Today is Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany simply means “manifestation” or “revelation.” We worship a God who has been fully revealed or manifested in Jesus Christ the event we celebrate at Christmas. In Jesus, God’s light came forth to confront the world’s darkness. There numerous incidences in the Scriptures where God’s glory was revealed an event with results for the community.
In Isaiah 60 for example, the prophetic utterance was made to the returned exiles in Jerusalem. Their reality was bleak; marked by darkness of destruction by the Babylonians .The city of God had been bombed out so to speak! Perhaps whatever was left of their homeland hardly resembled its pre-exilic glory. It was in this bleak reality of dealing with unfamiliarity and adjusting to life in the ruined Jerusalem that Isaiah spoke to the people.
The prophetic pronouncement was hope-filled amidst the grim reality, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Is 60:1). I wonder what responses Isaiah’s message might have invoked among the people? I can imagine people saying, ‘come on, preacher get a life, this is the new normal just accept it!’I believe that Isaiah was neither in a fantasy land nor living in the old glory days and denying the reality of the present. As a matter of fact, he acknowledged the reality thus, “For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the people; but the LORD will arise upon you, and glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (60:2).
In other words, the situation might be tough, but the LORD was showing up in glory and this revelavation of the LORD changes everything. Now instead of Jerusalem being a ruined laughable city, there was to be a rush toward Jerusalem and kings would hurry to bask in the brightness of the LORD’S glory in Zion (some eschatological vision perharps). Instead of Israel paying heavy taxes, as was the case, nations were to bring gifts to Jerusalem. Among the result of the LORD’S visitation to Jerusalem is that its people may have broad and a stretched hearts that are ready to receive a sea of nations that will be coming to bask in light of the LORD’S glory.
Similarly in Ephesians 3, Paul talks about God’s long awaited plan of bringing the non-Jewish peoples of the world, into fellowship with God and with God’s people. Paul writing from prison pointed to Jesus as the one who makes this long awaited plan possible. Because of Jesus, the Gentiles now, share fully the Jewish inheritance (the people of God), are now members of the body and share the promises of God as well.
Paul tells the church in Ephesus that God chose him as a messenger of God’s revealed wisdom. This is why he was imprisoned. His message threatened the rulers. Paul and the apostles mission goes forth through the Church in spite of the consequences. When God’s light came into the world through the birth of a child, which was celebrated by other peoples and gifts from the East were given to the new born king, the rulers in this case Herod Anitipas was threatened according to Matthew chapter 2.
As God’s worshiping community, we declare the wisdom of God to ‘rulers and authorities,’ both the earthly authorities and the their heavenly counterparts that creates societies characterized by un-Godly social structures, classes and tend to marginalize or annihilate people or groups who do not fit in their created categories.
By the church’s very nature (diverse), we witness and a declare that in Jesus, a different way of being human has been unveiled! And all peoples are invited. This is why we do missions because Jesus commissioned us to go to the entire world and make disciples.
God’s children both Jews and Gentiles have access to God (v.12). Jesus’ faithfulness to God has opened the door to the throne room for all people. How might this message affect the church’s posture in the immigration debate?
Paul was imprisoned because his message was a threat to the powers that be that wrecks havoc in the world. When the church is faithful to its calling in the world, it will be a threat to forces of division, hatred, and all manners of evil because it declares freedom to the oppressed and embodies the Good News of Jesus. We can only declare the manifold wisdom of God when do not read from the world scripts of greed, exclusion, etc
We cannot be supporters of differences brought about by race, nationality, wealth, education while at the same time be apostles of God’s wisdom in all its variety! We must resist social injustice, rigged systems and policies that oppress the poor and silences the voiceless. We must continually be agents of justice and peace in the world but above all, we must continue to live as a witness of God’s new creation! This is God’s Good News to the world of which we are witnesses. Amen!
Preached at Ephrata Mennonite Church
January 6, 2013
By Nelson Okanya