January 16, 2016

Epiphany 2 - We Are To Have and to Be Signs of God’s Glory in the World

The Readings (Isaiah 62.1-5), John 2.1-11 and 1 Corinthians 12.1-11) all talk about signs  - God blessing His people Israel, Jesus turning water into wine and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are all signs or evidence of the glory of God.  Signs give us hope in our faith and teach us to be signs of that glory. Everyone needs some Epiphany moment - an experience or sign of God’s love in their lives. This helps us believe in God and to be transformed into a sign of His glory in the world.

1.     Isaiah prophecies that God will bless Israel as a sign of His love

This prophecy was probably received either during or just after the Exile of the Hebrew people in Babylon (586-538 BC) when National pride was very low and people felt abandoned by God:
·         Isaiah prophesied  their Loyalty will be “vindicated” in history
·         Other nations  will see their blessing & glory
·         Shame and disgrace would be turned to honour and respect
·         New Identity as Chosen people – “married” to their “builder”
·         Israel to be a sign of God’s love and glory to the world
·         would ‘delight’ in His people

2.     Jesus Disciples also needed a sign to believe in Him
Anyone can come up with good teachings and make claims to spiritual authority. How do we know they are genuine? People need personal experience or a clear sign to go from ‘knowing about’ and affirming, to really believing in teachings on the supernatural.  
·         Jesus is reluctant to reveal His miraculous powers – trying to fly under the religious radar and not blow his cover
·         Miracles attract attention – was a claim to be the Messiah
·         Crowds would proclaim Him Messiah and He would be unable to focus on teaching and forming His Disciples
·         Jesus compromise is to give a sign of his love and divinity  – at great personal risk, that is masked in secrecy
·         The healing miracles of Jesus continue to challenge believers to belief in the divinity of  Jesus
·         Many people can accept His teachings as authoritative but have trouble with the physical and healing miracles
·         Divinity of Jesus is critical to His ability to be a sacrifice for the sins of all people.

·         This is why we all need patience and some personal experience of the supernatural before we can move from ‘affirming the possibility of’ to ‘believing in’ the supernatural worldview of the Bible – there is no shame in this!

3.     The Good News is we receive spiritual gifts in our Baptism!
Baptism is the point where we enter into a personal covenant or connected relationship with God. When we pledge our loyalty to God we are blessed with spiritual gifts. These gifts are a sign to us that God – the Holy Spirit, is really there:
·         Gifts are given as Holy Spirit decides – not a sign of merit
·         Many church fights begin with pride &  jealousy over gifts
·         Named after what they seem to give us – Love, Joy etc.
·         Gifts are given for the common good – we need community
·         Spiritual gifts are like an energy, power, knowing something or a special supernatural ability
·         Gifts become more powerful as we use them – like muscles
·         Come more fully as we nurture and protect ourselves spiritually – prayer, praise, self-examen, Confession
·         Wisdom – inner judgement on what is best (Lucille)
·         Knowledge – how to do something (teachings, boat on car)
·         Faith – belief beyond what is natural (in supernatural)
·         Healing – prayer & touch for physical and spiritual healing
·         Miracles – prayer that alters the natural physical order
·         Prophecy – messages from the Holy Spirit about the future
·         Distinguishing between spirits – Satan can counterfeit
·         Tongues – allow us to praise God in other languages
·         Interpretation of Tongues – required with Tongues in public

4.     Spiritual Gifts enable us to be signs of God’s Glory in the world
·         Need to discern our spiritual gifts – many people not aware
·         Need to protect, nourish and grow spiritually in our gifts
·         Need to use them for the benefit of the Community so each person becomes a sign of God’s glory for others

Why are we here – we are here to be signs of God’s glory in the world!

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