The First Sunday after the Epiphany.
Psalm 47. Omnes gentes, plaudite.
O CLAP your hands together, all ye peoples: * O sing unto God with the voice of melody.
2 For the Lord is high, and to be feared; * he is the great King upon all the earth.
3 He shall subdue the peoples under us, * and the nations under our feet.
4 He shall choose out an heritage for us, * even the excellency of Jacob, whom he loved.
5 God is gone up with a merry noise, * and the Lord with the sound of the trump.
6 O sing praises, sing praises unto our God; * O sing praises, sing praises unto our King.
7 For God is the King of all the earth: * sing ye praises with understanding.
8 God reigneth over the nations; * God sitteth upon his holy seat.
9 The princes of the peoples are joined unto the people of the God of Abraham; * for God, which is very high exalted, doth defend the earth, as it were with a shield.
Glory be to the Father, &c.
As it was in the beginning, &c.
O LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people which call upon thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 60.1-9
Psalter: Psalm 47, 48 | 66, 67
Epistle Reading: Romans 12.1-5
Gospel Reading: St. Luke 2.41-52
*Here is a prayer I wrote in November based on John 11:35: Prayer – “Jesus Wept”
*Further, this is my pastoral letter sent out to my congregation yesterday:
When Operation Desert Storm began in earnest (17 January 1991), the news was saturated with air raid scenes, videos of tracer rounds racing upward in the night sky, explosions, etc. On that first day much of the town we lived in was frozen. Most everyone sat or stood glued to the TV sets. So, when I came home, I found my oldest daughter (8 years old at the time) standing in the living room, firmly fixed in front of the television. She turned to me with tears in her eyes and asked, “Daddy, are we being attacked? Daddy, are we going to die?” I did something at that instant that I have never regretted. I unplugged the TV, took scissors, and cut the plug! We didn’t have an operational television for some 15 years. But my daughter’s tearstained face has never left me. She had absorbed the concern, anxiousness, and alarm from our faces, voices, and media, and it unsettled her.
I tell the story for two reasons. First, to remind us that our children and grandchildren are listening and watching us. They are watching or overhearing the newsfeeds, our conversations, and the tones in our voices. They are picking up more from us than we may imagine, and in this present environment that is an important cue for us to reflect on. How we’re talking, the emotions we’re exhibiting, the worry in our eyes and creased corners of our mouths, and so on, they’re picking up.
But, secondly, we have something potent that has been given us that reorients our perspective. This is a little teaser for my sermon this Sunday on John 14:15-30, but I want to call your attention to the promise our Lord gives us. As he tells us of the promised present of the Paraclete (the Helper, Comforter, Counselor – the Spirit of truth) he says there is something very substantive that comes with the present of the Paraclete, and it is peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
Now, our Lord made this bold promise in an age and era when political forces lived by the rule of “might makes right” and had no problem crushing their opposition; when different ethnic groups rioted and attacked others; when one was more likely to meet injustice than justice in the streets and seats of power, with rarely any redress. And our Lord promises that with his ascension he will make a present of the Paraclete and peace, a peace unlike the kind our world gives and reneges on. A peace that is as permanent as is the Paraclete and enthronement of Jesus. Thus, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid”!
And toward the end of Paul’s life, that was the kind of thing Paul assured Timothy was still the case: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Paul wrote those words in the same situation Jesus spoke in, an age and era when political forces lived by the rule of “might makes right” and had no problem crushing their opposition; when different ethnic groups rioted and attacked others; when one was more likely to meet injustice than justice in the streets and seats of power, with rarely any redress. And Paul, trusting Jesus, convinced Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords who has endowed us with the Paraclete and peace, says kindly but boldly to young, often anxious, Pastor Timothy, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”.
And so, let us be those who trust in our Lord, convinced and confident that, come what may, our Lord Jesus has bequeathed to us the Spirit of truth, the comforter, counselor, helper. And, with him comes steadying, hope-filled peace. And let this be more of what our children and grandchildren pick up from us now, and always.
Brothers and sisters be filled with courage, for our Lord says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”