Too Good To Be True (But it is!)

Third Sunday after Epiphany

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

I Corinthians 12:12-31a

Luke 4:14-21

Jubilee

Jesus’ simple sermon. No frills, no fat. Just straightforward truth-telling in less than a dozen words. Jesus goes to worship in the synagogue just like he has been in the habit of doing. He gets to be the lector that day, so he chooses a reading from Isaiah and reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the visonless, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus puts back the scroll and sits down to begin his teaching/preaching. In this sermon there are no poems; there are no three-point lectures; there are no fun alliterative teaching tools; there is no in-depth historical exposition; there are no illustrative stories. Jesus simply says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Just hear the words of promise. All that is left for Jesus to say after reading this grand vision from Isaiah is to declare that it is real and it is happening now. Jesus simply calls and encourages us to believe that these words are true. Continue reading

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They Don’t Belong… and That’s The Point

Epiphany of Our Lord

Isaiah 60:1-6

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

love actually natviity

Who are these so-called Wise Men? Where did they come from and how did they end up at side of the Christ Child? They are weird and frankly, out of place. They do not belong at the Nativity scene. It doesn’t make sense for them to be there. They are from far away and only described as coming from the “east,” (wherever that is). They are technically not even “Wise Men” but Magi. Our translation of the Bible that we are using calls them Wise Men, but this is an interpretative move meant to make sense of the Greek word, “Magoi” for which there is no sensible translation. Literally, they are magicians, but our understanding of magicians seems so out of place with the birth of Christ, that translators used a more neutral, palatable title of “Wise Men.” It almost feels like they were ashamed or overwhelmed at the implication that magicians were called to pay homage to the Messiah.

The text never says they are kings either. They became known as kings because some early Christians drew a line from our reading from Isaiah that says, “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:3). Again, we may be more comfortable with the idea that kings from other nations rather than magicians traveled to pay homage to Jesus.

They may or may not have been wise or royalty, but all we know for certain is that they are called “magi.” Magicians of this sort would likely have been people who practice divination or use the elements to manipulate or discern supernatural influences on our world. These particular magi are practitioners of astrology as they look to planetary and celestial movements to predict negative and positive important events. Throughout Scripture, such divination practices are unequivocally condemned. Deuteronomy 18 quotes God, “No one shall be found among you who makes a son or daughter pass over fire, or who practices divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or one who casts spells… (Deuteronomy 18:10-11b). The Law of Moses seems to clearly put the Magi and other occultists outside of acceptability in the presence of God. On top of all this, the Magi seem to have little knowledge of Scripture as they appear to be ignorant about where the King of the Jews is to be born. They have to consult Herod and the religious leadership of Jerusalem before they are ultimately directed to Bethlehem. Continue reading