The Most Reverend Doctor Katherine Jefferts Schori, who just happens to be the first woman elected primate in Anglican history, has fanned the flames of the fire-storm by sending out what has been judged by some to be an incendiary Christmas card.
I downloaded a copy of the offensive card, so that you could see for yourself. Her Grace’s choice of card has offended the good deacons of Ft Worth Texas who claim that their Primate’s actions defy explanation. As you can see the wise folks depicted on this image look a lot like women. Can you imagine the nerve of the first woman primate! How could she be so bold as to select such an offensive image? Leave it to straight talking Texans to set things straight: for despite the audacity of the Primate, the Texans have pledged to “stand for the traditional expression of the Faith.” Continue reading