Pursuing Your Purpose

January 6, 2015

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

The Feast of Epiphany
Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

When I was a young girl I looked forward to the Epiphany service at my church each year. Like tonight, it began after the night sky had become dark. As we arrived, we were each given candles, creIMG_5773-wating a dimly lit sanctuary. The opening hymn was “We Three Kings.” The congregation sang the first and last verse, and male soloists from the choir sang the middle verses. Each king sang their arrival, walking ever-so-slowly up the long-center aisle; each dressed in finery of a far-off-land; each carrying a gift brought for the God-child they had searched out. The smell of the frankincense filled the sanctuary – creating a full-on sensory experience.

For completely different reasons, this evening’s service, with bi-lingual scripture, prayers and music, is just as glorious; just as life-giving. This time tonight represents a manifestation of experiencing the beauty of a new born thing, worthy of The Epiphany! It is a time of letting go of what is common place, of the status quo, which isn’t always easy.

We see the resolve to hold on to the status quo at the beginning of today’s gospel. When King Herod heard that a child was born who would be king of the Jews, it says that Herod and ALL of Jerusalem were frightened. As Ceci shared in her sermon on Sunday, the arrival of a new “king of the Jews” would upend the position Herod had established. So, although the Hebrew Scriptures foretold the arrival of a Messiah, when time came for one to appear, it was disturbing and unwelcome.

What’s more, this Messiah wasn’t what they expected. Instead of a military or political leader that would deliver the Jews from the hands of Roman rule, Jesus was a model of peace, not a maker of war; a shepherd of all, not a divider of many. The story of the wise men in Matthew’s gospel foreshadows Jesus’ all-welcoming manner. It portrays Jesus, even as a toddler, that draws people from all walks of life to him; a Jesus that welcomes them all, even those from faraway lands with different beliefs.

bigstock_Three_Wise_Men_And_The_Star_8890138Matthew doesn’t give us background on these wise men; just that they came from a distant land, and noticed a moving star in the sky that caught their attention. This was a sign from God telling them that the king of the Jews had been born. They knew something special, something new, was afoot, and they were drawn toward it. They trusted God, and through that trust they were committed to a new Purpose – that of finding this child, and paying him homage. It was this PURPOSE that motivated them each day until they achieved it.

OUR Purpose is our WHY in life. It can change over time, but when we discern what it is, it becomes the motivator of what we do. I think many of us go through life without really thinking about our purpose. I know I did for a long time. We run on auto-pilot, following the road of least resistance, or perhaps a very chaotic road. Then we look around one day and wonder how we ended up where we are – in our job, in our family-life, in our community and even in our spiritual journey. The good news is, it’s never too late to figure out our purpose.

When we do take time to discern our God-centered Purpose, like the wise men, it keeps us moving toward the star, even when that star is a moving target.

  • This Purpose gives us the strength to leave what’s familiar, even when it’s unsettling.
  • This Purpose gives us the courage to try new things, even when it’s risky.
  • This Purpose allows us to let others know, like the wise men to King Herod, that we don’t have all the answers; we can stop and ask for directions when we get lost.

Today we celebrate the Feast of The Epiphany. Epiphany is about revelation – the AHA! moment when the light bulb (or bright shining star of old) gives us understanding of something new. It’s a time to intentionally seek-out the God-centered Purpose of our lives; this WHY that motivates what we do, defines who we are, and helps us discern what we have to offer.

The wise men brought gifts to offer Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh. In much the same way, we are invited to bring our gifts to our Purpose. These gifts are our treasure, our talent and our time. These are tangible gifts we have to offer, and are essential if we are to take the life-giving message of our newborn King, Jesus Christ, into the world! His was a message of justice, equity, compassion, and welcoming all, and our purpose is meant to emulate these same things.

The time of Epiphany is a time to find the moving star on the horizon and begin to follow it. To find out what’s NEXT. You can do this as an individual, and you can do it in community with others.

I invite you to give some of your time and talent to this endeavor of PURPOSE. In doing so, you will see for yourself that a commitment to this journey in Christ, this mission and purpose, is a tangible thing that will help bring about God’s all-welcoming, justice-filled kingdom to all people.

A heavenly star is shining on the horizon. Let’s go together and see where it leads!

fdp-shining-star-nc

 

I invite your thoughts and insights.

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