A Covenant People, Part VI   Leave a comment

Above:  Sunrise

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Feast of the Epiphany, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only begotten Son to the Gentiles;

mercifully grant, that, we, who know thee now by faith,

may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,

ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 123

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Isaiah 49:1-9

Psalm 72

Ephesians 2:1-22

Matthew 3:13-17

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The fully-realized Kingdom of God remains in the future tense.  It is a state of affairs in which exploitation, violence, and social injustice cease to exist.  It stands in stark contrast to our reality, marred and defined by those sins plus hostilities, both one-sided and mutual.  The Kingdom of God is already partially realized, at least from a human perspective, one bound by time.  It was evident in the life and ministry of Jesus.  It remains evident in the lives of faithful followers of God.

Ephesians 2 reminds us that, in Christ, God breaks down barriers of hostility separating people and groups of people.  Yet we mere mortals frequently rebuild those barriers.  One of my favorite single-cell cartoons depicts people with big pencils drawing lines yet using the eraser at the other end of a pencil.  The image is probably under copyright protection, so I have not looked for it, to add to this post.  Perhaps you, O reader, can find it and see what I mean.

God calls we of the faith to be a covenant people.  The best guess regarding the identity of the servant in Isaiah 49 is the personification of faithful Jews.  God calls us to help the faithless join or rejoin the flock, whether or not they are of our “tribe.”  God equips us to function as agents of reconciliation, both collectively and individually.  God invites us to live as agents of grace.

Edmond Browning, a former Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, emphasized a certain theme, “No Outsiders.”  He paid close attention of Ephesians 2.  In Christ, Browning preached, there are no outsiders.  In Christ, the Presiding Bishop proclaimed, everyone is an insider.  

This message remains as radical and offensive as it was nearly 2000 years ago.  This is the message at the heart at the heart of the Feast of the Epiphany and the season that follows it.  The light shining upon the Gentiles and inviting them to join the covenant people is the essence of the Epiphany.

Happy Epiphany, O reader!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF DAMASCUS AND COSMAS OF MAIUMA, THEOLOGIANS AND HYMNODISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER HOTOVITZKY, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1937

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR; AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST; AND FRANZ GRUBER, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC TEACHER, MUSICIAN, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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