Dean George Sweetman will highlight some of the chapels opportunities that Tyndale has planned for this term and offer a reflection on the start of the new calendar year in light of the Church’s celebration of Epiphany.
This morning, I want to ask you a few questions as we begin.
I wonder, when was the last time you were astonished by something? Like something really surprised you shocked you? Maybe was an unexpected gift that you quickly opened because you were so excited about it. Maybe it was that dawning aha moment in your life when suddenly you realize something that once was not, and was now. Perhaps even that aha moment changed the course of your life? Could it be that new idea planted by a professor just like, just like a gardener, sowing a seed that will come to whole bloom?
When did you see or hear or experience something that just astounded you? You know that feeling like stepping out into the cold of a freezing Canadian winter and taking in that first inhaled breath and it just drips you?
Well, we all know that this week is in the start of the winter 2021 term at Tyndale. It was only two weeks ago, a little over two weeks ago that we sat with our families and living rooms across Canada and really around the world, readying ourselves for the activities of December 25th. For many of us, there in front of us were dozens of gifts wrapped with care under the Christmas tree waiting to be unwrapped. For those of us with children, or for those of us who are children at heart. We know how fun this day is. The uncontained excitement of just before every gift is presented into trembling hands of the child, the excitement is always palpable. It reminds me at the time that Will Ferrell saw Santa Claus again in the toy section of the Manhattan department store for the first time since he left the North Pole.
Then once a gift is given, we relish the controlled chaos of unwrapping paper flying off in all different directions boxes and bags being ripped apart with gleeful abandonment and we encourage it that’s what part, that’s fine part of what Christmas is about, and then the audible gasps of joy., t he new toy or puppy or watch or dress or engagement ring revealed the moments of weeping of shrieking or just wide smiles. And then there’s the thankyous. The How did you knows and this is so cool.
All that gift, unwrapping and uncovering is good. It’s surprises coming to their proper combination. Gifts are meant to be revealed, aren’t they? And the response is always shaped by gratitude and love. Even yesterday’s icy cold avoidances or burning heart arguments cease in the glow of love given and received.
This morning, as we know is the first Tuesday community chapel since the church celebrated epiphany last week. I recognize that not many of us give that Bay epiphany, a second thought. For most of us last Wednesday was just like any other Wednesday. Although as the day wore on, we all know that that day revealed things that we could never have imagined. And many of us wished had never happened. Things occurred on that day that are now indelibly imprinted in our minds. Like a memory of an event. You’ll always recall where you were and who you’re with when it happened.
But even in last week’s troubles, as they still echo in our minds and consume our airways and our media feeds. I want to change the subject a little bit. I want us to remember that something good happened last Wednesday, January 6, 2021. It was epiphany.
You see epiphany is a chair is cherished by the church for two main reasons. It’s the day that we recall the three wise men or the magpie or the ancient philosophers who were led by the light in the sky that pierced the darkest January night, when they offered their gifts of love to the Christ child. Gifts that were filled with meaning and anticipation, gifts that were meant for him then, and for him a little later on in his life. Gifts that were likely a surprise to Mary and Joseph and the community in which they belonged.
Epiphany is a remembrance of the day that myrrh and frankincense and gold were given to Jesus. But it’s not only that, and here’s the second reason epiphany is cherished by the church. It’s also the day that commemorates the moment that john baptized Jesus, and the heavens are open to uncover another gift, love and identity mingled in the shape of a descending dove, and a resounding voice, you are my son, whom I love with you, I am well pleased. The Father gives the gift of identity and mission and Jesus’s earthly ministry begins, he walks into the light of his destiny.
Epiphany falls on January 6, and what is unique about January 6, two, it’s only days after the start of the new calendar year for us. It’s only days after we’ve made resolutions and promises, you know, to be better, to lose weight to spend less to save more to get better grades, to not procrastinate, to exercise more frequently to avoid sugar. It may be just the love more broadly.
Resolutions along with the start of that calendar year serves as a marker, a milestone of sorts, if you will, to reveal to ourselves and to others, that it’s time for something new, for an old idea, stale reality, a bad habit to be reshaped or sharpened, or abandoned entirely, because something new was promised. And it has to be better.
Epiphany reminds us that it’s just not about resolutions made or broken, but it’s about the gift of Jesus and His light and we invited by him to be light bearers in a world that is desperate in need of unveilings and billions of light and truth and grace and mercy, flooding even to the farthest corners of the darkness in our world. It’s a gift really, for a child in India, who scavenges for copper wire in an E waste heap, like squirrels looking for nuts in an empty forest.
It’s for the 14 year old girl in New York Region who’s forced to sell her body in an attempt to have a sense of belonging and to be loved.
It’s for the PSW riding the TTC to a COVID–19 ravaged long term care facility in Scarborough, to work the night shift so she can eke out enough money to pay the rent and put some food on the table.
It’s for the mom who’s just been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and she wonders what’s gonna happen to her three children at home.
It’s for the Christian converts in China who have been incarcerated for the past two and a half years for their faith.
You see, it’s an epiphany that God reveals Jesus, the hope of the world. Whether we see this in Matthew two with the visit of the magic are in Matthew one with a baptism in the Jordan. Jesus is unveiled as the Son of God, God with us, God for us. The Gift isn’t meant to provide easy solutions, or warm feelings or therapeutic answers. The gift of Jesus and the promise of his unveiling as a son of God and the Savior of the world, and the king is meant to change us and to push us into Kingdom work. The Gift changes everything, even if everything doesn’t change, at least right away.
This gift is about walking with him and with him and in him in the midst of difficult days, days of pain and poverty, injustice, alternative facts and discord instead of discourse. The unveiling of Jesus and the invitation to join him isn’t about a life without difficulty. It’s not about a shield of protection from danger. It’s not even about a culturally irrelevant but corrupt hipster Christianity. But it is about obedience, and humanity. It’s about walking with Him into places that need the world needs the gospel light and getting like the gardener, hands and feet dirty by mucking with the soil and the weeds and the stones of society to foster growth and life and harvest in the midst of an arid time and a season of pandemic winter.
Of course there’s still a mystery we all know this. God’s mystery, something that isn’t out there.Since so much as so much more than we can understand so full of meaning that we can’t comprehend it. This mystery is revealed in the babe in the manger. In the one who shouldered the dove, in the one who hung on the tree. In him, because of him, God promises not to abandon us or to leave us in exile from the city, excuse me from the garden, to today’s city and then beyond. The progressive unfolding of history shows us God’s love, care, and presence is uncovering more of his message that the kingdom of God is here and we are invited. In fact, we are compelled to reflect his life, we are charged with luminosity.
God is pulling back the curtain on his purposes for us and his creation. He’s revealing what he wants, and when. It’s almost like when we sit in the theatre and act one ends, the lights go down. And before act two begins, we hear the scurrying in the setting on the darkened stage, something is up, but we can’t see it. And then suddenly, the lights come up, the velvet is drawn back, and we’ve joined the story again, all is laid bare.
In Jesus, God revealed his way, His truth and his life to us. And now, we too can see. If he beckons us to join the story, Jesus is light shows us reveals to us illuminates for us what we need to do. And this is a reminder of epiphany. It’s a showing an unveiling a flashing time of who we follow, and what we must do.
And that brings us back to these Maggi We don’t know a lot about these so called three kings. In fact, we don’t even know that they were kings, we don’t know that there were only three of them, and we don’t even know that they were only men, but we do know this. They weren’t Jewish, they were Gentiles, pagans, and yet they traveled by the light of the star to worship the Christ. It’s here that we understand as if we need to be reminded in these days of turmoil, strife and disruption, that Jesus is for the world.
He’s here for us to make all things new. God revealed his son to all creation, to set it straight, and return it to shalom. We live in the in between, in between of His first coming and the second. And while we wait, we know that the kingdom has been ushered in, of mystery uncovered. But there’s still a mystery while we wait. Like what we experienced only a few days ago, a time of wonder and excitement, anticipation that all point to something bigger, and more wonderful, in the waiting itself.
It’s necessary, and it’s important. So while we wait like the boys and girls who shaped with excitement under the den of decorations and lights, we linger in our own liminal moments between night and the next sunrise knowing that a new day will come something more is going to arrive something better than we can imagine. But until then, we do what we must to ensure that we and the world are ready.
So what does this mean? Well, we have been utterly changed. The dark of night has been exchanged for the light of day, we’ve been transformed from lovers of darkness to men and women who cling to the radiance, of light. And in the length, there are no secrets, nothing hidden, nothing buried. The great light come, he’s been uncovered and that darkness cannot overcome it. Light overwhelms now, nothing is covered. The shroud of shadow has evaporated like the morning dew on blades of grass. As another has said, quote, the pages of the Bible had been wrestling with mysteries since the very beginning. The Maggi revealed the mystery, which is the gospel of God’s grace. And we’ve been morphed from children of darkness to children of life, sorry, children of light. So what do we do now?
So what do we do now indeed. 2021 has just begun. The winter term is upon us and with it learning formation, growth change, and unveilings. What will happen this year. No one knows we can know and after 2020 it would be foolish to even try to guess. But even if we don’t know everything about the rest of this semester or even this year, we have to still act, we are emissaries of his light and his life. After all, we are the offspring of a brilliant radiance. The epiphany has happened. Christ’s kingdom is real, and he is coming back. So what is our mission? The apostle Paul says in Ephesians, that he was made a minister of the gospel, quote, to bring to light for everyone. What is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God might now be known, made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, end quote,
That’s our mission for the sake of the child in the scrap heap in India, for the young woman in the cheap room in Aurora, for the anxious care worker riding the bus in Scarborough, for the terrified mother in the physician’s office in North York, and for the brothers and sisters behind bars and China, for your parents, for your friends, for your neighbour, for this community for yourself. This is our mission.
We hold as the great missiologists Leslie new big and when stated and open secret. And this open secret compels us to share the saving grace of Jesus with the world and it commands us to make culture to be as Andy crouch reminds us, gardeners and artists, filling our cities and towns and our communities with the gifts that we are called toward.
What story are we telling? Newbiggin says the church has been given a mystery, a priceless treasure, and it’s meant for the world. This is what he says, The treasure is nothing, nothing less than the mysteries of God. The mystery which has kept being kept secret for long ages, but is now disclosed and made known to all nations. It is the open secret of God’s purpose through Christ to bring all things to their true and in the glory of the Triune God. It is open in that it is announced in the Gospel, that it is preached to all the nations. It is a secret in that it is manifest only in the eyes of faith. It is entrusted to those whom God has given the gift of faith, by which the weakness and foolishness of the cross is known as the power and wisdom of God. It is entrusted to them not for themselves. But for all nations end quote.
So, this morning, if you’re still thinking about some resolutions for 2021, don’t. If you’ve made some 11 days ago, and they failed already. Don’t worry about it. Because there’s something bigger and wider and deeper and filled with light that we’re called toward. So let’s join together as Tyndale and be surprised but what Jesus is calling us to. We know our mission. That is epiphany. That is the great surprise, the unveiling, the showing the uncovering of Jesus Christ our Lord, our Savior. We know the secret now is a community of students and scholars and staff. Let’s go and tell the world all about it. Amen.
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