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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr. David's sermon


16th January 2005

Fr David Shepherd

Second Sunday of Epiphany

Ours is a restless age. Behind the wealth and successes of our material age many are searching for truth and asking all those 'God' questions, about the meaning and purpose of life, about good and evil and the existence of God. When we confronted by big events in our world, especially when they are shown in 'real time' on television, we stop to ask what life is all about and simply wonder 'why?' That was true after the destruction of the twin towers on 9/11. The recent tsunami has also brought such considerations to the fore, raising all those questions of meaning and causation that have featured in the comment columns of our newspapers.

We are now in the season of Epiphany. As the continuing display of our crib reminds us, we celebrate the presence of Christ in our midst, his showing forth, and his manifestation, his Epiphany. Down the centuries and today the Christian calling has always been to point others to the presence of Christ in a world of war and violence, of natural disaster and of suffering as well as of good, beauty and love. To do this we first need to search for Jesus in our midst, to discover who he is and to discover what all this means in our lives.

This theme of epiphany, coming through the asking of questions and the search for meaning runs through today's particularly helpful reading from St. John's Gospel. We can pick out three strands: recognition, leading to a questions and answers, giving way to action.

1) Recognition & Declaration

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and declared,' Here,' is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world'.

In the midst of his baptising John recognized Jesus as the one who would fulfil his ministry. His prophetic task was to reveal Jesus to Israel and through Israel to all humanity.

John didn't know Jesus. He discovered Jesus' identity through the prompting of the Spirit at his Baptism. The scene would have been one of great confusion as the crowd flocked to receive mass Baptism in the muddy waters of the Jordan.

Using sacrificial imagery to tell how Jesus deals with Sin and its effects, he declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God, also testifying that he is the Son of God

So for us the recognition of who Jesus is and what he does is the gift of God through his Spirit. Faith seems to be given us, often through others, helping us to see things differently. This explains why we can recognize Jesus in the events of everyday life when others fail to see him.

It also remind us that like John we are meant to declare what we have discovered to share it with others in word and deed.

2) 'What are you looking for?'

The next day John pointed out Jesus to two of his disciples. They followed Jesus - a reminder that there should be no cult of personality in the Church. We follow Jesus not a person or a particular way.

Jesus' question, 'What are you looking for?' is particularly significant. He invites us to think deeply about this. What deep down do we most want in our lives, at work, in our relationships, in retirement and in our faith? We might want fulfilment, love, and success, health or an experience of God. What ever we want we can ask God.

That ancient Question has a contemporary ring. Faced with sudden catastrophe, people ask why and search for answers. 'What are we looking for?' In apparent success and comfort people experience that inner emptiness that leads them to ask 'Is this all there is - career, a new car then nothing? 'What are we looking for?'

The disciples replied, 'where are you staying?' Jesus said 'Come and see.' In staying with Jesus, in spending the afternoon with him, the disciples discovered what they were looking for and the answer - Jesus.

This is a scene for imaginative prayer. We can imagine Jesus in our room, sitting down with us, asking us that question. We can share our deepest desires with him, after all he already knows us, more than we know ourselves. We can discover that he already lives with us and that in the end all we are looking for is to be found in him. If we prefer we can imagine being with Jesus in those scenes of devastation that we have seen recently or in some other setting. Here we might find it useful to think of his cross.

3) Bringing others to Jesus

Andrew brought Simon to Jesus who named him Peter. Once discovered, we are not meant to keep our knowledge of Jesus to ourselves; rather we are to share it with others. If we are known to be Christians opportunities will arise to talk about our faith, to give account of the hope that is in us, to bring others to Jesus. We may feel we don't have much to say but then often it is more important to simply listen when the opportunity is given. Recent events, brought so much closer to us by a shrinking world, with greater opportunities for travel and the visual impact of the media, give rise to many such opportunities.

We recognize who Jesus is, we bring our questions to him and we share our faith with others. Crib and cross remind us that in Christ God lives with his people, that he is present with us in sorrow and in joy. Let us ask God to show us who Jesus is and that in bringing our deepest needs to him we may find them met in him.

Amen

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