We continue in the Epiphany Season, highlighted by the call of Jesus to follow him and become his disciples. None of us has chosen to be a disciple of Jesus; we each responded to his call. He chose us first. Some disciples in those early years were personally invited by Jesus. Others were welcomed by other disciples. To be a disciple of Jesus is to be given the task of inviting others to join the fun and mission. We don’t have to follow Jesus; we get to! We might not know everything it means to be a disciple. But, hang on. Along the way of discipleship, Jesus promises to gradually open our eyes to who he really is and what he really wants. I have long said that I don’t always need answers. And, I don’t always need advice. But I do need Jesus always. If all we needed in life was knowledge, then God would have just given us a gift card to a Barnes and Noble bookstore. Like those first disciples, you and I came to Jesus. We took a risk. We didn’t understand all there is to know about Jesus, but we bet our life on what we little we did know. Put it this way: we want more than just knowing about Jesus; we want to know Jesus. We don’t need to be informed; we need to be formed. Think back over your own faith journey. Think about your earliest memories of your first days as a Christian. Now think of all those wonderful, perhaps even scary, moments when you learned something new about Jesus, or when you heard some challenging scripture, or when you noticed a fresh light that shown on your faith. We are just like those early disciples, aren’t we? We came to Jesus, and we saw. That same dynamic energy continues. In our life, we grow closer and closer to Jesus. And as we do, he comes closer and closer to us. Peace, Pastor Gary
As a pastor, I spend a good deal of my time with people who are trying to figure out their lives. Who am I? What ought I be doing? For the Christian, the question will always be “Who am I in relationship with Jesus?” In these early days of Epiphany, the church would have us consider our identity and purpose through the lens of Jesus. God often calls unlikely people to do God’s work. Surprise! God calls who God calls, and uses who God uses, and blesses the world in ways that God chooses to bless. That means you and me. Isn’t it great to know that our lives are really not our own? The uncalled life is such a bore. Those who are summoned, called, commissioned, and examined know what a gift it is to serve Jesus. We don’t have to. We get to! God’s intrusions among us are life giving. They are usually disruptive as well! If we want to avoid change and newness, then hide from exposure with God. As you’ve heard me say many times, Sunday worship is the most dangerous time of the week. Who knows what God will do to us! Our questions of God are not as interesting as God’s questions of us, however. We read the Bible, just as the Bible is reading us. When we put down the Bible, will we become the Bible? For the next several Sundays, the Biblical texts will have us remember the recruitment of the first disciples. Take heart! God’s redemption regards no barriers of rank, position, or prestige. God made us common people into instruments for transforming the world. So, don’t disregard yourself. Don’t be bashful about your faith. It’s been said that a great leader trusts the followers. Well, God must trust us a great deal because God gives us great work to do. What a treat! Blessings,
Note: Pastor Gary had one last week of vacation under his contract for 2018. He is out of the office until January 29. The last day that there will be regular office hours is January 31.
These days of Epiphany give the church the time to reflect upon the significance of Christmas. Leading up to Christmas, we concentrated on the stories of the birth of Jesus and the witnesses who came from all over heaven and earth (think angels and wise men and animals, etc.). Now, here in Epiphany, we engage in the theological meaning of what we have celebrated in story and song. Jesus is the “God in the straw.” What does that say to you and me? And, in what ways have our lives changed?
God is revealed to us in Jesus. The magi came to worship the babe at Bethlehem. The star lighted the way. In what ways has the revelation of Jesus lighted our paths? The Apostle Paul years later wrote all those letters in the Bible because he had seen the light of God. Our faith, too, rests upon God’s loving willingness to reveal the nature and determination of God. For there to be a relationship between God and us, then God must communicate. God must reveal. And we must receive and act upon the Good News.
Since Jesus was born among us, little is the same. We just can’t get back to normal. We can’t “climb up” to God. God comes to us. Somehow and someway, God got a hold of you and me. Call it a mystery; call it a miracle. Or call it the star of Epiphany. God is made manifest to us in the love of Jesus. We are “Epiphanied!”
Well, Christmas is now officially over since today is the 2nd day of Epiphany. Most of us have already put away the ornaments and have dragged the tree out to the curb. Now, it’s time to get back to normal. The heavenly hosts have departed. Mary and Joseph and their little one have made their way back home on the long, dusty road to Nazareth. Seems so easy to be a Christian when we have out the candles, and the wreath, and the cookies, and the presents. “We need a little Christmas, right here this minute,” goes the song. Guess we’ll have to wait another year to have Christmas again.
Yet...I have some Good News for you today! Something has happened in our world since that 1stChristmas long ago, and that Christmas just a few weeks back. Jesus has been born! God has come among us, and injected into us a babe known as the Christ child. This baby has brought a new kingdom, and a new rule, and a different sort of sovereignty. As John 1 informs us, “The Word has become flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Creator’s only son, full of grace and truth.” No fake news here!
If you believe all this, then you believe that God is working to bring this world to its fulfillment. It means it’s time to start practicing living like you’ve been made new. Every person we meet is being molded for glory. So are you! God is in the business during post-Christmas of perfecting all there is, and all there will be. You see, after welcoming Christ into our lives, there is a sense in which none of us can ever go back to normalcy. Epiphany, here we come!!
Peace, Pastor Gary