Letting Go

Halifax-20131224-01577We are celebrating Epiphany all month long. I am going to read you a few verses from Matthew 2 that tell of the wise men and their visitation to Jesus.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,[f] until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,[g] they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Epiphany is observed on January 6, commemorating that visit. It can also be defined as a sudden, intuitive perception or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something. You have heard of people having an epiphany!

The wise men, and we have no idea of how many there were, just that they brought three gifts, symbolic gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold represents the kingship of Christ, frankincense represents his priestly role on earth and myrrh, a traditional incense used at funerals during Biblical times, signifies his eventual death and resurrection. It’s obvious from those gifts that our scripture was not written as a factual account, but as a metaphor for Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. And the story has no less power for not being factually correct. Today’s equivalent would be gold, or a savings account, credentials from a prestigious organization which told everybody what the child’s life direction was going to be, and a brochure from a funeral home.

The story still rings true today as we bring gifts to Jesus. What might the gift you bring Jesus be? What gifts might Jesus bring to you?

We enter our scripture reading with Jesus coming home. Following his baptism, he has spent a significant period in the wilderness reviewing his style of ministry. Now, in the synagogue, he publicly announces his style of ministry, and how it will reflect, sometimes in surprising or uncomfortable ways, what the prophet Isaiah had promised. He is filled with the Holy Spirit and uses Isaiah’s words which were echoed in Mary’s song… “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

We hear Jesus saying those words, and perhaps think, “Yes, you are Jesus, of course you can say those things.”

But what if instead of hearing Jesus say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… we would say together, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon us…

God’s Spirit is upon us. We are chosen to bring good news to the poor…

God’s Spirit is upon us. We are sent to proclaim release to the captives…

God’s Spirit is upon us. We are sent to proclaim the recovery of sight to the blind…

God’s Spirit is upon us.

Margaret shared her Star Story with us… the way the word has had an impact on her this past year… and over the next few weeks we will hear stories from Dave Osborne and Joan Gallant. Margaret’s word was release, which is why I chose that scripture reading. What if we take our gift… and release it into the world. We don’t have the same gifts… We have an infinite variety of gifts to share…

Clench your hands… Can you receive anything like that?

Open your hands… lay them on your lap…

Now close your eyes for a moment… picture that gift that you have… image in being released into the world… Your hands are empty… open to receive… for the hands that are tightly clenched to hang on to your gift, can never receive anything either. What are some of the gifts that you can share?

If you love reading… you could help a young person at the school or library to improve their reading… If you are handy with repairs, there are any number of organizations, including us, who could use your gifts. If you have the gift of a listening ear, perhaps visiting those who are lonely and shut in is your ministry. If you can be a role model for a young person, perhaps Big Brothers/Big Sisters is the place for you. The common theme would be that you are active because of your faith… because your understanding of following Jesus is to try and make your corner, our corner of the world better.

While Paul is not my favourite person all the time, he wrote some amazing letters to the people of Corinth. Our world is much like the early church at Corinth… we come from different backgrounds… some government workers… some teachers… some nurses… some veterinarians… some sales people… some surveyors… some homemakers…. Some health care providers… some office workers… some musicians… the list is practically endless…

Like Corinth, we have different denominational backgrounds… although we are all Christian… Like Corinth, we are all faced with change… in our home life as families grow and change… in our work life as we learn and grow… in our communities as the demographics and industry change… in our church… as all those things take place.

We all come to this place and every place with different needs and expectations… we come with different gifts and abilities…. But Paul, in one of his letter to the church at Corinth, instructs them, and instructs us to use our gifts for building up the body of Christ… for proclaiming the good News to the poor… for proclaiming release to the captive, to bind up the broken hearted… to let the oppressed go free…

How will we express our gifts… those gifts that are all equal before God? Will we hoard them, as if they might run out? Or will we use them extravagantly for transforming our part of the world? Will we come together and be stronger, healthier, more vibrant than ever before…. Trusting that God will refill us over and over again…

God is with us… inspiring us… challenging us… empowering us… loving us…

Thanks be to God, amen.

© Rev. Catherine MacDonald

Luke 4: 14-21
January 8, 2017
Elmdale Pastoral Charge

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