Epiphany Sunday, Year A
Epiphany Sunday, Year A
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany of our Lord. Epiphany is a Greek word, which means, “to make manifest, to reveal, to show.” The word, as we use it in the church year calendar refers, of course, to the making manifest, the revealing of, the showing of Christ to the nations. One of the major themes of the Epiphany is that now, in the fullness of time, God has chosen to reveal Christ to the Gentiles—that is, all of the non-Jewish nations of the earth. Maybe you noticed that this Epiphany theme is present in all of our scripture readings for today. For example, in Isaiah we learn that: “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. … the wealth of nations shall come to you. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.” (Isa. 60:3, 5, 6) And in our second lesson, Paul emphasises that he is an apostle called by God to preach the Good News to the Gentiles. Today’s gospel from Matthew continues this theme by fulfilling both the first lesson and Psalm 72, when the magi from the East—all Gentiles themselves, come to visit baby Jesus, and pay him homage by offering him their gifts, fit for a king, of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
It is this theme of Jesus as the Messiah-King that I invite you to explore with me today, as we find it in today’s psalm. Those of us who have followed the world events of 2001, via the mass media, have certainly observed the failures of our world leaders and governments. Last year was a rather turbulent and disturbing one—everything from reports of ever-growing gaps between rich and poor nations, corrupt political leaders being ousted, the terrorist attacks in the United States and its aftermath of grief and suffering, to the war against terrorism in Afghanistan and the suffering of thousands of innocent civilians there. Then, there are those harsh, cold, tragic statistics, which just will not seem to go away, and sometimes even cause us, among other things, much anger and depression. Statistics like the following, which hopefully also cause us to pray more fervently the words of our liturgy—“Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.”
Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger. 75% are children. Almost two acres of tropical rainforest disappear every second. 1,800 children worldwide are infected with HIV each day. 1,270 children die each hour from preventable diseases such as measles and malaria. 43,300 mothers, sisters and friends will die from breast cancer this year. 1
We all can draw our conclusions about how such events and statistics impact our lives. However, what seems more clear all the time is that the kings and queens, the prime ministers and presidents, the leaders of world governments have all failed—in some cases quite miserably—to usher in what our psalmist describes today. In our psalm, we learn that the Messiah-King—of course, we Christians interpret this as referring to Jesus—will rule with justice, righteousness and peace. Furthermore, this rule of the Messiah-King will involve some radical changes from the way the world exists right now. Foremost on the Messiah-King’s agenda will be love, care, mercy and justice for society’s poorest and weakest citizens. The psalmist looks forward to that day when, the poorest of the poor will experience some wonderful reversals in their lives. The Messiah-King will come to be their Deliverer, their Saviour, their Redeemer. In the ancient world, these roles and functions of the Messiah-King were very meaningful. For the ancient Israelites, God had already been their Deliverer, as they tasted a new-born freedom from their Egyptian bondage. God had also been their Saviour, providing Israel with food and drink, saving their lives as they wandered for years on end in the desert. God had also been their Redeemer, giving them another chance to return safely back to the Promised Land from a life of exile in places like Babylonia and Assyria.
In this New Year, it is most instructive for us to turn to Jesus as our Messiah-King. In a world of many competing gods, only Jesus can be our true Deliverer, Saviour and Redeemer. Only Jesus can deliver us from our present-day Egypts. Only Jesus can save us from the powers of sin, death and evil. Only Jesus can redeem us from whatever makes us slaves. He has paid the price of our redemption by dying on the cross for us all. We are no longer slaves, but set free to love, serve and worship him.
One day, I went into a paint store to get some keys cut for the church. While I was there, I struck up a conversation with the storekeeper, and he told me the following story.
A woman came into the store and asked the storekeeper to cut her a key. After she paid for the new key, the woman went home to try it out. She came back to the store four times without successfully getting a new key to open her door. The fourth time, the storekeeper told her that he was stumped—there was nothing else he could do to make a key fit her door. The woman replied, “Oh well, the original master key doesn’t open the door either!”
Life is like that too! is it not? If we become disciples of false teachers, false masters, false messiahs, we shall end up getting lost and travelling down dangerous, destructive, evil roads. However, if we become disciples of Jesus, our true Messiah-King, our true Master, he shall lead us out of our lostness and down paths of righteousness, justice, mercy and love. As we begin this New Year, is it not a good time for us to make sure that we are following our true Messiah-King, our Original Key, who opens the door of 2002 for us.
If Jesus really is our true Messiah-King, our Original Key, who opens up the door to our future—then will we not have the deepest desire to spread this Good News everywhere around the world, including our own community? If so, then will we not want to do as the kings from Spain, Arabia and Ethiopia did in our psalm—namely, fall before our Messiah-King, offer him our best and most generous gifts, and worship and adore him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Today we take time to pause and give our deepest thanks that this Messiah-King has come and made his home among us Gentiles. It is fitting that he comes to claim our whole lives, here-and-now when, together, we worship him and acknowledge his supreme Kingship and Lordship over us as we sing “Jesus Shall Reign Wher’er the Sun (LBW #530); composed by the father of England’s hymnody, Isaac Watts (1674-1748); who based this hymn on Psalm 72. During 2002, may Christ’s Kingship and Lordship ever increase, as we share his love and mercy, his justice and peace with everyone.