Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ecclesiastes 3:1-7 Epiphany Sunday 2017 Upper Rogue UMC

Today is the first day of 2017, and across the land and around the world people are making resolutions and wondering what the new year will bring. You may relate to the fellow made two resolutions: one was to clear off his desk, and the other was to find last years list of resolutions. I can relate to that! If you really want to get 2017 off to a good start, read the 1999 book: You Are Worthless: Depressing Nuggets of Wisdom Sure to Ruin Your Day.” In their spoof of self-help books, Drs. Oswald T Pratt and Scott Dickers list, among other things, eight things you can do to feel worthless; they include:
Call a relative and tell them you're going to turn you life around. Let their laughter echo in your mind.
Draw something. Take your time and make it as beautiful as you can. When you're done, stand back, look at it, and realize what a lousy artist you are.
Fall and break your collarbone. Blame it on your clumsiness.
Wear something that makes you look fat.

I hope you don't take these ideas as a recommendation from your pastor. I would trust that none of you want to feel worthless, especially at the start of a brand new year. The new year should bring hope, not dread. As Christians we look forward in the sure and certain hope that things can, and will get better.

The Magi, the wise men, were surely hopeful as they traveled to Jerusalem, and then Bethlehem in search of the new king. The story says that, after leaving Jerusalem, when the star again appeared over the house where the child was, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The term Magi, indicates they were Zoroastrians. Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions. It was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in ancient Iran approximately 3500 years ago. As Magi is also translated Wise Men, it is quite likely that they studied such things as Philosophy, science, astrology, medicine, dream interpretation and magic, as well as the holy scriptures of other faiths. The priests of Zoroaster advised governors and kings, oversaw and blessed sacrifices, and carried out other priestly duties.

It was their study of the stars, and the Jewish scriptures, that led them to Jerusalem, and ultimately Bethlehem. Scholars today think the star may have been a super-nova or a conjunction of Jupiter, Mars and Saturn; but whatever they saw, they equated it with the birth of the Messiah. And so they came, looking for the One; the One who would lift the veil that separated humans from God; the One who John describes as being full of truth and grace.

As much as we humans search for knowledge, we value truth more. Hugh Ross, from a young age, was fascinated by the study of physics and astronomy. The more he studied, the more he learned; and the more he learned, the more he became convinced that there was a creator. He commenced a study of the scriptures of the world's major religions; and in the Bible he found what he was looking for. “My education,” he writes, “Led me to the stars: My faith led me beyond.”

The Magi and Hugh Ross all found the truth they sought in a baby born in a barn and laid in a feed trough. A baby who would grow up, and the song says, to become King and God and Sacrifice. The baby we know as Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. The One who would conquer sin and death and open to us the gates of Heaven. The One who would bring light and hope to the darkest corners of the world.

Today is not just New Year's Day, it is also Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany means a manifestation of God. An anonymous poem describes such manifestations.

I saw Jesus last week.
He was up at the church building:.
He was alone and working hard.
For a minute he looked like one of our church members.
But it was Jesus; I could tell by his smile.

I saw Jesus last Sunday.
He was teaching a Bible class.
He didn't talk real loud, or use long words,
For just a minute he looked like my Sunday School teacher.
But it was Jesus; I could tell by his loving voice.

I saw Jesus yesterday.
He was at the hospital visiting a friend who was sick.
They prayed together quietly.
For a while he looked like our pastor.
But it was Jesus; I could tell by the tears in his eyes.

I saw Jesus this morning.
He was in my kitchen, making my breakfast.
He then packed a lunch to take with me.
For just a minute he looked like my mom
But it was Jesus, I could feel the love from his heart.

I saw Jesus today.
He was praying on his knees, all alone.
He then began to cry for those he prayed for.
For just a minute he looked like a lady from our church.
But it was Jesus; I could see the compassion poured out in his prayer.

I saw Jesus the other day.
He was at the grocery store talking to friends.
For just a moment he looked like a young mother
in our ladies class.
But it was Jesus; I could see the concern for others who hurt.

I see Jesus everywhere,
taking food to the sick,
welcoming others into his home,
being friendly to a newcomer,
And for just a minute he looks like someone I know.
But it's always Jesus. I can tell by the way he serves.

John Wesley called for his followers to be in covenant with God: to give ourselves over to God's will, and in so doing become an epiphany to those around us. I invite those of you who will, to now join me in renewing that covenant as we pray together the covenant prayer found as #607 in your hymnals. Let us pray:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee, or brought low by thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant that I have made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven. AMEN.

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