“When they saw the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.” An Epiphany is a wonderful thing. We all have them; sometimes small ones and sometimes the AHA moments in our lives.
The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek and means manifestation. It can also mean a new awareness and comprehension.
Over the last couple of weeks, between packing, I’d been working on a sermon for today. Just before last week’s service I had an epiphany that what I’d written, all about the magi’s travel to Bethlehem and bringing gifts was not what I want to talk about. We know the story, right? Wise Men come from the east, bring valuable gifts, have a dream and leave by another route. One thing we don’t know from scripture is how their lives were changed when they traveled back home. How can you come face to face with Jesus and not be changed?
It’s always wonderful to visit and cuddle a newborn. And we may bring a gift. Those who have had the privilege of doing that know what I’m talking about. I can’t help but think of the wonderful pictures Rich Simpson has posted on Facebook of his newborn grandson. It helps me remember when my own daughter was firstborn and, of course, my grandchildren. Babies bring joy into our lives. Jesus brings joy into the lives he touches.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians speaks of the grace we know when we come to know Jesus’ love. God’s love is full of those boundless riches and it’s up to us to let others know. What did the wise men from the East tell people on their way home and once they’d reached family about such an experience?
There’s no denying our world is in a dark place with so much poverty, hatred, war, famine, racism, sexism. Herod is everywhere. Our political landscape can’t get much worse. As Isaiah says ‘For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples.’ Isaiah isn’t talking about a cloudy, dull day without sunshine. He’s speaking about darkness in our world.
And it’s up to us, those following that star, to bring light to our world. Jesus works through us. We are his hands, feet, ears and eyes, here on this earth.
There are so many ways we can do the work we’ve been given to do. We can’t individually solve the world’s problems. We can be the light for one person at a time. The Magi were outsiders looking for something more and were willing to leave all they knew behind in search for what we have. They travelled over mountains and across deserts to find a new way. We don’t have to cross deserts and mountains to see and bring God’s light to this world. We can do that right here at Christ Church Cathedral and right in our own backyard. We can look at the needs right here and pitch in.
Jesus didn’t stay in the manger. He grew up and became our Light in the world. Jesus, our star, gave us a roadmap to follow so that we too might share the light.
I’ve preached nearly every month for the past 7 years. In all of those thousands of words the only thing I have said in so many ways are for you go, leave this place, and show God’s love in the world. Create a place in your heart to see the places where you can make a difference. What gifts do you have that you can share? And then go and share them.
I’ve spent most of my time here working with the Big Blue ministry and, for the past 4 years, running the drop-in center. It’s a ministry that I will keep in my heart long after I’ve left this Cathedral as your deacon. The folks that work with me at the drop-in center have had such wonderful and sometimes heart wrenching conversations with people who have no place to lay their heads at night.
Just last Sunday I met a man who had been in the United States for only 10 days coming from Afghanistan. He’s the eldest son, living with his parents and 4 younger siblings in a small, dirty home (the mother’s words, not mine). The dad worked for our government for 20 years and the family was finally approved to come here. It took 4 years. I can’t imagine the terror they faced during that time, living in fear of the Taliban. They have nothing except the roof over their heads. Although they are grateful for that there is such need.
I went downstairs to the Drop-In Center supply closet and got them blankets, toiletries, gloves, scarves, hats, and a few snacks. I took some food that had been donated over the past couple of weeks and I followed him riding his bicycle, the only mode of transportation they have to their home in West Springfield. I was invited in and the warmth and thanks the family had for these small offerings left me feeling there is so much more to be done for this family and I’m leaving. They have no coats or winter boots. No winter, warm clothing. We have none to give. My heart hurts for this family. And there are so many others just like them.
What might you have in your closet, your cellar, your attic, that might make a difference? What might you have in your heart to give?
We can only help one person/family at a time. Together, all of us reaching out and looking deeply within ourselves, we can be the light of that Epiphany star for many people. We choose how we respond to the needs all around us. Our response is our spiritual journey.
The work that began here, long before I came cannot end. This is ministry of the Cathedral. It’s not my ministry, it’s ours, it’s yours.
I will miss each one of you. Your warmth and love have kept me going through the good times and the difficult times. We have made some wonderful memories. I cherish my time among you. It’s difficult to leave but the time has come.
Isaiah says, “Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you.”
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes. This is from John Wesley:
There is so much need around us so, again, I ask that you go from this place and bring the love of Jesus to the world. Amen