[Epiphany: in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles (Western Church); in commemoration of the Baptism of Christ (Eastern Church); an usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an intuitive grasp of a reality through something usually simple and striking. (Merriam-Webster)]

Ephesians 3: 1--12

Thus you are no longer aliens in a foreign land, but fellow-citizens with God's people, members of God's household. (2: 19) [N]ow by inspiration [the secret] has been revealed..., that through the gospel the Gentiles are joint heirs with the Jews, part of the same body, sharers together in the promise made in Christ Jesus. (5..6)

Paul writes of his revelation (3), his "epiphany", not as a wonderful, exciting, Spirit-filled, mountain-top experience; rather, his concern lies solely with the secret's purpose (3, 4) and meaning. The Church needs to listen carefully to this text, for it explains that we Christians are not "ahead of" or "better than" the Jews-- of his day or ours. In God's eyes, we are equal(1); they first(2) because of the covenant; we "grafted in"(3) because of Christ and the cross. If we would accept God's Word as presented to us, then Jewish-Christian relations would be transformed. According to the Apostle, they stand before us in line. YHWH will not forget or dishonor the covenants made with them.

The second point, vital to our understanding of the Prophet and Psalm to follow, is our having been brought into the status of fellow-citizens with God's people, members of God's household and joint heirs with the Jews. It is therefore no longer a secret, Paul declares, that the Hebrew Scriptures are God's Word to the Church: to you and to me.

Matthew 2: 1--12

After [Jesus'] birth astrologers from the east arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the new-born king of the Jews? We observed the rising of his star, and we have come to pay him homage.' (1--2) The Magi were the first Gentiles to be drawn to Jesus, to come to pay him homage. How did they find out? What was it that not only attracted their attention, but instilled within them the irresistible compulsion to leave home, family and business and endure the hardships of travel through the desert-- their own exodus-- in order to bring their gifts and themselves, their homage, to the new-born king of the Jews? Their testimony: 'We observed the rising of his star'.

Question: does that star still shine? If so, where? How?

Isaiah 60: 1--6

[A reader of this text could easily think it pertains to Christ. The context (ch.59--61), however, suggests that "you" and "your" are plural, which places the focus on Israel, and the Church. The interpretation-- and application-- then changes drastically. I think this is a significant point for your congregation to know.]

It is important, in preparing to study this text, to read it within its context, especially ch.59. There are reasons why YHWH speaks in this manner to the children of Israel, to us in the Church today. Most notably: And this shall be My covenant with them, said the Lord: My spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have placed in your mouth, shall not be absent from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your children, nor from the mouth of your children's children-- said the Lord-- from now on, for all time. (59: 21) Therefore--

Wake up, Church! Not only has the Son risen, your candle has been lit! The world is looking at you! And what do they see? What is your witness to them? Do they observe The Presence of the LORD [which] has shone upon you (1)? If so, then why do so many hold the Church up for ridicule and disdain?

which needs no explanation or further support.

But have you hidden it under a bushel basket? Kept it to yourself, for your own selfish enjoyment? Or have you set it out on a lampstand, so that

If so, where is the evidence? After 1,960+ years, why is the world still so largely "in the dark" of unbelief? How about your town, your neighborhood? Are the people on your street ...bear[ing] gold and frankincense, And... herald[ing] the glories of the LORD (6)?

Psalm 72: 1--7, 10--14

The original purpose of this poem was to celebrate Solomon's installation as king over Judah and Israel. But we, like the Jews, realize that there is a broader, deeper meaning when God's inspiration transforms it.

We Christians read Jesus into the text: Christ is our king. Jews may differ, seeing Israel as the focus. And perhaps we should not disagree, since we proclaim the Church to be the "new" Israel. But we need to be careful, for then the words apply to us, and it becomes our duty to ...champion the lowly among the people, deliver the needy folk, and crush those who wrong them. (4)

Those are strong words. We tend to think of ourselves-- the Church-- as pacifists, forgetting that, in one situation, Jesus used a whip. Are we to follow His example? If so, then only against "money changers in the temple"?

Note that "he" and "him" are not capitalized in the TNK, indicating that this text does not refer to YHWH. To King Solomon, at first, but now, by the Holy Spirit's inspiration, to Jesus, and through Him, to us, the Church. "He" means you, me. And God's last Word reminds us of a black man dragged to his death behind a truck, and a gay student literally crucified....

So, Church, what are we to do? Get out our whips and crush those who wrong them? Or Arise, shine...?

(Comments to Phil at enapxh@aol.com )

1. 1 Some Christians, in their arrogance, think that they are better. The Apostle says, "Not so."

2. 2 Rom. 1: 16; 2: 10.

3. 3 Rom. 11: 16--24.

4. 4 Haiku poems by Phil Gilman. Please feel free to utilize anything by me; just give God the

Glory, Praise and Thanks and me whatever credit may be due.