Seeking the Light

January 6, 2019 Epiphany

Matthew 2:1-12

My family likes to play games. From card games, board games, and even more recently role-playing games. Doing so, we have the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company, share in laughter, and grab bragging rights for the next time that we play.

However, there have been times when we have played that someone has joined us that does not like to lose. They attempt to change the rules midstream so that they also end up on top and will never be the loser. The desire to win often times brings frustration and confusion to the other friends and family that are attempting to play the game honestly. Even when this is brought to the attention of the arrogant player, they still seem to be in the dark. In their desire to remain on top, they alienate themselves and wonder why they are left in the dark as everyone else moves on to have a good time doing something else. Where does the joy come from when one must trick others to guarantee yourself a winner?

The magi have no desire to be left in the dark as they transcend their role to pay homage to the newborn king. The magi are a reminder for us that Jesus, the newborn king, brings light to the world for all to see.

The magi are a living example of what it means to live in the time of Advent. In the gospel this morning we are told of the gifts that they shared with Jesus, but they have also been able to utilize the gifts of waiting, seeking, and discovery. They were waiting for the light to appear, and the star that has risen in the sky is a sign for them to seek out the newborn king. With this new information, they are able to venture out into the vastness that lies between them and Jesus to discover the light born into the world in the form of a child.

Herod, on the other hand, is the antithesis of Advent. In the story of Herod, we receive a message of rejection, fear, and refusal of the light. While Herod is Jewish himself, he was made a client king by the Roman rulers, so that they could appease people in the hopes that he would connect better to the people of Judea. By the time word of Jesus’ birth comes to his ears through the magi, he has been ruling for nearly forty years. His time ruling has been plagued in fear of losing the kingship and the executions of his own family to ensure that he remains in power. In the magi’s message, Herod is once again gripped by the fear of a change that could come to Judea. A change that could result in him losing his authority as king. We can nearly sense the refusal in Herod’s reactions to see the light that has come to the world in which the magi are now seeking.

When we become fearful of change, loss, and even comfort, we can be hindered in our daily lives from opening our eyes to the light of Christ all around us. At times we struggle with putting our fears aside so that we can experience the light that God offers to us. We much rather cling to false hopes and self-preservation instead of seeking the light in others. When we refuse to see Christ in our sisters and brothers, we walk the same line as Herod!

There is an incredible message waiting for us in Matthew today. It is a message of welcome. It is a message that God does not stop at any barrier. God breaks down stereo types and reaches out to shine the light far and wide. The shepherds were sent an angelic choir to sing the praises of the newborn king. To the magi a star appears in the sky to guide them to the light of the world that illuminates the darkness. Even Herod is given the sign of the magi that are going to share gifts worthy of a king; only his jealousy blocks the light for him to see.

Jesus’ ministry will be one of reaching out to those that are on the outskirts of society. Those that have been frowned upon and those that others will not give the time of day. He chooses to eat with the poor, the excluded, the sick, the lonely, prostitutes, and even tax collectors!

In the bearing of gifts worthy of a king, the magi and all of humanity receive something much greater, the light of the world. That light is revealed to us through our own epiphanies. Perhaps, we see it in the eyes of our significant other, in the first cry of our own children when they were born. Perhaps we have even seen it in the last breaths of a loved one as they have come at least to peace in the hands of a loving God. Do we share these experiences and spread the good news?

The magi receive word in a dream that they must not return to Herod and report what they have seen. Instead they go a different route. What route has Jesus called us to follow as we listen to the Word today? We have moved through Advent into Christmas and now Epiphany to experience and be the light. May you all find the route Jesus is calling you to follow as you enter this new year with hope and a promise of the Light that has come into the world.

Let us pray. God of light, may we be guided as the magi were guided to find and pay homage to your newborn son. May we be bearers of this same light in our lives so that others may experience the love of Christ through our words and actions. Amen.

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Transfiguration as Epiphany

headlights

Luke 9:28-43

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and Lord, Jesus Christ.

There are times in our travels when we just put on the cruise control and let the road take care of itself. Or at least that is what we hope will happen. Sometimes it does not go quite that way though, does it? I recall a scene from National Lampoons Vacation where Clark Griswold is driving along the highway at night and the next thing you know he has his head laid back and is sleeping as the car takes the next exit. Surely, he is going to kill someone or is entire family. Miraculously the Griswold family ends up right in a motel parking lot after driving through neighborhoods and nearly causing a few accidents.

I remember a time when I went to school one morning, I believe this was after I was able to drive and I notice the passenger sideview mirror had been knocked off my father’s truck. He worked the third shift for the most part while I was growing up and apparently he dosed off and it took him hitting a mailbox to wake him up.

We cannot evade sleep when our body truly needs it. Just a couple of years ago, Kiefer and I were driving back to Michigan from a trip we made to Kansas City and I had been awake for nearly 24 hours when all of a sudden I notice some very bright lights flashing behind me. Now, The Illinois State Trooper that pulled us over was pretty nice; especially to startle me back to reality and ensure that my senses were heightened the rest of the trip.

Sometimes we slumber when it is not necessarily the best time. We end up running into mailboxes or startled back to reality by state troopers. Do you think the disciples of Jesus were any different? This morning we are pulled into a great sense of mystery. Peter, John, and James went along with Jesus as he hiked to the top of the mountain. After the efforts that they had to exert, the disciples were weighed down with sleep, yet they did not fall into a deep sleep, like they would later as Jesus was praying at the Mount of Olives before his arrest. I assume they were in a similar state as I was when I was pulled over by the state trooper. I was tired, and perhaps sleep deprived, but not really sleeping.

Peter, and his companions, were certainly tired, but fought the urge to let their eyes fall shut. It is a good thing that they did not. Much like the bright lights of a state trooper car, the disciples were caught in a dazzling array of light that emanated from their leader that they had been following around in ministry. What they were now experiencing could be seen as the Epiphany of Epiphanies! They were shocked and in awe of what they were witnessing, sleep would have to wait! The Transfiguration that we experience today is the revelation of Jesus’ divinity. Yes, Jesus is fully human with us in flesh and blood, and he is also God incarnate born fully of the Holy Spirit.

We have been journeying these past five weeks with Jesus in the season after Epiphany, yet being witness to the little epiphanies that take place all around Jesus and his disciples. It is in the cradle that we find the newborn Jesus, born incarnate of God, bringing a hope and promise to all that have been waiting. Even for three magicians from the East that felt called to follow a star.

It continues in the waters of baptism as Jesus wades into the water seeking his own baptism from John the Baptist. It is here that we hear the voice from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus’ ministry continues from baptism to the wedding at Cana where he performs the miracle of turning 6 large vessels of water into wine. An epiphany after epiphany. Just last week we heard how he returned to his hometown of Nazareth and announced the mission that he was called to and managed to ruffle some feathers of those in charge, but others were elated at the news which he had to share.

Jesus’ story is one of proclaiming life for the world, being rejected, and in the process inviting disciples to join in his mission. Luke shares his gospel exactly for this purpose. Luke writes for people who have heard the faith and come to believe but want, yearn and hunger to understand more deeply. He opens up his gospel with an address to Theophilus, “so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.”

In a way, is this not what all of our journey in this life is all about. We want, yearn, and hunger for even more as we seek to become more knowledgable in our Christian faith and get to know Jesus on a deeper level.

This morning is a perfect example as we officially welcome new members into the community of Trinity Lutheran Church. These brothers and sisters have had their own epiphanies along the way and are seeking to continue to be in relationship with a caring community proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. We have those that are inquiring what it means to walk along in the faith and are seeking your support and guidance as they walk towards baptism. We have a child, not quite a year old yet, which will be baptized with parents and sponsors whom will promise to raise her in a life of faith. We have an entire family baptized less than a year ago who is still hungry to learn more and willing to profess their faith in Christ and commit to being in community with all of us here. We also have three families who have walked along in the faith from the time they were young and have been welcomed into this loving and caring community over the past year.

Each one of these sisters and brothers have had their own epiphanies along the way which has led them here today. All of us most likely have fell asleep or into a deep slumber along the way, but Jesus is still with us. Jesus comes down the mountain to be with us in our own challenges and struggles, just as he is present with the boy with an unclean spirit.

It is in our baptism that we get a glimpse of the Transfiguration as Jesus comes to us in the cleansing water. It is our Epiphany to be transformed into a life of love and be surrounded by a community that cares for us. May you use the epiphanies that appear to you along this journey of life to keep you awake and open to the presence of God.