“The Kingdom of God”
Midweek Fellowship - January 6, 2016
Dcn. Garry Salguero
The Feast of Epiphany marks the conclusion of Christmas Season. We stop singing Christmas songs, for some if not most of us, we put down Christmas decorations, we put down Christmas lights, we dismantle our Christmas trees, but I believe that Christmas is not over. We continue to celebrate the coming of the Savior, for the redemption of the whole world.
Christmas is the Incarnation of Jesus, the manifestation of God in the flesh. The dictionary defines Epiphany as an “unexpected manifestation”. I prefer to think an epiphany as a great discovery or great revelation. I call it a "Yes!" experience. Cartoonists picture an epiphany with a light bulb above a cartoon figure's head. An epiphany is a light suddenly switching on in our head and we can see suddenly things around us. We can see the obstacles and we see how to overcome these things.
Let me give you a simple example of epiphany. This is a story or an anecdote in a science class in High School and it had to do with Archimedes, an ancient Greek scientist. Archimedes had his epiphany, his “Yes” experience, when he lowered himself into a bathtub and he noticed how the water rose higher in the tub. He raised himself from the water and he saw how the water got lower in the tub. It suddenly dawned on him that there was a scientific principle at work – a principle that he could use to predict the weight displacement, density and volume of an object, and buoyancy of a ship. Archimedes got so excited that he ran out into the street shouting, "Eureka! Eureka!" (which means “I have found it”) In his excitement, he forgot to put on his clothes. He was running down the street naked, shouting "Eureka! Eureka!”
Because of the overwhelming revelation that we receive, multiply it with excitement, there are times that we sometimes forget that we are naked, as in the case of Archimedes. We forget our vulnerabilities; we forget our weaknesses; we forget our limitations; and we overcome all of these things. Did you ever have a “Yes” experience? I believe most of us have and this epiphany changes the rest of our life.
The Epiphany that we are observing today has to do with the story of the Wise Men as told in the Gospel of Matthew 2: 1-12. It was a “Yes” experience for them as they followed a star to the baby Jesus. It was a “Yes” experience to follow a star that nobody but God could have put in the sky. It was a “Yes” experience to see the star stop over the house where Jesus was. It was a “Yes” experience to see the baby. The Wise Men followed a star to the baby Jesus.
Today, we can barely see a star even in a clear sky because the city lights floods our skyline. You have to go to the province or on top of the mountain to view the stars. Psalm 72 is a remarkable hymn which is a prayer believed to be used on the day of the coronation of a new King. In verses 5-7: “Let them fear You while the sun endures, And as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May He come down like rain upon the mown grass, this symbolizes His incarnation, the manifestation of Christ the savior and King in the flesh, like showers that water the earth. In His days may the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace till the moon is no more.” In verse 11: “And let all kings bow down before Him, all nations serve Him.” Let them fear You while the sun endures, while the moon endures. Let them fear You because You reign mightily not because of terror but justice and righteousness. It does not necessarily means that the sun and the moon will cease to exist. The annihilation of starry firmament has no foundation in Scriptures. It won’t happen! But man tries to influence our minds to lead us to depreciate the character of a Divine Ruler.
There is a TV program by National Geographic entitled “10 Ways to Destroy Earth.” I watched only two episodes of it and in one of its episode, they discovered a few years ago that something new can destroy the earth and our solar system completely in seconds. It is a new Armageddon. It’s a moving black hole that can destroy the planets, the sun or a solar system in its path. A black hole is a dead star that collapsed and its mass and gravity is so strong even light cannot escape from it. No one can predict its path or speed. The discoverer said that we are at its mercy. This is not true! The Lord is sovereign over all creation. He is in control and I would rather be at the mercy of a righteous and just King.
The Wise Men were different. They studied their lesson Astrology 101. They knew that a bright star symbolizes a birth of a new king. We wonder what they saw exactly in the sky that first night. What was it that got them thinking? What was it that motivated them to pack and begin a journey to who knew where? Something have been revealed to them, but what was it? Was it in the sky, in their mind, in their heart?
We don’t have much historical information about these Wise Men and their journey. St. Matthew says they came from the East. Some have speculated they were from Persia. We like to think that there were three of them, but St. Matthew doesn’t say that and the number has varied throughout the Church’s history saying they were 2, 3, 4, 8, even 12. We call them Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar but these names didn’t come about until the seventh century. What about “the star”? Is it a supernatural phenomenon or just a regular star, a comet, or a conjunction or grouping of planets?
In my imagination, one of the Magi probably studied the stars all night long for several consecutive nights. Star patterns always looks the same and they move very, very slow, but there was something different with this rising star. They conferred, consulted, and discussed with one another since all of them finished Advance Astrology 101. Then they announced, “We are going to travel east. Pack our bags; bring food; bring a lot of water for we will be gone for a long time. It’s not a long journey. (To my estimate it is a very, very long journey.) Don’t forget the gifts. We need to have gifts for we are visiting not only the king of the Jews but the King of kings and the Lord of lords. This King is greater than the king of Persia or the Roman Emperor. We don’t know where exactly our destination is but we are following a star. We have no maps, no GPS or google map.”
The Wise Men started their journey and they followed the star and they arrived at Bethlehem. The Magi went to the palace, where you can find a king, but they knew about Herod the Great and his reputation. They were not looking for Herod nor one of his sons or his magistrates, so they followed again the star; and it stopped at a little house and they were overwhelmed with joy. Matthew 2:11 says that when they saw Jesus, they "knelt down and paid Him homage and worshiped Him." They approached Jesus as if He was a king and they were ordinary men. They knelt –– just as they would have done in the presence of a real king. Nobody had these questions, “Is this the one? He looks ordinary to me - nothing special, nothing magical, no supernatural aura. Are you sure Gaspar? This is it? After all the troubles we’ve gone through, is this it? He does not even have diapers, Melchor! He even cries like a baby would cry for milk or a toy.”
Nobody objected. Nobody opposed. They opened their treasures and presented expensive gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh and offered them – just as they would have brought to a real king. Of all people, they who were considered magicians, dark arts practitioner, and who put their destiny on the positons of the stars in the sky, they worshipped the Savior of all humanity. Their actions reflected their faith that they were, in fact, in the presence of the one and only real King. They were in the presence of the One who was born King of the Jews. (Matthew 2:2)
Epiphanies are those times when something calls us and moves us to a new place and we see the face of God in a new way. It is so human that it seems almost ordinary, maybe too ordinary to believe. This anonymity and lack of historical information is a reminder that this story, this epiphany journey, is not just the Wise Men’s journey but everyone’s journey. We don’t know what was in the sky – what they saw that first night. We don’t know what was in their minds – what they thought, asked, or talked about. We don’t know what was in their hearts – what they felt, dreamed, or longed for.
We know that there have been times when we each have experienced an epiphany – times when our night sky has been lit brightly, times when our minds have been illumined, times when our hearts have been enlightened. These are moments that give us the courage to travel beyond the borders and boundaries that usually limit our lives. Like the property in Marimar that God has chosen for us to build our Church, for some of us we may say, “This is it?”
After praying the Corporate Petition for so many years, after giving for so many years, this is it! Does it look small for a Church property? It is very ordinary looking. How about our ministry? Do we see our ministry as something common, something we’re used to, something typical? For the band and choir members, there’s no such thing as common or familiar song that does not require practice. We need to realize that we are serving Jesus in our ministry, and He is worthy of our expensive presents. He is worthy of our time and effort and attention. Like the Pastoral Care Ministry with Dcn Ben Abalajen, when somebody calls or somebody has a need, they will go no matter where - near or far; province or city – and minister and answer a need. After their ministry, they are filled with joy.
We go beyond our boundaries and our limitations and this is what happened to the Wise Men. Something was stirred within them and they began to wonder, to imagine, and their lives were part of a much larger story. Could it be that the One who created life, the One who hang the stars in the sky, noticed them, knew them, lived within them, and was calling them? Could it be that the light they saw in the sky was a reflection of the divine light that burned within them, that burns within each one of us? To seriously consider these questions is to begin the journey.
The journey of the Wise Men took them to the house where they found the answer to their questions – a Child in the arms of His mother, Mary. We will not find the answer if we don’t take the journey. We may travel a different route than the Wise Men did, but the answer is the same. God notices us, knows us, lives within us, and calls us. God is continually revealing Himself in and through humanity, in the flesh.
These are the stories of our lives, the epiphanies that forever change who we are, how we live, and the road we travel. These are moments of ordinary everyday life in which divinity is revealed in humanity and we see God’s glory face to face. It is a difficult thing for us to understand. It is a difficult thing to believe. But if we will allow ourselves to believe it, it is the most wonderful “Yes” experience imaginable.
The Wise Men have seen and known the Savior. For sure after reaching home, they would tell stories of their encounter with God to their neighbors, friends and relatives. Christmas encourages us to incarnate the Word to the world, and in this Epiphany, we are to manifest God’s Kingdom to this darkened world.