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Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Epiphany Sunday: Eureka


A few Sundays in the year have special names, such as Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, Ascension Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, Trinity Sunday, Christ the King Sunday, etc. This Sunday is called Epiphany and you might well ask...so what? Epiphany is the Sunday closest to January 6th, the
twelfth night of Christmas and is the day that the Wise Men or Magi visited Jesus, bearing their prophetic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrh (see bottom of this page for a Prayer for Epiphany). They were magicians/astrologers from the East and involvement with them and the astrology that brought them to Jesus in the first place is something which places you under a curse and under the judgement of God in the Law. But still, what is an epiphany and can I have one today, or in 2015?

You might have heard of Archimedes, who, about 250 years before the birth of Jesus, got into the bath one day, something he had no doubt done many times before, but this time (because of a particular set of circumstances in his life at that time), he noticed that the level of the water rose as he got into the bath and this led to his great mathematical discovery regarding how to determine the volume of an irregularly shaped object. The story goes that he was so excited that he jumped out of the bath and, forgetting to put his clothes on, ran naked down the street to his laboratory, shouting: "Eureka", which means "I have it".

He had an epiphany (it's not a "religious" or theological word) or what today is sometimes called a "light bulb moment" or a moment "when the penny drops".
 Round about 2000 years after Archimedes epiphany, in about 1670, man called Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree (or so the story goes) and he saw an apple falling to the ground, again, something he had seen many times before, but, he had a light bulb moment, he had an epiphany, and realized that the force that caused that apple to fall was the same force that caused the moon to orbit the earth and the earth to orbit the sun...he "discovered" gravitational force.
 So, what is an epiphany, and can I have one today?

From Wikipedia:  An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, "manifestation, striking appearance") is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. 

The wise men from the East, the magi, who had never had any encounter with the Hebrew religion or with the Jewish scriptures, followed a star because their astrological background told them it signified something significant in the universe. They followed it for two whole years until they found themselves in the presence of the infant Jesus and there they had an epiphany...they looked at this child and in Him they saw the one who had actually made the stars, these pagan gentiles had a light bulb moment, the penny dropped, and they saw the King and Creator of the universe, and they fell down and they worshiped Him and gave to Him the things that were most valuable to them.

Epiphany...can I have one today, or in 2015?
You know the answer...it has to be "YES, I can!"

Now I can't determine what your epiphany will be, but I can share with you the epiphany, the light bulb moment, that I wish the church of Jesus Christ, particularly we in the West, would have. I long for the penny to drop that we who are called by His name, are called to be radically different...the good news about eternity should transform this life...that God's plan regarding the type of life that works best for us is the best possible plan and way of living...for 2015.

This epiphany that I long for for the church is based on the latest statistics released by the Barna group based on a nation wide study of 1000's of people who called themselves "born again" and I quote it directly:

We found that most of the lifestyle activities of born-again Christians were statistically equivalent to those of non-born-agains. When asked to identify their activities over the last thirty days, born-again believers were just as likely to bet or gamble, to visit a pornographic website, to take something that did not belong to them, to consult a medium or psychic, to physically fight or abuse someone, to have consumed enough alcohol to be considered legally drunk, to have used an illegal nonprescription drug, to have said something to someone that was not true, to have gotten back at someone for something he or she did, and to have said mean things behind another person’s back.
No difference.
One study we conducted examined Americans’ engagement in some types of sexually innapropriate behavior, including looking at online pornography, viewing sexually explicit magazines or movies, or having an intimate sexual encounter outside of marriage. In all, we found that 30 percent of born-again Christians admitted to at least one of these activities in the past thirty days, compared with 35 percent of other Americans. In statistical and practical terms, this means the two groups are essentially no different from each other.  [sourced here]

Studies have shown that the evangelical church here in South Africa shows the same trends as that in America, so we can confidently say that we are the same as them in not being very different from the world around us. In a different study, people were asked to "Write the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word 'Christianity.'" You know what the answer was...People who don't practise what they preach!

In another study: Divorce rates among Christians mirror the rest of society's, as are the rates of sexual abuse; sexual promiscuity among Christian teenagers is only marginally lower; only 9% of Christians tithe their money; evangelical Christians are among the most racist of any groups in a recent Gallup survey; Catholics have more abortions than the national average [sourced from Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey].

We are called to be different: As I've prepared this week I've prayed that our LORD will show each one of us today how He wants us to be different in the year ahead...and I've in particular prayed that as I said those last words, how He wants us to be different in the year ahead, that the penny will have dropped for you, that you would have had a light bulb moment, perhaps even an epiphany whereby you know that He is saying: "It's time for this" or, "It's time to stop that."

And if He hasn't...He will, perhaps even here at the Lord's Table, where He meets us, He feeds us, He gives us grace to live differently because we are called by His name. May you have a Christ filled, epiphanous 2015.

Epiphanies can be scary, so we are going to close (after communion) with a beautiful song that I've chosen as a theme song for us for the first part of 2015. I encourage you to use it as a prayer. You can watch the artist singing it here.

"Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)"

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Oh, Jesus, you're my God!

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine 

A Prayer for Epiphany
O God
Who by a star
guided the wise men to the worship of your Son
we pray you to lead to yourself
the wise and great of every land
that unto you every knee may bow,
and every thought be brought into captivity
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. [sourced here]

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