Saturday, January 10, 2015

Epiphany 2B

In 1946 Victor Frankel published a book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankel was an Austrian psychiatrist, Jewish, liberated from a Dachau area concentration camp in April, 1945. His wife and parents had died in the camps, and Frankel wrote about his experiences, and about how hard it was for him to feel joy again.

Frankel restates the basic biblical affirmation that all life has meaning. God calls us to the task of discerning that meaning and bringing it to life in our lives.

       In today’s collect we pray, “that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth.” A child looking at the stained glass said, “saints are the people the light shines through.” We are God’s saints, and as we say in the “Lift up your hearts” the Sursum corda, “It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.”

       When we make real the meaning of our lives we “shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory.” We make real both internally and externally. Internally we understand and act on some thought or feeling, and externally we bring that thought or feeling into being. “Always and everywhere” we “give thanks to” the “Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.”

       Samuel was asleep in the temple of the Lord. Samuel was a special child. Hannah and her hasband Elkanah had no children and Elkanah’s second wife Peninnah taunted Hannah. Barrenness ran in the family. Abraham and Sarah’s maid Hagar taunted Sarah after the birth of Ishmael. Isaac and Rebecca were barren for 20 years before Esau and Jacob were born. Jacob’s 2nd wife Rachel whom he loved was also barren until Joseph and Benjamin were born.  Later Elisha’s prayers brought a son to the Shunamite woman (2 Kings 4). And Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother, also old and barren.  

       Samuel was specially dedicated to God’s service. It was a spiritually dry time.  “The word of the LORD was rare in those days” as the King James says, “there was no open vision.” The temple was corrupt. High priest Eli allowed his sons Hophni and Phinehas to cheat those who came to sacrifice. In a time of spiritual dryness, need, and corruption God called Samuel.  Samuel made real his calling to revive the people, to be a good and righteous judge, to “shine with the radiance” to prepare the people for the realized kingdom of David.

       In God’s good time his son Jesus was born, the Word made flesh, and began his ministry of reconciliation with John’s baptism in the Jordan. Ministry is not solitary, and Jesus began by recruiting his disciples. This week we hear of Philip and Nathaniel, next week St. Mark’s account of Andrew and Peter, James and John. And then Jesus’ ministry begins in Capernaum - teaching and healing and casting out demons.

       Jesus returned to Galilee, the area where he had been brought up. The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and Judea despised Galileans. Galilee was part of the northern kingdom of Israel whose 10 tribes had been deported by Assyria 7 centuries before. The road from Egypt to Mesopotamia passed through Galilee and the people were more susceptible to the influence of foreign ideas. Jerusalem had only ruled Galilee for only a century. Philip was from a fishing village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. He realized inwardly that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Messiah, and when Jesus called him realized that fulfillment externally, following Jesus and sharing with his brother Nathaniel.

       The Prophet Micah wrote in chapter 4 about the promise of God’s kingdom, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more, but they shall sit every man under his vine and his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.” “Sitting under the fig tree” became a metaphor for bible study. Nathaniel’s question reflected the skeptical attitude of the Jewish leaders toward Galilee, but Philip’s response is fundamental evangelism, “Come and see!”

       We begin with “come and see.” Someone brought us to see – to see Jesus in his church, in the people of God, in his word written and preached, to see Jesus in baptism and in the holy communion. We saw, and we realized Jesus in our hearts, in our lives, in the truth and power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives us grace to be faithful to his call on our lives.

       Victor Frankel came to know the meaning of life in the concentration camps, in the loss of wife and parents, in the gradual recovery of joy in freedom. We know the meaning of life in Jesus, and as begin to “shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth.”


No comments:

Post a Comment