Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sermon for the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C, January 7, 2007

Who or what is God to you? When you think of God what are the images that come to your mind? These are important questions for us to consider. The portrait we carry of God in our own mind will affect how we see God and how we see God at work in the world and in our lives.

Some of the lessons today speak of God’s revelation of self to others. Perhaps the revelations were exactly what the people expected. Perhaps they were much different from what was expected. As I pondered this idea of God’s self revelation I though about the different way that I or others have viewed God.

Some see God as a sort of cosmic and all powerful Santa Clause. We ask for good things and if we have been nice we can expect to receive. However is we have been naughty we can anticipate the proverbial lump of coal.

Others may see God as a 911 responder to emergencies. The kind of God you make supplication to once in a blue moon. Perhaps when things are so desperate that I have to give up thinking I can handle it myself and toss up a “hail Mary” prayer hoping against hope that since I haven’t prayed to God in so long a while that I will be remembered and saved from whatever horrible circumstances I find myself in.

Others may see God as that benign grandfather. Some what similar to the Santa Clause God, but a little more active and involved in our lives. Giving us all good things, perhaps whether we deserve them or not.

Perhaps some see God as an all powerful and all knowing scorekeeper. A God who keeps track of how well or how poorly we are doing in our life. In the end it is all up to us, but God is constantly looking over our shoulders keep the score.

And of course there is always the option of God as the stern disciplinarian. God standing over us with a long list of rules and regulations which we are expected to keep and if we don’t, we can count on getting our just rewards.

As we look to our lessons for today we will not see any of those images fortunately. Today have heard of God’s self revelation. We will no longer be dealing with the imaginations of ideas of women and men about how God is. Just yesterday was the Feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany if the feats of the Church which celebrates the revelation of the son of God to the Gentiles in the persons of the magi. But this is a strange revelation. The magi come in search of a king. My guess is that they were looking for a palace, some finely appareled parents and a baby in a setting fit for a king. Instead at the end of their journey they find a baby in poverty. Perhaps the human response might have been to turn away. Certainly the star must be wrong. This baby can’t be the right one. But they accept what God has revealed to them. In spite of their preconceived notions they offer the gifts they have brought for this king.

In the prophet Isaiah today we hear God revealing himself to his people again. God reveals himself as the one who created them, the one who ransomed them, and the one who will be with them. After grieving over the failure of the chosen people to remain faithful to God in chapter 42 God still reaches out to them in love. Here we find not a scorekeeper God, not a Santa, grandfather or any of the other notions one might have of God. Instead we see a God of patience, love, and compassion.

What a comfort it is to know that we still follow a God who unfailingly reaches out to us. No matter our faults, our fears, or our failures, God reaches out to us. The same God who again and again sought out his chosen people Israel will again and again seek us out. God does not count the number of times he has been rejected, but steadily continues to call us out by name. “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.”[1] Those are the words of God to a people he is trying to call back to himself. These are the same words God speaks to us when we fail.

The story of the baptism of Jesus in Luke also reveals more of God to us. I think the most important revelation in this story for me is the revelation and reminder that God is a God of relationships. God refers to Jesus as his beloved. This term speaks of a richness of depth that is incomprehensible to me. God could have just announced Jesus as his son or as the messiah, either announcement would have gotten the job done. But God announces Jesus as his beloved son.

This is something we share with Jesus. As children of God through Jesus we likewise are beloved children of God. Having faith and confidence in this truth, we need to do away with revelations of God in our own minds that are inconsistent with this view of sharing in the heritage of a beloved child of God. Those false views of God will only encumber us in our walk with Jesus. They will hold us back and not allow us to enjoy the truth of our relationship with the creator of the universe. That same God who created all in his spoken word speaks to us today and calls us beloved children of God.

[1] Is. 43:2 (NLT)

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