The Epiphany Equation

Readings for the Epiphany Season

How priceless is your love, O God!
In times of trouble we take refuge under the shadow of your wings.
We feast on your abundance and drink from the river of your delights.
Bless our Epiphany with your light,
that we may see the signs of your never ending love
and loving-kindness.

Isaiah 62:1-5
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the LORD delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

Psalm 36:5-10

5 Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, *
and your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; *
you save both man and beast, O LORD.
7 How priceless is your love, O God! *
your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast upon the abundance of your house; *
you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the well of life, *
and in your light we see light.
10 Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, *
and your favor to those who are true of heart.

John 2:1-11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.”

So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

January 17, 2016

Welcome to Epiphany! That amazing season of light, signs and insights, messages and meanings and we don’t have to do a thing to make it happen! This is the season where God does the work and we get the goodies! No baking and cooking, entertaining and being entertained, cleaning and decorating, shopping and wrapping, just waiting on God, the first half of the Epiphany Equation. I particularly appreciate the first half of this equation after the labor intensive Christmas I had this year.

However, before we consider ourselves off the hook entirely, let us consider the second half of the Epiphany Equation. Here, we are called to be open to signs, to recognize them when they appear, wait patiently for insights, and allow the message to surface with time and guide our next steps. That’s it. Easy, right? Well maybe the “patiently” piece might be a bit difficult, but let’s go on.

Epiphany begins January 6, one day after the 12th day of Christmas. On that day, we celebrate the popular Epiphany story, the visit of the three magi to the crib of baby Jesus.

Three gentlemen from somewhere in the Middle East received a sign. It was a star. They recognized the significance of its appearance and were of the mind to investigate and determine its meaning. They got the message: a King had been born in a distant land. They allowed the message to guide their next steps. They packed their bags along with expensive kingly gifts and headed out in the direction their studies indicated as the path of the star. They did not stop until they found the child with his mother and paid homage to the newborn king.

With time, more meanings surface, relevant to you and me. For example, anybody could have seen the star but it wasn’t a priestly Levite or Pharisee who made the journey to the crib. It wasn’t even a local from Bethlehem. It was three scientists, unclean Gentiles from an entirely different culture, a foreign country, an alien world as far as the Jews were concerned. We have come to understand this as a sign that Jesus was a king for all people. He came not for just the Jews, or a few elevated religious leaders. He came for all people, regardless of age, background, profession, ethnicity, religion, or lifestyle. As such, we too are called to love all God’s people, without regard to old divisions.

Another popular Epiphany tale is the story of Jesus’ baptism. Here Jesus has trekked into the wilderness to see the charismatic teacher dressed in skins and living off the land. John the Baptist, his cousin had made a name for himself by his lifestyle and fearless attack on those of casual shallow faith. He was undaunted by class or status. He took on the lowly and the highest, peasants to kings. Bad move on that last one; but that’s another story for another time. Jesus goes to John the Baptist to be baptized and John reluctantly cooperates. But the baptism does not go quietly. Hovering above Jesus standing in the water was a rumbling presence that split the clouds above his head, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove. From the distant sky resonated a voice, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” It was a sign that the man standing in the Jordan with John the Baptist was not just another curious fan. This was a King. This was the Son of God and God was pleased with him, very pleased. He tells us to pay attention to him and the world Has never been able to ignore Jesus.

With time, we have come to understand more. We note that Jesus was baptized like everyone else. Obviously, he did not need to be baptized. He was perfect, blameless, already the Son of God. Why bother taking a long dusty trip into the wilderness only to wade into the Jordan? Not necessary! Or was it? Jesus was making it clear that he was not only God but also human. He called upon his followers to be baptized and to believe; so that is exactly what he did. Everything Jesus calls us to do, he did. Every step that you and I take, Jesus took. Every pain, every loss, every disappointment we endure, he endured. It is how Jesus knows and loves us so intimately. He knows what it is to be human.

In our reading for today, we have another Epiphany story. We find ourselves at a wedding celebration, the ultimate sign of love and intimacy, hopes and dreams for a future yet to be lived. Jesus was there with his mother and friends. When the wine ran out, the servants came to Mary with the bad news. Mary took it to Jesus who in abrupt fashion reminded her that it was none of their business and besides, it wasn’t in his plans for the night to do anything about it. Without looking at Jesus, Mary turned to the servants with instructions, Do what my son tells you to do. Jesus got the message. It was time to change his plans. He tells the servants to fill the jars with water, then dip a cup and take it to the steward. I wonder if they understood at some level that a sign of great significance was about to be manifested in their presence. They did what Jesus commanded.

In that moment, Jesus created an amazing wine, a new wine. It was a miracle in its own right, a sign that God had entered the scene. It was also a sign of things to come. At the Passover meal before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus again took wine, blessed it; and created a new and magical wine. This is my body. This is my blood. Take eat. Take drink. Do this in the remembrance of me. And we do, on any given Sunday in every Christian church around the world.

I ask you to consider for a moment, was the miracle at that wedding in Cana or around the table in the Upper Room any greater than the miracle of the Eucharistic feast in your church this weekend?

In communion, we are invited to a kingly meal. Starting with simple bread and wine, the priest calls upon God to make this food holy, “Sanctify this bread and wine by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in Him.”

At that moment, like a dove descending, the Holy Spirit fills the room transforming the bread and wine into the bread of life and the cup of salvation. As you take it in, coursing through your body is the body and blood of Christ. He is bone of your bone and blood of your blood. He lives within you and strengthens you. He blesses you with new and unending life in his arms. And he loves you with an intimacy that only a most powerful God can give.

And that my friends is the Epiphany Equation in its entirety: a Sign given to us by God, with enough light to see it, experience it, and pull from it meanings for life; a sign that gives us enough strength and courage to take whatever steps life has in store for us. It’s not under our control. It is not something we produce. It is something that God provides. The rest is up to us.
This is Epiphany.