Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC

1st Sunday after Epiphany
Genesis 1:1-5; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11

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Gospel Text:

Mark 1:4-11

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Follow that Star!

January 6, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
The Feast of the Epiphany
Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

(Gospel Text provided below)
img_0008-2I am, what is often referred to in church-circles, a cradle-Episcopalian, which means I’ve spent my whole life connected to the liturgical cycle of this particular Christian denomination. Through the decades of my life, except for the “new” Prayer Book, adopted when I was young, and the shift from purple to blue as the color for Advent, things haven’t changed very much.

I remember, as a child, looking forward to The Epiphany service with great anticipation. I loved astronomy, so the emphasis on the bright star and the three wise men, sometimes called astronomers, surely contributed to my love for this day. And the atmosphere at church was very different from our usual Sunday morning worship.

On Sundays, the sanctuary was full of light and activity. By contrast, Epiphany usually fell in the middle of the week, and was always an evening service. We’d enter a dimly lit Nave, the darkness amplified by wintery skies, and muted stained-glass windows. We held individual candles – the ones with those little cardboard circles around them, intended to keep the wax from dripping on our hands. The goal – don’t catch anything on fire, especially your sister’s hair.sjd-epiphany

The procession began with the familiar hymn

We Three Kings of Orient are bearing gifts, we traverse afar…

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This thing just got real

January 17, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
2nd Sunday after Epiphany 
Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

(Gospel text is provided at the bottom of this post)

When I was preparing for today’s sermon, I wondered why this miracle story is included as part of the Epiphany narrative. Now, I realize that it’s the first miracle presented in John’s gospel. It’s also a popular story about Jesus changing water into wine, so it’s got that going for it!  IMG_5142We like the idea that Jesus was the one who pulled-off this miracle so that the wedding celebration could continue… the ultimate party guest, providing more wine; even BETTER wine, for what would have been a multi-day festivity.

But there’s something very different going on here. This miracle is the act that propelled Jesus into the spotlight. This was the moment of broader revelation – the Epiphany moment – in John’s gospel. The brevity of the story-telling masks the magnitude of what has happened – perhaps not to its earliest audiences – but certainly to us today.

The story begins by telling us that Jesus and his disciples are at a wedding in Cana and that Jesus’ mother is there, too. When she learns that the wine has run-out, she tells Jesus. Now, his response seems to imply that she’s expecting him to do something about the situation. He says “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 

Wow, that’s a little harsh. And I’d guess that most of you mothers in the congregation are a little insulted by this reply, if you’re still listening at all. But, Jesus’ mother doesn’t seem bothered by it. She simply turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”

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Wonder Leads the Way

January 6, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
The Feast of the Epiphany 
Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

(Gospel text is provided at the bottom of this post)

Tonight’s gospel reading is the familiar story of the three wise men from the East. They’ve seen a distant star and embark on a long journey to pay homage to a newborn messiah.

Christmas Pageants and Nativity Scenes include these three characters alongside the shepherds, donkeys, sheep, Mary and Joseph as they all surround Baby-Jesus in the manger. outdoor-lighted-nativity-scene-4-nativity-scene-5201-x-1654The problem is, in Matthew’s gospel there is no manger scene – no census; no long journey to Bethlehem; no “no vacancy” inns – there’s no stable at all. That’s all in Luke’s gospel. Read the rest of this entry »

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