Sermons from St Faith's   

From Epiphany to Lent

Paula O'Shaughnessy,

Sunday, January 27th, 2019

In this season of Epiphany, we celebrate the manifestion of Christ.  This is world changing and life changing.  It is also a divine mystery, which cannot be fully explained or comprehended in human understanding.  Paul expresses this in his first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13 – this limited capacity for human understanding:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part

There is hope though in what Paul says next:

then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

The whole of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 actually steers the reader or listener away from trying to understand, too much.  As Paul has already explained, it is impossible to understand fully, so it is a waste of time and energy to try.

Instead, he urges the listener towards love – love which has no end.  Even faith alone is not enough, if we don't have love.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

Paul is uncompromising – even on acts of material and bodily sacrifce, if the actions are not underpinned by sincere love:

If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.

So, we have a clear message from Paul, which gives hope.  The hope of love, which overcomes evil and suffering.  The manifestation of Christ, through the Epiphany of the visit of the three wise men – their recognition of Christ in our midst – is representative of the world seeing Christ for the first time. 

The wedding at Cana, when Jesus turned the water into wine is often recognised as the second Epiphany – when the divine nature of Christ is revealed to the people. The world is changed forever.

In today's Gospel from Luke, we learn that Jesus is becoming well known and receiving praises, for his teachings.  He is filled with the spirit and he identifies with the servant of God in Isaiah, who comes to set the people free.  The love and courage which is needed to achieve this is implicit in the words of the prophesy.  Jesus is placing himself in danger at once, by proclaiming that he is this one.  This leads on to the vicious conspiracy -  led by the Jewish leaders against Jesus, in their hypocrisy –  using his words and actions as the basis for charges of blasphemy.  The conspirators are driven by hatred, seeking to destroy a perceived threat to their power.  They fight against what they see as potential loss of power and control – a deep-seated fear and weakness, driving destructive and hate-filled behaviour.  As so often we see repeated in the world – this is a pattern that challenges the beliefs and our actions of many people, including ourselves.

In today's New Testament reading, from Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he challenges the people of Corinth to act as one body, accepting of all, members in the name of Christ.  Each member is to be given respect, especially the weaker ones.  This is at odds with the ways of the world, and is deliberately so.  The ways of God and Christ are not the ways of the world.

The divine power transcends the world.  Jesus is at one with those that suffer.  Evil and suffering still happens in the world, some natural, some man-made.  The question of why this is so is asked by many – and no definitive answer is there.  We cannot know.  As Paul says

For now we see in a mirror, dimly

The important thing is to have faith and love  - to be disciples of Jesus.  To be inspired by love of God, and to love one another.  To also be inspirational – giving hope in the world.

If as people, they vie against each other, subjugate, rank and demean, then the whole body will fail.  If the body acts in harmony, respecting and supporting all the different parts, then it will be strong and have total integrity.  This is the model which Paul describes. 

With Lent not far away, it is timely to look ahead to the planned events.  This gives us an opportunity for spiritual renewal and prayerful contemplation.  In addition to the usual church services here at St Faith's, there will be weekly stations of the cross and compline.  This will give a sense of spiritual journeying, with Jesus, in his sacrifice and suffering.  To reflect on the courage, the faith and love he has for all people.  We may wish to stop and consider how we (as God's people) have received His mercy and love, and how it has affected both us as individuals and our neighbours in the world.  We may also want to consider what we do – what sacrifices we make, and if they are made with love and faith.  What the consequences of our actions are and how this relates to God and his creation.

There is also planned, a series of weekly discussions here in church.  The details of these will be explained more fully by Fr John, but they give us the opportunity to review our spiritual journey, and where each as individuals and within the parish as a whole, we can grow in the Holy Spirit.

What we can do as individuals should never be underestimated, as Fr Dennis said in his sermon last week.  We may think that our efforts will be futile, like a drop in the ocean – but it is not so.  When we see good, we know it to be good – It gives us hope in a world which can be dark and threatening.  Even if all we can do in the face of suffering is just to pray, then this we must do.

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