Sermon Epiphany 2 January 15, 2017
Isaiah 49:1-7 Psalm 40:1-12 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 John 1:29-42
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
It’s not so many months now before we will see them springing-up everywhere. People will stop for awhile and eye the world set out before them in all its wonder, fascination, possibilities and pleasures. I’m talking about garage sales. With the warmer weather people will clean house and put stuff in their driveways, hoping not so much to make a quick buck but to get rid of whatever they don’t want anymore. Those passing by will stop because they are looking for that one treasure – cheap – maybe an A. Y. Jackson, maybe a Wedgewood, maybe a Chauncey Jerome is somewhere waiting to be thrown out and reclaimed – one person’s junk is another’s one’s treasure. Funny eh ! But I am not pointing any fingers, we have some lamps in our home, some vases, some dishes that cost no more than a buck each and they serve us well. On the other hand some of us are collectors of coins, guns, cars, quilts, dolls, ceramics you name it, they give us real pleasure when we look at the often handcrafted beauty of our ‘fancies’. There are wonderful things to be found in this world of wants and needs because they speak to us of beauty and perfection too, it’s not just about possession.
In our Fallen World things often aren’t like that. Throughout history people have coveted other peoples’ stuff and were not prepared to either pay or barter for it, they stole it, sometimes using religion as a cover. We see it still today in ordinary society and when brutal regimes impoverish their people, or upstart terrorists seize what belongs to others and then try to wipeout the previous owners. They take thousands from their homes, kill the men and rape the women, with the aim of diluting the ethnicity of a people so that that people will disappear from history – you remember Bosnia of course, and now ISIS and Boko Haram are the poster boys for this tactic today but there are others too. That’s what happened to the ancient Israelites too, that is the Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, when the Assyrians took them away into exile, they just disappeared from history. Today we call that ‘resettlement’ but whatever you call it is still wrong, it’s genocide. Those Israelites were lost to history leaving only the Jews and the small tribes of Benjamin and Levi, who themselves were later taken away to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar but through providence were not lost. They cannot be lost, God’s prophecy says they will not be lost (Genesis 49:10).
Today’s Isaian reading comes from the time when the Jews were coming back from Babylon and it speaks of two things at once. First, that the Jewish people will recover and that Israel is to be personified in the Saviour to come, Jesus Christ. This reading is what is known as the Second of the Servant Songs, which is prophecy concerning Jesus.
In 70 A.D., the Jews suffered yet another diaspora, a scattering, after Rome destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem but the Jews still remained distinct. They were among the people to whom Paul and others journeyed to in Asia Minor and Europe to plant the Gospel. If you ever question God’s Plan just look at the history of the Chosen People, despite all mankind’s efforts, and you have to include the mechanised Death Machine of the Holocaust in those too, the Jews are still an identifiable race and very much actors on the world’s stage.+
Part of God’s Plan was that the Jews would became the first Christians and be responsible by their scatterdness for the beginning of the explosion of Christianity into the Roman and our world. Give thanks to God for the Jews.
And it’s in that stretch of history that we see the Plan unfold a little further. Jesus had been baptized and had returned to see John the next day and the day after that, why we don’t know – John’s main job was basically done. From then on the focus turns toward Jesus and it never ceases to be on Him as Jesus builds on John’s work. Jesus starts by proclaiming the call for repentance as John had done, He will later call for the baptism of all believers but in a significantly different way, a Sacrament in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And significantly, He takes some of John’s disciples with Him. This whole history shows again that there is a Plan; one thing is built upon another. From the earliest proclamation until tomorrow we are gradually getting to understand God’s meaning in our lives by His Word, His Plan in our future. Nothing is wasted; from the early Fathers to the martyrs, to heretics and missionaries even to us lowly souls, nothing is wasted, nothing is lost.
At least two of John’s disciples Andrew and Simon Peter came to follow Jesus, which was the right thing to do, it’s not that John was yesterday’s man but John had faithfully achieved his mission. All things come to an end and it seems that he turned his attention to moral criticism for one, which was to cost him his head. We too need to know when to move on or change direction, and it will work out right if we do it in conjunction with God’s Plan for us. After all what good was there for John to be in still preparing the way of the Lord when the Lord was here and on His Way already. We need to understand that things change for ourselves too, what is the next great thing in our lives as individuals and as a community. We are in a time of discernment for ourselves, actually that probably is a time that is constantly with us. What next do we do ? How do we know ? Well what did those first disciples do ? They asked Jesus where He was staying. Where He was? It’s the question we need to ask. Where is Jesus in our lives ? Jesus’ responded to the disciples “Come and see”. He says the same to us, so go and see for yourselves. Go to His Word, His teaching, His ministry, His sacrifice too and discern what it means for you and where you fit in. There is nothing like finding a new direction in life, it invigorates and rediscovers what may have been lost. Like that knickknack in the garage sale, mission can be reclaimed. God bless you as you do. Amen.