Epiphany (January 6, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 60:1-6; Ps. 72:1-14; Eph. 3:1-12; Matt. 2:1-12
We are back in Amman after a 72-hour trip from Denver, Colorado, where we visited our daughter Jessica. We took a Greyhound bus from Denver to Washington, D.C., traveling through snow and rain for much of the journey.
We were impressed with the excellent drivers and quality of service. A lot has changed since our last Greyhound trip – women drivers, Internet access and electrical outlets on board, fewer stops and (mostly) clean terminals.
From D.C. we flew through London, arriving in Amman at 3 a.m. on Thursday. We are grateful to be home and look forward to catching up with staff and partners here.
In the region this week:
- At least 20 Shia Muslims were killed by a car bomb while returning from the holy city of Karbala. Meanwhile, Sunni Muslims demonstrated against the Shia-dominated Iraqi government, alleging that Sunnis are treated as second-class citizens.
- The United Nations has released a report, sharply raising to 60,000 the number of Syrians killed since March 2011 in the country’s internal violence. Syrian doctors are providing free medical care for the refugees at the Akilah Hospital in Amman.
- Iran announced that it will hold nuclear talks with six nations — including the United States — at a yet-to-be determined date in January.
The Common Lectionary reading for this Epiphany Sunday focus on being drawn to God’s light.
In the Gospel reading, the Magi from the East are guided by a star to Bethlehem where they kneel down and pay homage to the Christ child, offering him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:1-12).
Similarly, in the Old Testament reading, God’s servant has drawing power. “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn,” writes Isaiah (Is. 60:3). As gifts the travelers bring the abundance of the seas, the wealth of the nations, camels, gold and frankincense (vv. 5-6).
Psalm 72 is the prayer of Solomon, who describes kings and nations who are drawn to the light of God’s servant. They bring tribute, worshiping and serving the one who is concerned for the oppressed, defends the cause of the poor, delivers the needy, crushes the oppressor, and shows pity on the weak and needy (Ps. 72:1-14).
In the Epistle reading, Paul writes that the church is to make God’s great mystery known to the rulers and authorities. What is this mystery? Simply that “The Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Eph. 3:6)
Epiphany recognizes the inclusiveness of God’s kingdom. Magi from the East, people from all nations, Gentiles and Jews — all can find welcome. These “outsiders” are not attracted by glitz and power and shows of force.
Indeed quite the opposite. Magi are drawn to a baby in a manger. The nations, including kings, are drawn to a servant leader who shows concern for the oppressed, defends the cause of the poor and delivers the needy. The rulers and authorities are attracted to a community that joins together those who once were enemies.
May our faith communities reflect such light in the coming year.