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The Feast of the EPIPHANY

Created on 6th January, AD 2013

Written by Bp. John E. Upham

(TEXT: St. Matthew 2:1 – 12.)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.  

“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him . . .When they had heard the king, they departed; and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.”(St. Matthew 2:1-2, 9).

        Twelve days ago we commemorated and celebrated one of the most holy miracles of our Faith. For on that night God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, burst forth onto the stage of our human history. Emmanuel – God with us, in fulfillment of the ancient prophecies, became human and was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary; not as a great King in royal surroundings, but as a tiny, helpless, and defenseless baby; not born in a royal palace before waiting crowds of courtiers, but in what was probably a cave used as a stable; in what would be considered a very harsh and bleak environment; dark, still, dirty, and silent; and the great mystery of the Incarnation – God taking on our human flesh – and, ultimately, securing for all humanity our Salvation, unfolded before Mary, Joseph, the animals, and some shepherds. Today, at the beginning of a new season of the Church Year, and throughout Epiphany, we commemorate the manifestation of Jesus to the world. Not just to the Jews, but to the Gentiles as well – a “showing and a shining forth” of Jesus as the Light of the world and the Saviour and Redeemer of all people.

        This particular expression of revelation is found in the arrival of what the Western Church has called the three Magi or Wise Men from Eastern lands. Holy Tradition tells us that they were probably Zoroastrian priest/astronomers from Persia, whose study and observation of the celestial bodies revealed to them that a mighty ruler was being born in the West and they were compelled to follow the sign which held this portent. What is it that they saw in the heavens which would have caused them to make such a tremendous journey; far from comfort, family, and familiar surroundings? You all know the story. It was a star. But not just any star. This was a star which shone brighter and hotter than any that they had ever before observed. There was no ignoring its brightness in the night sky or even during the day, evidently. This was something never seen before or since in its intensity and brilliance. 

We know from extra-biblical sources that something like this occurred around the time of the birth of Jesus. Other astronomers of the period saw it too and we now know that the “Star” was probably the conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn, and although millions of light-years away from earth, it was the most brilliant feature in the night sky and these Wise Men or Magi “followed” it westward.

        After their encounter with Herod in Jerusalem and his disingenuous interest in the birth of the new-born King, which spawned his massacre of the innocent infants of Bethlehem two years old and younger, the Magi reached their journey’s destination. Hollywood and Hallmark would have us believe that they arrived the night of Jesus’ birth. But St. Matthew’s record just doesn’t bear that out. Chapter 2, verse 11 relates, “And when they were come into the house (the Holy Family had evidently been housed in human abode by now), they saw the young child (not infant), with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him . . .” So surely, it took some time for the Magi to come to Jesus. They overcame the barriers of distance, difficulty, and danger to come unto the Saviour; distance, for it is a tremendous journey to travel from what was then Babylonia or Persia, by camel, to Bethlehem; difficulty, for there were no Motel Six’s or McDonald’s along the way at which to stop and be refreshed – not even Interstate Rest Stops; and danger, in that they, as were all travelers, subject to attacks by robbers, outlaws, and/or wild animals. Even by all of that they never stopped or turned back from their journey, but continued, onward, until they reached the goal of worshipping the Christ Child. 

        St. Matthew goes on to tell us that, “ . . . and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” These were gifts fit for a king, not the baby of a poor family. Yet those gifts held within themselves the prophecy of who the Child really was and is; gold, to signify His royal personage; frankincense, to indicate His Divinity; and myrrh, to announce that He would give His life as a ransom for many; all three announcing and revealing to the world that this Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King. That’s the manifestation we celebrate and join with the Church in proclaiming today. And if that were all, it would be enough. But it isn’t all. Much of this event forms and informs our personal journey to God. 

        We need to keep three images in our minds and hearts. One, the Magi, themselves; two, the Star and the Christ Child; and three, the gifts. First, the Magi and the Star. On this Sunday of the Epiphany, the Wise Men signify for us the universality of the manifestation of Christ as Our Saviour. In his book The Infancy Narratives, Pope Benedict writes, “ . . . tradition has further developed this idea of universality by conceiving them as kings from all three known continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe.” This is why some Nativity scenes portray the kings as black, oriental, and Caucasian. For in Jesus there are no distinctions as to race or origin. He came to save all humanity and to reconcile everyone of us back unto the Father. The Star, that great light which led the Magi to Christ in the first place, is replaced by Jesus, Himself, the Light of the World, who leads us all to the Father and reveals Him to us. Jesus said this in His words recorded by St. Matthew, Chapter 11, verse 27, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” All that we know of the Father has been revealed to us by the Son, Jesus, the Word of God, as He lived, taught, and ministered among us. Finally there are the gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

As the Magi brought those gifts to the Christ Child, so should we. Our gifts must be like the gifts which the Magi brought. But, admittedly, those gifts are impractical to bring. So what do we do? Frankincense was the gift of Divinity. Our gift which we bring this day to the Christ Child and for the rest of our lives is our worship of God each and every day. Like the incense we use at Church, our worship of God ascends to heaven like our prayers, becoming a sweet smelling savor to the Father. Likewise, the myrrh which the Magi brought, which prophesied Jesus’ Sacrifice for the sins of the world, translates into our own sacrifice to God by putting Him first in our lives and mortifying our human wills to His most Holy Will. 

Finally, there is gold, the most precious and valuable commodity then known. Does that not represent the most precious and valuable gift that we can offer God? What is that? It’s our soul, isn’t it? Our soul, which God created in the first place, is the greatest gift we can give back to God, thereby committing ourselves to a relationship with God for all eternity. It’s following the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, through all barriers of distance, difficulty, and danger. It’s about following the Light all the way to our journey’s final destination – the Presence of God Almighty and dwelling with Him for all eternity. 

Next week we will hear and remember Jesus’ Baptism and His further manifestation to the world at the beginning of His public ministry. But today, our journey begins as the Wise Men’s ended and we join the never-ending procession throughout history that leads us, for all eternity, to God. As the Collect of the Day implies, the Wise Men were led by sight. We are led on our journey to God by faith in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Let us pray.

ALMIGHTY God, Who to wise men who sought Him didst manifest the Incarnation of Thy Son by the bright shining of a star: grant that, as they presented unto Him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, so we also out of our treasures may offer to Him ourselves, a living sacrifice acceptable in Thy sight; through Him Who for our sakes was born on earth a little child, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And now, unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power, and dominion as is most justly due this day both now and forever; world without end. Amen.           



Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King

30 October, AD 2011
By Fr. John E. Upham, Jr.

(TEXT:  Colossians 1:12-20 and St. John 18:33-37.)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

“Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’  Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king.  For this purpose was I born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.’”  (St. John 18:37).

        It is on this day that the Church boldly proclaims the Sovereignty and Lordship of Jesus Christ as King of the Universe and Sovereign of our Soul!  As a celebration and Feast Day, it is one of the most recent of the Church, but its message is timeless and eternal.  This Feast was first proclaimed by Pope Pius XI in December of 1925 to counter the effects of growing secular humanism and the devastating results of World War I, along with the rise in popularity of dictators like Mussolini who promised to make everything right, like a saviour to the Italian people.  It was a time when people of Faith were being taken-in and deceived by earthly philosophies and false promises which made the “Self” the highestauthority.  So the Church had to remind the faithful and proclaim to the world at large that the present state of things was a charade or a lie and that Jesus Christ was the true King of all Creation, no matter what the world’s “authorities, principalities, and rulers” proclaimed and taught.

          It is evident from that time in history back to when Jesus and Pontius Pilate had their encounter in the Praetorium that not much had changed.  The truth of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, both of Creation and of the Soul, was the Truth that Pilate could not bear to hear as he strode arrogantly out of the room after having asked Jesus the famous question, “What is Truth?”  If he had only stayed and given Jesus a chance to answer that question, things might have been different.  But as it is, Pilate doesn’t understand the kind of Kingdom Jesus is telling him about.  Pilate is interpreting the whole discussion with Jesus from a physical, earthly perspective, as we would probably do ourselves.  Most of us, so enculturated by the claims of authority and sovereignty attributed to the culture of that time would probably have turned a blind eye to Jesus and His claim on our life as Lord and Saviour, also.  He looked and acted like an insurrectionist; a common criminal, certainly not like the King of the Universe!  So Pilate continues to question Jesus in earthly terms and Jesus keeps answering Pilate in spiritual terms.  “So you are a king?”, Pilate asks.  To which Jesus responds, “You say that I am a king.  For this was I born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears myvoice.”  Now for some reason, the climax of this exchange between Jesus and Pilate is left out of our lectionary reading, when Pilate asks his famous question, “What is truth?”  On Pilate’s part and from his perspective his question to Jesus is rhetorical.  Posed to us, however, that question is the difference between Everlasting Life and oblivion!  

          For if the situation hadn’t changed from earthly perspectives of authority and sovereignty from the time of Jesus’ and Pilate’s encounter as seen in the Gospel for this morning until 1925, it has only gotten worse to this point in time.  Government, Wall Street, Madison Avenue, terrorists, and even our own deluded Pride are clamouring louder each day as regards their supposed claim and lordship over our lives.  Yet, by the Grace of God, we hear the words of the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and find that the Truth is not a what, but a Who!  For it is today that this reality, from all other Sunday worship services, coalesces into the central consciousness of the Church and we hear, proclaim, and celebrate this central mystery of our Faith!  As St. Paul described Him to the Colossians, we know who has made us meet to be the inheritors of the saints in light.  We know who has delivered us from darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His Beloved Son.  We know that we have redemption through the forgiveness of our sins.  We know who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all Creation, who is the Head of His Mystical Body, the Church.  We know who has made peace through the blood of His Cross.  We know who has reconciled us back to God the Father through the remission of our sins.  And He is Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who, by being both King of the Universe and King of each individual Soul, has accomplished, by the offering of Himself, once, for all, as a full, perfect, and sufficient Sacrifice, the reconciliation of fallen Creation back unto God our Father and Creator.  We remember and give thanks for this undeniable Truth each and every time we gather to share in the Eucharist of our Lord’s Body and Blood, but no more so than we do this day.  For it is His Kingdom that is never-ending; not an earthly government’s.  It is His Kingdom that holds real value; not Wall Street.  And it is the Kingdom of Our God and of His Christ that turns our deluded and deceptive pride into true humility so that we might live into and share the Truth of God’s Love and the reality of His Kingdom with the world.  The Proper Preface holds the key to understanding all that the Kingdom of God is and what Jesus has accomplished in this earth.  For in it we read that God has anointed Jesus Christ with the oil of gladness to be a Priest forever and King of all; so that by offering Himself upon the Altar of the Cross, as a pure and atoning Victim, He might accomplish the mystery of mankind’s redemption; and, subduing unto Christ’s rule the whole Creation, might render unto the Father’s eternal Majesty, a kingdom endless and universal; a kingdom of truth and life; a kingdom of grace and holiness; a kingdom  of Peace, of Love, and of Righteousness.  These are not fallacies or lies like the world gives.  Jesus’ Kingdom is a Kingdom of Truth.  Jesus, Himself, told us, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one cometh unto the Father but by me.  This is what the Sovereignty of Christ the King has to offer His People.  This is the Kingdom of which we have been made a part through our Baptism. This is what leads us week after week, month after month, year after year to the Truth that only Jesus Christ can give; not through oppression or fear, but out of Love and Abundant Life!  Those are the realities of existence where Jesus Christ is the True King!  Those are the realities of which Pontius Pilate could have been made aware.  Those are the realities of the Life in which we participate as we look back to Jesus’ Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension and as we look forward to His Second Coming in Glory from the vantage point of this great day in the Church’s life.  

          The great message and joy that this day proclaims is for us to rededicate ourselves, Body and Soul, to Christ our True King and enthrone Him in our heart and life and acknowledge Him as Head of our existence, both physical and spiritual, and not let the clamouring of the world teach us to believe otherwise.  For as we have arrived at that point of the Christian Year upon which our faith turns and we anticipate the season of Advent and the birth of the True King, so also we profess our faith that Jesus will come again at the end of all time and bring us into the fulness of His Kingdom!  So let us join our selves, Body, Soul, and voices with those who proclaim Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords throughout eternity as we pray.

O GOD, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from Who every family in heaven and earth is named:  grant, we beseech Thee, that the earth may be filled with the knowledge of Thy Son, and that we may behold Him coming into His Kingdom.  Grant that Thy Church may carry His Light to those who wait in the darkness for its shining, and that with one heart and one mind we may labour to build up the fellowship of all people in the family of Christ through the one Spirit; so that Thou, O Father, mayest gather together into one all things in Christ the True King; to Whom with Thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, dominion, and power; world without end.  Amen. 

And now, unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power, and dominion as is most justly due both now and forever; world without end.  Amen.

                                                          SOLI DEO GLORIA – JEU


Third Sunday after EASTER

Read on April 26, 2015

At St. Alban’s Anglican Church

Created on 29 April, AD 2012

By author Bp. John E. Upham


TEXT: I St. Peter 2:11 – 17.

In the Name of the

 Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (I St. Peter 2:11-12).

         The First Epistle General of St. Peter was written around AD 64 to a People experiencing serious persecution. The Emperor, Nero, had proscribed the practice of Christianity and had begun a campaign of “search and destroy” wherever Christians might be found throughout his Empire, in order to eradicate the dangerous and disruptive threat from followers of “The Way.” St. Peter wrote to all Jewish Christians who had been driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Asia Minor; any Christian who was experiencing persecution for their faith. He writes to comfort them with the assurance of everlasting life and to challenge them to continue living holy lives. He connects their suffering with Christ’s ultimate suffering and, in this section of the Epistle particularly, reminds them that God, who created all things, by the example of their lives through the power of the Holy Ghost, can convert those who speak ill of them, that is, the Gentiles, by the way in which the Gentiles observe the Christians’ manner of living. St. Peter reminds them that, as followers of the Risen Christ and by His holy example, Christians still must live in the world, yet not of it. How we are to live as pilgrims and sojourners in this world and how we combine our heavenly and earthly lives is the special subject of the Epistle, today.

        First of all, St. Peter reminds us that Christians must look upon the world as our temporary home; as sojourners and pilgrims in it. Our position here is temporary, seeing, as Hebrews reminds us, “We have no continuing city, but seek one that is to come.”Hebrews 11:13-16. Likewise, St. Paul, echoing the words of St. Peter, reminds the Philippians in chapter 3, verse 20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” St. Peter stresses that, through the use of our Christian conscience and consciousness, we must cultivate a life of detachment from the things of this world that are contrary to the Christian life, for they “war against the soul.” It is a very difficult and thin line to tread; for while being detached from the world, we are still in it, and as such, we have a duty and responsibility not to be hidden or withdrawn, but to live our Christian lives in the open and be “examples” for the rest of the world who will see how we live our lives and come to glorify God in the Day of His Visitation. Therefore, we are not to establish our separation from the world through personal pride or contempt of it, but to remember our duties to the world of example, submission, and service in order to hold up our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the ultimate example to the world of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. So we turn, first, to the Christian’s duty of example.

        As Christians as we are to show the world a better way – not through condemnation or abuse of it, but to show its error by living a Christians lifestyle and doing what is right. Christianity works not through insurrection or revolution but by revelation; to live that the world will come to know, through our example, that the Christian life is honest, true, and redemptive as well as being a comfort and hope in times of sorrow and anxiety; that there is a reality of “being” at the end when the earth will vanish away and God’s Kingdom will be fully established.

        Secondly, St. Peter exhorts us to submit ourselves, for the Lord’s sake, to every secular authority instituted among men; not in the sense of giving in, giving up, or capitulation, but voluntarily cooperating with them out of love and respect for God first, and then, secondly, out of respect for them as God’s instruments – not to the point that we ever compromise our Christian conscience or relationship with God, but by being obedient to the Holy Spirit in service to God. In other words we are to be obedient to the government – not as a creation of man, but through the authority of government which is ultimately from God; to be obedient “for the Lord’s sake” in the fact that the laws, so far as they are wise, express the wisdom of God; and the concept of human justice, in so far as it is just; all established and based on the justice and righteousness of God. Obedience “for the Lord’s sake” lies at the foundation of our society, for laws, as ordinances from God, are the only security for good order, true liberty, confidence, and prosperity in a relationship with each other and with God. For God’s principles and values are eternal and immutable. Therefore as we live in the world and by the laws which govern our society, we are obedient to God as the Creator of all things and find ourselves in a climate in which we can live peaceably as we endeavour to show this world the better Way, even Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; so that by our doing good through obedience to God and His Word, we, as St. Peter says, will put to silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

            Thirdly, is our duty of service. Through the power of our Christian liberty by the Resurrected Christ we say to the world, “You are not my Master, neither is society or the Self.” For those who serve those entities are really seeking their own ease or advancement in the world and use their freedom as a cover-up or cloak for their ulterior motives instead of living as the servants of God. Historically, it is like those barons who desired the Pope to absolve them from their allegiance to the king that they might serve neither God nor the State, but only themselves. Instead, we use our Christian liberty in this world as a sign of ultimate allegiance to God and His Sovereignty in the manner in which our Lord taught us in the Beatitudes, St. Matthew, chapter five, who said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” In these three ways, through our duties of example, submission, and service, we bring the Kingdom and Justice of God a little closer to being a reality to and for this world.

        Finally, St. Peter’s words were not just for the persecuted Jewish Christians living in dispersion during the first century AD. They are timeless. Even today, there are Christians, near and far, who are experiencing all kinds of persecution. Even in this State, there are those who wish to redefine and circumscribe God’s immutable Law with regard to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, which He established for the good Order of our society at the foundation of the world, for the advancement of their own political power and peculiar agenda. Through tactics of fear-mongering and outright lies, these people are seeking to serve their own interests and are proposing as a matter of personal rights behaviours that are contrary to what Holy Scripture informs us is the Will of God and His created Order. It is more important than ever that we, as Christians standing firmly as pilgrims and sojourners in this world, acknowledge the all-encompassing Lordship of Jesus Christ and reflect His Will, Sovereignty, and Love to this world by the way in which we live; that through the power of the Holy Ghost within us, He would bring those who would prefer to ignore Him into the Way of His Life and Love for them.

Let us pray.

Guide us, O Christ, in all the perplexities of our social life; uproot our enmities, and lead us in the way of Thy righteousness and Truth; that as Thou hast bidden us to let our light so shine before men, in Thy good Spirit shining through us, Thou wouldest bring all to Thy Holy Will and to the maintenance of Thy Justice among all men and nations. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And now, unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power, and dominion as is most justly due this day both now and forever; world without end. Amen.

                                                            SOLI DEO GLORIA – JEU+

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