Sunday, January 27, 2008

Year A: Epiphany III (27 January 2008)

Matthew 4:12-23

I have a fairly enormous appetite for spy movies and suspense thrillers. One of the frequent plot ingredients for such films involves a time bomb—sometimes even a nuclear time bomb. The hero, usually after several minutes of strenuous hand-to-hand combat, finally makes it to the bomb, which, invariably, is set to explode in just a few seconds. The hero is, of course, a hero. But he is not usually a bomb expert. Should he cut the red wire first, or the blue wire? Or the yellow wire? Or the green wire? If he guesses wrong, the device will explode in his face.
If he hesitates too long, it will …explode in his face anyway. He simply has to make a decision and plunge ahead, without the benefit of sustained analysis or reflection.

The authors of these fictional scenarios may well have taken their inspiration from the fourth chapter of St Matthew's gospel. Jesus is walking along the lake shore, having just arrived in Galilee after his baptism and forty days being tempted in the wilderness. He sees Peter and Andrew, two fishermen who happen to be brothers, busy plying their trade. He says to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And they drop their nets and follow him. A little further up the beach, he runs across another set of brothers, James and John, who were fishing from a boat with their father. He calls them, and they also follow. Matthew doesn't give us any evidence that Jesus asked if they were enjoying the weather, or how they were feeling that day. He doesn't mention anything about Jesus having to ask twice, or any of these four early disciples responding, “Follow you? What precisely do you mean by that?” Nowhere do we hear anything like, “Think it over. Take all the time you need” or “Sleep on it and get back to me in the morning.” It's a very sparse, very clear, very uncluttered narrative: “Follow me . . . Ok.” Pick a wire and cut it; there's no time to commission a study.

Even a New Yorker…would find their exchange exceedingly abrupt. Abruptness doesn't really play well with us, does it? We consider it rude. We consider it an invasion of our rights. We like to make our own decisions, and we don't want anyone telling us when we have to make them. The pressure is unwelcome. It makes us feel like we're losing control.

Losing control.

If there's anything that throws a citizen of the early 21st century into a panic, it's the idea of not being in control.
We have Federal Express and next-day-air and the internet to supply us with a constant stream of information, information that we need to stay in control. I want options, choices, alternatives. I want to find what works…for me. I don't want anyone forcing my hand prematurely.

Guess what, folks.

We're not in control.

Each of us is here today, here in church today, here in St Anne’s church today, because Jesus is calling us.
Maybe you're aware of that call and are consciously responding to it. Maybe you haven't heard anything resembling a call from Jesus, and think you're here because you chose to be here, because…you're in control.
Either way, though, you're here because Jesus is calling you. What does the voice of Jesus sound like to you?
What is he saying? Maybe you've been spiritually hungry for some time, searching for the kind of meal that will satisfy the deepest possible kind of human hunger. Jesus is saying, “Come. Follow me. Let me feed you. Be satisfied.”

Maybe you've been wounded by the changes and chances of this life, the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Jesus is saying, “Come, follow me. Find healing and rest for your soul.” Maybe you've been spiritually complacent, a little lax. You've stopped praying, you're stingy with your time and money. It isn't that you've become an atheist, but you've allowed yourself to be consumed by the things of this world, and you've pushed God to the margins. Jesus' voice comes to you today like a slap in the face, the kind you respond to with, “Thanks, I needed that.”

Maybe things have been going swimmingly well for you. You're doing just fine and you have every intention of staying on course. Jesus’ voice saying, “follow me” is an abrupt intrusion, an unwelcome interference with the status quo.

Whatever position you find yourself in, you can identify with Peter and Andrew and James and John, because Jesus is coming to you from out of the blue, into your world, finding you where you are, doing what you do, and saying, “Follow me.” He isn't presenting us with a proposal, or the results of an opinion poll. He isn't saying, “Give it serious thought and get back to me.” He's saying, “Cut the wire.” Cut the wire, because the bomb's about to explode. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Follow me.

Follow me today.

What might it mean for you to follow Jesus—to follow Jesus today? For starters, if you have never consciously acknowledged the lordship of Jesus Christ over your life, if you have never said to him, “Jesus, you are my savior and my Lord, and I will obey and follow you wherever you lead me”, it might mean doing just that.

Maybe, if you feel yourself weighed down by guilt and shame and a haunting sense of your own sinfulness, following Jesus today means asking for the courage to face those areas of your life that you keep in the dark.
The fourth of the twelve steps in the Alcoholics Anonymous movement calls for a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of our lives. Like lancing a boil, it's painful in the short run, but necessary and therapeutic in the long run.

Or, maybe Jesus's call to you to follow him involves, not seeking forgiveness for yourself, but you yourself forgiving someone who has wronged you. Are you harboring a grudge, nursing a resentment, cherishing an anger that, even as it feels good to wallow in, is eating away at your soul? Even as Jesus told those first four disciples to drop their nets and follow him, Jesus is telling you, “Drop that grudge, let loose of that resentment, cast that anger aside, and follow me.”

Maybe following Jesus today is as simple as beginning to pray, or beginning to pray again. Do you pray daily?
Do you know how to pray? There's no shame in not knowing how to pray. Maybe no one ever taught you!
It's ok! You can ask me, or some other mature Christian for help. Nothing would make us happier than to receive and respond to such a request.

Perhaps following Jesus today means coming to grips with the idea of stewardship, realizing that you're a renter, not an owner, that you're a tenant, not a landlord. In all seriousness, there are those for whom following Jesus today means writing an uncomfortably large check to advance the work and ministry of Christ's church. Or maybe your growing edge in stewardship is not stewardship of your finances, but stewardship of your mind.
Maybe answering Jesus' call to follow him today means joining a class or a study group and becoming more mature in your understanding of the things of the Lord.

The list could go on, but you get the point. Ultimately, only you can answer the question—what does it means to follow Jesus today?—because you're the one whom Jesus is calling. And if he's calling you, don't expect him to go away. He's gentle, but relentless, in his love and his call. As we pray in the 139th psalm,

“Where can I go then from your spirit?
where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there your hand will lead me
and your right hand hold me fast.

St Augustine wrote about his experience of uneasiness before he answered Jesus's call to follow him: “My heart was restless, O Lord, until it found its rest in you.” Elsewhere he wrote, “I could never have found you, Lord, unless you had found me first.” One of the old gospel songs that remains in my heart from my Baptist upbringing contains the lines, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me; … come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home; earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home.”

The clock is ticking, hero. Not to decide is also to decide. Cut the wire. Follow Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A: Epiphany II (20 January 2008)

John 1:29-42
Isaiah 49:1-7

Several decades ago a psychologist named Abraham Maslow got famous—at least among those who read psychology textbooks!—for publishing his theory about the “hierarchy of needs.” Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs says that human beings have certain universal needs which, if they are met at all, have to be met in a particular order. The most basic human need is for oxygen, and a person who is deprived of oxygen, after a very few seconds, is unlikely to be concerned about anything else.

After the need for oxygen is met, the next level of the hierarchy is immediate personal safety. If you're being chased through the forest by a wild bear, you're not going to care awfully much about the relative humidity. And so on up the hierarchy through the levels of warmth, water, food, and so on. Once a lower need is satisfied, there is an immediate drive and desire to meet the next one on the scale. If you're freezing to death, you think, “If I could just have a fire, I wouldn't have a care in the world.” Then, once you're warm, you realize you're thirsty, and the quest continues. Most human beings, wherever they are on Maslow's hierarchy, spend most of their waking hours looking for something, seeking something.

When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, some time after his baptism, he said to his own disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sin of the world,”
whereupon two of John's disciples, Andrew being one of them, up and followed Jesus. When Jesus noticed that they were following him, he turned to them and said, “What do you seek?”

What do you seek?

What are you looking for?

What need do you have that you're trying to meet?

The highest category of need on Maslow's hierarchy is something called “self-actualization.” Self-actualization is what you seek after, the need that you're aware of, when your material and emotional needs are regularly met. If you'll permit me now to leap across the crack between psychology and theology, I will suggest that what Maslow calls a need for self-actualization, a Christian —or, for that matter, a believer of almost any religious persuasion —would recognize as a need for God. We're talking here about a spiritual need. We're talking about one's hunger for one's true self, which is found only in the communion between a creature and its creator.

The disciples' answer to Jesus' question, “What do you seek?" was “Where are you staying?” The English translation doesn't really do justice to their question. They aren't just idly curious about Jesus' address and phone number. They want to know where Jesus lives, where he abides, where he dwells. They are seeking to fulfill their spiritual hunger, to experience that communion of creature and creator which they know will alone give them real “self-actualization.” They’re seeking to fill the God-shaped void that every human being is born with.

And Jesus responds, “Come and see.” Again, the English translation is a little bit misleading. Jesus isn't just inviting them to casually stop by for a cup of coffee and have a look around. He isn't saying, “Hey, check this out.” Rather, Jesus is inviting Andrew and his companion to really come and see. Come and have your eyes opened. Come and be enlightened in such a way that you'll think you were blind before that moment. Come and find self-actualization. Come and find what you've always been looking for even if you didn't know it. And Andrew and his friend came and they saw.

So what do we do when we've come and seen what we've been looking for, when we've experienced “self-actualization”? One option is ... to keep it a secret, to horde it like a squirrel gathering acorns as the chill of winter sets in. “I've got mine; you find yours on your own.” The first Episcopal church Brenda and I ever worshiped in regularly—35 years ago this spring—was apparently filled with such an attitude. We were there every Sunday morning for the better part of six months, and during that time not a single soul took the slightest interest in our presence. The Rector himself didn't so much as ask us our names. It's a wonder that I'm an Episcopalian today! There were apparently some needs getting met in that place, because it was a fairly good-sized church. But whatever it was they had, they sure didn't seem very interested in sharing it. I'm very pleased to say that I don't think a visitor to St Anne's would be in any danger of having a similar experience today.

The alternative, of course, when one has come and seen, is to share the news, to say, “Here it is. There's plenty more. Come and get it!” First, we would tell our family and friends. Then, if the news were important enough, we would want to tell everyone we could. If you happened to stumble over the sure-fire cure for cancer, you would want as many people as possible to know it as soon as possible! Remember those scientists in Utah about 15 years ago who said they'd found a way to create a “cold fusion” nuclear reaction? It turned out they really hadn't, but if they had, it would have revolutionized the world energy industry overnight. Assuming that they weren't complete liars, and at least thought they'd done what they said they'd done, their eagerness for the whole world to know of the discovery was quite understandable.

All this, I hope, is unremarkably self-evident, because now I want to relate it to our life together in the church. We say we have gospel—good news. To varying degrees, and in different ways, we have actually experienced it. We have come and seen, and we know what we've seen to be that which we've sought, what we've been looking for, that which meets our deepest—or, according to Maslow, our highest—needs. How do we respond?

If someone walks through our doors and makes the effort to become part of this community, I'm convinced that the gospel of Christ is somehow going to touch that person through the members of St Anne’s. But what if someone remains on the fringe? Or, horror of horrors, what if they never even turn into our parking lot? What if they drive right on up Market Street, wondering where they're going to meet their need for self-actualization? Where is our concern for them? If we have good news, do they also deserve to hear it? The very word “evangelism”—which, literally, means nothing more than “proclaiming good news”—and much more the thing itself, still scares and even offends many Episcopalians. At the very least, we're nervous about it. We sometimes say it's because we're put off by the methods that other kinds of churches employ—emotional manipulation and the like.

But I wonder. Could it be, at least in part, that we're nervous about sharing the good news because we're not all that clear on just what the news is, and why it's good? Try this on in your imagination: Write a one-half page summary of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, in a way that is both personal and attractive enough that someone who'd never heard it before would want to hear more.

Could you do it?

When Andrew came and saw, and when he knew that the one he had seen was indeed the long-awaited Messiah, the hope of Israel, his first response was to run and tell his brother Peter the good news: “We have found the Messiah.” It was a completely natural and unself-conscious action on his part, as natural as one neighbor telling another about the station that's selling gas for under two dollars a gallon, or one fisherman telling another where the bass are biting.

The theme that runs through all the lessons today is that God chooses. By inviting them to “come and see”, Jesus chose Andrew and Peter as his disciples. At his baptism, God the Father revealed Jesus as his chosen one. In the prophecy of Isaiah, the “suffering servant” is chosen by God to be a light, not only to the nation of Israel —that would be “too light a thing.” No, the servant of the LORD is to be a light to the nations.

My friends, the same Lord is telling us at St Anne's that it is “too light a thing” that we should minister only to one another, that we should share the good news only among ourselves. He calls us as well to be a “light to the nations”, represented by the thousands of people who live within walking or driving distance of this church, and who are looking for self-actualization in all the wrong places.

We know what they seek, and we know where Jesus lives —he lives here. We have a story to tell.

Let's learn it, first. Then, let's tell it.

Let's invite those who are looking to “come and see.” Amen.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Baptism of Christ, 2008

Matthew 3:13-17
Isaiah 42:1-9

Well . . . Christmas really is over, isn't it? Some poinsettias linger, just because they're still so pretty, and our festival frontals still decorate the altar. But garland along the balcony rail is departed, and the festive wreathes no longer adorn the windows. And, perhaps most significantly of all, the crèche scene is once again put away for another year. Jesus is apparently no longer lying in an animal feeding trough set in a hillside cave outside a tiny village in an obscure province of the Roman Empire. Between Epiphany and the Sunday after, we make a quantum leap in remembered time, a leap of about thirty years, from Jesus the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, to Jesus the grown-up, ready to embark on, as it were, his “career.”

The object of our attention in the liturgy for the First Sunday After the Epiphany is the Baptism of our Lord, in the Jordan river, by none other than John the Baptist. We celebrate this event because the church has always seen in it an Epiphany, a manifestation, a showing-forth of Christ, that is more arresting, and more indicative of his humility ... than even the circumstances surrounding his birth.

After 30-odd years of obscurity in the Galilean village of Nazareth, Jesus goes public. He makes his way down to the Jordan River, where that crazy man named John has been attracting hordes of people by telling them to wade out into the water, take a plunge, and come up confessing their sins.

None of the external circumstances of Jesus' life can explain why he did what he did. It was something internal. Something was drawing—or driving—Jesus to that river. He was responding to a call.

There are many reasons why it may have seemed inappropriate to Jesus for him to go and be baptized. And they all make a certain amount of sense, to me, at least. From the very first time I heard this story as a child, I've scratched my head, and wondered why in the word Jesus, of all people, would need to be baptized. It would not have bothered me for this passage of scripture to just disappear; I would not have missed it.

First of all, Jesus is greater than John. John was the one whose sole purpose in life was to announce Jesus' coming —“prepare the way of the Lord”, and all that. If any baptizing was going to be done, it should have been Jesus baptizing John, not the other way around. Second, with Jesus on the scene, they should all have said goodbye to the Jordan, because baptism with river water is only a warm-up act for the kind of baptism Jesus came to bring—baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Third, even though Jesus truly did share our humanity, there is one aspect of that humanity that he did not participate in, and that is sin. Jesus was sinless, which means that he was perfectly attuned to God's will at all times. Why should the sinless one undergo a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins?

These are some pretty strong reasons why Jesus might have thought twice about going ahead with his plan. Indeed, John himself was reluctant to perform the act: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” he said. Apparently the early Christian community, including the author of this gospel, was also a bit perplexed, if not embarrassed, about the whole thing. Matthew's account makes a point of telling us that Jesus got right up out of the water after being baptized, rather than staying to confess his sins, as would normally have been the case. But Jesus insists. He's thought it through, and he knows his mind. He's going to be baptized. He tells John, in the words of the Revised English Bible translation, “Let it be so for the present; it is right for us to do all that God requires.”

All that God requires.

Well, sure, we knew that much. Who else would have been calling Jesus away from his carpenter shop in Nazareth to get baptized in the Jordan River? But we still want to know why! Why does God require it? The selection from the prophet Isaiah that is appointed to be read along with Matthew's account of Jesus' baptism offers us a clue:

The Lord says, “Here is my servant...whom I strengthen, the one I have chosen, with whom I am pleased. I have filled him with my spirit, and he will bring justice to every nation. He will not shout or raise his voice or make loud speeches in the streets. He will not break off a bent reed or put out a flickering lamp. He will bring lasting justice to all. He will not lose hope or courage; he will establish justice on the earth. Distant lands eagerly await his teaching.

Here is my servant.

This passage is known among biblical scholars as one of the “servant songs” in the Book of Isaiah. Jesus, from the time of his youth, would have been well familiar with it. And in it lies the key to understanding the mysterious event which we remember today. In the act of accepting baptism from John, Jesus was accepting the role of a servant of the Lord. The Prayer Book collect for the Second Sunday after Christmas, of which there isn’t one this year, asks that we may “share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity.” If we are going to share, to participate, in Jesus' life, part of the deal is that where he goes, we follow. So if Jesus accepted a servant vocation, a vocation of humility, when he was baptized by John, then the path that lies ahead of us is the same one, the path of being servants to our God and Father.

We might be tempted, of course, to say, “That's beneath my dignity. Someone else should be serving me.” Jesus could have said the same thing, and insisted the he take the position of prominence and visibility as the baptizer. But he didn't.

We might be tempted to say, “Phooey on being a servant of God. I know a better way to improve the world.” Jesus, you know, could have said the same thing. He, after all, came to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Nevertheless, into the water he went.

And we might be tempted to say, “I would be wasted as a servant. I would be more valuable as one of God's executives.” Jesus, of course, could easily have said the same thing. He, after all, was the sinless one, and not only that, but was himself God from God, light from light, true God from true God, of one being with the Father. But that isn't what he said.

The purpose of Jesus' servanthood, understood in the light of Isaiah's prophecy, was to bring God's “justice” to the earth. The English word “justice” is really much too narrow in meaning for the Hebrew word which it translates. Mishpat implies much more than mere fairness, or equality, or the righting of wrongs. It implies God's universal and benevolent rule, the right ordering of all relationships. “Governance” might be a more accurate, though somewhat more obscure, translation.

The role of Jesus the servant, the baptized humble servant of the Lord, was to bring the world under God's governance. Our servanthood, as participators in the divine life of Christ, is to be an extension into space and time of Jesus' servanthood. The servanthood of the church is to proclaim—in what we say, in what we do, and, most importantly, in who we are—to proclaim good news to those who desperately need good news; to turn on a light for those sitting in darkness; to open the doors that imprison people in sin, sickness, and addiction; to give hope to those who know nothing but despair.

If the baptized Christ is a living reality for us, and if we're connected to his body, the Church, then we are indeed in possession of good news. And if we are in possession of good news, then our servant vocation is to make it known to others by any means possible, to extend God's justice, God's governance, wherever we go, to be living epiphanies, living manifestations, of Jesus, the baptized Christ. Amen.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Epiphany--6 January 2008

Matthew 2:1-12
Ephesians 3:1-12

Two weeks ago, I spoke of an experience that most people have at various times in their lives—an experience of a mysterious Presence, a Presence that, upon further reflection, is revealed to be God … “with us, God.” It was from St Matthew’s gospel that we heard about Joseph’s experience of the Divine Presence as he was called to serve as a surrogate father to the incarnate Son of God, and it is also from Matthew that we hear about a similar encounter between the LORD and a group of Persian (most likely Persian, at any rate, according to most scholars)—a group of Persian astrologers (there’s no concrete indication that there were three of them, nor is there any evidence that they were actually kings, though there’s nothing radically wrong with our traditional popular images of them)—we hear today from St Matthew’s gospel about these “Wise Men” or “Magi,” as they are often referred to, who felt an inexplicable invitation and urge to follow a strange and mysterious astral sign to an obscure village an hour or so (by camel, that is) from Jerusalem. But they didn’t really have a whole lot of solid material to go on, despite what we will sing about the symbolic significance of their gifts

We also feel “the presence,” but, like the Wise Men, we often feel like we have very little concrete to go on. Even if we come to a place where we are ready to recognize and name this presence as God, still “God” is such a large concept, an expansive and complex notion, that there are a great many ideas, many of them conflicting, about who God is and what God is like and what God expects of those of us who are “not-God.” It’s easy to feel like we’re in a game of “20 Questions”—Are you all-powerful? (Yes or No) Are you present everywhere? (Yes or No) Do you know everything, even before it happens? Do you love me? Would you get upset if I told a little white lie to my neighbor? etc. etc. etc.

One possible response to the mystery of God is to fall into despair: If God is unknowable, if God leaves so many unanswered questions, if it feels like God is absent, then what good is he? We like to think that God watches over us and protects us, but try telling that to the family of the Indianapolis woman who died, along with her three daughters, when their van slid into a pond during the ice storm the middle of last month. If some get spared but others don’t, then it’s nothing but a game of chance; it’s as if God didn’t really exist. What good is the “presence” that I feel if that Presence neither says anything nor does anything that I can see or hear or understand? I am trapped in my misery. There is nothing available to me but despair.

Another response is to fill in the blanks with information of our own making—as it were, creating God in our image, making God what we would like God to be. Some years ago I heard about a religion called Sheilaism. It had, at that time, precisely one adherent, and her name was—you guessed it—Sheila. Sheilaism was a designer religion worshiping a designer God. I’ll grant you, this is a rather extreme example. But it’s only extreme in the degree to which the logic is followed. Truth to tell, you don’t have to scratch the beliefs of even many conventional Christian churchgoers very deeply before you find an impulse to, if not make up a religious system from whole cloth, at least pick and choose various elements from the available options—according to taste, as it were. Left unchecked by any restraints of habit and societal approval, it leads inevitably to a virtually infinite numbers of variations on Sheilaism.

When the Wise Men finally reached Bethlehem, they saw the infant Jesus—the Word made flesh, the Messiah of God, the savior of the world—they saw Jesus with their own eyes. In the western branch of Christianity, of which we as Anglicans are heirs, this moment of seeing with their own eyes is the primary symbol—the “picture that says a thousand words”—of the Epiphany. But the reality of Epiphany is much larger than its symbol. In earlier versions of the Book of Common Prayer, the subtitle of this feast is “the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.” The Magi represent all non-Jews, in other words, us! In that moment of face-to-face connection between these Persian star-gazers and a little Jewish baby boy, we see the key to our own redemption. For the first time, non-Jews are explicitly included in the promises of God. Through Christ, salvation is available not only to his own people, the Jews, but to all of us who are not born into the house of Israel.

Yet, there is more we can mine from this lode: “Epiphany” means, literally, to show, to demonstrate, to take that which is hidden and make it visible, to take that which is privately visible to the few and make it publicly visible to all. St Paul writes to the Ephesians about “the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit…” For us, the good news of Epiphany is that God is a mystery but not a secret. God is unknowable, but God has made himself known. Everything we need to know about God, God has told us—revealed, disclosed, manifested. Knowing who God is and what God is like and what God wants from us is not a game of 20 Questions.

Our observance of Epiphany also reminds us that we have no need to “design” God to our own specifications of what we think he should be like, what we would be like if we were God. Indeed, if we presume to do so, we are refusing the knowledge, the enlightenment, that God has graciously given us. We would be like the adopted child who, upon meeting her actual birth parents, and finding them not like she imagined, says, “Oh, no, you can’t possibly be my parents. My father is taller and darker, and my mother’s hair is curly, not straight.” She has the option of not having anything to do with her parents, but she doesn’t have any say-so over their appearance or personality or anything else about them. They are who they are. God is who God is. He has revealed himself to us, and we don’t have the option of sending him back to the drawing board.

Rather, with St Paul, we have the option of saying, To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given…”—not found, not seized, but given--to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known…”—made known by God, that is, through the Church, not made up by any human mind or any human organization—“…[made known] to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”

Our job—our job as the Church and our job as individual believers—is to ever go deeper into this mystery, to soak ourselves in what God has revealed, and to tease out the implications for each of our lives. The feast of the Epiphany comforts us with the knowledge that God is not aloof and distant, toying with us by creating guessing games and smiting us with thunder bolts if we get the answer wrong, and the feast of the Epiphany challenges us to humbly and gratefully receive and lay hold of that which God has revealed. The saving and life-giving truth about God that God has made available to us is simple and accessible so that any person can perceive it and make it his or her own. But it is also inexhaustible such that the greatest minds, the keenest intellects, among us are always called to mine fresh nuggets from its riches and to apply them in concrete and compelling ways to the lives of real women and men and children. The Lord has shown forth his glory: Come, let us adore him. Amen.