January 3, 2023 (The Ninth Day toward Epiphany)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Moved by the Holy Spirit, Simeon was led into the Temple courts to see what the Spirit had revealed to him. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do what the Law of God required, Simeon took him into his arms and praised God.” (Luke 2.27-28a)
Epiphany is about movement, as I have reflected on before. It is a movement toward something more than it is one that leads away from something. One of the greatest battles we face in life is not leaving something behind but making the decision to not carry our past with us into what is ahead. I am not talking about the good things in life such as our memories, the lessons learned which have made us stronger and wiser or the living things for which we have responsibility as “those things in our past.” I am talking about our “crutches in life” which we have grown attached to which and are believed to be necessary in order to live. If you have read previous reflections on this or another website, you will have heard me describe the “effect” of sin. SIN is when we put “I” in the center of all our decisions and propositions. The serving of self before serving others and especially before serving God is the best way of understanding and identifying what is sin. But, “I” does not stand alone. It has two helpmates “S” and “N.” Let’s call “S” something and “N,” you guessed it- NOTHING. When it comes to our spiritual lives we have to weigh our decisions between what is right and wrong by “what is right” and “what is wrong.” We are in that seemingly constant search for “something” which makes us a complete and whole person. What we discover is that “nothing” in this world will actually satisfy that hunger pang which groans deep inside of us. We will surround ourselves with something and cling to it ferociously even though it amounts to nothing. Some counselors will call all of that “excess baggage.” It is what we carry around with us that is unresolved and on our own is unresolvable. Oh sure, the world will want you to believe that “you can do it” on your own or at least with a cadre of seekers who are just like you. Those same counselors will fatefully admit that such a cadre is actually no more than a host of enablers and co-dependents. And while they will tell you that cadre is unhealthy and detrimental to the cause you seek, they will generally only put you into other circles which are no better just different. In fact, they may put you in their own circle of enablers and co-dependents. In their cause for your betterment, they will taut “independency” over and against “co-dependency.” I suppose one is better than the other. However, independency is good only so that you can decide who you will depend upon to help you through life to be all that you are meant to be. That is the journey of moving “toward” which overtakes and passes by “away from.”
Luke’s gospel captures the essence of the movement I am identifying today as “epiphany.” It is not a search for how to not be unrighteous. It is a search for true and authentic righteousness. It is a move toward believing Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus, the one who is born of spirit and truth [the Word] is that image and reality of righteousness. Jesus is the epitome of “not me but Him” in seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Jesus often will speak of “I AM” (the gospel of John is filled with I AMisms) but He is not speaking of Himself as the person but more of Himself as the embodiment of spirit and truth [which is the Word]. How Luke accomplishes this is moving our attention from the spirit of the flesh to the Spirit of God. The hope for every believer is to become the “incarnate Word of God;” the Word made flesh. Another way of seeing it, and of course saying it, is “to become the authentic person we were first created to be.” While we certainly live in a world of sin, we do not have to participate in it as if that is our only profitable identity. So, Luke’s desire is to “move” people toward Jesus as the “teacher of righteousness” who models righteousness by being a living example. The Spirit is at work in Him and thus through Him to all the people. It also means the Spirit is at work around us and prayerfully will be allowed to work in us being “born again.” That “born again” is actually an awakening of the Spirit which has been waiting for our permission to be free to do God’s will in us and through us to all nations and generations.
It is that movement which draws us nearer to God and the fulfillment of His promises. Before we realize it, we have left our past behind us. Authentic faith no longer defines us by what we are not but “soully” by what we are and what we are becoming. To borrow a bit from Mac Davis, now that ages me doesn’t it, “we don’t even look in the rearview mirror.” We don’t see Lubbock or sorrow or failure. We only look ahead to see the tomorrow that is promised for all who will “wait on the Lord to see what He has determined to show you.” So, Luke “moves” us. He has moved us into the temple to see the “coming of the prophet of a new beginning who signals the end of what no longer satisfies.” It is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth and the announcement of the birth of a son who will be named John. He moves us to Nazareth and into the life of one found worthy to bear the Son of God who is born of the Spirit in her. His name is to be called Jesus. And no sooner than such an announcement is made, she moves to visit her aunt Elizabeth for a confirmation she did not expect with a miraculous birth of her nephew John. Then we are moved to Bethlehem, the city of David, where Jesus is to be born to fulfill what the prophets had said. The fulfillment of these prophecies show the movement toward reconciliation far more than the forsaking of all unrighteousness. Then the shepherds are moved to the stable where Jesus is found lying in a manger. It wasn’t an ancient prophecy but a very real and very recent revelation. The past is collapsing quickly and the future is beginning to dawn. And then we have the movement of consecration when Mary and Joseph remain obedient to the Word of God and Simeon is moved by the Spirit to see his consolation as was promised. The Spirit has done its work seemingly in one very coordinated and determined movement toward the fulfillment of God’s promise to “save his people” from their sins.
We are in a season of movement as well when we celebrate the “days of Christmas” leading up to what is called the “Day of Epiphany.” On that day, we are moved to another story of affirmation with the coming of the Magi as is told in the gospel of Matthew. Luke does not include this story either because he is not aware of it through the oral tradition passed on to him or the confirmation in the temple is sufficient to move on to the rest of the story as our move toward the fullness of the Kingdom of God. We are moved and moving if we are faithful and faith full-filling. And we are moved to pay attention to the details on our itinerary of the spiritual journey we travel upon when we confess our sin, throw away the crutches and enablers, profess Jesus as the Christ and our Savior, and follow Him.
Father, continue to move us by Your Spirit as “deep calls into deep.” The well of life within us is not dry but overflowing with the living water of life. We do not seek an oasis of righteousness but to dwell in the Kingdom of righteousness. We pray it will dwell within us and be born in us today as it will be borne by us today into all the world. Your promise has been made sure in Jesus our Lord and we praise You for it in His name. AMEN.