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Jan 15, 2017 – Epiphany2 * Rev Mary Pearson was on holiday leave
REFLECTION          Malcolm Allerding (Church Council Chairperson)              
When I first looked at the lectionary readings, they seemed mostly about me!
Ps40:1-11 > ‘I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me ….
             … let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever.
Isaiah49:1-7  > ‘Listen to me … pay attention … The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb … the Lord who is faithful, has chosen you!

Surely not - this is the season of epiphany!  The discovery and pronouncement of Jesus, the beginning of his disciple team build, the commencement of his mission work. Epiphany = discovery, appearance, revelation, light ..  (The months Jan. & Feb. are typically the months of the lectionary season of epiphany. Today is ‘Epiphany 2’. Lent begins this year 1st March = Ash Wed)
/ There is even a particular ‘Day of Epiphany’ in the standard lectionary / 12 days after Christmas / this year it was Friday 6th Jan.  The story of the visiting Wise Men is one of the first bible readings in the epiphany season. [Story: - tea towel / picture, 3x very well dressed wise men, all walking the same way, manger scene in the top corner. But not evidently carrying 3x different gifts / each carrying an identical wine container?  “Cecily would have happily settled for just one man of average intelligence bearing a pinot noir”]
 / The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river is also a necessary scripture item in the epiphany season, as considered by Mary last Sunday (Epiphany 1).  [True story: - I have been baptized(?) in the river Jordon]

* In today’s gospel scripture, John1:29-42, we have .. John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him, and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’; and ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove’. Actually saw. And understood. A strong epiphany. A big event / a crowd / “Behold, here is the Lamb of God”.    And, the next day John was again with two of his disciples …and John makes sure these disciples meet Jesus. (we will come to that)

* For some reason today’s gospel is from John, not Matthew (Mary has mentioned to us that through most of 2017 the main gospel will be Matthew. Last year = Luke). Today’s gospel is an exception, John not Matthew? I only note that this ‘John’ reading is a top quality and important component of the epiphany of Jesus. In an earlier verse in John, 1:18, we read: none of us have ever seen God, but Jesus will declare God, and make him known!
/ This particular record of John the Baptist (i) seeing Jesus, and (ii) declaring him ‘Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world; and (iii) explaining to his listeners that he did not know Jesus before he saw the Spirit descend like a dove; and (iv) also testifying that ‘this is the Son of God’, - this passage is the first known record (written record!) of somebody actually seeing, witnessing Jesus in the flesh, and knowing who he is!   And, this is the only place in the NewT where Jesus is described as the Lamb of God. (The book of Revelation has many references to ‘Lamb’, not specifically to Jesus). Perhaps John the Baptist (reported by John the apostle, brother of James, lived the longest life?) is connecting his fresh understanding of the messiah, Son of God, Lamb of God, with the ritual function of the sacrificial lamb in the temple. Who knows?   [also Handel’s Messiah: ‘Behold the Lamb of God’]
* And (vs35), the next day John was with two of his disciples when again Jesus walked by – this time conversation took place, and they went with Jesus for the rest of the day … A connection was made between Jesus and these two particular persons –  one was Andrew(!), and the other maybe John the apostle/ the writer of the gospel).
/ Next day? Other gospels suggest that between the John the Baptist’s declaration of ‘Here is the Lamb of God …’ and ‘the next day’, Jesus went for 40 days into the wilderness and faced his several temptations, and that only after that time away Jesus made the contacts and started building the team of disciples. Let the Theologians …

And then Andrew, the next day, found his brother Simon, and brought his brother to Jesus, who greeted Simon with ‘you are Simon, son of John, you will be called Peter!  Another day later Jesus wen to Galilee and added Philip and Nathanael to the team.

We each have our preferences of scripture. We each have our understandings of God, and of the power of Jesus, and of the wondrous ways of the Holy Spirit. We each have our understandings of how best we might pray. (Under the shower!)
/ My current book ‘Eat Pray Love’ / Elizabeth Gilbert, an absolutely gorgeous memoir of her seeking to better understand so many things (after a very unhappy divorce and another separation) and particularly wanting to better understand God. She sees herself free from any particular faith, religion (I haven’t finished the book) and free to participate in meditation, and other similar practices different styles. She does a lot of travelling, she does a lot of praying, in many different ways. Eg: ‘Oh God, I dunno what I need …, you must know, just do it’. Then she imagines God’s response “Call me back when you get serious”. She slowly recognizes that she can, and should pray in both good times and bad times. Prayer is a relationship. Half the benefit of prayer is in the particular asking. One of her valued friends says: ‘Hey, why can’t you better select your thinking, like you can select which clothes to wear?’

In the community around us, whether here at LUC, or the places we visit, or where we work, or go shopping – each person we meet has their own understandings of many different matters!  In the wider world (8 billion?) people each have their own preferences and understandings…. of many different things.

Today we are having an epiphany. Perhaps only a miniscule slightly better understanding of our faith. We are at least reminded, thank you John the Baptist, for your declaration of Jesus, the Lamb of God; thank you John the apostle for your writing down of the whole record as you understood the actions, purposes, life of Jesus, and his disciples, and the other participants in the events. We each are entitled, I think expected, to at least offer to others our best confusing understanding of these epiphany events, different though we each may be. We each have some capacity for offering explanation in our limited way!

I don’t know how best to tell the good news. I just know it needs to be told to this crazy complex wider world – told, or emailed, or sung, or written, or filmed, or facebooked, or twitted, … Last week Mary was on about ‘too many words’??

Let me refer again to John the apostle’s comment that - though we don’t see God, Jesus will declare God and make him known. !Our epiphany is to participate in that! So maybe the Isaiah words are not just for me, as I first thought, but have meaning for all of us: ‘Listen to me … pay attention … The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb … the Lord who is faithful, has chosen you!
He has!                                    M.A