Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (Epiphany 4)

Matthew 8:23-27; Romans 13:8-10; Jonah 1:1-17

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
You might be surprised to learn that the U.S. Navy Hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” is even in our hymnal. In fact, in just a little bit, our choir is going to sing it during the collection of our offering. It is a most fitting and appropriate hymn corresponding to today’s Gospel theme concerning Jesus manifesting His glory as the LORD of heaven and earth and of wind, sky, land, and sea. Hundreds and thousands of miles out to sea, at the mercy of tempestuous winds and perilous oceans and seas, truly our sailor soldiers know and respect the terrible power and the mighty forces that nature can inflict upon those who travel upon the sea. Indeed, William Whiting, the author of the hymn’s text, attributes the creation and control of such insurmountable powers and forces to God our Eternal Father. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, apparently there are no atheists “in peril on the sea” either. For, it is God the Father “whose arm hath bound the restless wave, who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep its own appointed limits keep.” And, it was God the Son “whose voice the waters heard and hushed their raging at [His] Word.” And, it was God the Holy Spirit “who didst brood upon the chaos dark and rude, and bid its angry tumult cease, and give, for wild confusion, peace.”
Thus, what our Lord Jesus Christ manifested when He calmed the storm and the raging seas that threatened and terrified His disciples was that He is the LORD God in human flesh, in their midst, still defining and limiting, controlling and using the forces of nature for His own purposes and for the good of His people whom He loves. Even when it appeared that He was unaware, asleep, and impotent, Jesus is the God who is present and LORD of heaven and earth and of wind, sky, land, sea, and all of creation. While the disciples were overcome with fear and despair, believing that they were perishing, the LORD was in control working all things, even evil things, for the good of those whom He has called according to His purpose.
It is all too easy to become fearful, anxious, and despairing when the storms of life come crashing upon you and you feel as if you are perishing. In such times when your health is at risk, when finances are meager, when your children rebel and curse you, when the news media continually report of terrorism, murder, natural disasters, and war, it is all too easy to believe that God is not present, that He cannot help, that He doesn’t care, or that He isn’t even real. However, this is but the weakness of your flesh and your faith, which your all too real enemy, Satan, delights to use against you to lead you into unbelief, hopelessness, and despair. In your fear, he tempts you to trust only in your own strength and wisdom, to be your own god and savior, or to despair of these and to surrender to hopelessness and perish. Only consider the rash and foolish decisions that you have made under fear, anxiety, and despair. What good has come of them in the past? And, when you have trusted in the LORD, has He not provided, often in ways you never could have expected? Truly, your LORD is with you even when you do not see Him. He is awake, aware, in control, and directing all things in heaven and earth for your benefit and good, even when He appears to be sleeping. “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Jesus’ disciples were fearful and despairing even while Jesus Himself was physically with them in their boat. But, how much more is your Lord Jesus with you all the time? Has He not promised you that, in your Holy Baptism, He “is with you always, to the end of the age?”
In contrast, Jonah was not afraid that the LORD was not with Him, but he, in fact, believed that the LORD was indeed with him. For, the LORD had commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach His Word to the wicked and unrepentant people there. But, Jonah didn’t want to go, not because he feared the Ninevites, but because he believed that the LORD would indeed convert the people of Nineveh through his preaching, and he didn’t want such notoriously wicked people to repent and to be saved. And so, Jonah fled from his calling and from the presence of the LORD. He bought a ticket on the first ship he could find to Tarshish, fleeing from the presence of the LORD. Then, the LORD commanded the wind and the sea to threaten the ship and its sailors so that they each cried out to their own gods – Indeed, there are no atheists in peril on the seas. As the sailors desperately threw their cargo overboard in order to stabilize the ship, Jonah hid himself in the bowels of the ship in fear of the LORD and fell fast asleep. As the storm raged on and continued to threaten the ship, the captain came to Jonah and demanded that he wake up, arise, and pray to his god that they would not perish. And, when the captain learned that Jonah was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, he and his crew threw Jonah overboard as Jonah himself had directed them, for he knew that it was the LORD who had brought the forces of wind and wave upon the ship because of his willful disobedience. When they cast Jonah into the sea, immediately the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD and they offered sacrifices to the God of Jonah, “and the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”
Now, only consider the number of variables the LORD controlled and manipulated in order that His will would be accomplished and that unbelievers would be turned in repentance and believe. The LORD sent the wind and the waves to threaten the ship and her crew. The LORD caused the lot to fall upon Jonah. The LORD caused Jonah to be thrown overboard. And the LORD caused a great fish to swallow him whole and to deliver him to Nineveh, where the LORD had commanded Jonah to go and preach in the first place. So it is that Jonah is set in direct contradiction to Jesus. Earlier that same day Jesus had healed a Jewish leper and the servant of a Roman Centurion, whom we heard about in last Sunday’s Gospel Lesson. After that, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and countless others who were sick or oppressed by demons. Though He is true God, Jesus is also true man, and so Jesus was exhausted, according to His humanity, and He slept in the bow of the boat in the presence of His disciples. However, even when He appears to be sleeping, the LORD is awake and active upholding heaven and earth and the laws of nature and all things. When the storm came upon them and the seas began to threaten, the disciples cried out to Jesus in faith mixed with fear, despair, and unbelief. Yet, still they cried out to Jesus. They had faith, even if it was little faith. And, though He was tired and exhausted, Jesus rebuked the wind and the sea and brought about a great calm both upon the forces of nature and within the hearts and minds of His disciples. Whereas Jonah was thrown overboard into the tumultuous and churning sea and spent three days in the belly of a great fish, so Jesus was thrown into Satan’s jaws and died for you. Jesus spent three days in the belly of the earth and emerged victorious over sin, death, and Satan, your victor guaranteeing you life through and forever after your death. The grave could not hold Him, and neither cannot it hold you.
Whether the storms come from the LORD or from Satan doesn’t really matter, for the LORD is in control. In the case of Jonah, it is clear that the LORD brought the storm to bear upon the ship and its crew. However, in the case of Jesus and His disciples, it may well have been Satan who afflicted them by wind and wave. What you must remember is that the devil is God’s devil. Satan cannot tempt, harm, afflict, or kill unless the LORD permits Him to do so. In this way, the LORD works all things, even evil things, even the works of the devil, for the good of those whom He has called according to His purpose. For the LORD is the LORD of all His creation: Heaven and earth, wind, sky, and sea, beasts, men, angels, the devil and his demons. There is no thing and no one that is not under His power and control.
When you are tempted to cower in fear, hopelessness, and despair at what is befalling you and the world, and when you are tempted to flee from the presence of the LORD and His will, remember that He is awake and active, upholding heaven and earth and the laws of nature and all things for you, His beloved. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” That one, mind you, is not the devil, but it is the LORD alone who made you and who sustains your life. Truly, not even a sparrow can fall to the ground apart from the will of the LORD, and you, whose every hair upon your head He has numbered, are of much greater value to your Eternal Father than are the sparrows. Your LORD will not reject you because of your weak faith, but He is gracious and merciful towards you, He will hear and answer your prayer, sometimes “Yes,” sometimes “No,” and often “Later,” as He strengthens you in your faith that you may persevere through whatever storms you might face, even through death, unto life never-ending in Jesus Christ.
God permits storms and trials to come upon you, but He also rescues you in them so that you may see clearly His protection. Jesus’ kingdom, His Church, is strengthened and grows by sorrow and trial as by these the LORD calls you to turn your attention away from yourself and back towards Him. The LORD uses storms and trials to perfect your faith and to strengthen your weak and little faith. Your Lord is present with you always, even if unseen or seemingly inactive and asleep. He is in this place, this boat, this ship, this ark, His Church, commanding the natural elements of Word and Water, Bread and Wine to serve you, to absolve you, to strengthen you, to equip you and to send you. Do not be afraid. Your LORD, Your God, is present to save you.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Third Sunday after the Epiphany (Epiphany 3)

Matthew 8:1-13; Romans 12:16-21; 2 Kings 5:1-15

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
It is a lesson about faith. It is a lesson about authority. It is a lesson about the creative power of the Word of God. It is a lesson about true healing in the forgiveness of sins. It is a lesson about the Gospel extended to the Gentiles. It is a lesson about Jesus made manifest as the Son of God in our own human flesh. It is a lesson about humility and repentance in receiving mercy from God and in showing mercy to our neighbors. Indeed, our Gospel lesson today is about all these lessons and many, many more, all at the same time, for the Word of God is an inexhaustible fountain of life and an inviting mystery that draws the faithful ever deeper into the life of God Himself.
In the Gospel lesson we are presented first with a Jewish leper and then with a Roman centurion, a commander of a hundred men, both of whom appeal to Jesus, the leper for cleansing and the centurion for the healing of his dying servant. Clearly the leper is a man of great faith. He dared to approach His Lord in his uncleanness and appealed to the Lord’s will saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”  His words are an outstanding confession of faith in the good will, nature, and essence of His Lord. His confession is like unto Job’s – the Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the Name of the Lord – in that, even if it were not the Lord’s will to cleanse, the good will, nature, and essence of the Lord would not be changed in any way. But, the centurion outdid the leper in his confession. The centurion, initially, did not confess anything about Jesus, but merely laid his concern for his dying servant before the Lord. Without hesitation, Jesus said that He would go to his servant and heal him. But, this is when the centurion makes his great confession saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” What made the centurion’s confession great was not so much what he said about his Lord as it was what he said about himself – I am not worthy.
I am not worthy. I do not deserve your healing and forgiveness. I a poor and miserable sinner confess…. My brothers and sisters, we come before our Lord with no expectation of entitlements and with nothing of our own to offer. Rather, we come before the Lord as idolaters, as prodigals, as murderers, adulterers, and thieves. In humility and repentance we confess our sins and our iniquities against the Lord. We confess that we are worthy only of temporal and eternal punishment. We confess that to remain an unclean leper is too good for us. And, we confess our repentance and contrition and pray for the Lord’s mercy for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Jesus Christ alone. “Lord, I am not worthy,” we confess. “I forgive you all your sins,” our Lord replies. “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.”
In a beautiful display of the unity and concord of the Holy Scriptures, the Church, in Her wisdom, has assigned as the Old Testament lesson for this day the complimentary narrative concerning Naaman of Syria. Whereas, in the Gospel we were presented with a Jewish leper and a Roman centurion, Naaman is at once a Syrian commander and a leper. Now, Naaman was a powerful man of great authority and influence, and, yet, he was also a leper. Apparently, it seems, the disease of leprosy had not the same social stigma amongst the Syrians as it did amongst the Jews. Further, this may be indicative of the corruption of the pagan Syrian culture. Thus, when Naaman was informed that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal him, despite his leprosy, he was bold to go directly to the king of Israel. But, having, himself, no power to heal, the king of Israel was distraught. Thus, Elisha the prophet counseled the king to send Naaman to him. So, Naaman then came to Elisha with his horses and chariots and stood outside his house awaiting an audience with the prophet. But, Elisha sent out a messenger instead. The messenger instructed Naaman to wash in the Jordan seven times and that his flesh would be restored and he would be clean. But, Naaman was angry that neither the king nor the prophet would come to him in person. And, he expected ceremonial invocations and showy hand-wavings to accompany such a miracle. Also, he was repulsed by the lowly waters of Israel in comparison to the rivers of Damascus. And, so we see that Naaman is the exact opposite of the Roman centurion. Naaman came to the king and then to Elisha with expectations of entitlement and with a sense of self-worth that he merited respect and honor. He was offended and scandalized that a mere messenger and not the prophet himself would speak to him. He was offended and scandalized that he was given only the command to wash. And he was offended and scandalized that he was to submit himself to washing in such lowly and common waters as the Jordan in Israel. He would not accept the word delivered through subordinates and he would not surrender his own expectations, desires, and will even for the promise of healing.
How like Naaman are you, thinking that the uncleanness of your sin is no big deal and that you are entitled to be heard and served by your Lord on your own terms, according to your own preferences and expectations? How often are you offended and scandalized by the means and the messengers through which your Lord ministers to you, thinking them old fashioned, irrelevant, outdated, and foolish? How often do you think that what is desirable, beautiful, glorious, and pleasurable in your eyes should determine how we worship before our Lord? How often do you leave in a huff and grumble in anger, inciting others to join in your malcontent? Of this you must repent daily, for you are not worthy that the Lord should enter under your roof.
Nevertheless, thanks be to God, He does speak His Word and you are healed. And, it is a great Word that your God has spoken to you, the Word become flesh, dwelling amongst us, whose Name is Jesus, God’s salvation. Thou you were not worthy that He should come under your roof, He has come into your flesh and has joined you into Him. Though He had no uncleanness of His own, He submitted Himself to be baptized in the Jordan for you, to become the Lord’s anointed scapegoat, taking your leprous sin, and the sin of the whole world, upon Himself, to defeat Satan’s temptations and to destroy death by His own death upon the cross. All this He gives you freely in Holy Baptism without ceremonial hand-wavings and impressive flair, but with humble, common water and His mighty, creative, and life-giving Word delivered by humble and common messengers and servants.
The Lord does indeed have authority, as confessed by the centurion, over heaven and earth, yet it is not evidenced in the worldly ways desired by Naaman, but in and through humble means does the Lord exercise His authority to forgive sins and heal, cure, and raise up men afflicted by sin’s poison and death. Though the wages of sin is, universally, death, and though all afflictions, disease, and sufferings are but the symptoms of sin, Jesus is the victor over death. Thus He is the Great Physician of your body and soul and He is the Medicine of Immortality who brings life to all who receive Him. You are not worthy that He should enter under your roof, nevertheless, He has come amongst you and has drawn you into Himself. Even now He is present with His life-giving Word to cleanse and forgive you, to feed and sustain you, and to send you as His messengers of mercy for the life of the world.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany (Epiphany 2)

John 2:1-11; Romans 12:6-16; Exodus 33:12-23

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
There are three that testify: The Water, and the Blood, and the Spirit.
Water. Water is essential to life. A human body can live maybe three weeks without food, but only three days without water. Indeed, our bodies consist of 60% water, and every cell and organ in our bodies requires water to properly function and to remain alive. St. Peter even suggests in his Epistle that God created all material and living things out of created primordial water by the creative power of His Word and Spirit. It should be no surprise then that, in the Holy Scriptures, water is associated with cleansing, purification, and restoration. Thus, John the Baptist was out in the wilderness, calling people to repentance, purification, and restoration with God by the forgiveness of their sins through baptism with water at the Jordan River.
That is also why there were six stone jars of water at the wedding in Cana. The water was for the purification and restoration of the wedding party and the guests that they might eat the feast and participate in the wedding ceremony. The jars of water were there because of the Law of God, and because of the sin and guilt of the people. The jars of water were there because man’s sin had made ruin of his relationship with God. But, God, in His grace and mercy, had promised to look away from their sins and guilt if they were cleansed and purified by water. The water had no such power in itself, neither did the sacrifices in the temple and the tabernacle before that, but God had attached His Word of promise to the water, promising that He would look away from their sins – and so, He did. Thus, the water was not merely a symbol of the Law of God, but it was the Law of God. Even in the joyful occasion of a wedding feast, the Law stood threatening and demanding to be kept and fulfilled. For, the wages of sin is always and only death, a debt that we will all pay eventually.
And so it is that a proper understanding of Jesus’ first miraculous sign, changing water into wine, begins, not with Jesus, nor with the wine, but with the water and with the Law of God and with man’s transgression of God’s Law. The Law of God, and sin, and death hung over the wedding feast and the guests. The Law of God hung over the bride and the the groom. And yet, into this bittersweet occasion entered the Son of God Himself, the Word of God become flesh. Indeed, God so loved the world and the people whom He created that, instead of punishing and destroying His rebellious creatures, He became one of them, one with them, in order to cleanse, purify, and restore them. Jesus would do this, ultimately, not by the washing of water, but by the shedding of His holy, innocent, and righteous blood. For, the Law must be fulfilled. And, the water must be replaced, not with wine, but with Jesus’ blood which takes away the sins of the world. But, Jesus’ hour, the hour of His Passion, had not yet come. Therefore, for now, He would provide a miracle, a sign, that His people might believe in Him and trust in Him.
The occasion for this miraculous sign? The wedding feast had run out of wine. Now, Jewish wedding feasts were multi-day events, often lasting a week long. Family, friends, and guests had come from all around and they needed to be provided food and drink and water for purification for the duration of the wedding feast. It was early in the feast and they were already out of wine. This would have been a tremendous social embarrassment for the bride and groom and for their families. Mary, the Mother of our Lord, likely a relative or a close friend, was moved to relieve the situation, and she called upon Jesus to do something about it. What she expected Him to do is uncertain, but it is clear that Mary believed that Jesus could help. Jesus’ answered His Mother saying, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus’ reply seems strident and rude in our ears. Culturally, it was likely nothing of the sort, but Jesus did communicate something important to His Mother concerning His being the Son of God, His mission and purpose. Mary asked Jesus to perform a miracle, to use His divine power as the Son of God to solve the problem of the wine. Jesus addressed Mary as “woman” rather than as “mother” because she was asking Him to do this as the Son of God and not as the Son of Mary. The time would come for Jesus to solve the problem of the lack of wine, but that time had not yet come.
In the Old Testament times, wine was a symbol of both physical and spiritual joy. Wine was associated with the blessing of God’s presence and His favor upon His people. Jesus took the occasion of a wedding feast that had run out of wine to provide a revelation, an epiphany, of His true nature as both God and Man. Jesus turned the water set aside for the purification of the people under the Law of God into wine, the symbol of God’s favor, blessing, and presence with His people. This was a sign, a miracle, and a symbol of something even greater yet to come, for, when His time came, Jesus would pour out water, His blood, and His Spirit upon all people that they might be purified, cleansed, forgiven, and restored to a right relationship with God His Father.
“Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’. And they filled them up to the brim.” In His Incarnation, Circumcision and Name, Baptism, perfect life of obedience, faith, and trust in God, Suffering, and Death, Jesus would fulfill all that the Law demanded. “And He said to them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast’. So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now’.” The wine that Jesus provides is the very best imaginable! The cleansing, purification, forgiveness, and restoration with God Jesus will provide for His people in water, His Blood, and His Spirit poured out for entire world upon the cross will be all-sufficient, complete, perfect, and final. The joy that He will provide for His people will be perfect and forever and for all who will trust in Him for forgiveness, life, and salvation and bear His fruits in their lives, words, and deeds.
In this, Jesus’ first sign at the wedding in Cana, we see God’s backside, that is, a foretaste of His glory manifested in His Son Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. We see God’s anointed King of heaven and earth beginning to restore His Creation. It is also significant that Jesus’ first miraculous sign occurs at a wedding, for His death and resurrection will be celebrated with a Wedding Feast in heaven, the wedding of the Holy Bridegroom Jesus and His Holy Bride the Church.
There are three that testify: The Water, and the Blood, and the Spirit. When Jesus surrendered His life upon the cross He gave up His Spirit. Fifty days later, on the Feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured upon His Bride, the Church, anointing and sealing Her as His own. When the centurion pierced the side of Jesus’ dead body upon the cross, from it issued forth water and blood, cleansing and purifying all the world, a blessing of cleansing, purification, forgiveness, and restoration with God for all who will believe and trust in Him and bear His fruits in their lives, words, and deeds. The Water, the Blood, and the Spirit – that is what Jesus’ first miraculous sign at the wedding at Cana pointed to. There will be joy in Jesus, and there is joy even now in Jesus, for all who believe on Him. Through Holy Baptism and faith, through His Word and the Holy Supper of His Body and Blood, you are a new creation. Even though you die, you will live, for those who believe in Him will never die.
Each and every Lord’s Day, and on Feast days, we, the Bride, gather here to participate in and to receive into ourselves this foretaste of the Great Marriage Feast of the Lamb and His Bride the Church in the Holy Eucharist. We join in Cana’s Feast until the Great Day of the Lord comes when we will no longer need this miraculous sign to cleanse and purify and restore us, but we will see our LORD and God and our Bridegroom and Redeemer Jesus face to face. But, until that day, we have this sign, this Sacrament, along with Holy Baptism, His Holy Word, and Holy Absolution to cleanse and purify and restore us anew that we might abide in faith, hope, and love towards God, towards our neighbor, and towards each other to the glory of God the Father, through faith in Jesus Christ His Son or Lord, by His Holy Spirit poured upon us and into us to enlighten, sustain, keep, and protect us in faith until He comes. By the Holy Spirit of the Living God, the Bride, the Church cries out, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! Come!”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Pawling Ecumenical Epiphany Walk

The Pawling Ecumenical Epiphany Walk is a unique and wonderful tradition that reflects the spirit of the season and our community. Members of Pawling’s Christian churches and others from our community walk from church to church enjoying a sampling of how each congregation celebrates Christmas and Epiphany.

Isaiah 9:2-7

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
I just love this Epiphany Walk! It brings out the best in our community. It brings people together that might have some real differences to celebrate what they share in common. I think we need that, don’t you?
One thing we all share in common is the incredible, crazy year we’ve just completed! We experienced an election cycle unlike anything our nation has ever seen before. Regardless of who you voted for, there was, and there is still, a lot of fear and uncertainty, discord and strife. But, here we are! We made it through! It’s a new year and, while we may not have a lot of choice as to what happens, we do have a choice as to how we let that impact and affect us. We have a choice: We can choose to be negative, pessimistic, and hopeless, filled with fear, and anger, bitterness, and depression, or we can choose to be positive, resilient, and hopeful, filled with love and compassion, charity, and understanding towards all, whether we agree with them or not.
That’s what one of this town’s most famous residents was all about, wasn’t it? The Power of Positive Thinking? Norman Vincent Peale was right, wasn’t he? People who think positively and hopefully are, generally, happier and content. They are pleasant to be around, and their positivity is positively contagious. Physicians and nurses, whether they are believers or not, testify that patients who remain positive and hopeful do much better, heal quicker, and die more peacefully than those who are negative, pessimistic, and resentful.
I do not know how Dr. Peale would explain the “Why” of this fact. I suspect that he and I might disagree a little, but that’s ok. For me, the reason that those who think positively and remain hopeful even in the face of uncertainty, discord, and strife is because of the object of their faith. You see, if you really think about it, positivity and hopefulness are not states of mind that, if you work really hard, you can conjure up in yourself. No, but positivity and hopefulness are fruits, products, if you will, of faith. Thus, the question is really, “What, or Who, is the object of your faith?” The answer to that question is something that we all share together in common, isn’t it? Jesus. Jesus is the object of our faith. Our common faith in Jesus produces in us the fruits of positivity, contentment, love, peace, joy, and hope.
We live in this world together. We share many of the same concerns and are tempted to have the same fears and anxieties. But, we also share the same Savior: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”
Jesus was God’s gift at Christmas. Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving, even now. Of what have we to be afraid? The government is upon His shoulders. “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” “Our help is in the Name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
Throughout the Epiphany season we remember and celebrate the manifestation of Jesus as both God and man. God became man in the incarnation, which we celebrated at Christmas; the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. But, the God-Man is revealed in His Words and deeds, in His teaching and miracles. In Jesus Christ, the true Light has entered our world. Even now the darkness of sin and death are receding as the Light conquers darkness. Though we still face darkness in our world and in our lives, we do not walk in darkness, but in the Light of Christ. Once we were darkness, but now we are Light in the Lord. And, we are not like those who have no hope. The Light of Christ shines upon you; let it also shine through you upon the lives of others. Let them see the Light of Christ shining through you that they may join us in the family of Christ. For, the message of Epiphany truly is this: Jesus is for all the world, and you are His Light in the world. Go forth and shine.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.