Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Moving Forward

January 6th:

January 6, 2013
Call:    Matthew 2: 1- 12
Text:    Isaiah 60: 1-6
Read: Psalm 72 (795)

            Moving Forward

There are two people from my past who would be stunned to discover
that I have continued to talk about them
   Decades after I last talked with them
Both were friends, but neither among my closest friends.

One of them was Fred Kubicek,
a law school classmate of mine at the University of Illinois.

Fred was person in my class who was never afraid to ask a question
He was willing to take the risk that the class or the professor would think a question was a dumb question.

Often, Fred asked a question that I had in my mind
   But was hesitant to ask for fear that it was a dumb question.
Thus, because of Fred's willingness to take a risk
I learned a great deal

And so, many times when I teach a new group,
   I ask them to use the "Fred Kubicek Rule"
      "No question is a dumb question, if you don't know the answer to it."
As a result people who never met Fred have learned more as well.

The other person is Jimmy Herrick
   An elementary and high school classmate

In the last 50 years I have seen Jimmy once - and that was 35 year ago.
But nearly every year on the first Sunday of January I think of him
       And mention him to the congregation or congregations that I serve.

That is because the first Sunday in January is Epiphany
   And my ability to understand what an epiphany is,
   Comes from a 1956 experience with Jimmy

And thus to my mind, an alternate name for this day is
   "Jimmy Herrick Day"

As I have shared with you before,
   I was absent from school when my fourth grade teacher began to teach long division.
   I returned a few days later and tried to catch up
      But something was missing and the whole concept was cloudy in my mind.

I was frustrated.
I had a good math mind
I was a good math student.
But I didn't understand long division.

Then  Jimmy took a few minutes with me before school started
   And however it was that he explained it,  it worked!
The clouds in my mind didn't just dissipate
   They rapidly separated
   And the illumination of the sun shone brightly through
For - at last and all of a sudden - I understood completely.

An epiphany is
   When the clouds disappear
   When the light bulb goes off over our heads
   When the floodgates open
   When what was once murky is suddenly crystal clear
   When what once seemed impossible to understand
      Suddenly becomes obvious

Or, as Isaiah might well have said,
   The moment when the light shines through the darkness
   And the darkness cannot overcome the light.

The prerequisite to an epiphany is a struggle to understand

I struggled with long division
   When I had my epiphany the struggle ended

That's what an epiphany is.

But why are we talking about it today?
What does it have to do with Jesus?
What does it have to do with the visiting magi?
How does it relate to our faith journey?

To answer those questions we need to set the stage for the story.
The Jews of Christ's day and their predecessors struggled
But not with something as simple as long division
They struggled with oppression and injustice
And they hoped for the coming of the savior and liberator that they had been promised.

The wise men or magi were from the east.
   They were not Jewish
   They didn't live in Jerusalem.
      They didn't even live in Samaria

These men may best be seen as astrologers.

They saw a star
They concluded that it was announcing the birth of the Jewish king
And they followed it.

In Jerusalem the capital
   They inquired,
"Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?"

The reigning king got word
And he was frightened for he liked his power and his position.

But after checking with his advisors
   He sent the eastern visitors to Bethlehem
      Hoping they would find the child
      and enable him to deal with this threat to his kingship.

They proceeded to that small village
Where they found Mary and the child
   Where they gave gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh
And, having been warned in a dream to not return to Herod
      They returned home without passing through Jerusalem.

We are well familiar with this story

In fact, we are so familiar with it that it no longer has an impact on us
   And thus we do not associate it with the feeling that we experience when we have an epiphany
   It doesn't seem like a Jimmy Herrick type experience.

To recreate it enough to let it have that impact on us.
We begin with the words of the text from Isaiah

[60: 1-3]
   The light bulb has come on over our heads
   The sun has broken through the darkness
   And we learn that nations shall come to the light.
They will come because our king shines brighter than others
They will come because our king is the glory of the Lord

Doesn't this make an impression?

The prophet goes on and tells us to    [from verses 4 and 5]
   "Lift up your eyes and look around ..."
   "Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice"

We should be thrilled and rejoicing because as a tribute to our king
   The abundance of the sea and the wealth of the nations shall be brought to us

And then, if we still don't get the connection
   The prophet tells us that a multitude of camels shall come
      From Midian, Ephah, and Sheba (all places east)
   And those camels will bring:  Gold and frankincense

What is happening is not only the fulfillment of one more prophecy
   But just as significantly
      The magi are the first representatives of the wider world
to recognize the manifestation of God
in the birth of the Christ child.

The world knows!
It is not just our secret     The world knows!

Jesus the Christ is not just the king of the Jews
   He is, as we noted on the last Sunday before Advent
"the king of the world."

WOW!  The floodgates of our minds have opened

We and others need to truly accept the child who was born in the stable
   As both God and king - like the magi did
We must see ourselves as his creation and his subjects
We must obey and follow
We must let our lives be gifts to him of both gold and frankincense.

If we do, we will be able to move forward for him and for his world.

Say what you may
   But with apologies to Jimmy Herrick,
   This is a lot more exciting than long division
      And a lot more important as well.