Sermon for Epiphany – Mary Bowden

Epiphany 2013

Matthew, Ephesians

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’

Familiar words, enshrined in our national consciousness after George VI used them in his Christmas broadcast in 1939…and regularly quoted since.

If you know, please forget for a moment how the verse continues and lets reflect on the journey into the unknown that each new year represents. We may think we have a fair idea of how our lives will develop over the next few months, we make plans and resolutions, we may cherish hopes or shrink from fears – but of course nothing is absolutely certain. Looking back on last year, many things happened to many of us that we didn’t expect….  And there will be important decisions ahead for us, for the groups and communities we belong to, and for the parish as we begin to discern our vision and mission.  Wouldn’t it be good if God would make it easy for us…may be some sky writing would be good, spelling out exactly where we should go, what we should do.

It seems that Matthew’s wise men had exactly that privilege. An Epiphany. Simply put, an epiphany is the moment when God is revealed, that  “Aha!” moment when we know that an experience is a real encounter with God.

So – for the wise men, perhaps their epiphany came with the rising of the star…their very own sky-writing, telling them where to go, what to seek. They certainly start their journey confident that they know where they are heading…all they have to do is to follow their star. I do wonder though whether the Christmas card scenes that present it as obviously the one and only REAL star in the sky may be distorting the truth slightly…Step outside on a clear night and the sky tells a different story…countless stars… But because of their study and knowledge our travellers could look at the night sky and see something that others didn’t. And they chose to focus on this one light, rather than the surrounding darkness. To focus on light rather than darkness is always, in every circumstance, an act of faith, and perhaps a good image for us to carry forward into the new year, into the future, and into our vision, seeking the light together.

The Franciscan writer Richard Rohr says

An epiphany is an experience that transforms everything, and before you can do anything with it, it does something to you. It’s not something that can be controlled, and it always seems to demand a change in people‘s lives.

I hope that in the weeks and months ahead we will find that our work to discern what God is calling us to be and to do will become an epiphany, for all of us together and for each of us. RR goes on

To live with a faith that makes room for Epiphany leaves us on our heels, ready to step out to wherever it is that God may be revealed

And of course, we may not have to travel far at all. The essence of the parish is that it – that we – are rooted in a particular place – here in the part of Haslemere bordered by Three Gates Lane, Lion Lane, Bell Lane and a series of hedges, streams and ditches….

We don’t really need to go looking for God in distant and strange places. Because, in the child born in Bethlehem, God has sought us out and come to dwell with us in the midst of all of our humanity. Recognising that – the truth and meaning of the incarnation, should be at the heart of our vision.

Emmanuel. God with us, as we begin our journey into the year ahead.

A bit about process…. small subgroup of PCC – led by Sandy Clarke – reviewed previous work and surveys, clear that we need to consult, everyone have oppties to contribute…. devised a series of qs for everyone to answer….. First is on today’s sheet….

Richard Rohr says, “if God can be manifest in a baby in a poor stable for the unwanted, then we better be ready for God just about anywhere and in anybody.”

So, as we go forward into this new year, let’s be alert to celebrate epiphany wherever we encounter God. It won’t be just in this building, that’s for sure…nor simply at the high moments of life In all times and places and people, even the most ordinary, even in our own lives, we may come to experience the glory of God through Jesus Christ

And that shall be to us better than light and safer than a known way.


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