JAN 24, 2016, THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY

THE SCROLL OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH

A SERMON BY PASTOR CHICO MARTIN

Lections:  Neh 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; Ps 19; 1 Cor 12: 12-13; Luke 4: 14-21.

 

And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district.  And he began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.”  When you hear these words from Luke’s Gospel, what does your mind register?  Do you see a series of images, perhaps a dusty, rock-strewn path, in a late afternoon light, the mountains washed of color in the distance, and close up, the rugged green of scrub?  There is a solitary figure of a walking man, whose short and wiry frame you recognize, despite the dirt caking his cloak and shawl, which he wears over his shoulders, exposing the matted hair on his head and full beard on his face; for this road goes to Nazareth, the man’s boyhood home, and you will soon hear that he has returned to Galilee from 40 days in the wilderness, where he went to fast and pray, immediately after he was baptized by John in the Jordon.  This explains why he seems “in the power of the Spirit,” for even in his tired state, you see through to his elation; Jesus is ecstatic.   Continue reading

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JAN 17, 2016, SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY

CELEBRATION

A Sermon by Pastor Chico Martin

Lections:  Isa 62:1-5; Ps 36: 5-10; John 2: 1-11.

“There is no rejoicing save with wine.”

The Wedding at Cana is an uproarious occasion; the revelers drink all the wine the bridegroom could provide, and then one guest, Mary, the God-bearer, gives her son Jesus a nudge.  “Be helpful,” she says, and Jesus, ever mindful of his mother, turns six 20 – 30 gallon stone jars of water into an abundance of wine.  Everyone fills their wine cups, the celebration continues untroubled, and the bridegroom is complemented for saving his best wine until last.

Are we surprised to find Jesus and his mother in the midst of this intoxicated social gathering?  The church would have us begin our preparations for Lent on this Sunday, but Jesus is not in a contemplative setting, well-removed from the sensuous distractions of the world; Jesus is not out in the desert, fasting to confound the devil’s assault on his equanimity and mindfulness. Rather, he is displaying his Glory for the benefit of villagers who are over-serving themselves as they perpetuate a long standing institution of transferring the place of young women, recently arrived at child-bearing age, from their birth family to the family of their husband.  The joy that gives rise to this celebration is not the joy of romantic love but the joy of having met the expectations of others, of having maintained community traditions that through their distribution of property across generations appear to harmonize with the order of the sky and of the seasons, the progress of life and death.  Our modern, post-romantic experience is not entirely free of the vestiges of these ancient cultural beliefs and practices. For us, too, the deepest values of the Christian marriage and faith experience are strangers to the heart. We can be sure that when Jesus changed the water at the Cana wedding, he changed much more; for Jesus gives a powerful demonstration that the ordinary events and transitions of a person’s life are changed by his Divine presence: “a good wedding can be made better and sinners changed into saints.”   Continue reading

Jan 10, 2016, Baptism of the Lord: First Sunday After the Epiphany

TO MAKE THE WATER HOLY

A Sermon by Pastor Chico Martin

Lections:  Isa 43:1-7; Ps 29; Acts 8: 14-17; Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22

The season of Epiphany focuses our attention on three manifestations of the divine reality that we encounter in the Gospels:  the Journey of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus, and the Marriage at Cana. Today’s reading from Luke recounts the moment when “the heaven was opened” at Jesus’ Baptism “and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” This is the clearest picture we have in all the Scriptures of the three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in One God who is the Trinity.

The Gospels tell the story of God’s descent from heaven to live among us, so we might find our way up the ascent to heaven and live together there, in the eternal kingdom of God’s heights.  Our life is intended for the journey we undertake to be with God; we pass our days coming to belief, growing in faith, and learning to relate to the world as the theater of God.  The world, too, is moved by intention; for as humanity is made new in its pilgrimage of ascent, so is all creation. Continue reading

JAN 3, 2016, EPIPHANY SUNDAY

A NEW LIGHT TO SHINE IN OUR HEARTS

 A SERMON BY PASTOR CHICO MARTIN

Lections: Isa 60:1-6; Ps 72:1-7, 10-14; Eph 3:1-12; Matt 2: 1-12

Darshan is a Sanskrit word that means “vision” or “sight,” and especially, the seeing of a holy image or saintly person.  Hindu worshipers believe a reverent glimpse of holiness confers a blessing that can alter the outcome of a lifetime. The encounter with a holy person is called “receiving darshan,” and there are numerous stories of saints granting an audience to pilgrims who journey over great distances to be in their presence.  The journey of the magi can be viewed as one such pilgrimage.  The sleeping child in Bethlehem, “without uttered words, by the very fact of His infancy united to His Divine Person” displays God’s “life of love” the love He shows toward us, and “the unbounded generosity of God’s mercy.” “In some mysterious way,” writes one contemporary Catholic theologian, “this infant form, in all its fragile finitude, is an exquisitely appropriate instrument for disclosing the infinite attributes of God.”[i]   Continue reading