Epiphany Sunday – January 6, 2013

Reading 1: Reading 2: Reading 3: Reading 4: 
Isaiah 60:1-6Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14Ephesians 3:1-12Matthew 2:1-12

By Bruce G. Epperly

Epiphany is a wonderful season for process-relational preaching. Epiphany reflects the heart of process theology: God is with us in the humble and great, the obvious and unexpected, the neighbor and the stranger, and the church goer and persons of other faiths and seekers. God’s revelation is cast broadly and variously throughout the universe. Zoroastrian magi and Jewish shepherds experience the light of the world shining in and on them. The Epiphany season asks us to open our senses to the divine word and wisdom in ourselves and in diverse places. More revelation—rather than exclusive revelation—best describes God’s relationship with the world and a robust understanding of revelation that leads to the ethical and spiritual embrace of otherness.1

Arise, shine, your light has come.” What you have been waiting for is here, right now and in this place. The light shines in around you, but also within you. Let it come forth. The transforming power of light and love will bring new events into our lives and the world. Perhaps, we are glory-deficient, too busy to experience the wonder of our being and the world around us. There is much pain in the world: as a grandparent, I mourn the children in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, Gaza and Israel, the Sudan and our own pockets of neglect and poverty in the USA. The antidote to pain and violence is not denial or violence in return, but moments of glory and epiphany, the ability to experience light in chaotic places and hope in the wake of tragedy. This is far from denial, in fact, it is the seedbed of transformation is in life’s most challenging moments. Isaiah has lived through a time of national trauma, and now he is seeing something emerging from the ashes of hopelessness—a new era of peace and prosperity. This will happen through the synergy of divine activity and human openness and courage. The seeds of transformation are scattered all around us, calling us to become gardeners of creation and nurturers of new life in all its forms.

Psalm 72 connects secular leadership with compassion and justice-making. Prosperity emerges when all are provided with adequate resources for themselves and their families. Always personal in nature, governmental policies are judged by their concern for the most vulnerable members of society. Ethical and just governance is not optional for leaders; it is a requirement of any ruler who seeks to lead congruent with God’s vision of Shalom. The insight of Psalm 72 is that secular and sacred compose one reality: all creation is full of God’s glory and every human activity brings us closer or further from God’s vision of shalom.

In the Ephesians reading, Paul proclaims an expansive gospel. Grace comes to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. God’s love is unbounded, embracing humankind in all its diversity. Paul recognizes the “wisdom of God in all its rich variety.” Does this mean that God reveals word and wisdom variously at various times and in relationship to various people and cultures? While Christ gives us access to the divine, Paul’s affirmation awakens us to numerous media of revelation, even beyond Christianity. Grace embraces all creation without stipulations. For grace to be graceful it must actively reach out to our spiritual and cultural others, honoring the places where God’s all-pervasive love shines its light.

The gospel highlights a journey from the east. Magi, familiar with astrology and signs in the heavens, travel from afar in search of a marvelous birth. They come to the most obvious place, the court of Herod, and find nothing. Their visit fills the royal court with fear at the possibility that revelation can be found elsewhere. Eventually, Herod’s fear will lead to violence, manifest in the slaughter of the innocents. But, for now, the ruler and his court are anxious and perplexed. They connect power and authority with incarnation and fear that widening the scope of revelation will further undermine their tenuous hold on the populace. They would rather enjoy the perquisites of being vassals to Rome than the wonder of encountering God’s life-transforming revelation.

This passage from Luke reminds us of the presence of God’s word and wisdom in the unconscious. The magi are warned in a dream to avoid Herod and so they return home by another way. Epiphany is a season of revelation, going beyond privileging book and bible revelation, to expand God’s word and wisdom to include dreams, visions, synchronicities, and ecstatic experiences. God reveals wisdom in many ways and a lively congregation looks for God’s vision in expected and unexpected places. It cultivates attentiveness to the divine in its many manifestations by providing spiritual formation through courses on prayer and meditation, dream work, mysticism, healing, and domestic holiness. Justice emerges out of our awareness that all creation, even the stranger and vulnerable, shine with divine love.

Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty three books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the PerplexedHoly Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study, The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age, and Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a MissionalChurch. He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith lectionary. He recently served as Visiting Professor of Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University.  Contact him by email for lectures, workshops, and retreats. His latest book is Healing Marks: Healing and Spirituality in Mark’s Gospel (Energion).