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Epiphany I


O ALMIGHTY God, look mercifully upon the world which thou hast redeemed by the blood of thy dear Son, and incline the hearts of many to dedicate themselves to the sacred Ministry of thy Church; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Good morning.

Today, we are celebrating the first Sunday after Epiphany, which brings one to ask, what is an epiphany, what is it really, how does it apply to us, why is it important?

As with much common language usage, I think that the meaning has become diluted over the years.  As I have done in other sermons, I want to examine a few different perspectives on that word. I often do this when studying scripture because it helps me to understand the true meaning of what was intended, or the context.

Starting with the word, I look into its root in ancient languages. The word epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphaneia – it is from the verb "to appear" and means "appearance," "manifestation." In classical Greek it was used of the appearance of dawn, of an enemy in war, or of a manifestation of a god.

So, we start there. In the Greek world, it was an entrance, a first grand appearance, a premiere of a deity to the stage of history.

In historical terms, the Epiphany is what we celebrate on January 6th. This is the day we commemorate when Jesus and his family were visited by the Three Wise Men (and that’s why we have that great hymn as our Sermon hymn!)

In the eastern church, this event was called the “Theophany", from Greek (τα) Θεοφάνια - Theophania (from θεός + φαίνω), "appearances of God".”

Interestingly enough, there are many places in scripture have been called a theophany – the burning bush of Moses, Ezekiel’s vision, the writing of the Ten Commandments.

We all think of the Wise men as Kings – in our family, we have the tradition of gifts from the three Kings.  Who were they?  The suspicion is that they were likely early astrologers, the predecessors to present day astronomers. They sought the star and were influenced to find the King. By revelations. By an epiphany to each of them that led them.

And Epiphany – what does it mean to you? I can tell you what it is to me.  It is a manifestation, an appearance. I can tell you what an epiphany I have had over the last month.

My wife has gone from seeming good health to a life-altering diagnosis, all without manifesting the normal symptoms of that malady. In this case, there was no visible sign, no glimpse -no sudden manifestation – no epiphany to show us what was going on.

She was ideosymptomatic and showed no signs of any difficulty such as what was discovered.

Through reacting to one small potential result of this disease, the door was finally opened to the revelation of what needed to be done.  There, an epiphany, albeit a negative one.

Epiphanies are not taken well, sometimes.

Consider the reaction of Jesus’ revelation of  ‘King’ Herod, who sought to kill Him. The result of his paranoid rage was  celebrated on the feast commemorating the Holy Innocents, on January the 4th.

What we find is that God, in His wisdom, presents humanity with these miraculous introductions to reach out to us. An epiphany, a theophany should be a good thing. We should want the savior of the world, our Lord to be with us, to show his presence. Why don’t we want to see him come?

God created the world with the full intent for men to share in the whole blessing. As I explain to my kids and to those who ask about why illness and death claim people in such vicious and, seemingly, capricious ways, the world is, very simply, broken.

The Fall started it – the world has yearned to have this corrected ever since.  We all, as believers, want it to be fixed and we all know of God’s love and know it will heal the world.

Sharing our faith makes us able to share that positive epiphany that we have when Jesus comes to each of us.

He may come in many forms, such as a helping hand when we are hurting, or a meal when we have no way to pay, even a smile when we are really need something to brighten our day.

These events are manifestations, when He comes into our hearts, of an immortal love, one that started this whole existence. We await the time when He comes again, so that which was broken can be made whole, and the world can be made to make sense again.

E'en So Lord Jesus quickly come, quickly come indeed!

Let us pray.

 

Heavenly Father, your revelation in our lives can happen in many ways – it can seem to be as slow as grass growing, or sudden as lightning. Let us be enlivened by every contact with you via the Holy Spirit, to clearly see the epiphanies we are given every day of our lives.
We thank you for them, and this life, and we offer this thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

 

 

Charlie Niemi

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