Sunday, 9 January 2011

An Epiphany moment (Sermon for Epiphany)

Recently I have got a new mobile phone. It has what is called a touch screen, not as posh as an I phone, but the best I could manage!!
Needless to say it is quite clever.
Computers and phones now nearly all visually work using things curiously called icons, which is strange really because this word is an ancient religious word in origin.
More about that later.
When my phone wants to tell me something, like for example that I have a message, or that someone has tried to call me, an icon appears.
At first I just thought this curious because the icon appeared to be a piece of jigsaw. Then after a while (I am slower than the phone) I also realised that there was also on the screen a jigsaw piece shaped “hole” and then I learnt that if I carefully moved, using my finger on the touch screen, the jigsaw piece into the same shaped “hole” then all would be revealed and I would learn what the nature of the call was etc.
Putting the piece into place made everything clear to me.

An Icon is????

A curious question? ………
What have Matthew, Mark Luke and John got in common with Rolf Harris?
They all work with the same strap line when they are painting their icons/pictures.
They also all work backwards too as it happens.
Let me try to explain what I mean….
Can you see what it is yet? Is what Matthew mark Luke and John all work with… just like dear Rolf.
Today we celebrate the Epiphany, for us in the western church who have now added 25th December to our Christian Calendar, this is symbolized by the Wise Men arriving at the house where Jesus was born, according to the writer of Matthews Gospel.
As it happens, and as we have realized on the news this week, for the other half of Christendom, the Eastern church, January 6th is the celebration of not only the birth but also of the Baptism of Christ… they roll them all into one.
As we know Mathew and Luke have got birth stories in their gospel. Luke has shepherds and stable, Mathew has Magi and house. John written later is more philosophical in his approach and see Jesus in such a different place that he is as if it were from the very beginning anyway.
Mark on the other hand being the earliest of the gospels to be written and without the need to complicate things with a baby being born, sees the moment of Epiphany (making clear) as being the moment Jesus was Baptised and the heavenly voice proclaims that this is the one..
All the gospels have epiphanies, but they all do it differently.
It is as if in each writer we hear the words “Can you see what it is yet?”
For the Christian, and for Mathew Mark, Luke and John, and for every disciple of Jesus, Jesus is the very icon to God.
Christian theology varies hugely in the finer points, but all see Jesus as the revelation of God. It is by looking to Jesus as the pioneer and perfector of our faith (words from Ephesians) that we learn not only how to live as fully living humans but also in relationship with God.
Jesus in what he says and does keeps reminding us about Loving, each other and God and keeping this channel of Love open both ways all the time. As Bishop John Spong describes He loves recklessly and calls us to love in the same way too.
Today being epiphany is the time we recognise something in Christ. The penny drops… it is all made clear…. We see what it is we are looking at.
The icon is put into place and the purpose is made clear.
All the birth stories are moments of Epiphany. In this sense we have been having epiphanies since December 25th. Also in this sense what we call the season of Epiphany is part of the season of Christmas.
Between now and the feast of the presentation we get a series of other types of Epiphany moment, John the Baptists witness, The teaching of Jesus, The miracles of Jesus. All these are other ways of recognizing the significance and importance of Jesus.

Each of us here will have had moments of epiphany. Moments when we have realized something important about Gods love. Moments, sometimes surprising ones too, when we have “seen what it is” as if again for the first time.
At every Epiphany comes recognition. Things slip into place and things feel right again..
The Christian Church is called to reveal this Epiphany to a waiting and expectant World. We celebrate this today.