Saturday, January 2, 2016

Gospel text for the Feast of the Epiphany 3 January 2016

Episcopal Church of the Apostles "Change for Change" initiative
led by our families with young children
helps children in Tanzania go to school 
by supporting Julius' "Pigs & Chickens" business.

Matthew 2:1-12         In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Reflection       Not all kings are cut from the same cloth. King Herod the Great hears about a child born King of the Jews and he is “frightened.” An unknown number of Wise Kings from the East are “overwhelmed with joy” as they approach the child born kKng of the Jews. The mere thought of this child turns power hungry Herod to scheming infanticide. The sight of this child with his mother Mary humbles the Wise Kings who offer him precious gifts from their treasures. 

One newborn child. Such divergent responses. Whereas King Herod is striving to secure his position and power, the Wise Kings are seeking God. Herod acts on his own, seeking his personal benefit regardless of the cost to others. The Wise Kings act together, offering their treasures for the good of a foreign stranger, the newborn Messiah. 

Which makes me think of Jesus’ description of sheep and goats in the 25th chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew. The attitudes and behavior Jesus ascribes to the sheep can be summarized as compassion. “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you … for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” The interesting twist is, Jesus never says, “You are blessed because you gave food to the starving, or welcomed a stranger.” Jesus says, “You are blessed because “I” was hungry and your gave “me” food. You are blessed because “I” was a stranger and you welcomed “me”.” (Matt 25.32-46)

The Wise Kings’ attitude of reverence and generosity puts them in right relationship with God, which naturally brings them close to the child born Messiah, and they are blessed. Likewise when we  adopt the attitude and behaviors that manifest God’s compassion on earth, we are blessed.

When we align our will in the will of God we are inclined to care for the weakest and most vulnerable among us because our heart is transformed in accord with the heart of God. This is what it means to be reconciled or in right relationship with God. We are blessed because we are in right relationship with God, not because we do good works. Good works flow naturally out of our blessed relationship with God, and God in us is manifest. 

** Church of the Apostles’ young families spearhead a small business development ministry in partnership with a young man, Julius, in Tanzania. In gratitude for all that we have been given our children have asked us to put our “Change for Change” into piggy banks when ever we are thankful for something. When our personal piggies are full and fat we bring the change to the big pink pig at church, which when full we send 100% of the money to Julius who buys and raises “Pigs and Chickens” to support his family as well as five other children who otherwise could not go to school. If you would like to contribute please go to and note “Change for Change.” Thank you. 

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