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Epiphany Communion Meditation

January 5, 2014

            

Sermon:  Epiphany Communion Meditation
Text:  Psalm 27:1, 14; Isaiah 60:1-6; John 1:1-5, 14

 

For the most part, Christmas decorations have been taken down and packed away until next year.  It is still respectable though to have a few remaining inside and outside your home.  You can keep them up, according to tradition, through Epiphany.

Clare and I spent one winter in the New England area, in Boston and Cambridge.  There people leave wreaths on their front door until the first day of spring.  No one could never get away with doing so here in the South.  I thought about trying that; but two days after Christmas, Clare said, “Please get rid of that wreath.  It is already brown.”  Down it went.

We will leave our Moravian star on the front porch until tomorrow because January 6 is Epiphany, a day we celebrate the gift of light in this world.  That gift was symbolized, first of all, by the star that led the Wise Men to Bethlehem.

This year for Christmas Clare and I decided to give our grandchildren each a tiny flashlight.  You cannot imagine how they put aside other far more expensive gifts to play with that toy.  Young children find flashlights absolutely fascinating.  I can tell you that adults also find flashlights fascinating when Duke Power fails us.  Candles are usually fascinating to everyone all the time.  When the power fails, we are grateful for the simple gift of light.

When I got up early this cold morning, I looked out the window of our home into the darkness.  A cardinal, feeding from my bird feeder long before daylight, must be waiting for spring.  A sliver of a moon offered just a bit of light to the night sky.  A vapor light was shining through the bare branches of trees.  As I saw the lights on the automobile approaching, I breathed a prayer of gratitude for the man delivering our newspaper.  Soon afterwards a bright light from two locomotives pulling a load of cars appeared down the track behind my house.  I have noticed that the trains have gotten much longer since the inland port came to Spartanburg.

We have at the heart of our Christian faith the affirmation of light, perhaps found in no better place than the first chapter of the Gospel of John.  John offers a progression here, an equation, using the word, logos, which means the essence of being.  “In the beginning was the Word…” is the way we translate logos in English.  “…and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The logos is God.  That logos is life.  That life is light.  Of course, this verse is affirmation that Jesus, as the Son of God, is the light of this world.  He is the light of our lives.  The very first miracle of Christianity is the miracle of the incarnation. 

It is absolutely mind-boggling, perplexing, to think about what the great God, the Creator of the universe, has done in Christ Jesus.  It is almost more than our minds can wrap around when we consider the “Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” as Verse 14 says.  God became a man.  The life of Jesus begins right here.  Words to a hymn this morning says, “Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown, When Thou camest to earth for me.”  The incarnation is God becoming a human being.  Thinking of Jesus of Nazareth as fully human and also fully divine, is the miracle right at the heart of Christianity.  God became flesh.  He is Emmanuel – God with us.

J.S.D. Whale said, “Jesus is what human beings mean by God, and he is what God means by human being.”  When we look at Jesus we see how we are supposed to live.  When we look at Jesus we also see what God is like.  Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  He has “dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Scripture says, “We beheld his glory.”  What in the world is glory – doxa?  We get the word “doxology” from that root word.  We behold the light of Christ, the glory of Christ.  This brightness, this brightness beyond what the eye can see, this brightness that we can only experience with our heart and soul, is Christ.

Maybe you have made a list of some resolutions for the new year.  I have changed my way of thinking about resolutions because too many have been broken in the past.  I have started thinking differently about what I want to do at the beginning of this year.  I will not resolve to do things in my own strength, thinking I can pull myself up by my bootstraps.  I have decided, rather, to surrender.  Maybe a better word than resolution is the word consecration.

I often turn to a prayer of consecration for every day, not just for the new year.

O God, I will try this day to live a simple, serene and sincere life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking, cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence, exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a child-like faith in God.  In particular, I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating and sleep, which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.  And as I cannot in my own strength do this, not even with a hope of success can I attempt it, I look to Thee, O Lord my Father, to Jesus my Savior, and I ask for the blessing of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Christians can best begin the new year with a simple prayer of consecration, with an act of consecration.

When we come to this table before us, we renew a covenant made long ago at a place called Golgotha.  The elements here – the bread and the cup – symbolize the body and blood of Jesus.  When we take these elements, we remember that Christ Jesus gave his life for us.  At the beginning of the new year, we can do nothing more appropriate than to come to this Table and let Communion be for us an act of consecration, an act of giving ourselves again to the Lord Jesus Christ.

May I remind you that this table does not belong to Morningside?  This is not a Baptist table.  This is the Lord’s Table, and any who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord are invited to take part in this meal we call the Lord’s Supper.  We will take the Supper together now.

On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread.  He blessed it and broke it.  He said, “This is my body, which is broken for you.”

Prayer of Blessing for the Bread:  Dear Lord, as we come to Your house on this Sunday of Epiphany, we remember the last meal taken with your disciples in that upper room.
Your body was then broken for us as a way to remember the greatest gift ever given, your life for ours.  We ask that you bless us to your service.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord to Thee;
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be, Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice and let me sing, always, only, for my King.

Jesus said, “This bread is my body, given for you.”  Eat it as often as you eat it in remembrance of him.  Eat all of it.

Prayer of Blessing for the Cup:  Lord, you taught us how to serve.  You taught us to be faithful.  You have blessed this church in so many ways.  May we be reminded every day of the ultimate sacrifice given for us through the giving of your blood.  It is in your name we pray.  Amen.

Take my silver and my gold, Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my moments and my days, Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own, It shall be Thy royal throne.

Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”  Drink it as often as you drink it in remembrance of him.  Drink all of it.

My hope and prayer is that as we begin this new year, this meal, this act of consecration, has been a very real and significant experience in the privacy of your own heart.  It may be that some of you have a public decision to make.  People touched by this service may like to respond in a significant way.  If that is the case with you, we invite you to respond according to the invitations of God:  to accept Christ Jesus, to recommit your life, to make a decision regarding membership.  Whatever God leads, we ask you to respond.

Kirk H. Neely
© January 2014

 

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