Sunday, January 15, 2017

What Do You Hold in Your Hand?

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; 2nd Sunday after Epiphany, 15 Jan. 2017
Year A RCL: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42
What does this Christmas ornament of Santa & the Easter Bunny have to do with our Gospel today?

My husband saw this ornament years ago & had to buy it. It reminds us of my mother [who could communicate well in several languages] telling us:
Santa isn't coming this year.”

Startled by this puzzling statement, we ask why. She says:
The Easter Bunny broke his leg.”

Our confusion deepens. We ask more questions.
She says Santa will be at the mall for children but not arriving as usual parachuting from a helicopter because in the spring the Easter Bunny broke his leg parachuting in for his visit.
Ah. This mystery's darkness lightens.

Week by week we face mystery:
in bread & wine,
in Jesus' incarnation,
in Jesus' dying for us, rising again
& our receiving the Holy Spirit.
We face mystery in our scriptures today.

Why does John say of Jesus – his cousin – “I did not know him”?
Why do John’s disciples answer Jesus’ question with a question?
Why do we have 2 places in the Gospel pointing out translated words?

Reading “Scriptures is an act of coming face-to-face with the mystery of God,”1 Episcopal priest Urban T. Holmes III says in his book Spirituality for Ministry.
Scriptures are the memory of the church;” their power rises from what happens inside us to “draw us deeper into the process of discerning God’s vision for us.”2

Part of God's vision for us are the unique gifts you have to share! Your unique gifts are gifts only you can share, gifts God created in you, the puzzle pieces God placed in your small hands at your creation.

I recall comedian & actor George Gobel saying at a conference in Atlanta: babies are born with their hands balled into fists because they hold what God put there & has given only that person. God gives each of us pieces of the puzzle to complete the world.

We may imagine baby Jesus clutches a cross & nails in one tiny hand & in the other a healing touch or perhaps the gift of the Holy Spirit, as today's Gospel may suggest.
What did God put into your small hands?

Notice Paul tells the Corinthians & us: God’s grace has been given us in Christ Jesus; Jesus’ testimony is strengthened among us so we do not lack any spiritual gift.

Notice Isaiah tells us: God’s Love is so large God shares it beyond the tribes of Jacob. God says: “I will give you as a light to the nations.” God calls each of us to be a unique part of God’s “lighting system” so God’s “salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

As my friend & fellow priest, The Rev. Steve Evans of Savannah, GA, posted on Facebook the other day, quoting Plato:
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when [adults] are afraid of the light.”

Perhaps you know someone afraid of the light, afraid of God's light. Perhaps your gifts will calm this fear.
Know this: you are not alone.
As we seek how to be lights to the world,
we travel together like the Wise Men.

Your epiphany may be slow like their journey. You may have sudden clarity: God nudging you in an interesting dream, a word from a friend, your star word [which we have here for you if you weren't here on Epiphany to receive yours for this year].

I wonder what nudges John in our Gospel to say he does not know his cousin Jesus. I wonder if he means he doesn't know him as God’s son, as the Messiah, until he sees the sign.
Others may know Jesus when they see signs of the Good News as you share your gifts.

I wonder if our Gospel's translating the words “Rabbi”, “Messiah” & “Cephas” puts the message into clearer language for the original hearers.
You may put into clearer language the Good News of God’s Love for someone who needs to hear it in a way they can understand.

I wonder if John’s disciples follow Jesus & answer Jesus' question with a question because they feel drawn deeper into the process of discerning God’s vision for them, to find where their puzzle pieces fit.
You may help draw a person into a deeper relationship with God.

I wonder if they ask "where are you staying?" because they have learned from John there is something deeper to seek.
Visiting a person at home deepens our perspective.

When they accept Jesus’ invitation to "Come & see," the disciples recognize something beyond location. Something about his conduct speaks to their hearts & sends them to bring others into fellowship with Jesus.
You may help a person see Jesus is staying in your life, & this person may have an epiphany about God’s love not from your words but from how you treat this person.

An epiphany can come slowly like the Wise Men’s journey or be a sudden realization through a striking occurrence. It is an ordinary occurrence for stars to shine at night.

The Wise Men saw something striking & followed the star. How many others saw the star & said: “Wow that’s bright! Well, let’s go get supper.”

How many were burdened by life & could not look up?
How many are burdened & cannot look up?
How many are broken, not suffering a broken leg leaping from a helicopter, but broken in spirit?
How many are afraid of the light?

You / we have all we need to share the Good News God gives us to help God's beloved, broken children to look up.

We just have to open our little fists to share our puzzle pieces & make a positive difference in the world for Jesus' sake.

Doing this, you / we help clear away confusion & assure a beloved child of God no helicopter, no broken leg will stop God's love.

Not even death on the cross stops God's Love.

Barclay, William. The Gospel of John. Vol 1. Revised Ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. Gen. Ed: James L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985. p. 851.
Holmes, Urban T. III. Spirituality for Ministry. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 2002.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints. New York: Church Publishing. 2010.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.

1 Holmes, Urban T. III. Spirituality for Ministry. P. 123.

2 Ibid.

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