January 1, 2016

Epiphany Moments Come To Those Who Seek God (Epiphany)

"Epiphany" is a special religious word. It describes a profound personal experience. An Epiphany moment is when our spiritual eyes are opened and we see something in a very new and different way. An Epiphany moment is a religions "ah - ha" experience when something we thought we new for sure turns out to be wrong or incomplete; or something we thought was not true turns out to be true. Our personal spiritual life is a series of these Epiphany moments. The gifts of the wise men for example teach us the answer to the question "Who is Jesus"? These moments do not come to everyone. They come to those who make a serious effort to seek the wisdom of God.

1. Isaiah was a God - seeker

The Book of Isaiah is a collection of writings and prophecies that date from around 740 to 540 BC and include the period before, during and after the Babylonian Captivity. Since nobody lived for 200 years we assume the latter prophecies were written by disciples of the original Isaiah. They are the writings of a very serious 'God seeker', inspired by the Holy Spirit to warn four of the Kings of Israel (and us) of what would happen if they continued their rebellion against God. The warnings were generally not heeded and God withdrew divine protection, allowing enemies to conquer Israel and move most of the people to Babylon in modern day Iraq. The Reading for Epiphany was probably written in Babylon or Israel just after the return from exile.
  • The people are described as in deep darkness (60.2).
  • They have lost their vision and hope - does this sound familiar
  • Good News of the Prophecy is that God will intervene, will  reveal His glory to the people of Israel.
  • People in other countries will hear  and want to come to Israel.
  • The Wise Men are the fulfillment of this Prophecy centuries later.
 2. The Wise Men were also God seekers
The three “wise men” were astronomers, probably from Persia who were making a tremendous effort, like Isaiah, to find out what God was doing. Looking back we can see the Holy Spirit guiding these men and using their gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh to teach us who Jesus is.
  • Gold for example is the gift appropriate to a king
  • Jesus is to be our king – as we pray in “Thy Kingdom come”
  • Frankincense is a gift appropriate for a priest.
  • Jesus is to be our great High Priest – our Savior, connection to God
  • Myrrh was used to embalm a dead body – Jesus was born to die
  • Jesus was the one who is to die for the sins of all the people. 
As we read these stories, the Holy Spirit may be opening our spiritual eyes so that we too can have an Epiphany moment and see who Jesus is.

3. Epiphany moments transformed Paul: First Jesus was the Messiah
The conversion of Paul is a classic Epiphany moment. One moment he is a fierce defender of the Orthodoxy of the Hebrew Faith on his way to persecute Christians as blasphemers. The next he encounters the risen Jesus in a blinding light and realizes all his assumptions were wrong and that Jesus is in fact the long expected Messiah.
  • Paul’s spiritual eyes are opened and he is transformed into a fierce defender of the new Christian community against persecution.
  • Paul has the education, training and natural ability to listen to the oral stories of Jesus told by people who had herd Jesus themselves - and record these in letters written in the First Century.
  • Paul recorded his own experiences of depending on the Holy Spirit
4. Paul’s second Epiphany Moment: God was reaching out to non-Jews 
The accepted wisdom of all the Jews who accepted Jesus as The Messiah was that non-Jews would have to be formally converted to Judaism before they could be Baptised as Christians. Paul is commissioned by God to be a missionary to these people.
  • Paul sees that non-Jews  receive the same gifts of the Holy Spirit as the Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah.
  • Paul’s spiritual eyes are opened and he sees what God is actually doing -  experience overruled what he thought was absolutly true
  • “Mystery of Christ" – God is doing a new thing, not even the angels or demons knew how complete the victory of Jesus over evil was
  • Church to proclaim / “administer” the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to all (including Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Atheists)
5. Our personal spiritual life is a series of these Epiphany moments
The key is seeking. People who do not read their Bibles, pray regularly and find a nourishing church community are less likely to have Epiphany moments – or recognize them when they come. For example:
  • A new idea suddenly pops into our head.
  • Our eyes tear up as we read a passage of the Bible.
  • We just know deep inside ourselves that something is true.
  • Our spiritual life is a new and different spiritual world view.
  • We change from being well intentioned 'do-gooder’s’ with our hope firmly in Education and Reason as the keys to a better world; to people who understand the reality of evil and spiritual warfare
  • My Epiphany moments came when I discovered:
    • Reality of the Holy Spirit as opposed to the idea of the HS
    • Authenticity of the Bible as ‘true truth’, spiritual wisdom
    • Reality of spiritual and physical healing
    • Reality of Satan, evil and spiritual warfare.
Epiphany moments come to those who seek God.

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