Menu Close
9th January 2022

Epiphany Moments: Finding Your Place

Passage: Luke 2;25-40


Have you noticed just how many television programmes right now are about re-organising your life? Clear the clutter from your home; re-model your house, change your diet, glamorise your image, find a new partner, re-assess your job- all coming under that heading of “Life Coaching”- let someone help you get your life to where you want it to be.
It is all good stuff except of course that Covid promptly throws our lives straight back into chaos. Every time you think you have got one aspect of your life sorted out and heading in the right direction, there is another lockdown, another self-isolation, another colleague absence crisis, another journey cancelled and many of us have days where the most positive action we can think of is going back to bed.

But it did occur to me that it may take a crisis to push us into a serious re-think about our lives. You see, the re-organisation aspects – clear up your house, clear out your wardrobe, re-prioritise your diary- are good and helpful but they are not enough. The time comes when you look at your perfectly organised house, upgraded CV and ten-years-younger image and ask, “what is this for?”
Getting things organised is not the same as getting everything directed. What is your home for? What is your job for? What is your speed dial list for? What are you here for? Most of the time we are just too busy getting through our daily routines to stop and think why? But a crisis may compel us to ask, “well, what is all this for” And without a basic reason for living, no amount of re-organisation is ever going to make that much difference.

In the Christian year, this is the season of Epiphany, kicked off by the tale of the Magi following a star to a whole new understanding of life. So, where are our stars and where might they be leading us?

The story we heard is about two sets of people. First, you have the young couple with the baby, embarking on the hectic life of new parenthood: heavy responsibilities of keeping their child fed, clothed, sheltered; with friends and family to support him; growing up with enough discipline but not too much. The sleepless nights, the toddler tantrums, the teenage rebellions are all in wait for them and, on top of that, their baby was born into a nation ruled by fear. At any moment their family home and business could be seized from them. At any moment spying neighbours could report them for unguarded words. Do you think the time might come when Mary and Joseph would ask “What is this all about? Are we good parents or bad? Should we ever have become parents at all?”

Then you have the two elderly people, Simeon and Anna. After years of hard work, living under an oppressive regime, their physical strength was dwindling; neither had families to support them. Both were deeply religious; grieving to see the faith of their nation dwindling under disappointed hopes for a better life and national independence. Do you think there might have been times when they asked, “why? What are we doing coming to this Temple, day after day? Why are we faithful to our religious duties when no-one else seems bothered? “

Yet, as both couples come together in the Temple, something happens: an “Epiphany moment” when life falls into place for them. Simeon and Anna recognise the presence of God in this child and the purpose of God in his life. It is not a case of “everything is going to be just fine now;” on the contrary, they foresee a lot of trouble for him, his parents, and their whole nation. But something is telling them that their lives have been worth living; that they have been there for a purpose. And from their reassurance, they reassure Mary and Joseph. This child will be the blessing of God to his people. Your parenthood is for a purpose. So, the story ends, the child grew in strength and wisdom. And the grace of God was upon him: in other words, he knew that he was here for a purpose.

When I was at college, I did study philosophy for a while, but I could never get on with it. When we asked the question “why,” we never seemed to find an answer. We just went round and round in circles, as though we were trapped in our own heads. (Hence the expression “doing my head in…”) I know that life is like that- you are never going to be able to pin everything down. But philosophy left me with a personal emptiness and lack of direction. It was not enough.

Whereas theology-the study of God-, although equally given to going round in circles inside people’s heads, did have an “out.” It worked on the assumption that there is a God, and that this God is deeply involved in our lives. So, the answer to the ultimate question, “why am I here” is “you are here because God willed you to be.” Now that does not answer all our questions about life. There are many more you are waiting to throw back at me. But it is the only answer I have found that gives me any sense of purpose in life and makes me feel it worthwhile at least continuing to ask questions.

Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna were in an environment just as chaotic as our own right now, probably even more so. But their “Epiphany moment” came from a realisation that their lives did after all, come from God, and were held by God. And it was God, we are told, who gave them that “Epiphany moment” of clarity. Not everything became totally clear all at once. But the promise in that Epiphany Moment held them through the coming years.
For Jesus Christ, if we believe him to be the Son of God, God in a human life, did bring the reality of God right into the chaos and mess and uncertainty of our physical existence. He brought God’s forgiveness to the most sick and destructive lives; God’s love to the most lonely and alienated; God’s mercy into lives torn apart by guilt; God’s peace into lives crushed by grief and fear. Life can be incredibly harsh, painful, and unfair. But by taking all this upon himself; by suffering as a willing, innocent victim, Jesus brought the power of God into the darkest places and the hope of resurrection into death.

“And to all who believe in him” wrote St John, “he gave power to become children of God.”
Which means that, underneath all the reorganisation programmes in homes, lives and even churches, is the ultimate purpose that we live to be people of God. “Whatever you do, “wrote St Paul, to rather confused and uncertain new Christians, “do it all for the glory of God.” Enjoy your home as the place where the peace of God and the love of God can be found; enjoy your body as the temple of God’s living Spirit; pursue your line of work as a space in which the kingdom of God can be grown through economics, legal justice, social care, town planning, sport and arts- whatever you do can be a means of making the world a better place, a God-directed place. And that is surely a reason to live; a reason to believe that you are here for a purpose; that your life has a value. Yes, there is a star for you to follow even if you cannot always see the final destination.

This why today we are celebrating people who have trusted their identity as children of God enough to make a commitment to a form of ministry within this church. They have believed in the purpose of the church to be the place where the reality of God can be experienced in both the space and in the people. They have believed that yes, it IS our purpose to know the difference Jesus makes in our lives and to share it with others. They have valued the way a church community enables us to encourage and inspire one another.
As Billy, Lizzie and Amy step back from a particular ministry and as Ian, Lesley and Annette commit to a particular ministry, they are affirming for us all that yes, we have a place in God’s purpose; that no, we are not wasting our time and that on each one of us God places a value which cannot be measured.
This is not just a service of dedication for them but a service of dedication for every one of us. The church is like a building, made of different coloured and shaped bricks, each one being equally important. May we become an “Epiphany Moment” to each other, celebrating our special place and our special purpose. We are here because God willed us to be. And that is enough for now. Amen.