A Sermon preached by Reverend Aaron Kennedy
Feast of the Baptism of Jesus
12th January 2020
Isaiah 60.9-22; Hebrews 6.17 – 7.10
Aha! I see! I get it!, I said,
as I sat upright in bed
the morning sun streaming in through the window,
bouncing off the white sheets and walls,
filling my eyes and my head,
my mind fully alert, my heart full.
I had had an epiphany.
A moment of revelation,
a moment when who God is and what faith is for me,
not once and for all,
but once again.
Life began to make more sense.
I could connect some of the main dots,
and began to get a sense of how my personal story
found its place in,
made sense inside of,
the big story of God’s unfolding love for the world.
This is the way we often use the word Epiphany.
– Similar to a eureka moment,
in that something new is seen–
but very different too,
because with a eureka moment,
we are the discoverers;
in an epiphany,
what is seen is revealed to us,
by an outside source, not ourselves.
That’s an epiphany, with a small E.
But what about The Epiphany, capital E.
The season begins with the visit of the Magi
– the wise men, or foreign Kings,
who, guided by a bright star,
come from afar to seek the King of the Jews.
The moment when these gentile kings
bring their gifts to the baby Jesus,
is a crucial moment in the great mystery of the Incarnation,
when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Crucial, because they were gentiles,
revealing God’s love not just for the Jews,
but for the whole of Creation.
But we remember also in Epiphany
the wedding at Cana
the occasion of Jesus’ first miracle,
turning water in wine;
and also his baptism by John in the Jordan,
when the dove the descended on him,
and voice from heaven called him the beloved.
Both moments when Jesus identity and power
are manifested for all to see.
In a similar vein we also celebrate, during this period
the feast of St Paul,
the first missionary to the Gentiles.
And over the four Sundays of Epiphany
we focus on the different aspects
of Jesus manifestation, before all people,
as the Son of God,
ending the season at Candlemas,
the festival of the Presentation of Christ at the Temple,
when the baby Jesus is recognised by the old man Simeon,
in the words of the nunc dimittis
as the salvation of God,
who would be a light to lighten the Gentiles,
and be the Glory of the people of Israel.
We use the word epiphany
in both the informal and traditional senses,
and, I think, both are important.
It is important that we as the church,
should remember the twists and turns of the story,
that first of all reveal Jesus as God,
as the exact representation of the same God
who created this world,
in the mists of pre-historic time;
the same God who inspired King Melchizedek,
the same God who called Abraham,
the Father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam;
the same God who is the Mighty One of Jacob,
who is Isaiah’s Suffering Servant,
who is the Jewish Messiah,
the hope of the nations,
and the Resurrected, Glorified and Victorious Christ the King,
who’s kingdom we pray to come,
who will one day rule the whole world,
with justice, mercy, love and peace.
It is important that we remember this story,
and tell it again and again,
for at least one crucial reason.
So that we might find ourselves a part it,
realising that this story is not yet finished.
Having it revealed to us that our personal stories
make sense within the bigger story of God,
is an epiphany,
a connecting of the dots,
making sense of the big picture.
Many of us struggle with doubts in our faith.
We are often scared even to admit that we have them,
let alone know how to deal with them.
Well, the Good News is that doubt and faith,
are two sides of the same coin.
As the writer Anne Lamott says, the opposite of faith is not doubt.
It is certainty. It is madness.
We are not required to be certain;
we are only called to take all our faith and our doubts in hand,
and with them to seize the hope
that God is, as God always has been,
through Melchizedek, Abraham, Jacob, Isaiah,
Simeon and Anna, you and me,
and his only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ,
bringing about the New Creation,
the new heaven and the new earth,
the beautiful picture of which, Isaiah paints for us.
Part of my own little epiphany that day some years ago,
was the realisation that God is revealed – made manifest,
not in power, strength and dominance,
whether physical, political or intellectual,
but in broken bread and wine outpoured.
In Holy Communion,
God is revealed not as an intellectual proposition,
not as an idea,
but as an ever-present God of love,
who continually pours himself out,
as he always has done,
for love of us, and the world.
We are not called to the madness of certainty,
we are called to discover ourselves
with all our doubts and fears and faith,
caught up in a still-unfolding story,
the story of God’s Epiphany,
the manifestation of God’s love for the whole human race.
So let us again seize the hope of faith,
allow ourselves to be caught up
in a story so much bigger than us.
A story so magnificent it is beyond words,
so rich and all encompassing
that even our doubts and fears,
our sins and failures,
are taken up tenderly by God
and transformed, not into certainty,
but greater love.
The same love, in fact,
which creates and sustains this world moment to moment,
the same love that longs to partner with us,
in the still-unfolding story
of the healing and restoration of all things,
in God’s New Creation.