by the Rev. Christopher Potter, Vicar
Greetings of peace and comfort to you all.
Though Rev. Karen and I were prepared to hold both in-person and virtual services this weekend, we were not prepared for the confluence of us both being sick at the same time. As a result, we are canceling all in-person services for this weekend, including Saturday night, but will host a Morning Prayer service on ZOOM Sunday morning at 10 a.m, link here.
+ + +
My Epiphany Message:
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth…
This prayer is connected to the Gospel of Matthew, the only evangelist to make mention of a star leading anyone (the Magi) to Bethlehem. Manifesting Jesus to “the peoples of the earth” is recognition of a universal revelation by God, not to Christians, or Jews alone. It also appears that this manifestation is not confined to one arena of existence — that the message of God through Jesus applies to only one part of our life.
This Matthean Epiphany story establishes Jesus as the “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords.” Why else would wise men from “the east” be showing up to pay homage to a Jewish baby? It is, I believe, because Matthew wants to cast Jesus as the most important event in human history! Not Jewish or Christian history, but Jesus as the pinnacle of all human history! These ‘wise men’ (sorry, women) were not subject to the laws of Abraham, Moses, the Bible, all the things giving definition and purpose to Jewish life at that time. They were rank outsiders with faith in the stars and in the movement of planets. Yet, there they were, present at the birth of Jesus — the living symbol of a loving God come into the world.
Folks might appreciate the arrival of these unlikely travelers to the birthing-bed of Mary and Jesus. Some might spot the significance that Jesus is God even of the “unchurched.” I think more folks might be missing the “BIG” truth: the event of Jesus’s birth and the message of God he brings mean that this event touches every aspect of our lives.
While agreements with this statement may come easily, its deep significance is what I find to be counter-intuitive and unexpected. Think: Jesus and his message touches every aspect of life. Just our religious life? Does it also mean the message touches our political lives as well? Do we compartmentalize our religious/faith lives in one place and silo our politics and morality in another? If Jesus is King of Kings, does that mean his message supersedes governments and rulers and law, or does it mean that politics takes priority and God is outside its reach?
The message of Epiphany is that nothing and no one is outside the need of Jesus and the message he brings. It means that the Christ-ethic comes to bear on every segment of life. The message of reconciling love with God, of compassion and unity for everyone, of care for the marginalized — these things are a universal priority for us all.
While Americans, in general, revere the separation of church and state (I among them), when talk of God and politics gets too chummy, most of us bristle. The universality of Jesus’s message does not mean that our religious faith is a test for validity of the American political system. It does mean, however, that my faith should illumine my politics, my voting, even my principles. I don’t think that belief in Jesus will change an individual’s politics or political party; it won’t make you a Republican if you just read the Bible in the right way. You won’t become a Democrat if you but studied the right theologians.
What Epiphany does, however, is challenge us to make a priority of the eternal truths found in Jesus and in the Gospel. As people of God, we base our existence on the message and Jesus. This necessarily challenges our politics, our relationships, our morals and ethics. You might be a Democrat but are you one who weighs constantly the message of Jesus against your politics? You might also be a Republican, but are you one who always prays for the wisdom of Jesus to inform your political beliefs?
The point is, when we are followers of JESUS FIRST, and Republican/Democrat second (or later on the list), we will find with each other much more common ground to keep us in peaceful conversation. Disagreement will naturally arise over how we might apply that to which we all agree. The need for disagreement in how we differ politically, however, will suddenly disappear.
No church has any business telling us how or for whom we ought to vote. Likewise, any church that sidesteps the message of the Gospel for fear of appearing ‘political,’ has no business telling us to be like Jesus.
+ + +
+ + +
+ + +
+ + +
+ + +
We’ll see you at St. John’s!