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Lindemann on Epiphany 1

by revalkorn ~ January 3rd, 2011

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY

When studying the Propers of the Sundays in the sight of the fact that we Epiphany Season, we must never lose sight of the fact that we have presented to us a series of manifestations. The Babe of Bethlehem is manifested as the Son of God. Whatever the practical application may be, the dominant note is always manifestation. “Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house [about My Father’s business]?” “Manifested His glory.” “I will; be clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” “And the servant was healed at that very moment.” “Even winds and sea obey Him.” “Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers.” “He was transfigured before them…. This is My beloved Son.” Always the human Christ’s deity is manifested.

The Roman Church observes the First Sunday after the Epiphany as the Feast of the Holy Family. But the statement of the Holy Gospel that our Lord was obedient to His parents, while important as to the extent of the duty assumed by Him, is not the dominant thought of the day in the light of the Propers. The Holy Gospel presents a striking Epiphany of Duty in every relation of life. But the intended purpose is to show us that the Youth, listening to the doctors and asking questions for three days, clearly realized who He was and willingly assumed the duties imposed by God on the Savior from sin.

The Introit. “I saw also the Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up. And I heard the voice of a great multitude, saying, Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands; serve the Lord with gladness.”

The Introits for the first three Sundays have a certain general resemblance, striking the dominant note of Epiphany. This day holds the key to the purpose of the day’s worship. It describes the prophet Isaiah’s theophany (6:1). The Lord Omnipotent sitting on a throne, the heavenly multitude singing its Alleluia. Against the background of the heavenly vision the Church points to the Lad seated in the midst of the doctors. Adoringly she worships Him as Lord of lords and King of kings. In the Holy Gospel Christ is revealed for us, and in the Epistle He is revealed in us and by us.

The Collect. “Lord, we beseech Thee mercifully to receive the prayers of Thy people, who call upon Thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same.”

We pray for an epiphany of knowledge and power. We need knowledge that we may perceive what we ought to do with regard to our spiritual interests, our duty in the conduct of ordinary life. But we also need the power to perform our duty, willingly, thoroughly, accurately, and without hesitation. The source of this power is grace. God is not only our teacher as to our duty but our helper in our duty.

The Epistle (Rom. 12:1-5). Here the Apostle carries the spirit of the Lad’s wholehearted consecration of Himself over into our lives. The Epistle beseeches us by the mercies of God to present our bodies a living sacrifice. The Introit has already called upon us, “Serve the Lord with gladness.” The Holy Gospel sets before us the example of our Lord. This example we are to follow, and ourselves to be manifestations of Christ in daily life and conduct.

The Gradual. “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things, and blessed be His glorious name forever. The mountains shall bring peace to Thy people and the hills righteousness. Alleluia! Alleluia! Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands; serve the Lord with gladness. Alleluia!”

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Oh, praise the Lord, all ye nations, and laud Him, all ye people. For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Alleluia! ”

The Gospel (St. Luke 2:41-52). We have here the one and only record of our Lord’s life between His infancy and the beginning of His ministry. It is singled out as a striking Epiphany of Duty in every relation of life.

The Proper Preface. “And now do we praise Thee that Thou didst send us Thine only-begotten Son and that in Him, being found in fashion as a man, Thou didst reveal the fullness of Thy glory.”

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE EPISTLE

Precepts of Duty

A. The Motive of Duty. Duty, even the plainest, is to be done from the highest motive, the sense of “the mercies of God.” We are to act from the motive of love, not of our love which is so weak, but from the realization of God’s great love toward us. Duty is not a price to purchase love but a thankoffering for love received; not a thing of dreary necessity but of gladness, its only sorrow being its own imperfection.

B. The Sacrifice of Duty. Duty is a sacrifice, the sacrifice of the living will, the consecration of the life to holiness and of the body and all the powers to ser-vice. Such a sacrifice God will accept. Indeed, He expects it, for it is our “reasonable service” (RSV: “spiritual worship”) and no arbitrary demand. We cannot do less for Him who has done so much for us.

C. The Freedom of Duty. Duty has been defined as sacrifice, and it is that during this present life. Men try to escape sacrifice by conforming to the world around them. The Christian has a better way of escape from the pain of sacrifice: by being inwardly transformed into likeness to the will of God. The old nature shrinks from sacrifice, the new nature finds the yoke easy and the burden light, discerning that the will of God is good and acceptable and perfect. A ready will makes the sacrifice easy, in fact, no sacrifice at all, for when we have so chosen His will that it becomes ours, the bitterness of sacrifice is past. We are face to face with the strange paradox that the greater the sacrifice, the greater the freedom.

D. The Humility of Duty. If duty to God demands sacrifice, duty to men demands humility. It is easier to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of men. Duty to others is, however, duty to God and arises from our common membership in Christ’s Church. In Christ’s mystical body none counts for more than one and none for less. Every man is to be himself and do his own work, even if he thinks that his sphere might be more important. We are not to be above our work if it seems mean, nor to despise the work of others if ours seems more important. All duty done to others is duty done to Christ, and our highest dignity is to have done our best. Not what is to be done, but how it is done, makes the difference between one and another.

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

The Example of Duty

A. The home in Nazareth was the scene of conscientious duty to God and His Church. The parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. They rejoiced that “the boy Jesus” was now of age to take His journey with them and appear before God in Zion. Evidently it had been a home of religious education, of careful holy teaching, of eager questions and understanding answers. The boy Jesus had been well taught. Long before He sat in the midst of the doctors, He must have learned at Mary’s knee.

B. Duty Toward the Things of God. It matters little whether we translate “My Father’s business” or “My Father’s house.” Either rendering displays early devotion to the things of God and a budding consciousness of divine Sonship and a divine mission. These first recorded words of Christ have often been compared with His words from the Cross, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” From birth to death our Lord manifested the Father. This was His own summary of His life, and it could not be more complete.

C. Duty to His Parents. This devotion to His heavenly Father was not inconsistent with His duty to His earthly parents, for He “came to Nazareth and was obedient to them.” This applies not merely to His actual childhood but to His whole Nazareth life. Child, boy, and man, He submitted His will, time, and toil, becoming the Carpenter of Nazareth before He became the Savior of the world. This is the consecration of all labor, and especially of labor on behalf of parents.

D. Duty of Preparation. “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature.” He spent thirty years in private to prepare for three years in public. The best preparation for the future is the present. He did not despise the secluded village of Nazareth. Great is the value of quiet seasons, great the sacredness of home, great the sweetness of village life. In themselves, and to the Christian, all these are consecrated by Christ’s voluntary choice during the first thirty years of His earthly sojourn. We may even learn the needed lesson that it is quite possible to be good even in a bad village and that our surroundings are often part of our discipline.

THE HOLY COMMUNION

The Holy Gospel presents an Epiphany of Duty in every relation of life and shows us how our Lord willingly assumed the duties imposed on Him as the Savior from sin. The Epistle calls on us to follow His example of wholehearted consecration and in our lives be manifestations of Christ. It is most appropriate that we celebrate the Holy Communion this day and act on our Lord’s plea to do it in remembrance of Him. When He instituted His Supper in the night of His betrayal, the failure or success of God’s plan of salvation depended, humanly speaking, on the friends He had gathered about Him in this last night. Would they give themselves completely to His cause? He must make sure of their un-selfish, unwavering devotion to the task of bringing the knowledge of Him and His salvation to all the world. So He took bread, gave it to them, and said: “This is My Body, broken for you.” He gave them wine, and said: “This cup is the new covenant in My Blood.” His plea was: “Do this in remembrance of Me; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” Let it remind you to remember Me, to think of Me, of My love for you that prompted Me to give My body and shed My blood for you on the Cross. Let it remind you of My work and My Person, of all about Me, also of My wholehearted devotion and consecration to the things of God.

The loving Savior meets us at His Table and gives us the seal of our forgiveness and salvation. We make the price He paid our very own. Our sin no longer stands as a barrier between us and our God. We are dear children of a loving, heavenly Father. We are brothers and sisters of the Son of God and co-heirs of the Kingdom. Our Communion is also a confession on our part. St. Paul says we proclaim the Lord’s death. We declare that we would be hopelessly lost if Christ had not given His Body and shed His Blood for our salvation. We confess that we believe in our personal forgiveness by His atoning death. We also declare that we are men and women whom the Lord purchased with the price of His Body and Blood to be His own, that we are people on whom the Lord depends for the salvation of the world.

We are so apt to forget our high calling and blessed responsibility. So the Lord calls us to His Table and says: “Do this in remembrance of Me, your Savior and Redeemer. This is to remind you not to forget that you belong to Me. I have bought you with a price. You belong not to yourself, not to the world. You are My blood-bought property. By every bond of honesty and fairness you are bound to serve Me.” He said to His followers: “As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” He insists that His work on earth is as much ours as the Father’s work was His. Therefore He expects of His followers the same devotion to the Father’s business that characterized His whole life. When we celebrate the Holy Communion in remembrance of our Lord, we are to be reminded also of His wholehearted devotion to the Father’s business.

Remember how fully and completely He gave Himself to the work for which He was sent. He said: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” His very existence was to do that for which His Father had sent Him into the world. He said: “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” Again: “I must work the works of Him who sent Me.” At the end of His life He could say: “I glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.”

We need to be reminded that our Lord expects of all His followers this same devotion to the Father’s work. As He gave His life, so we are to dedicate our time and strength and abilities, yes, our very life, to the advancement of God’s cause. We are so apt to forget the real purpose of our existence, to consider the making of a living the object of our lives instead of merely a means to the end of serving the Lord. So it happens that people waste their lives on trivialities and fail to accomplish the lofty purpose of their existence.

As you come today and joyously confess your happy conviction that the Lord Jesus has purchased you with His body and blood to serve Him, ask yourself what you are doing for Him. There is something for you to do. There is a task waiting. It is for you to find the place for which the Lord intended and prepared you; and if you search for it earnestly and honestly, He will lead you into it. You have some gift which you are to employ in the Lord’s service. St. Paul says: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” In this day’s Epistle he writes: “As in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members one of another.” We are one body in Christ, and we are Christ’s body. Any body that has inactive, useless, dead members is crippled and deformed. The Lord’s body is not so. As we then eat and drink in remembrance of our Lord, whose Body and Blood we receive here together with the Bread and Wine, may we be reminded not to forget His love and His devotion to God’s cause.

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