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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon

18th January 2004

Fr David Shepherd

Epiphany II

Puzzles, mysteries, crimes stories continue to fascinate. We like to find the solution. Once we know the answer the power of the unsolved mystery is broken. The biggest puzzle of all concerns the existence of God and therefore our existence too.

Where is God to be found, how is God to be found? Sometimes he seems near, at other times elusive, far away. For some the search is easy, for others hard, for others not something they concern themselves with.

In the season of Epiphany we are given many little clues as to where God is to be found. Epiphany means a 'manifestation' or 'a showing forth' of the divine. Chiefly God is present in Jesus, present with us, as the Crib continues to remind us. But the 'where and the how?' still haunts us. He is to be found in the ordinary, in the everyday, in the unexpected and in the transformation of those things.

Today I'd like us to think of two Bible stories that show how God is revealed in Jesus.

The first is the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist (This year we read that story on Thursday as it was displaced by last weeks Covenant service.) The Baptism of Christ is one of those special epiphany moments when the true nature of Christ is revealed to us. That revelation comes through the ministry of John, the wild man in the wilderness. His preaching and his baptism drew great crowds. His baptisms were messy, untidy affairs, as a seething mass of sinful, muddled humanity was moved to change direction in life and to seek a fresh start with God.

In seeking baptism by John, Jesus identified himself fully with humanity, the sinless one amongst all those ordinary flawed people who were essentially like us. John found the experience deeply humbling. Yet the one whose sandals John felt unworthy to undo shares our human condition so that he can redeem it.

At that moment of the total self-identification of Jesus with humanity, God the Trinity is made manifest. An epiphany takes place. Jesus sees the Spirit descending upon him like a dove and he hears his Father's voice saying: -
'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'
The second story is the Wedding Feast at Cana. Once again clues are given as to the nature and whereabouts of God in the commonplace and everyday, in this case unbeknown to the bridegroom and bride and to most of the guests, at an ordinary county wedding.

Even here, at a wedding breakfast the Cross casts its shadow. Jesus says to his mother, 'Woman what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.' The Gospel always points beyond the everyday to the full story of Christ.

Jesus turns water, representing the rule bound purification rituals of the old Jewish religion, into the wine of the Kingdom. Not just a little but 180 gallons at the end of the party, a sign of God's extravagant generosity, a sign revealing Jesus' glory.

So God can be found at a party, over a bottle of fine vintage, in the happiness of a newly wed couple, such is the surprising nature of God

In the season of Epiphany God reveals to us who he is and where he is to be found in Jesus. We have seen this in the story of the Baptism of Christ and of the Marriage feast at Cana. Such signs continue to be given in our daily lives. The clues, the signs are all over the place, and we will be shown them if we search with an open mind and with humility. Our task as Christians is to seek such signs in our own lives and to help others find them in their lives too.

The Anglican priest and poet George Herbert was a great exponent of this in the C17th., so to end words from one of his best loved works now sung as a hymn.

'Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see;
And what I do in anything
To do it as for thee!'


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Last updated 18/2/2004 18:00:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd