Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord
Sunday, January 3rd, 2010
Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Thornhill, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Matthew 2:1-12
“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”
They were the original seekers. Whether they were kings, wise men, or astrologers; whether they numbered three, or ten, or twelve, it matters not. What matters most, is that they were seekers. They came from a distant land, a land outside the boundaries of the kingdom seeking to pay homage to a newborn king. They did not need to be conquered or persuaded. Rather they caught a glimpse of his light, in the form of a distant but bright star, and followed its course. Like many seekers, they were not exactly sure where to go or who to ask for directions, and like many seekers they got some bad advice and visited the wrong person. Yet, in spite of their unfortunate visit to Herod’s palace, God honoured the intentions of these faithful seekers and brought them to the child and his mother, and they paid him homage. Kneeling before the one whose star they had observed at its rising, they laid their gifts before him and where overwhelmed with great joy.
In our day, as the institutional church staggers along with its propensity toward inward-looking narcissism, with its fear of change, fear of the world beyond our walls, fear of the outsider, fear of those who are different , we would do well to consider that amongst the earliest seekers of our Lord are found visitors from a strange and distant land. On any given Sunday there will be seekers amongst us. This may not be immediately evident because we may have formed a preconceived notion of what a seeker looks like. However, there are many kinds of seekers. There are those that we may notice readily through different forms of dress and different customs; they may not immediately understand the customs and traditions within these walls, and may feel awkward and out of place. There are less obvious seekers, though. Indeed, I would suggest that there are many more seekers amongst us than we might immediately suppose. In fact, all of us are seekers in one way or another. Even those who were baptized as infants, have been life-long communicants, long-term members of an ACW group, advisory board, attended numerous parish social and educational events, and contributed to the stewardship of the parish through envelopes or pre-authorized giving, even amongst the most committed churchmen and churchwomen, we find seekers.
Wheter we come here today for the first time, or whether we have been coming here week after week for many years, we are all seeking something. For some it will be a solution to a problem that seems irresolvable. Others seek the kind of support and care that can be so difficult to find in the world. Some seek a deepening of their faith, having already known both the peace and the challenge of being a follower of the Christ. Mourners seek solace, the hungry seek food, the sick seek healing, the marginalized seek inclusion, the persecuted seek justice. Each of us come seeking – seeking the embrace of a loving Lord, a Lord who came for all people, not simply for an elect few.
While it is easy for us to imagine that there are many outside these walls who have never felt the embrace of that loving Lord, it is perhaps more difficult for us to understand that amongst us, there are many who come here week after week that still long and hope for that loving embrace, hoping and praying that today will be the day that they know God’s loving touch.
There are all sorts of seekers and they all come bearing gifts. Wise men came from the East bringing gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, grand gifts indeed, and perhaps a bit intimidating for those of us seekers who do not have such gifts to bring. They brought what they had, and gave from their abundance, but their material gifts are largely symbolic. What was important was that they gave the gift of themselves. They left their homelands, journeyed afar, and offered themselves to the newborn king. While it is true they did not stay, they returned home changed people. The light they followed became the light they carried home to their own country. And what is just as important, they left us a changed people, for those who were once excluded from God’s covenant were now included. Foreigners sought out the Lord and the Lord welcomes us all today, not as foreigners but as friends, not as outsiders but as family. The Kingdom would never look the same again.
Here is the frightening truth about seekers: in their seeking they change us. I speak not only of the seeker that has joined us today for the first time, but also of the seeking that continues amongst our oldest and most venerable pillars. Seekers challenge us. Seekers threaten us. We feel threatened because we are challenged to see the world in new and different ways. We feel threatened because we are challenged to catch a vision of God’s kingdom, not as we have shaped it but as God is shaping it. The seeker challenges us to embrace a transformed world, a transformed way of thinking, a transformed way of being. The seeker challenges us to believe in a broader, more expansive view of God.
The visit of strangers, of seekers from the East, frightened Herod, the King of the Judeans. Herod feigned openness and interest both in the seekers and the object of their seeking. But his feigned interest and disingenuous hospitality masked his own murderous intent and his all-too-human insecurity. Often we feign openness to the seeker but wish they would simply go away because we are not prepared for the transformation God will bring through their presence amongst us. Often, those who have journeyed amongst us for years, longing and seeking yet, are afraid to articulate their longing and seeking for fear of what it might do to the stability of our lovely community. We are afraid of the change that comes from seekers and their seeking. If we embraced the seeker, and we embraced the seeking, then we ourselves might be changed. We fear this more than anything.
But this is exactly what happened when foreign seekers sought the Christ under the light of a distant star. Their journey into the land of the Hebrew people, seeking a king, meant that this king would not simply be the King of the Judean people, but the Lord of all people. Their seeking forever changed the way that we Christians are to see our mission to the world. In their seeking we have learned that the will of God is the inclusion not of a few people into the Kingdom, but the inclusion of all God’s children. It is a mission that changes us as we embrace it.
Thus, whether you have joined us here today, seeking for the first or second time, or whether you have been amongst us for ninety years, seeking, searching for the Christ, welcome home. It is path well-trod from ancient times, by king and peasant alike, by wise and foolish, by rich and poor, by healthy and sick, by adult and by child. It is a journey that changes the seeker and faithful, alike. What excitement and what joy it shall be to learn who we shall become together, to learn how we will change each other, but more poignantly how God will change us and shape us together in the Kingdom of the Christ. Make the final step of the journey to his cradle, kneel and pay him homage, and offer what you alone can give him, the gift of yourself. And even as you find him, you will learn that it has not really been us that have been doing the seeking after all, rather, it is he who has sought us out, who has placed his star in the longing of our hearts, eternally offering himself to us.
“Where meek hearts will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.”
copyright 2010, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves