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


Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

January 4:

Call:       Isaiah 60: 1-6
Reading:    W&S #10
Text:       Matthew 2: 1-12
Closing:    Ephesians 3: 5-6, 11-12


There are three basic Epiphany sermons.

In one the pastor talks about the gifts that the wise men brought.

In that sermon - and I have preached it -
    The gold is a sign that the child is a king;
    The frankincense is a sign that the child is a god;
    The myrrh is a sign that the child will die an early and sacrificial death.

This is a good sermon
    But John H. Hopkins, Jr. the Episcopal clergyman who delivered the eulogy at President Grant's funeral, wrote that sermon some 158 years ago and put it to music
        In teaching us, he did, however,
confuse us forever by using the term "kings"
            Instead of Magi        or wise men  or astrologers.

We sang his sermon this morning after presenting our own gifts.

This sermon teaches us about Christ
    And is well worthwhile.

The second Epiphany sermon
    Is also worthwhile.
It is where the preacher explains what an "epiphany" is.

I love to preach this sermon and have done so several times.

When I preach it,
    I explain that an epiphany is   that moment
when all things fall into place    and at last make sense.
    It is the moment that the light bulb comes on over our heads.

I often explain what it means by making reference to the moment in fourth grade when Jimmy Herrick took time to explain long division to me
    And all my confusion was replaced by total comprehension.

That was 60 years ago
    And I still remember the moment
    Although I would wager that Jimmy Herrick
        Has no memory at all of the occasion
        And would be stunned to learn that his name has appeared in epiphany sermons in each church I have served.

One of the reasons that I like this approach is that I get to snap my fingers in church when I demonstrate the idea, by saying
    "By Jove, I think I've got it!  [snap]
or to avoid mythological gods, I change it to
    "By George, I think I've got it."   [snap]

still hoping that this approach calls up the image of
    Henry Higgins, Eliza Doolittle, and the Colonel
    in "My Fair Lady"

Of course,  part of what we get     on Epiphany
    and what Mary - who had initially been perplexed - got
is that the Christ child was exactly what the gifts represented in the other sermon:    king, god, and sacrifice.
But the third Epiphany sermon may well be the most important
    And that is what we are going to look at today

The lesson in "Epiphany Sermon Three"   is  that
    Jesus was not just king of the Jewish people
    Jesus was not just God of Israel
    Jesus' sacrifice was for everyone
        Not just the people who lived in Jerusalem.

We begin by recalling what Isaiah shared with us
    In the passage that called us to worship this morning

Isaiah began the passage by imploring us
    To arise and shine
        For our light has come.

That light, as we noted on Christmas Eve,
    Is the light of Jesus Christ
You and I are to allow His light
To shine in, on, and through us.
That is what we prepared for on Christmas Eve
    When we took the light of the Christ candle
    And lit up this sanctuary by sharing it with each other.

And here let me note
    We did not light our Christmas Eve candles
Just because they look pretty
    We did not light our Christmas Eve candles
        Just because they are traditional
    We did not light our Christmas Eve candles
        Just because they are fun and we enjoy it.

NO!     NO! NO!

We lit those candles as a nonverbal demonstration
A demonstration to make the point
    In a manner that the young and the old
The educated and the uneducated can understand
    That we can,    that we should,     and that we must
Take his light out into the world.
His light
and therefore, his story and his word

Isaiah,     about 500 - 600 years before Christ's birth, wrote:

    "Nations shall come to your light
        And kings to the brightness of your dawn"

    "Lift up your eyes and look around
        They all gather together and come to you"

    "Then you shall see and be radiant
        Your heart shall thrill and rejoice."

Do you see how everything about this season comes together
    In Epiphany

On the first Sunday of Advent we began our prayers
    By praying that God come down to straighten up the mess we have made of God's world.

On Christmas Eve, after focusing on our preparation to receive him
    He came
as symbolized in our worship by the Christ candle -
which in turn lit the candles each of us held
        helping all of us to see better
        enabling us to take his light out into the world so that others may see

Doing so, Isaiah said
will result in all of God's children being gathered in
    For they will come to the light

And you and I, as we observed last week,    should and shall
    Be radiant,     be thrilled         and be rejoicing.

Do you remember how,
    Mary was "perplexed" when Gabriel came to her
        To announce that she had been chosen

She understood somewhat better
    When the child Elizabeth was carrying leaped at Mary's presence.

Too, she became less perplexed on Christmas Eve when,
    After all her sacrifices and trials,
    She gave birth
    Particularly when the shepherds told her
The marvelous things that the angels had proclaimed to them,
        Messages confirmed by Simeon and Anna
some days later at his circumcision .

And on Epiphany,
the depth, breadth, and width of his authority became clear
        To Mary     And to us
By the visit of some wise men from the East.

Their story is familiar and oft told
But     the story is never "old hat" or boring.
    [Matthew 2: 1-12]

These wise men came
    Not from Jerusalem or Judea - not even Samaria
    But from a distance and a non-Jewish country.
As the story goes
    They found him because of the light of a star
    They came to pay homage.

And this fulfills what Isaiah said would happen
    Nations would come to the light
    All would gather together around the light
    And that we should be thrilled and rejoice

What we need to understand is
That        Christ is the king of all of us
That        Christ's church is open to & inclusive of everyone
And that    whatever our ethnic group or language
        Whatever our color or birthplace
        Whatever our occupation or interests
        No matter what mistakes we have made
God expects us to be brothers and sisters   Of each other
    And brothers, sisters, and subjects of Jesus Christ

Do we get it?
Or will God have to keep singing,
"When will they Ever Learn?"

Today is Epiphany
    I hope and I pray that you and I can snap our fingers and exclaim,
    "By George, I think I've got it!"

I hope and I pray that
at last what we have to do  makes sense to us
    And that we are determined to do it!!