Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
7 February 2021
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During these Sundays between Christmas and Lent—the Epiphany Season—we are invited to reflect on some of the many different ways that G*d is made known to us. We have been in a season of epiphanies, just as our lives are, in reality, a series of epiphanies, chains of revelation and cycles of sacred disclosure.
That idea makes some religious people nervous.
They like to think that they have G*d nicely defined in their creeds and their Articles of Religion. It is so neat. All set in black and white. No shades of grey. But no living colour either. Just monochrome religion. No room for imagination and no scope for G*d to do anything new.
But G*d does not play by those rules. Never has. Never will.
By the waters of Babylon
The prophet whose words we hear in today’s first reading from the great Scroll of Isaiah the Prophet was seeking to explain to his community that G*d exceeded all of their preconceived ideas.
They were in exile in Babylon; today’s Iraq.
It seemed their god (Yahweh) had been defeated by Marduk and the other gods of Babylon.
Not so, says the prophet we call “Second Isaiah.”
Your G*d is too small, he says.
Better still, you have a future in the hands of this G*d.
Do not be afraid for the future. The future will be shaped by the G*d who is beyond all our religions and all our biggest concepts.
When the future looks grim
There are times when the future looks grim. Those tend to be the times when the good old days were always better than what we have now, and when we are uncertain of what the future may hold for us.
This can be true for us as a nation. The way forward is uncertain and the options are all contested. In a post-fact world, what counts as truth and what really offers hope?
This can also be true for us as a civic community here in Grafton. The empty shops and the small number of people younger than 50 can make us uncertain for the future and unsure how to act right now.
This can also be true of the Cathedral. When they began to build this place Grafton had just 1,500 people. We now have ten times that number, but our congregations are smaller than at any time in the past. What does the future hold for us? Will the Cathedral survive as both the community and the churches go through major changes?
And it can be true for us as individuals. For most of us here this morning, the years that remain are fewer than the years which have passed. This is true of me. In exactly 4 weeks and 4 days I turn 69. Most of my life is now behind me, and indeed it has been for several decades already. I just choose not to pay attention!
Sometimes events in our lives force us to pay attention. I have had one of those weeks as I prepared for some medical tests in Brisbane on Wednesday morning. As I reflected on what lay ahead of me I found myself writing poetry, which I do from time to time. It is not something I shall be sharing here, but it canvassed three options:
• All is fine, full speed ahead
• Warning: the cancer is starting to recur, chemo may be needed. Will the cure be worse than the disease?
• Emergency! The cancer is back and has spread to other parts of my body. Time to die well.
As it happened, the outcome was fine but what I find much more interesting is that I was quite calm about any of the three outcomes.
I have my preferences, of course. But ultimately any of these outcomes is fine since my life and my death, my past and my future, is already secure in G*d’s goodness. Not because I am special, but because G*d is the source of all that is, the energy which sustains everything, and to goal to which everything is moving.
In its own small way, that realisation was an epiphany moment for me this past week.
I pray that your week has also offered you personal epiphanies into the reality of G*d’s love and the possibilities of a future beyond anything we can yet imagine …
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. [Isaiah 40:28–31]