Epiphany: When the Wise Ones Came

Wisemen and MangerOLD TESTAMENT: Isaiah 60: 1-6

Read the Old Testament Passage

Having just previously declared that God is coming as Redeemer, the writer of this part of Isaiah calls Israel to “Arise, Shine”. Essentially, it is a proclamation that God, the eternal Light, has come. God’s Presence is already here and the transformation of the world has begun.

Now keep in mind that this was probably written at the end of the Babylonian exile. The once-thriving Jerusalem now sits empty, ravaged and desolate. The people lived in darkness and exile. The temple is gone, destroyed in the attack. And the dynasty of David, the veritable hope for the future, seemed to be at its floundering end. It would have been easy to miss seeing any good that might come of the situation, easy to miss any hint of things getting better. So this is the crescendo of the preparation for God’s arrival. Come on people, the prophet screams, Wake up! Don’t you see it? Things are happening! The days of waiting are over. Your children are being gathered even as we speak to return home. It is time now, time for Israel to become who God intended—a light to the nations.

Now, of course, it’s easy for us to sort of tack this passage on to our story of the Wise Men from the Gospel of Luke, but this really did have to do with the exile. The Presence of God was palpable, moving into the desolation and beginning to re-create Jerusalem. It was time now to shape their life together as a people and as a community.

But for us, there is also that undercurrent of eschatological reflection. Our hereafter, our “heaven” as we know it, is not something out there or up there or just up ahead. It is here. We just have to look around and see it. There are streams of souls in procession. We just have to find our place. And yet, even Israel didn’t understand the message any more than we do. God is not promising to make our lives easier, or to fill us with wealth and power, or to put us on top. God is promising to remake us, transform us into something completely different. God is promising not a return to normalcy but a new normal. In fact, if you read it, it’s a new normal for everyone—for all those camel drivers regardless of where they come from—Midian, Ephah, Sheba. In today’s terms, it’s all the camel drivers from somewhere in the Sudan, possibly modern-day Iraq, and probably Ethiopia, descending into the Holy Places not to go to war or to take people into exile but to come together, bringing their resources, and praising God as one.

This week we read three Scriptures that make up our Epiphany text. Perhaps we miss Epiphany. It sort of gets overshadowed by all the chaotic over-seasoning that came in the weeks before and the mad sprint toward Lent that is only weeks away. So we put on the green “ordinary” stoles and try to get our heads back above the ensuing waves. And yet, this is the place where it all comes together—the past promises that were made even as far back as the exile, that birth of the holy child that we just celebrated, and the rest—all of us that came after. The past now makes sense and the future becomes real. God’s Presence is always and forever in-breaking into this world. So, “Arise, Shine! For your light has come!” God is transforming all of us even as we speak.

 

  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. Why is it so hard for all of us to gain a sense of God’s Presence in the darkness?
  3. What signs of the sacred and transformation do you see now?
  4. What stands in the way of your seeing that transformation?
  5. Do we lose something of the story if we read this solely as a prophetic recount of Christ rather than in the context in which it was written?

 

 

NEW TESTAMENT: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Read the Epistle passage

Paul and his disciples never used the word “Epiphany”. In fact, the day never really was mentioned until around the 4th century. And yet, whoever wrote this (probably not Paul), came really close to the whole notion that we celebrate: Something new has happened in Jesus. This was no ordinary baby. This was no ordinary mother. These were not ordinary shepherds and not your average run-of-the-mill Wise Men. They were all part of a new order, a new normal.

The writer acknowledges that this mystery of God’s Presence, the notion of the holy and the sacred actually being a part of us, was not made known to everyone. But now is the time. The Gentiles have been brought into the story, made characters in the ongoing story of God’s Incarnation. The point of the writing is to further explain what the readers of the letter have already gotten. They have already been gifted with this manifestation of Christ. They just had to open their eyes to know it. But this is not the “accepted” news and so the text implies that Paul’s relating of this mystery is the reason for his imprisonment (and, perhaps, you could surmise, the reason that one of Paul’s disciples may be writing this letter.)

But the writer does not seem to be discouraged. The Spirit has now made known what in former times was concealed, namely that the Gentiles are now fellow heirs, fellow members of the same body, and fellow participants in the promises. This idea of grace extended to all, even those seemingly unexpected recipients, is not really a new thing to Paul or to this writer. The assertion is that the mystery has been hidden with God, who is the creator of all things, suggesting that this mystery has always been God’s plan. This mystery in Christ — Lord over all peoples, both Jew and Gentiles — was the eternal plan of God, but only in the last days has God made it evident and begun its fulfillment.

The greatest celebration of the Incarnation is this celebration of the diversity and wisdom of the church brought together in unity, just as those Wise Men from the East (and Gentiles to boot), experienced the Presence of God. The greatest celebration of the Church is the coming together of all of this wisdom so that all in their own understanding might experience the Presence of God. The mystery is that this Holy Child, this Sacred Son of God, this Christ, this Messiah, is really intended to be Savior to us All.

 

  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. How would this message be received by our society today?
  3. What does this new order mean for you?
  4. If diversity is the “new order” and the “mystery for the church, what does that mean in our modern culture?
  5. Do we really understand the concept of Jesus as “Savior to us All”?

 

 

GOSPEL: Matthew 2: 1-12

Read the Gospel passage

Our Gospel text this week begins by setting us “in the time of King Herod”. And in it, we find that the last question of Advent comes not at Christmas but afterward and is asked not by an individual but by a group. They believe that the star (or, for some, an unusual conjunction of heavenly bodies that produces an especially bright light) marks the birth of a special child destined to be a king. They ask, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?

And so Herod hears that a king had been born in Bethlehem. Well, the formula is simple—a king is born, but a king is already here; and in Herod’s mind and the minds of all those who follow him, there is room for only one king. The passage says that King Herod was frightened and all Jerusalem with him. They probably were pretty fearful. After all, there was a distinct possibility that their world was about to change. It seemed that the birth of this humble child might have the ability to shake the very foundations of the earth and announce the fall of the mighty. Things would never be the same again.

So Herod relies on these wisest ones in his court. The writer of Matthew’s Gospel says that they’re from the East. Some traditions hold that these wise men were Magi, a Priestly caste of Persian origin that followed Zoroastrianism and practiced the interpretation of dreams and portents and astrology. Other traditions depict them with different ethnicities as the birth of this Messiah begins to move into the whole world. But somewhere along the way, they had heard of the birth of this king and came to the obvious place where he might be—in the royal household. So, sensing a rival, Herod sends these “wise ones” to find the new king so that he could “pay homage” to him. We of course know that this was deceitful. His intent was not to pay homage at all, but to destroy Jesus and stop what was about to happen to his empire. It was the only way that he could preserve what he had.

According to the passage, the wise men know that Christ was born; they needed God’s guidance, though, to find where Christ was. When they get to the place where the star has stopped, the passage tells us that they were “overwhelmed with joy”. They knelt down and paid the new king homage and offered him gifts fit for a king. Even though later interpreters have often tried to place specific meanings on these gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, it is possible that the writer of the Gospel According to Matthew simply thought that these gifts, exotic and expensive as they were, were gifts that would be worthy of a great and mighty king. They were gifts of joy, gifts of gratitude, gifts of celebration.

And then the passage tells us that, heeding a warning in a dream, these wise and learned (and probably powerful) members of the court of Herod, left Bethlehem and returned to their own country, a long and difficult journey through the Middle Eastern desert. Rather than returning to their comfortable lives and their secure and powerful places in the court of Herod, they left and went a different way. They knew they had to go back to life. But it didn’t have to be the same.

So they slip away. Herod is furious. He has been duped. So he issues an order that all the children two years old and younger in and around Bethlehem should be killed. The truth is that Jesus comes into the world as it actually is, not as we wish it to be. Evil and greed are real and the ways of the world can and do crush life.

It is not really any different for us. After all, what has changed? Has Christmas produced for us some sort of “new normal”? There are too many places in the world where wars still rage. There are children that went to bed hungry last night and people in our own city that slept outside wrapped in anything that they could find hoping to stay warm. There are families in Connecticut still grieving over the loss of their children to a mad man. And, in the midst of it all, Congress is still arguing over something called a fiscal cliff. What has changed? Well, not much. Truth be told, everything seems to have pretty much returned to normal.

But, then, think about that first Christmas. This passage moves the story beyond the quiet safety of the manger. We realize that the manger is actually placed in the midst of real life, with sometimes dark and foreboding forces and those who sometimes get it wrong.   The primary characters are, of course, God and these visitors, these foreign Gentiles who did not even worship in the ways of the Jewish faith. They were powerful, intelligent, wealthy, and were accustomed to using their intellect and their logic to understand things. You know, they were a lot like us. But they found that the presence of the Divine in one’s life is not understood in the way that we understand a math equation. It is understood by becoming it.

Maybe that’s the point about Christmas that we’ve missed. Maybe it’s not just about the nativity scene. Maybe it’s more about what comes after. We often profess that Jesus came to change the world. But that really didn’t happen. Does that mean that this whole Holy Birth was a failure, just some sort of pretty, romantic story in the midst of our sometimes chaotic life? Maybe Jesus didn’t intend to change the world at all; maybe Jesus, Emmanuel, God with Us, came into this world to change us. Maybe, then, there IS a new normal. It has to do with what we do after. It has to do with how we choose to go back to our lives. Do we just pick up where we left off? Or do we, like those wise men choose to go home by another way?

Many of us bemoan what seems to be a take-over of our Christmas by the culture and the society. We hear time and time again a calling to “put Christ back in Christmas”. Well, I don’t think that’s the problem. God in Christ has never left. We are not called to put Christ back in Christmas; we are called to put ourselves there. The story tells us that. The young Mary didn’t just come on the scene for a starlit evening. She was there, there at the cross. Her whole life became immersed in this child that she brought into the world. The shepherds stopped what they were doing, leaving their sheep on a hillside outside of Bethlehem with no protection from bandits or wild animals and thereby risking everything they knew, everything that would preserve their life the way it was. And those Wisemen? They never went back. They chose to go home by another way.

And what about us? We are called to place ourselves in the story. We all have to go back. We all have to return to our lives. But that manger so long ago is not that far removed from us. In fact, it’s really sort of in the middle of our lives. God did not just visit our little earth so long ago and then return to wherever God lives. God came as Emmanuel, God with Us, and that has never changed. The birth of Jesus means that God was born in a specific person in a specific place. The Christmas story affirms to us that God is here, that the Messiah for whom we had waited has come, that we are in God’s hands. But the Epiphany story moves it beyond the manger. And all of a sudden we are part of the story. We are part of the Incarnation of God, the manifestation of God’s Presence here on our little earth. The God in whose hands we rest danced into our very lives and is now all over our hands. It is our move. God was not just born into the child Jesus; God is born into us, into humanity. And the world really hasn’t changed. But we have. And we are called to change the world.

 

  1. What meaning does this hold for you?
  2. What “other way” are we called to travel?
  3. What do you think of the notion that Jesus came to change not the world itself but us?
  4. What new light (pun intended) does Epiphany shed on the meaning of Christmas for you?

 

 

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

 

The desire to find God and to see God and to love God is the one thing that matters. (Thomas Merton)

Get this first epiphany right–God perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed in the actual, and all the rest of the year will not surprise or disappoint you…If God can be manifest in a baby in a poor stable for the unwanted, then we better be ready for God just about anywhere and in anybody. The letting-go of any attempt to compartmentalize God will always feel dangerous and maybe even like dying…And it is both the ground and the goal of all mystical experience. Now God is in all things. We can no longer separate, exclude or avoid anybody or anything, especially under the guise of religion. We all, like the Magi, must now kneel and kiss the ground, throwing our own kingships to the wind…Afterwards, we are out of control, going back home by a different route, yet realigned correctly with what-is. Reality is still the best ally of God, and God always comes disguised as our life. (Excerpts from “Epiphany: You Can’t Go Home Again”, by Richard Rohr)

When the star in the sky is gone, When the Kings and Princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flocks, he Work of Christmas begins:

               To find the lost,

               To heal the broken,

               To feed the hungry,

               To release the prisoner,

               To teach the nations,

               To bring Christ to all,

                        To make music in the heart. (Dr. Howard Thurman, ‘The Work of Christmas”)

 

Closing

 

It is not over, this birthing. There are always newer skies into which God can throw stars. When we begin to think that we can predict the Advent of God, that we can box the Christ in a stable in Bethlehem, that’s just the time that God will be born in a place we can’t imagine and won’t believe. Those who wait for God watch with their hearts and not their eyes, listening, always listening for angel words.

(Ann Weems, Kneeling in Bethlehem (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1980), 85.)

Epiphany 7A: Deeper Into Holiness

Deepest part of oceanOLD TESTAMENT:  Leviticus 19: 1-2, 9-18

To read the Old Testament Lectionary passage, click here

Leviticus appears just this once in the entire Revised Common Lectionary cycle—and in most years, Lent begins before seven Sundays after Epiphany elapses.  This passage sounds a lot like the Ten Commandments.  There’s a good reason.  These are the Ten Commandments plus some additional guidelines as to how the people live as a holy people.  The laws of Leviticus as we know them come out of the story of the exodus.  Freed from slavery, the people have not yet entered the Promised Land.  But this looks ahead to that time when they will return home and how they should conduct their lives as residents in that land that was promised to them.

These are not really “laws”, per se, the way we think of laws.  They are not prescriptions for right behavior that includes the promise of punishment for those who fail to follow them.  They are rather a description of an ideal community, a people of faith, who are devoted first and foremost to God.  The beginning directive to “…be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” brings to mind the story of Creation in Genesis and the fact that we are “created in God’s image”.  As people of God, then, there is a calling to be a reminder of who God is, an image that brings God into people’s lives.  A holy people can remind people of the holiness of the ever-present God who created them.  Thomas Merton said that “your life is shaped by the end you live for.  You are made in the image of what you desire.” (in In the Beginning, God:  Creation, Culture, and the Spiritual Life, by Marva J. Dawn, p. 36)

But this holiness thing is often uncomfortable for us.  We tend to fault on the side of modesty and reserve the description of “holy” for the likes of Jesus, Mother Teresa, or the Dalai Lama.  Kimberly Clayton, in Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol. 4 (p. 365), says that “as appropriately modest as this may be, it is also a way of letting ourselves off the holiness hook.  This is not biblical.”  Essentially, we are called to be holy.  That’s it.  We are called to be holy, rather than overly modest. (OK, I for one apparently have some work to do!)

Many times in this passage, we read the words, “I am the Lord.”  It is not a threat, but a reminder that God is always and forever present in our lives.  The law of God is not a list of rules; rather, it is connected with the character of God.  It is a depiction of who God is in the world.  And it is evident that God is first and foremost about relationships.  Part of the way that a people becomes a holy people is by dealing with others in the way that God would—with justice and mercy and love.  So, these “laws” call the people to be honest in their dealings with each other—financially, in the ways we deal with the earth that we share, and in the way we treat the poor.  As the passage goes on, you’ll notice that the “other”—the “poor”, the “alien”, or “another”—becomes your “neighbor”.  It is a reminder that we are all neighbors.  There is no one outside that definition.

And as neighbors, we are all part of one family, one “kin”, as the Scripture points out.  Our neighbor (whoever that may be) is one of us, one of “our people”, one who we are called to love just as we love ourselves.  We are marked as the people of God.  We are claimed by God.  We are one in God. 

It is a reminder that we have been loved more than we can possibly imagine and that is the way we are called to love.  In The Quotidian Mysteries, Kathleen Norris writes “God speaks to us…reminding us that by meeting the daily needs of the poor and vulnerable, characterized in the scriptures as the widows and the orphans, we prepare the way of the Lord and make our own hearts ready for the day of salvation.” 

  1. What does this passage mean for you?
  2. What is hard for us to hear?
  3. What does it mean to be holy?  What do you think of the notion of our possibly being overly modest?
  4. So, who are our neighbors? 
    1. Who are those to which we’re called to be a neighbor? 
    2. Who are we called to allow to be a neighbor toward us?
    3. Which of these is more difficult?

 NEW TESTAMENT:  1 Corinthians 3: 10-11, 16-23

To read the Lectionary Epistle passage, click here

Just as in the readings over the last couple of weeks, this week’s Epistle passage is Paul’s way of continuing to try to unify the members of the church at Corinth who are distracted because of some misplaced priorities.  The community here is being torn apart by arguments and competing authority.  (In the chapters that follow, the heated discussions will escalate to the subjects of sexual morality and marriage, lawsuits, and behavior at The Lord’s Supper.)  So Paul is trying to guide them back to what is important, to their focus on God and their unity with each other as one body.

Paul reminds us that the foundation is none other than Jesus Christ.  The metaphor of a foundation is an interesting one.  If you think about it, there are a lot of things that can be changed and updated in a house.  Houses can look different from each other and individual houses can change over time.  But if the foundation is not solid, the house will not stand.  I don’t think this was Paul’s way of depicting our understanding of faith as inflexible or limited.  Far from it.  In our world of religious and denominational pluralism, perhaps the foundation becomes even MORE important.  It’s our starting point; it’s our unity.  As Christians, Christ is not merely the “way” we build the house, but is indeed the solid foundation on which our faith rests.  Christ is the center.

It should also be noted here that Paul is asking these first-century hearers to see the temple and to see themselves in a radically new way.  The temple had, for them, been the center of religion and the center of their very lives.  Following the return from Babylon, the temple had been rebuilt as the center of Israel’s worship and the center of their society.  The belief was that the inner sanctum, the holy of holies, contained the very presence of God.  In fact, only on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, was the high priest (and the high priest only) allowed to enter the inner sanctum to make sacrifices for the sin of the nation.  But here, Paul is saying that the church, the people, the Body of Christ, is now the temple.  This discombobulated, dysfunctional, and “disunified” group of people are now called to be one, are now called to be the Body of Christ, the very embodiment of the Presence of God in our midst. The temple exists where God’s holiness exists, in the people that are called the people of God.

So, once again, Paul is compelling them to be one, to let go of all of the arguments and the competition for “who’s on top”.  Again, have the humility of holiness.  Be the people of God.  This congregation, this people, this holiness of God, this good news of Jesus Christ, are not things to fight over.  No one owns or has a direct line to what is right and to the way that the church should work.  That belongs to God.  That belongs to the foundation that we find in Jesus Christ.

One of the joys of being a grandfather is getting to take your grandchildren to do special and wonderful things. Not long ago, I was called upon to take my two grandsons to their swimming lessons. I thought this would be the routine trip, but I was wrong. The pool was enclosed in a rather large building, and the sounds of all those excited children of different ages and abilities were deafening.

Upon further observation, I noticed something unusual. All the noise was coming from the shallow end of the pool. The only sound coming from the deep end was the sound of experienced swimmers swimming with discipline and confidence. There was no yelling, no crying, no complaining, no evidence of fear or frustration. They were following the instructions of their leader.

After a lifetime of parish ministry, I have concluded that all the noise comes from the shallow end of the pool from those who haven’t learned to swim with confidence or are not secure enough to venture into the deep water. Churches reflect that clearly. The noise comes from the shallow end, not the deep end. Look at current statistics. Church attendance is up. Excitement is up. We have gone into show business, but if you dig deep into those statistics, you don’t find discipleship being up, nor do you find godliness up. We find a lot of people who are attending but few people who are swimming in the deep end. There is not much Christlikeness or commitment. It’s easy to draw a crowd. The people of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus have taught us how to draw a crowd. But it’s tough to build a congregation. One pastor said to me with tongue in cheek, “Our people are deeply committed in every area except three: lifestyle, mindset, and values. Other than that, they are deeply committed to the Gospel.”…

In any city there are churches saying in like manner:

“Come to our church. Our preacher doesn’t wear a tie. Our preacher wears golf shirts and jogging shoes.”
“Come to our church! We wear shorts and sandals.”
“We’re fundamental.”
“We’re liturgical.”
“We’re liberal.”
“We’re moderate.”
“We’re denominational.”
“We’re mainline.”
“We’re dispensational.”
“We have video.”
“We have snare drums and screens.”
“We’re into political reform.”
“We have a religious superstar preaching today.”

Everyone is out front, just like the carnival barkers were, pushing their style, their religious product, but when we get inside we find-just like the carnival-that no one knocks out the balloons or knocks down the bottles. No one wins the prize. No lives are changed. The church of the big idea, the church of the big action, and the church of the big deal somehow leave us empty. Something is missing.

That is the issue Paul was addressing in this letter. Churches that are built only on ideas or actions or style are doomed to die. Paul said, and I paraphrase, “I gave you a good foundation, Jesus Christ. You build on Jesus Christ. And if you build with gold and silver or straw, it will fade. You must build on Jesus Christ.” Jesus earlier said in Matthew 16, “On this rock (the confession of Peter) I will build my church.” During his last week, he said to his disciples, “I am the vine. Ye are the branches.” In other words, stay connected to me, and you will bear fruit. If you get severed from me, you won’t bear fruit. (From “Swimming to the Deep End of the Pool”, by Rev. Dr. William L. Self, available at http://day1.org/808-swimming_to_the_deep_end_of_the_pool, accessed 16 February, 2011) 

  1. a.      What does this passage mean for you?
  2. b.      How can this be applied to our own cultural context?
  3. c.       What does this image of the temple mean for you?

 GOSPEL:  Matthew 5: 38-48

To read the Lectionary Gospel passage, click here

More Sermon on the Mount…In this section, Jesus tells the disciples to turn the other cheek, not seek revenge, give more than what is required by law, give to all who ask things of you, lend without limits, love enemies, pray for persecutors, and welcome the stranger.  Well sure…Jesus once again frames his discourse in light of the accepted laws that were in place in that society.  For instance, the law allowed the notion of lex talionis, or fair retaliation.  If someone practiced wrong against you, you would be authorized to fairly and legally retaliate but only to the extent of your loss.  (i.e, “an eye for an eye”.)  As harsh as that may sound to us, the whole point was that that was the MOST you could do.  You could not retaliate against someone who had injured your eye by murdering them and get away with it.  But Jesus takes that accepted and acceptable way of thinking and remodels it completely.  If someone had injured your eye, the only thing acceptable is to walk away, to not seek revenge.  Essentially, retaliation and anger are not Scriptural.  Rather, we are called to overcome evil with good—to pray for those who harm us, to love those who threaten us, to welcome those we do not know. 

Now, I don’t think Jesus expected us to just close our eyes to the threatening of weak and vulnerable members of our society.  We ARE called to speak out, to do something.  But maybe it will give us pause to ask if there’s another way to handle something. 

Once again, we are asked to give more than what is asked, more than what is expected within the bounds of “acceptable” societal standards.  “Are you kidding me?” you’re probably asking at this point.  Don’t you think Jesus’ first century hearers were asking the same question?  Jesus’ words compel his hearers to love their neighbor—ALL their neighbors—the ones they did not know, the ones they mistrusted, the ones who did not practice the faith, the Samaritans, the Babylonians, the Egyptians.  For us, the message is the same.  We are called to love our neighbors—ALL our neighbors—the ones we do not know, the ones we mistrust, the ones who do not practice our faith, the drunk driver who hit our mailbox, Al Qaeda, and those persons who, because of a misguided sense of who God is and what God is calling them to do, flew planes into the World Trade Center years ago and killed so many of our neighbors.  It is not easy.  I’m pretty clear Jesus never promised that it would be.

The Greek word teleios is often used for this type of faith.  It means to be “perfect”.  (That’s also a notion that we United Methodists hold so dear as we pursue that elusive Wesleyan notion of “going onto perfection”.)  It does not mean perfect the way we think.  It does not mean without blemish; it means a maturity such that one gets it, a desire to be what God calls us to be—something completely different than what is “acceptable” or even “normal” in our society.  Now don’t get me wrong, Scriptural words are nothing if they are not relevant for today’s hearers.  We are called to a faithful reading of them in light of our own experience, reason, and historical tradition.  We are not in this alone.  Our lives and our faith are shaped by the wisdom and influence of others.  But if we don’t at least try to get it, why are we here at all?

This passage tells us to do some of the most difficult things imaginable.  They are things that don’t make sense.  They are things that sometimes get people hurt.  They are things that sometime get people killed. (Hmmm!  You kind of have to think about that one, don’t you?)  The truth is that the Sermon on the Mount is nothing less than a radical call for resistance—peaceful, non-violent resistance against the ways of the world, against the powers that we have allowed to become “acceptable”, against those things that we have allowed to sneak into our very lives and move between who we are and who we really are.  If you want to put this passage into a nutshell, perhaps the writer’s words might say, “Grow up.  You are bigger than that.  God is bigger than that.  You are kingdom people.  Live like it.  Be perfect. (or, for goodness sakes, at least try!).” St. Augustine said to congregants while presiding at the Eucharist: “Receive who you are. Become what you’ve received.”    

  1. a.      What does this passage mean for you?
  2. b.      What is the hardest part of this passage for you?
  3. c.       Is this even reasonable in today’s time?
  4. d.      Is this even possible to do?
  5. e.       What gets in the way of us being “kingdom people”?

 Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

 The noblest prayer is when [one] who prays is inwardly transformed into what [one] kneels before. (Anglus Silesius, 17th century)

To be an acorn is to have a taste for being an oak tree.  (Thomas Merton)

Peace does not come rolling in on the wheels of inevitability.  We can’t just wish for peace.  We are to will it, fight for it, suffer for it, demand it from our governments as if peace were God’s most cherished hope for humanity, as indeed it is.  (William Sloan Coffin, Credo, p. 93)

  

Closing

 The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class…Father, forgive.

The covetous desires of [humans] and nations to possess what is not their own…Father, forgive.

The greed which exploits the labors of [persons], and lays waste the earth…Father, forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others…Father, forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the homeless and the refugee…Father, forgive.

The lust which uses for ignoble ends the bodies of men and women…Father, forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves, and not in God…Father, forgive.

 Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.

 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Amen..

                                    (The Prayer of Coventry Cathedral]