Reflection for Morning Worship 01-19-2020
Did you know Epiphany is the season when we celebrate the revealing of Jesus Christ to the world? In a New Testament reading we will hear in a few weeks we see Jesus revealed for the first time as the Christ during his Presentation at the Temple (Luke 1: 28-38). This happened when Simeon and Anna, two very old people, testify to all who would listen about the fulfillment of God’s promise to each of them they would see the Lord Christ before they died. Later, Luke tells the story of Jesus as a young adolescent who stayed behind in Jerusalem when He was supposed to be in the caravan returning to Nazareth. (This one passage got me in trouble when I was teaching a middle school Christian Education class. But that is a story for another time.) We hear Him respond to Mary’s upset and worried question about why He was not with them with “Did you not know I should be about My Father’s work?” and the people in the temple were amazed at His teachings (Luke 1: 41-50). Last week we would have heard about the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus and God stating “This is my Son, whom I love and in whom I am well pleased!” (Luke 1: 21-23). As the Epiphany Season unfolds, we will hear many more stories of how Jesus was revealed to the world.
Today’s readings invite us to explore how Jesus is introduced to the people of Israel by John and how Jesus was reintroduced to the Corinthians by Paul. John, who thought he knew his cousin, had an epiphany during the baptism of Jesus that Jesus’ true identity was God Made Man. Paul reintroduces Jesus because the Corinthians had forgotten His ways. In each reading, a person or persons, were chosen to give testimony to God’s goodness and saving power.
In a little bit we will sing the words God said to Isaiah, “I knew you before you were born!” John tells all within hearing that Jesus was before him and will be after him. Paul tells the Corinthians God has been with them and has given them gifts and graces to do His work. Each person was given gifts and were known to God before they were present on the earth.
The gifts given by God were LIGHT to Isaiah, SPEECH and KNOWLEDGE to the Corinthians, and TESTIMONY or WITNESS to Paul, John, and the disciples. Isaiah’s gift of LIGHT would unite Israel and extend God’s salvation throughout the world. The Corinthians’ gift of SPEECH allowed them to talk in many languages, a pretty good thing to have if you live at the crossroad of two seas and on a major trade route! They also received the gift of KNOWLEDGE which made them very prosperous. But these gifts were not used by the Corinthians to their fullest to enable them to grow and live Christ-like lives in service to others.
The gift of TESTIMONY or WITNESS given to John is very important because it was the first step in revealing Jesus as God on earth as He began His ministry. Remember, before he baptized Jesus and the Holy Spirit descended, it was John who said to the Pharisees, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:26-27). John also calls Jesus: The Lamb of God, the One on whom the Holy Spirit remained, and the Son of God. John’s disciples called Jesus Rabbi and Andrew called him the Messiah.
John’s gift of WITNESS does not stop with his telling his disciples about the experience of baptizing Jesus and God’s proclamation. It continues in his disciples who hear Jesus teach and, in turn, go to others and give TESTIMONY or WITNESS to what they saw and heard. Simon is brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew’s WITNESS. Jesus’ response is to tell Simon his future because He knew it before Simon Peter was formed in his mother’s womb!
John’s gift of WITNESS allowed him to speak to many people at a time. The gift given to his disciples helped them to witness to one or two people at a time initially. I have witnessed Jesus at work in the people I encounter in this congregation as they use the gifts they have been given. People who work to decrease the physically, emotionally, and spiritually hungry. People who work with our youngsters to grow in their knowledge of God. People who work to heal the others broken in spirit and body, and many more people whose gifts are not obvious to them. I have testified to many people over the past several years about these embodiments of Jesus I have witnessed. Some have been in multiple conversations with me. I don’t know what will become of these conversations, but over time, I hope they will hear my message about God’s love working through all of you!
As each of us encounters Jesus in our neighbors and calls attention to His presence, we show our gift of WITNESS. We also do it by telling our stories of His work in our lives. God gave Isaiah, the Corinthians, Paul, John, and the disciples many gifts, only a few of which we have begun to explore. Know each person is fortified to use their gifts by God’s steadfast and unconditional love.
The Living Local Guiding Team this past Lent asked you to reflect and discern what gifts you have been given by God. Consider this week how you are using the gifts you have been given. Do you have one you are not using to its fullest? Is WITNESS one of your hidden gifts? How can you use your gifts in today’s society?