Devotional Message: The Epiphany of Our Lord (1/6/2019)

Lessons

Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12
St. Matthew 2:1-12

Prayer of the Day

O God, on this day you revealed your Son to the nations by the leading of a star. Lead us now by faith to know your presence in our lives, and bring us at last to the full vision of your glory, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

2:1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men 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, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; 
for from you shall come a ruler 
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and 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, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, 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. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

St. Matthew 2:1-12, New Revised Standard Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: A Global Story

“We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!” As the new year begins, and as the season of Christmas gives way to this time of the year we mark with Sundays after the Epiphany, on behalf of all of us here at Saint Peter I’d like to send you our wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

This Sunday we turn our attention to the visit of the Wise Men, who travelled a great distance in search of a newborn king, whose birth was announced by a star. St. Matthew, the only Gospel writer who refers to them, calls them μάγοι — Magi — people who were believed to have an unusual capacity to understand world events with the help of signs in the heavens. We might call them astrologers. They came from the east, Matthew tells us, and evidently from a long ways east. Taking a dark turn a few verses after today’s text, Matthew reports: “When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.” (Mtt. 2:16) This verse has led some to conclude that the Magi set out on a two-year journey once they observed the star in the heavens. Tradition has numbered them as three and given them names (Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia, and Gaspar of India), but all of this is pure speculation. We only know that they traveled in a group, and presented the baby Jesus with three gifts: gold (a precious metal), frankincense (an anointing oil), and myrrh (an embalming oil).

The bottom line of this story is that the Magi risked much and traveled far to pay homage to the king born under a star in Bethlehem. They brought precious gifts, and “they were overwhelmed with joy” when they met him. It is an extraordinarily faithful response from these travelers from afar, while Herod — sometimes referred as “The King of the Jews” — is frightened at the prospect that God might be preparing to replace him, and infuriated that his attempt to eliminate this potential rival has failed.

My church will honor these three Magi by celebrating “Global Church Sunday” this weekend. We will welcome four young people who have recently served the ELCA as Young Adults in Global Mission: Sarah Adam, Hannah Harman, Lee Kirberg and Brynn Wiessner. Our church describes their experience as “a transformative, year-long journey where young adults are shaped by the witness of our global neighbors, as they walk alongside each other in a manner that practices mutuality, interdependence and solidarity.”

With these faithful Magi in mind, Sarah, Hannah, Lee and Brynn will share how their experiences of service in Madagascar opened their eyes to the global nature of our church and our faith. It is a story of building bridges, seeing Christ in the faces of unknown strangers, and discovering that God’s vision is often larger, bolder and more inclusive than ours. 

Join us, and join them, if you can. It will be a rich and inspirational morning.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why do outsiders like the Magi seem more aware of what God is doing than an insider like King Herod does?

  2. What is signifiant about the fact that Jesus is reported to have been born in Bethlehem?

  3. What impact does seeing the newborn Christ seem to have had on these travelers?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. Are there times when I, an “insider” in ways similar to King Herod, can find myself blind to what God is doing?

  2. What voices of “outsiders” have helped me to see what I could not see on my own?

  3. How might I commit myself to a life of mutuality, interdependence and solidarity with people unfamiliar to me?