We have moved into a new year–a time of beginnings, of refocus and the hope and challenge to be about all that is best in each of us. We have completed a year filled with much challenge, with sadness and loss and not always a clear path to follow. Our prayer going into this New Year, 2021 might well be that we can keep our eyes on all that unites, turn our backs on all that divides and remember that we don’t do this alone, but that our good God, in Jesus, our brother, walks with us and shows us the way.
Please don’t hesitate to call me, 507-429-3616 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org if I might be of help in any way. Blessings–peace and love, Pastor Kathy
Today, Jesus is manifested to the world, as our light, our way, and our truth.
Let Us Pray
O God, you revealed the First-Born to the nations by the guidance of a star. You have revealed to people of faith the wonderful fact of the Word made flesh. Your light is strong, your love is near; draw us beyond the limits which this world imposes, to the life where your Spirit makes all life complete. We ask this through Jesus, the Christ, who lives with you and the Spirit, and loves us forever and ever, Amen.
- Isaiah 60: 1-6
- Ephesians 3: 2-3, 5-6
- Matthew 2: 1-12
My friends, the prophetic words of Isaiah today, “Arise, shine, for your light has come,” anchor each of us who say that we follow the Christ, who lived in time—physically manifested as Jesus, our human brother, in what our physical responses must be going forward—to arise, get up and shine—to do our part!
The prophet continues—“though night still covers the earth and darkness the people.” In other words, “We aren’t there yet!” The psalmist sheds some “light” or clarity; we might say, on what this, “there” is. “A follower of the light will: be one who rescues the poor when they cry out and the afflicted when they have no one to help—having pity on [them] and saving their lives.”
This is the feast of the Epiphany, a word meaning, “manifestation.” This feast, which traditionally ends the official 12 days of Christmas, even though, as this year, it falls before January 6th, is all about sharing our God’s great love for us, in Jesus—with the world. The purpose really, for the astrologers—“the Three Kings”—from the east, is to once again, anchor within our Christian history the fact that Jesus’ love, as a manifestation of God’s love, is meant for all, as these “star-gazers” will then carry the message of what they saw and experienced in Bethlehem back to their own people, and on and on. This message is echoed too by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, “We are all heirs.”
We know that “light attracts light,”—or we might say, “Good attracts good.” Another prophet in our present time, who lived among us for too few years, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot put out darkness, only light can do that,” gives us another piece of the truth when confronted with evil or darkness in our world.
Throughout most of this past year that presented us with so much darkness: a virus uncontrolled—spreading among us, racism—a 400 year-old scar on our humanity, flared by yet another death of a black brother at the hands of the police, a plummeting national economy caused ultimately, by a lack of leadership in controlling the virus and a most contentious presidential election underscored by an unprecedented campaign of lies—the truth of which was proven again and again.
My dilemma, as your pastor has been and continues to be, to point you and me to the truth, based on the Scriptures and primarily on the words of our brother Jesus, without at the same time, appearing to be politically-minded, one way or another. Because of the fear of straying into a political versus a spiritual tone, keeping it, “neat and clean,” I don’t always speak as clearly as I should. Today, I would, in the “light” of this feast of, “Great Light” and manifestation, correct that error.
You will recall that in the past, I have instructed us all, on many occasions, to keep our eyes, always, as Jesus tells us, “on the fruits” of any action, so as to know how to decide, what is basically right and basically wrong.
I recently became aware of a written piece that was done in response to a family letter expressing hope in the New Year for better times and I feel it is indicative of the themes of “dark” versus “light” as we strive to see “the fruits” of words and actions, and it is for this reason that I make the following comments.
And just so that you are clear with where I am going; I will name the “fruits,” in my mind, that indicate “light” or good and then those, in my mind, that indicate, “darkness” or evil.
Light or good—words that unite, not divide-disagreement expressed in a way that keeps conversation going, allowing for the possibility of change of mind—does not stop it cold, statements of fact that can be proven, a sense that even if I disagree with someone, peace and good will still be present, a sense that a person cares about more than just their own needs
Dark or evil—derogatory statements about people one disagrees with, words that shame the person we hope to convince, a refusal to hear any rebuttal to the statements I may hold as true, an acceptance of the words and actions of another that appeal to the worst tendencies within me, an acceptance of the words and actions of another that leave me constantly angry, suspicious and anxious, a sense that I am basically in the presence of a selfish person
As you can see; I have laid out the polar opposites and in our encounters in this world; we will find people all along the continuum from what we think is, “good” to that which we think is “evil,” and again the instruction is to, “check the fruits.”
Now this can be “tricky” as some rhetoric might initially sound or appear good, but in the end really causes more evil-unrest-division than good-unity and peace.
Unfortunately, the Christmas-time response to a letter expressing hope that I became aware of was indicative of all the polar opposites of goodness and light. And in my counsel to you, to, “check the fruits,” I found I needed to do the same.
When supporting the words and actions of another and in this case, it was of the president of our United States, it causes you to use derogatory and abusive words to describe your opponents, shaming words for those who don’t agree with you and threats that if you try to respond, your words will be destroyed, leaves me wondering if there is any “light” to be found in your connection with this person.
Then, there is the equally disturbing fact of those who support this president because he has promised to give them an end to abortion while at the same time ignoring and denying these same beings any physical helps once they are here! Again, we must “check the fruits”–in this case, or in any situation. While no one is perfect, perhaps let us look to who may be trying to care for the most of us as opposed to only themselves. And in this case, it might be good not to listen to an individual who has been caught in lies almost every day of his presidency.
I have never in my adult life experienced so much division in our country as now, where reparable news outlets are seen as fraudulent, merely on the word of one person, where so many families and friends are divided and encouraged to be so on whether you are on the side of this president or not. When needed changes in our country are held up because of the narcissistic needs of one individual, can there be any good there?
My friends, I only share this example on this Sunday manifesting the “great light” that has come upon us in our brother Jesus, a light that we must share with all those around us in order to name all, in my view, that is not “light!” I know that there are those who will criticize me for being, “political,” but I ask that you simply, “check the fruits.”
Often times, the Universal Church preaches that Jesus came to, “save us from our sins” and while there may be a tad of truth in that—I would state it differently–“He came to save us from our human tendencies to be less than we can be.” If we allow God, in Jesus, to be truly God, then we would see Jesus’ coming among us to be a wake-up call, challenging us to be our best selves, following his example, calling a lie a lie, if need be.
If one is going to lose their relationship within their family over an issue; I would rather it be over good, than evil. I believe that the reason the hierarchical Church strays from the truth about Jesus’ real coming is because they know what that truth leads to—Jesus was crucified because of how he lived, not because of us, taking on the powers-that-be in Church and State when he saw that they did not truly care about the people. This misguided theology of Jesus coming to die for our sins is really about our humanity in darkness winning out—calling for nothing from us, which is about, “light,” but laying all of the solution at God’s door. Thank God, who saw us as capable of so much more and who will continually ask this, “more” of us beginning with the wonderful gift of “light” which is the Epiphany—the manifestation of our God among us! Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- O God, as we conclude this Christmas season—help us to remember throughout the year what a gift you have given us in Jesus entering into our humanity, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- O God, be with all elected officials, especially those in Washington—instill within each one, the wisdom of your Spirit to lead their people well. Help our country to work on being united, and to say, “no” to all that divided us in 2021, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- O God, we are grateful for the spirit of generosity and love that we experience at this time of year—give us the desire and strength to be generous and loving people throughout the entire year, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- O God, as we begin a New Year help us to strive to be people of peace, not war—help us to remember that Jesus has glorified our humanity by his presence in it and help us to treat people and our world accordingly, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- Loving God, be with each of us today giving us what we most need in life, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- In thanksgiving for the graces bestowed on our community, All Are One, during 2020—continue to give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, and inspire us in new ways to reach out this next year to those most in need of our ministry, we pray—
Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, especially from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts and all those in our community—pause, then response
Let Us Pray
Loving God, the gift of Christmas is love. We thank you for your great love for us in sending us Jesus, our Brother and Friend. Help us to model our lives after his, selflessly giving to those in need, being people of truth, faith and trust in your word. Let our lives reflect mercy, goodness and joy to all that we meet. Help us as a faith community to realize our responsibility to always be welcoming of all who come to our table—help us to be good listeners of other’s stories respecting their journeys to you even if the path they take is different from ours. Bless us, keep us, and hold us in your love—we ask all this of you, Creator, Savior, Spirit—one God, living and loving us, forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray—again, we cannot be together in person, but always remember that our loving God walks with us—always!
Prayer of Communion
O God, loving Creator, Guide us with your light—help us to recognize Jesus, as the Christ, our Savior, and welcome him with love, for he is our Brother and Friend, forever and ever, Amen.