Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Sermon Not Preached

Wisdom says: in extreme winter weather's hazardous driving conditions, cancel Sunday worship & encourage parishioners to worship at home, saying Morning Prayer from our Book of Common PrayerBelow is the sermon not preached today:

“How Will You Shine the Light of God's Love in 2017?”
Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 8 Jan., 2017, Epiphany 1: The Baptism of Our Lord
Year A RCL:Isaiah 42:1-9' Psalm 29; Acts 10: 34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

Waters, beginnings, God's spirit & God's approval flow through & connect our scriptures today.
In the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, the waters of baptism flow over him. In our Gospel, Matthew tells us Jesus stands in solidarity with the people of Israel1 who are re-dedicating their lives to God. By his actions, Jesus shows us public commitment to God, to what God calls us to do.2

Then God's Spirit descends like a dove. Remember in Genesis: The dove offers a fresh olive leaf as a positive sign to Noah after chaotic flood waters subside – a sign of peace as human life begins anew.

Human life begins anew as Christianity begins to spread. Waters of Baptism flow over believers &, as Acts tells us, “everyone who believes in [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Notice what Peter emphasizes as he speaks in Acts:
...Jesus is God's story continued,” showing God has no favorites.3
This means we Gentiles [you & I] can be part of God's holy people. How do we share this Good News? How will you shine the Light of God's Love in 2017?

As members of God's family, we have work to do sharing the Good News of Jesus & supporting each other as we grow in knowledge & as God's grace continues the work which begins in the beginning of Christianity.

It is work we catch a glimpse of as we read in Isaiah about the coastlands waiting for God's teaching. The Jewish Study Bible notes “coastlands” refers to people far away4 – you & me.
God has been reaching out to all people for a very long time.
Notice: our Gospel tells us of Jesus' unique status5 when God's Spirit descends like a dove. God says clearly:
This is my Son, the Beloved...”
This is a lived relationship with God. We have a lived relationship with God. What else does God say in this sentence?
This is my Son, the Beloved,
with whom I am well pleased.”
How does it feel when someone says something like this to you? “With you I am well pleased! Great job!” “I admire how you handled this.” “You are special to me.” When I see a person hearing such words, I usually see a positive reaction in the relationship.

In this Epiphany season, we focus on God's reaching out to us Gentiles. We enter the world of beginnings. Like the wise men who encounter the baby Jesus at Epiphany by following the star, we may find it helpful to have a star to guide us in 2017.

Thanks to the artistic skill of 2 of our young people for creating these, we have a star word for each of us! [I appreciate your due diligence, girls! Good work!]

Let the Holy Spirit guide you as you select your star, your special word for 2017. [Unless weather prevents us, we will have church next Sunday & you can discover your star word!]
Some of us post our star on a mirror, in our car, at the office, or use it as a bookmark for reading the Daily Office in the Prayer Book.
We place the star where it can easily remind us & teach us its deeper meaning.

What message does the Holy Spirit have for you in your star word for 2017?
How will this star guide you into a deeper relationship with God &
a fuller relationship with your Brothers & Sisters in Christ with whom & for whom you shine
the Light of Christ & share God's Love?

Let us pray: Loving God, bless these stars to guide your holy people. Grant that your children reading their special stars may receive insight & wisdom in daily life & work for the increase of your love in this world. We prayer in the name of Jesus, the Light of the World. Amen.6

Barclay, William. The Acts of the Apostlesk. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press. 1962.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.

1 Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 986.
2 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1013.
3 Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 1093
4 Jewish Study Bible. P. 867.
5 Ibid. Harper's.

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