That title phrase is a deft expression a seminary prof passed along. Who it originated with is lost in time. The object is God. We know precious little about God, but what little we know about God is precious. The only way we know anything about God is through revelation. If God did not desire to be known, He could completely hide himself. But He did desire to be known and revealed Himself first through signs and wonders and his prophets and then through Jesus – the incarnation of God.
One of the big differences between the “God” that we have a tendency to think about when we use that term and the revealed God is personhood. The two readings are both shocking in exactly personhood. The God revealed in them is not the impassible unmoved mover of philosophy, but a God who does interact with the world in ways we might rather not imagine – in ways a clean and philosophic “God” could not. In the Isaiah passage the messiah, the servant of the Lord, is stained red and says – ‘for the day of vengence was in my heart…my wrath upheld me.’ The red is from the blood from the winepress of His wrath. Revelation 14:17-20 picks up this image. In John, Jesus finds the man he has just healed, a man crippled for 38 years, and gives him a warning – ‘Sin no more so that nothing worse happens to you.’ That doesn’t sound like Jesus. You can hear the winepress guy saying something like that, but it strikes the ear as strange and disconcerting.
That strangeness is personhood. The God we worship – The God of Abrabham, Isaac and Jacob – The God crucified – is known personally. He is not something safely removed. He is not an ultimately inert watchmaker. When He is known personally, with a personality, strange and messy things happen. Like realizing there are things that make Him angry – sin. He interacts with us – sometimes in warning. How many times have you settled on something sinful to do and a feeling of foreboding comes over you? (Take a look at Gen 4:6-7). He also loves us enough to reveal himself on a cross. It would have been much cleaner for God to have stayed hidden. But that is not what the person of God desired. God desires to be known.
May you find yourself knowing and interacting with our personal God.
The text that came up for today is one that always tore my heart out. If you just read it flat, Jesus might even come off as hard hearted. After all, he responds to the father of a sick child – “unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe”. But that is not what rips at me.
John tells us this is an official. This is a man used to getting his way and unlikely to be a Jew. This man had heard of Jesus and his son was sick and he goes and begs this unknown wonder worker to heal his son. Jesus gives his response. And the man responds back, seemingly unable to process Jesus’ reply, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’ And Jesus meets him where he is at. Jesus says, ‘go, your son will live.’ The man is unable to hear the message of belief because something bigger is in the way. Jesus did not stay behind a curtain. He did not say your faith has to be perfect. He did not continue his observation about a faith based on seeing. Jesus met the man where he was – broken and begging for a life.
John goes on to record the reveal. The official was told when his son was healed – and then he and his household believed.
We meet people where they are at. We share the love and compassion of Christ first. When those felt needs are taken care of, then we can see the real need for a savior. For that is what Jesus has done for us. God was hidden. He would talk through prophets, but his people could not hear them. And Jesus would beg ‘Father, come down before our children die.’ And He did come down. And met our needs. Met us where we were at – in the body, under submission to Satan, dying. When we meet people where they are at, then we get the opportunity to be believed. Meeting people there is messy – we are called to get messy – lots of officials households depend upon it.
There is a new tab for a short time on the navigation bar. It contains the presentation given to the Elders last night. It will be given and discussed at the Council meeting on 1/21 @ 7:30. I would invite all members to follow the “Present” link and view the presentation slides. The Elders have been encouraged to discuss in the congregation at large, so this link gives the congregation the ability to see the same presentation.
Today on the Church Calendar is the Feast of Epiphany. It doesn’t happen on a Sunday – so it is forgotten. Depending upon the time of Easter, the church has at least 5 “Sundays after Epiphany” and it can have up to 9 “Sundays after Epiphany”. That is roughly equal to the Easter Season, yet we don’t really celebrate Epiphany. What are we missing?
Epiphany is usually associated with light. The word even made it into a commercial in the modern zeitgeist.
When we speak of Epiphany we speak of blinding insights that change the way we live and move and have our being – sudden knowledge that takes years to comprehend. The Bible is full of Epiphanies: Paul on the road to Damascus, Peter, James and John on the mount of Transfiguration, Mary with the Angel Gabriel, The Ethiopian Eunuch, The Phillipian Jailer. John’s summary of Epiphanies is slightly melancholy – The light was in the world…but the world did not recognize him (John 1:10). But that does not stop the testimony. John 1:14 – but we have seen his Glory…or today’s reading, the Pharisees don’t see it, but the crowds know an epiphany when they see it.
What epiphany is your guiding light? What star are you following? What blinding insight are you attempting to comprehend or incorporate into your life? There is only one Epiphany whose light does not fade. It may seem hidden at times, but Jesus is the Epiphany of the Father who shines for all ages.
I need to ask forgiveness from the Saturday service attendees. I had written the sermon and ran through it and thought good – or probably more closer – the in-laws are at home, there is a football game on, I’ve been thinking about these other presentations, and my head is in that game and those presentations and not this sermon right now. Only when really delivering did all the obvious problems creep out. It needed a couple of more dry runs.
I got it updated by Sunday morning. The sermon linked to in the Wordle is that Sunday morning sermon. But that does not help the Saturday group who got a much more muddled presentation.
Two key ideas: 1) Jesus’ life was one of growth through submission, the ultimate example of losing your life only to find it and 2) we just aren’t good at seeing those growth opportunities, but God loved us anyway. God loved us enough to submit to our cross. Jesus submitted where we could not, and so He is the the one directing growth from the right hand of the Father. Next time you feel growth stalled or advance stopped, take and second to look at Jesus and what does He want you to submit to in order to grow?