Epiphany I Sunday

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Epiphany I
Romans 12:1 – Luke 2: 41

Two weeks ago, Jesus was born in a manger, and today he is 12 years old and has traveled with his family to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. There was food, there was fun, and there was reunion. And after a couple of days partying, they got on the road back to Nazareth. At suppertime on that first day, Mary began looking for her son Jesus. But he was nowhere to be found. They must have left him in Jerusalem, about 15 miles away. They traveled back to Jerusalem and found him in the temple with the teachers.

The legend tells us that Jesus was teaching. But Luke doesn’t say that. He said, Jesus was “listening to the teachers, asking them questions”. Iland, my jewish friend, told me that when he was a child, every day when he came home from school, his father would say “Did you ask any good questions today, Ilan?” We, we usually say to our kids “What did you learn in school today?” But Jewish parents say “What questions did you ask?”

So Jesus was asking the teachers questions. It is clear that it is something his parents taught him to do. Mary and Joseph taught Jesus to be a respectful, curious, compassionate young man. We usually think Jesus turned out the way he did because he was the son of God; that he supernaturally learned how to read and write, how to say “please” and “thank you”. We usually think that Jesus grew up in a vacuum, without benefit of a mom and a dad who taught him, trained him, and maybe even grounded him.

What do we need to learn from this gospel of Jesus found in the temple? There is probably a lot to learn from this story. But I see three important lessons for us today.

1. Growth takes time. Jesus went through the same period of life. Sometimes, we are in so much hurry that we are tempted to skip the growing part of life. We are so impatient that we don’t even see all the effort that the other person is making in order to meet our requirements. And we start accusing, judging, and blaming each other. Growth takes time. Please give your brethren time to grow.
2. We experience tension between our responsibilities to God and to our fellow men. Sometimes those responsibilities conflict so much that we must choose one or the other. Jesus experienced the same tension and there were times that he had to choose to serve God rather than man.
3. We need God’s grace upon us. We are not dependent upon our skills or our strength, but God’s grace. We can go far in this world on our abilities. But to succeed in the Kingdom, we need God’s favor upon us.

In the Epistle today, Paul said this: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”.

A famous writer, A.T. Robertson, states, “Do not take this age as your fashion plate” (Robertson’s Word Pictures). The world should never become a template of life for the child of God. And yet too often many Christians are living lives produced from the fashion plate of the world. There is a difference between the world and the kingdom; between the behavior in the world and the behavior in the kingdom; between the language of the world and the language of the kingdom. The language out there is anger; gossip; pride; fighting between brethren, the language out there is power. But the language of the kingdom is obedience, forgiveness, service, and humility. Paul called this renewal of mind.
We need the renewal of mind not only for our individual lives but also to start building a church, a family where God will be all in all. To do that we must put aside our pride, our own interest. Nothing good can be established or done if we continue fighting each other; if we keep thinking that we are better than others; if we continue cultivating the mentality that everyone must agree with our opinions or views. We must admit that we all come from different background, culture, and education. We are different and it is that same difference that God wants to use to give glory to his name right here at St. Andrew and St. Margaret Church.

At the celebration of the Epiphany on Friday, we learned that the wise men put aside their knowledge. That’s how they were able to see in the little baby Jesus a king, a priest and a sacrifice needed for the remission of the sin of the world. We can do the same.

Everyone is needed. We can’t afford to lose anyone. Beloved, please do not allow your attitude for any reason to drive anyone away from the church of God. Church is not about what “I think”. But what God wants. It is not about my opinion, but what God plans to do or desires for his own house. We are all servants of God.
The believer who thinks too highly of himself compares himself with others and exalts himself above others.
Paul wants the Romans to understand that every believer has a special place in the body of Christ and has a special gift given by God for the benefit of the whole body.

Anything that you are doing in the body of Christ, know that you are doing it to the glory of God.

As we have come to this First Sunday after Epiphany, may God bless us with all spiritual blessings so that we may work together to build the church, his family where he will be glorified. Amen!