January 6, 2019

2019 Jan6

The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Karen F. Siegfriedt

 

“O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (BCP Collect for Epiphany)


Today is the Feast of the
Epiphany, a celebration of the
time when the Christ child was
revealed to the world.


Today’s gospel speaks of kings, nations, wise men, gifts, gold, frankincense, myrrh, Bethlehem, a baby, a shining star. The story of foreign astrologists bearing gifts to a Jewish baby in Bethlehem is a favorite one; one that is often acted out in Christmas pageants. Sometimes, we can sentimentalize this story or make it more historical than it actually is. When taken this way, we end up focusing on some distant legend from the past instead of hearing the story as a motivation for seeking the Light in our lives today.

 

What stands out for me in this gospel story is that the magi noticed the rising of a remarkable star. Having a hunch that the shining star ushered in the birth of a new king, they hopped on their camels and traveled all the way to the Holy Land, even asking for directions along the way. When they came to the place where the child was, they were overwhelmed with joy. On the other hand, the scribes who had spent their lives studying the Scriptures about the coming of the messiah, were unperturbed by the magi’s good news of a star and the birth of a baby. So they chose not to accompany the wise men on this amazing journey of discovery.

 

Sometimes, we Christians are like the scribes, desiring to know and experience Christ in our lives and yet doing little to make that happen. Our journey toward the Light is often sidetracked by many things such as busyness, other priorities, complacency, cynicism, woundedness, or grief. These postures can hinder us from noticing or acting on the many epiphanies that grace our day-to-day lives. As a result, we often forgo opportunities that could have enriched our lives or led us on a path to a more abundant life.

 

I have been blessed with many epiphanies during my years, many of which come to me in dreams. But one epiphany in particular happened during my waking hours. It was back in 1984 when I was a research assistant.  While I enjoyed the field of chemistry, research was not a good match for me, and yet I didn’t know what direction to go in. Day after day I thought about other job possibilities but nothing excited me. Then one day, I was sitting at my desk reading a technical magazine when suddenly my eyes focused on the title of an article. It was an epiphany! There, in large black letters, was the answer I was waiting for! And what did it say? “HAZARDOUS WASTE.” Immediately I knew that this was the path I needed to pursue. In three days, I had my resume on the desk of the supervisor who oversaw the Hazardous Waste program. I was transferred to that division within a month and by the end of the year, I was enrolled in a master’s program in Environmental Management. For several years I oversaw the Hazardous/Radioactive Waste Program & delighted in my work.

 

During the season of Epiphany, the Church encourages us to become aware of epiphanies, both large and small.

 

We are encouraged to seek the
Light shining in the darkness and
to act on that Light as a source of
grace and truth.


One of the ways I journey towards the Light is through the path of wisdom, wisdom handed down by those who have been inspired by the Spirit of truth and compassion. During my time in ministry, it has become my custom to share with the congregation, those wisdom sayings that I have collected over the past year. Perhaps by reflecting on these wisdom sayings, you too might have an epiphany that will lead you closer to the Light.

 

Wisdom Sayings about Light

 

  • “Light houses don’t run all over the island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” (Ann Lamont)
  • “We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” (Madeleine L’Engle)
  • “Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul. Open a tiny aperture for light to enter, and the darkness will disappear.”
  • “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” (St. Francis of Assisi)
  • ‘What has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4)
  • Jesus said: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5)

 

Wisdom Sayings regarding the Political Sphere

 

  • “Jesus prepared a meal for the multitudes to remind us that we feed people not because they deserve it, but because they’re hungry.” (FB)
  • “Poverty exists not because we cannot feed the poor, but because we cannot satisfy the rich.” (FB)
  • “The idea that some lives matter less, is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” (FB)
  • “When did the simple concept of leaving the planet a better place for our kids become a partisan issue?” (FB)
  • “Being taught to avoid talking about politics and religion has led to a lack of understanding of politics and religion. What we should have been taught was how to have a civil conversation about a difficult topic.” (FB)
  • “The abuse of women and girls is the most pervasive and unaddressed human right violation on earth.” (Jimmy Carter)
  • “When the speech condemns a free press, you are hearing the words of a tyrant.” (Thomas Jefferson)
  • “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” (Sinclair Lewis)
  • “Rather than a wall, America needs to build a giant mirror to reflect on what we’ve become.” (Sign outside a Baptist Church)
  • “What does it mean to be pro-life if you defend the life of a child in the womb, but not the life of a child on the border?” (Fr. James Martin, SJ)
  • “The moral crisis of our age has nothing to do with gay marriage or abortion; it’s insider trading, obscene CEO pay, wage theft from ordinary workers, Wall Street’s continued gambling addiction, corporate payoffs to friendly politicians, and the billionaire takeover of our democracy.” (Robert Reich)
  • “A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good just because it is accepted by a majority.” (Rick Warren)
  • “Fascism is cured by reading, and racism is cured by traveling.” (Miguel de Unamuno)
  • “The world is changed by your example not by your opinion.” (Paulo Coelho)

 

Quotes by Wise People I admire

  • “Prayer is the mortar that holds our house together.” (Mother Theresa)
  • “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” (Maya Angelou)
  • “People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.” (Dali Lama)
  • “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” (Thomas Merton)

 

Wisdom regarding Healing and Wholeness
(from Facebook Posts)

 

  • “Never be a prisoner of your past, it was just a lesson not a life sentence.”
  • “Moving on doesn’t mean you forget about things. It just means you have to accept what happened and continue living.”
  • “Anyone who has grown mentally, physically or spiritually knows that growth is not found in comfort.”
  • “If we want to change the world, if we want to rid the world of anger and suffering then we first have to rid the anger and suffering inside of us.”
  • “To love someone is to learn the song in their heart and sing it to them when they have forgotten it.”
  • “To make a difference in someone’s life you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, or perfect. You just have to care.”
  • “Every act of love & kindness raises the vibration of the entire universe.”

 

Wisdom regarding the Practice of Christianity

 

  • Someone once asked Billy Graham: “If Christianity is valid, why is there so much evil in the world?” To this he replied, “With so much soap, why are there so many dirty people in the world? Christianity, like soap, must be personally applied if it is to make a difference in our lives.”
  • C. S. Lewis once said: “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
  • “Every truth, every deed, every teaching is reduced to nothing more than religious noise when it isn’t placed under and clothed in the commandment to love.” (Greg Boyd)

I would like to end with a quote uttered by the prophet Isaiah who gave hope to a people who were in captivity. It is a reminder to us that the darkness has not and cannot overcome the Light.


“Arise, shine; for your light has
come, and the glory of the Lord
has risen upon you.”

(Isaiah 60)

© 2019 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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