Epiphany – In the Spotlight
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ enable you to live out the plan brought to life in Christ’s coming – that we are to live boldly and confidently in God’s presence!
- The Plan… Hidden
This week was the anniversary of the birth of one of the great Christian philosophers of the last century. J.R.R. Tolkien is probably best known as the writer behind “the Hobbit” and “the Lord of the Rings.” But one of the things we should rejoice about from his life was his impact on a fellow writer and philosopher.
Eric Metaxas tells us how Tolkein joined Jesus on Jesus’ mission one night on a walk with his friend Jack. He didn’t beat the gospel into him, in fact, he only alluded to Jesus in one question, about whether all the myths could have some source in an event that was real, that once God did invade reality. (https://stream.org/j-r-r-tolkien-helped-lead-c-s-lewis-faith/)
His friend Jack, the angry, arrogant agnostic who disliked any discussion bordering the religious, was only nicknamed Jack. His given name was Clive Staples Lewis – one of the best-known Christian writers of the last century.
Joining Jesus, in this case, was simply a matter of shining a light in Lewis’s life, and letting the Holy Spirit work illuminate the plan that God had for Lewis, the same exact plan He has for each one of us, from the prophets and the wise man that adored Jesus at His birth, to you and I today.
It is simply a plan of illuminating God’s plan in their life, revealing His love, and His work in their lives.
This is what Epiphany is all about – putting God’s plan in the spotlight – for all to see. That is what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, that we saw this morning, this wonderful plan, with a wonderful result.
- The Plan Revealed
Both Tolkien and Lewis talked about writing a lot, and you see a similar style in them. The main characters are always aided by a more mysterious and powerful character. In Tolkien, it is Gandalf, a servant of a Deity never quite revealed. With Lewis, the guide was Aslan, who was also the destination.
But in the journeys, as in many good stories, the plan that these guides had was not fully revealed to those making the journey. That keeps a reader, or moviegoer interested, as the plan is revealed step by step. For those on the journey, it is a bit frustrating.
I want to know where I am going, how I am going to get there, how much earlier I have to plan to leave, so I actually leave on time and leave enough time for a bathroom stop or five on the journey.
During the Old Testament, the journey wasn’t always well known, they wandered for years, and they still didn’t understand the tabernacle or the Temple and what they pointed to, in fact, many today still don’t understand. Paul knew…. And he talks about the plan,
Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.
- The Plan Explained
You see the plan for the journey there. The plan includes who is on the journey, and how the journey is accomplished
The ones on it are those who believe the good news, what we call the gospel. It doesn’t matter whether we are Gentile or Jewish, what matters is that we believe, that we depend on the Good News. – the news that God loves us enough that Jesus would die for us.
And the way the journey happens is simple – we receive all these blessings because we belong to Jesus. That in our baptism, we are united to Him, we are made one with Him, in His death, and in His resurrection. This is the incredible mystery we confess when we sing the Memorial Acclimation – that because He died, was buried and rose, we, who were dead in our sin, rise with Him! And when He returns, for us, we will be with the Father forever!
How do we say it around here? Alleluia! He is risen indeed! (He is risen! Alleluia) and therefore, (We are risen indeed! Alleluia!)
His plan, it has been since the beginning, that our salvation would occur as we are intimately tied to Christ’s death and resurrection, as we are intimately united to Him!
- The Result of the Plan
The plan doesn’t end with the journey though, like our salvation, our being saved. Whatever epic, whether Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, or even Star Wars, the destination is arrived at, in a place where peace finally reigns. They got the idea from scripture of course, and their novels are based in a hope truly seen in scripture.
Oddly enough, they all arrive at the place where they started, with the difference being the peace that is known, finally. That is why I call the destination, “our perfect home” Paul will describe the plan’s destination this way:
11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
We have a hint of that home now, for as we presently dwell in Christ’s presence, and He in us, we have the shadows cast by this reality to comfort us. For we dwell with Him now, and yet, we are still on the journey to the point where we see His return. To the point where we boldly enter the presence of God our Father, confident because of the work of Jesus that we belong there. AMEN!
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
15 So watch your step. Use your head. 16 Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! 17 Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants. 18 Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. 19 Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. 20 Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:15-20 (MSG)
“There is also, he added, “another richness in our culture”, another richness that prevents us from getting close to Jesus: it’s our fascination for the temporary”. We, he observed, are “in love with the provisional”. We don’t like Jesus’s “definitive proposals”. Instead we like what is temporary because “we are afraid of God’s time” which is definitive. “He is the Lord of time; we are the masters of the moment. Why? Because we are in command of the moment: I will follow the Lord up to this point, and then I will see… I heard of a man who wanted to become a priest – but only for ten years, not any longer…” Attraction for the provisional: this is a richness. We want to become masters of time, we live for the moment. ( Pope Francis’s honily this day… from Catholic News Agency)
We live in a world that is, as Pope says, fascinated with “the temporary”. We look to the short term investments to make a killing, we lease cars so that in two or three years, we can buy a new one. We buy into a system that causes us to replace our cell phones, our tablets, our computers every two or three years. We hear that young people will not have one career in their lives – but 3 or 4 or more (heck , I am on my third…) And less we forget marriage, people trade in their lifetime commitments like they were library books.
I labelled this blog – the “Idol of Time” because that is what it appears to be. Yet I think the Pope sees it very clearly – this is an Idol, because while we claim to value it, we also want to desperately control it. That’s the thing about idols – they are far easier to control than God is, who as CS Lewis put it (and Chesterton as well) God cannot be tamed. So we try to become Master’s of our own time – setting up calendars and planning our next moves, working to see what new thing we can distract ourselves with for the moment, thinking that we’ve got it all now. Then the next commercial makes us realize we are out of date already.
That’s why we are attracted to the temporary, to that which is unsustainable, to that which needs to be replaced.
But what id we were to focus on that which endures – that which is sustained – that which has a meaning that can never be replaced?
What if we understood the will of God, what if we took the time in prayer, and in reading His word, and in finding encouragement as we fellowshipped with those who also knew His love? What if our joy was found in seeing people cleansed and healed and finding God’s presence – not far off in some othre universe, or even on vacation in a gloriously beautiful place like the mountains of New Hampshire, or Rome, or China? What if we found God’s incredible majestic presence in our homes, our work places, our cars as we drive – and yes… our churches. Would we then look at those places differently? Would we find contentment in the simplicity of knowing He is there?
Would we find the joy that would explode in our singing praises?
Let God manage our time, let Him redeem it, let Him show us His will… His love, His mercy…His peace…and an eternity of wonder and awe and…Him
- Why our Idolatry is Worthless (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 “I am telling you the truth,” replied Jesus, “that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit. 7 Do not be surprised because I tell you that you must all be born again. 8 The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8 (TEV)
24 I will take you from every nation and country and bring you back to your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you and make you clean from all your idols and everything else that has defiled you. 26 I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. 27 I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you. Ezekiel 36:24-27 (TEV)
“Get to know the Holy Spirit, the Great Unknown, the one who has to sanctify you. Don’t forget that you are a temple of God. The Paraclete is in the center of your soul: listen to him, and follow his inspirations with docility.” (1)
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the beginning of Pentecost. The beginning of the church, it’s birth in water and Spirit, that simply confounded Nicodemus, that incredible pouring out of God that started then, and continues during every worship service, with every baptism, with every remembrance of the work of the Spirit.
While many churches pull out all the stops for Pentecost Sunday, do we realize that Pentecost isn’t a day. It is not even a season of the church year, but the era in which we, and so many have gone before us in, and who knows how many will follow in, in our stumbling steps. It is Pentecost that we are in, as we take every breath, as we struggle with every sin, as we pray in desperation those prayers our hearts wonder will be heard, and be responded to by God with action.
If we really contemplate this, do we welcome it, or do we shy from it.
CS Lewis once described Jesus, using the picture of Aslan the lion, and stated that Aslan isn’t a tame lion, that Jesus isn’t a tame God. I think that is the nature of the Holy Spirit as well, the wind isn’t tamed, it can’t be. He is in control, and if we have any sense, that should begin to scare us, for we know the Spirit’s goal, it’s mission – to cleanse us as Ezekiel prophesied and rid us of our sin-hardened hearts.
But do we want that, more than one day a year? Are we willing to hear God, do we want to know His presence continually? Are we willing to listen to His voice, to those He calls around us? Are we willing to let Him cleanse us? Are we ready for that? Are we ready for the Holy Spirit to ready our Heart, our spirit, our mind, and our strength to be separated from all that would hold us back from walking with God?
Or would we rather look at theology, or politics, or morality, or anything other that what God will do in our lives? Will we welcome His fire purifying us? Will we welcome Him removing the dross from our lives?
A hard question…
May we be willing to trust in His mercy, even as He does it!
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 299-301). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.