Epiphany 2 – January 14, 2018

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Epiphany 2, Jan 14, 2018
Canon Claude Schroeder
John 1:43-51; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

(Sermon transcript)

Today is the Second Sunday in the season of Epiphany. Epiphany, which comes from a Greek word meaning to reveal or manifest, something which previously had been hidden, comes out into the open.

In the season of Epiphany we are celebrating the fulfillment of the announcement that was made at Christmas that God Himself has come to us in the flesh in the person of Jesus.

Last Sunday, we heard the voice of the Father speaking to Jesus’ Baptism, “You are My Beloved Son.”

Today we hear Phillip telling his friend Nathaniel, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth.” Philip tells Nathaniel, I have just found the key that explains and unlocks meaning of the Scriptures, as it says the children’s Bible that we give to parents who are preparing their children for baptism, ” Every page whispers His name…”

It’s an incredible claim, because if Jesus unlocks the meaning of the Scripture, He unlocks the meaning of His people, but unlocks the meaning of your life and mine, and all of creation. Jesus is the story of my life. lf it is true, how can you not tell your friends about it?

Nathaniel is skeptical. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

“Can anything good come out of the Christian faith?” Nathaniel is emblematic for the many people in our society, who believe that Christianity is to blame for the all that is wrong with our world.

Note how Philip responds to his friend who had just bad-mouthed Jesus: Didn’t get upset, didn’t argue with him, but simply said, “Come and see.”

Epiphany is about seeing, seeing something of the Divine Beauty in the person of Jesus Christ, seeing Jesus who for Who He really is, and seeing one another for who we really are, which is what we have come to the church today to do.

Be prepared to be surprised. Nathaniel gets the surprise of his life. Nathaniel has an Epiphany!

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God. You are the King of Israel!”

I don’t think any of us would be here today were it not for certain moments, certain encounters, that called forth from us some kind of expression of faith to the effect that God is for real, and He has revealed Himself to us in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

I want you to imagine for moment, sitting in church at St. Mary’s, and being robbed of your senses. Where all of a sudden your sense of sight, your sense of sound, your sense of smell, and your sense of taste and your sense of touch were taken from you. That would be awful wouldn’t it? But why would that be awful?

It would awful because you would no longer have the means of encountering and communing with God.

As St. John wrote in his first letter, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.” ( 1 John 1. 1-3)

The Epiphany of God in the person of Jesus Christ is fleshly, sensory experience.

This is why at St. Mary’s we don’t merely talk about jesus. We eat His flesh and drink His blood.

That just sounds bizarre doesn’t it? “Gosh that flesh I just ate, tasted a lot like bread. That blood that I just drank, I could have sworn that was wine!”

Don’t be fooled. The Lord said, “This is my Body, this is my Blood.”
Of course we live in a culture that would convince us that we are fooling ourselves.

Why does the culture say this?

Not because the culture would not have us has believe in God. You can believe in God all you want. It’s that the culture would have us believe that we live in a world from which God is absent. The word we use to describe this is secular. In a secular culture such as ours, there is no such thing as an encounter and communing with God in the flesh. It’s as if we have been robbed of our senses.

Modern Protestant and Evangelical versions of Christianity have fallen victim to the secular argument. And so what are we left with? All we are left with is opinions, thoughts and ideas of God, and a memory of a memory of something that happened 2,000 years ago. Opinions, thoughts, ideas, and memories. That’s it: a disembodied form of Christianity.

In the modern view, man is a mind that inhabits a Body.

We understand that man to be a heart that eats, which is to say a heart that loves. What matters is not the thoughts and opinions you have on a given issue, but who and what you are eating. Anybody hungry?

The great challenge of the Gospel in these times consists in reimagining the world in which we live, a world from which God is not absent, but very much present. God is everywhere present and fills all things, it says in our Psalm today, “Whither shall I go then from thy spirit? / or whither shall I flee from thy presence? lf I climb up into heaven, thou art there: / if I go down to hell, thou art there also. If l take the wings of the morning, / and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there also shall thy hand lead me, / and thy right hand shall hold me.” ( Psalm 139.6-9)

Glory to God. He is everywhere present and fills all things.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the fullness of Him who fills all things, in the Church we come to be filled with His fullness.

This is not to say that world is God. It is to say that the spiritual and the physical, the heavenly and the earthly are two aspects of a single reality.

Let me try and illustrate this for you. In the Book of Genesis we have the story of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, and would become the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. One night Jacob bunks down in the middle of a field, goes to sleep and has a dream. In this dream he sees a ladder going up to heaven and angels going up and down the ladder. Pretty cool dream.

But notice when Jacob woke up the next morning, he didn’t say, ”Wow, what a cool dream.” What he said was, “Oh, my goodness. This is none other than the house of God. This is none other than the gate of heaven.” He took the rock that he has used for a pillow, and built a pillar to mark the spot and poured oil on it.”

In the Bible, heaven and earth , the spiritual and the physical are two aspects of a single reality, which overlap, but also intersect at certain points.

In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus is picks up on this story when he says to Nathaniel, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than these. Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Jesus is now the point now where heaven and earth intersect. As we commune with Him this morning, we might see a ladder reaching up into heaven, with angels, the messengers of God, delivering our prayers to God, and returning with God’s answer.

“This is none other than the house of God. This is none other than the gate of heaven.”

This teaching regarding the interconnection between the physical and the spiritual has important implications for how we live. In today’s Epistle reading St. Paul applies this teaching to two major preoccupations of our culture. The one preoccupation being food, and the other preoccupation being sex. Who ever said the Gospel is irrelevant to my life?

I thought I would hold off talking about food for when we get closer to the Great Fast in Lent.

So let’s talk a little bit about sex shall we? In talk about sex we have to talk about bodies. The Word became flesh.

In the modern view, “It’s my Body and I can do with it whatever pleases me.”

In the Christian view, it‘s not your body. As Paul tells us today, your Body belongs to God, and He has bought and paid for it with His own blood. I now belong to Him.

In the modern view, what I do with my body, has no effect on my spirituality, my relationship with God.

In the Christian view, what I do with my Body has everything to do with spirituality. My Body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I am to glorify God in my Body.

In the modern view sex is essentially the exchange of bodily fluids for the sake of pleasure. Except as we have discovered, the exchange of bodily fluids can be a dangerous thing, and can have unintended consequences. Making a baby is one of them, acquiring a disease is another. Happily, in the modern world, we now have the technology to prevent the exchange of bodily fluids thus making sex “safe”. We also have the technology to deal with the unintended consequence of the conception of a child.

In the Christian view there is more going on here than the exchange of bodily fluids for the sake of pleasure. The sexual act is the means by which a man and a woman become “one flesh.” It is a means of union for the sake of children.

So how can we someone who has been united themselves spiritually to Jesus, and become a member of His Body have sex with a prostitute?

This is what Paul calls fornication. The Greek word is “pornea” and refers to the junk drawer of sexual practices outside the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. 

Why is St. Paul making such big deal of this? It’s because of the damage that occurs to the body in sexual sin. There is a wounding that takes place, which brings with it bring a flood of shame, guilt, and plain old sadness.

But the Body that is wounded is not just your body, but the Body of Christ. Sin tears at the fabric of relationships in the Church.

And so Paul writes, “Flee fornication.” Run away.

Well, easier said than done. Especially in a culture where the spirit of fornication, the spirit of pornea, has found a home. It’s a culture in which the children are at risk.

Here is my question,” If we are to flee, run away, from fornication, where do we run to?”

Hopefully we would run to the Church, a safe and protected place, a “pornea” free zone, which offers me a measure of healing for the sexual wounding l have experienced.

There is healing for us when in worship we encounter the loving energies of God by means of our bodily senses. There is something for us to see, hear, smell, touch, taste, and feel….alive! Here at St. Mary’s you actually get a bit of a workout, don’t you? Stand up, kneel, sit down, stand up, sit down, kneel. It’s called Anglican aerobics.

There is healing for us in the Holy Communion, where Jesus preserves our bodies and souls unto eternal life, and we feed on Him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving.

There is healing for us in repentance, confession, absolution, and in prayer.

There is healing for us in the wholesome teaching that is given regarding the meaning and purpose of bodily life.

There is healing for us in the warm, affectionate and chaste friendships and relationships we enjoy with one another.

So that just as this beautiful building was built to glorify God, we too might glorify God in our bodies. Amen.