Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12
By the books an epiphany is a moment of sudden revelation or insight. An epiphany is that moment when everything clicks intro place and makes sense—the world takes on another view.
This past year I’ve gotten back into the pool, swimming two or three times a week for exercise. One of the lifeguards complemented me on my swimming—she likes my smooth, clean stroke. That compliment made me chuckle a bit, because it wasn’t always that way. I learned to swim when I was very young. In the summer I swam on the Park Hills Swim Team. But I took a few years off during junior high school. And that was probably a mistake because during that time your body grows by leaps and bounds, as does your ability to hone your mechanics. In swimming, mechanics are everything.
When I started swimming in high school. My mechanics were awful. I was decently fast, but I was mostly propelled by sheer willpower. There was too much thrashing. Too much splashing. It wasn’t pretty.
But then, in my junior year, things clicked, I somehow learned to slow my stroke down to better catch the water, and by doing so I was faster. Significantly faster. And my whole world, at least as a swimmer, changed. It was an epiphany that made a world of difference.
In our church tradition Epiphany is technically celebrated on January 6th, but you can move it to the previous or follow weekend, and that’s what we’re doing today. On Epiphany the church commemorates the Magi’s visit to the toddler Jesus. It is the moment when the Gentiles, those no Jews of the Ancient Near East, realize that they are included in the divine promises of God brought to them through this child—through Jesus.
The Magi have this revelation, this sudden insight that God is for them. And the world now recognizes that God has come to earth, in Jesus, in flesh and blood. All of a sudden the God of Israel who was without form, who could not be seen or imagined, takes on our humanity. And that is huge. The ramifications are huge. God is revealed.
Yes, God is revealed as never before. A mystery revealed. A truth dispelling all doubt. A light shinning in the darkness that cover the world, that covers the people. The God who create all things is now here, in the world, with the people, as plain as day.
What does it look like to have God in your midst? What epiphanies have you experienced when you can clearly say, “God was here with me.”? Where do you see the light? How do you experience it?
Those are the challenging questions for us today, because God is still here. Jesus is still active. The Holy Spirit is indeed moving in and around us.
So this Epiphany I challenge you to think about where you see God. However, I want us to take one step further. I want us to be part of other people’s epiphanies—of how others see God at work in this world with our help.
For the last two weeks I have teased you about a surprise. The time has come, and I invite one person from each household to come forward to receive this surprise. Take one envelope from this basket and then head back to your pew. You may open the envelope when you get back to your seat.
Welcome to Joyous Generosity! In your possession you now have a check for $100, $250, or $500. Your task is simple: use this money in some way to share the light of Jesus Christ with the world. The Congregation Planning Council at Zion designated $30,450 for you, the people of Zion, to share the epiphany of Jesus Christ to our community. A large percentage of this money was given to the church for the purpose of ministry in our community. It is now time to make this money work for the mission of sharing the message of God.
- Gather with your family unit and pray about what you want to do with this money. Where do you feel called to make a difference? You can either create a ministry project for a need you see or donate the money to a cause where it will make a difference.
- After identifying your ministry, use the check and take action. You may cash the check and use the money to buy supplies, use it for seed money to grow your project, or write another name or organization in the “Pay to the Order of” line that you wish to benefit. There are no strings attached for how you use this money, we simply ask that you cash the check by February 15th, 2020.
- If possible, share with the people you are ministering to why you are doing this.
- Report back to the Zion office and explain how you used your Joyous Generosity check. A form is on the back of this letter to help with that process. Please fill out the form and return it to the church office by February 15th. If you are really excited by your project, please contact me directly. We will ask members to share their experiences during the services of February 15 and 16.
We are not the first congregation to do this: Preston Meadow Lutheran Church in Plano, Texas and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church outside of Cincinnati, Ohio have already done something similar…perhaps others have as well. Both of these congregations claimed it was one of the most faith-filled activities they have ever done.
In reading articles about their story, it was amazing to hear how the Holy Spirit moved through their people, and how they showed God to their neighbors. I have no doubt that we will follow in their footsteps.
Thich darkness cover this earth and the people that live on it, but we have seen the light of God, as his children we are radiant, and we will spread the light of Christ.
Paul reminds us that through the church the wisdom of God, in its rich variety, might be made known. Today, you have been equipped with a small tool for ministry. Use your skills, use your energy and your ideas, use the power of the Holy Spirit to produce a rich variety of ministry. Use this money however you see fit. Radiate and reflect the light of Christ. Help the world see a fuller, more vibrant vision of God through your work and your ministry. AMEN