The Breath Of The Lord Is Upon Me

And Jesus came to his hometown of Nazareth on the sabbath. But it’s not just any sabbath. As Richard Swanson points out the accurate translation from the Greek is the day of sabbaths, surely a reference to the day Jews refer to as the Sabbath of Sabbaths -Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. So, on one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, Jesus comes to his home town and standing up in the synagogue he reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah proclaiming his understanding of his mission from God.

It’s a stretch for me to suggest that the day of the parish’s annual meeting is in any sense an equivalent to the Day of Atonement. Yet Annual Meeting Sunday is a time for reflection on the year passed, and a time to rededicate ourselves to meet the challenges and embrace the opportunities of the coming year.

For those of us relatively new to the Episcopal Church, the Annual Meeting is the important anchor the holds our Church governance secure from year to year. It is the best expression of how we as a community hold ourselves accountable to one another. For me, transparency and accountability are not always comfortable concepts but are at the end of the day, essential values to cherish and protect.

Have we been a welcoming community in 2018?

The first signal to the wider world that we are a welcoming community is found when strangers visit It’s here they encounter the tone of our community.

Physically, a visitor’s encounter with us is set within the first seconds by the warmth of our greeters and the supportive efficiency of our ushers. This year 38 families and individuals completed visitors’ cards. Every completed visitor card was followed up by email or letter during the following week.

Because church going patterns are more variable and flexible these days the traditional measurement of the average Sunday attendance (ASA) is no longer an accurate measure of our size and commitment. Yet, overall impressions from 2018 are that the numbers of new faces we are seeing week by week is an indication that we are becoming a more magnetic community. Yet, our magnetism is only as good as the quality of our welcome and outreach. In 2018 we had increased attendance at both Easter and Christmas services; a measure of our increasing impact in the wider community of fringe church attenders.

Our magnetism is only as good as the quality of our welcome and outreach, and we have to work hard to ensure that the caption The Episcopal Church Welcomes You does not remain our best kept secret.

The contribution from some newer members to the planning and implementation of the St Martin’s Feast this year contributed fresh ideas to the enormous success of this celebration.  It was good to welcome Rabbi Howard Voss Altman from Temple Beth-El as our guest preacher at Choral Evensong.

2018 has seen continued growth among families with young children. The Children’s Ministry flourishes thanks to Linda’s+ leadership and the amazingly strong commitment of parent involvement. The Christmas Pageant this year was certainly evidence of the fruit of this pudding, as was also the Children’s involvement in putting together toiletry care packs for distribution at the Epiphany Soup Kitchen – a ministry where serving growing numbers of the working poor has steadily increased over the past 12th months.

2018 saw the launch of a new men’s fellowship ministry, recently renamed Gander. We have all been astonished by the speed and strength of Gander’s development. You can read more about this in my Gander report in the AM pack.

Have we explored new avenues for sustainability in 2018?

In 2018, the Thrifty Goose, our thrift shop in the basement has undergone a complete makeover. The makeover is a reflection of a transformation in ethos from one of the traditional church charity shop to that of a right livelihood enterprise. Right livelihood enterprise is a term I have imported from The London Buddhist Center which over the years has sponsored a host of RLE’s. These are spirituality -values-based initiatives with a commercial priority as a key objective. I appreciate for some of us, and certainly for some who have given long service as volunteers in the Thrifty Goose, making a profit can seem a jarring concept. Therefore, let me make three comments in this regard.

  1. The primary objective of the Thrifty Goose as RLE is the repurposing of high-quality clothing. Where else can you get a Brooks Brothers shirt for $15, or an article of women’s designer wear for a fraction of its original price tag – not to mention the unearthed treasures from 1950’s and 60’s that have languished at the back of many a wardrobe. Repurposing is not only a spiritual value, it’s also great fun!
  2. The Episcopal Church universally, and not just at St Martin’s is facing a painful revolution in its economic model, which has since 1945 been based on the member pledge. In 2018, our pledge income remained strong; slightly increasing – and thank you for that. However, the longer term stats show our numbers of pledging members growing smaller and will continue to do so as the boomer generation passes-on to God’s greater glory. At this point in time, there is no clear picture of whether millennial and post millennial generations will recover the same level of commitment to the church as a vital institution that contributes to the greater good of our society.
  3. The signals are mixed, and so we need to be open to new ways of thinking about our financial sustainability.

How have we benefited in 2018?

  1. In this last year, Thrifty Goose profits together with that of two estate sales enabled us to devote 10% – the Biblical tithe – of above budgeted profits to outreach, increasing the budget for outreach grants to community projects from $5,000 to $7,000.
  2. In 2018, we gave away $129,615. This is a remarkable achievement, thank you!
  3. Goose profits also enabled us to begin the refurbishment of the Great Hall. The Great Hall is another important potential source of additional income. If you want to know the importance of upgrading our rental facilities just take a visit down city to see Grace Church’s, new state-of-the-art Pavilion. Upgrading and making our church plant accessible for wider community use is a right livelihood activity. My thanks to Brigit Timpson and the team of volunteers for transforming the Thrifty Goose into – if you will excuse the pun – a goose that lays the golden egg.

One big change in 2018

I want to draw attention to changes in our music ministry. Music is a vital component of the way St. Martin’s positions itself in the religious marketplace. We revived the Carol Sing just before Christmas, filling the Great Hall with so many new faces as the wider community came to enjoy the experience of community carol singing. In 2019 we will seek more opportunities to make community music and singing, in particular, part of our programed events.

The Episcopal Church maintains its strong commitment to the Anglican musical tradition in which music regulates the steady drumbeat of the liturgy. A series of developments in 2018 led me to make permanent, the interim arrangements separating the roles of choir director and organist. It’s timely that on the Sunday of this Annual Meeting we have the good fortune to commission two highly accomplished church musicians into each of these roles.

I want to make three additional comments about music.

  1. Under Gabe Alfieri the adult choir has regained much of its strength and through making more use of our paid singers we have been able to reintroduce Evensong (sung vespers) as part of our monthly liturgical schedule.
  2. Gabe has also begun to build a growing and enthusiastic children’s music program, which expanded this last fall from three to ten children regularly attending rehearsals at 6:15pm on Thursdays. This remains an exciting area for our commitment to a children’s ministry outreach in the wider community.
  3. With the arrival of Steven Young as our new organists, I look forward to Steve’s and Gabe’s visioning as together we explore the way the Anglican musical tradition can speak appropriately to our distinctive combination of traditional worship and radical theological messaging.

What have been the challenges faced in 2018?

  1. We are blessed with a beautiful stone building, that as one wag remarked was designed to leak. Beautiful though stone churches may be, they are an increasing burden for modern day communities such as ours. In 2018 the Buildings Committee embarked on a systematic survey of the sources of the multiple water leaks we see all over the church. As a result, we have a better idea of a strategy of staged repairs to fix multiple problems. I am grateful to Peter Lofgren for bringing his architect’s professional knowledge, experience, and network of contacts to bear in charting a way forward in this area of daunting challenge, which with Gordon Partington’s retirement is likely to become more so.
  2. As you will all appreciate, the repair and upkeep of a church like ours is a very expensive affair. Fortunately, our forebears have left to us a moderate endowment to help us with major buildings upkeep. Unfortunately, it’s not large enough for us to feel complacent, and Fla Lewis, chair of the Finance Committee continually warns us against eating our seed corn. Therefore, another gratifying development in 2018 has been the implementation of a Planned Giving strategy. Thank you to the team led by Fla that has opened up our understanding of the variety of ways we can all regularly contribute to the strengthening of the Endowment in addition to contributing to routine running expenses.
  3. We cannot function without the generosity of all our volunteers. However, in 2018, despite some of us devoting serious time and talent to supporting our community life, we are experiencing a volunteering crisis, as there seems to be fewer people than needed to do what needs to be done.  The sharp decline in our volunteer culture is complex and multifaceted, a reflection of wider societal shifts, with the church playing a less central role in our social lives. We must guard against an assumption that there is always someone else to do what we choose not to do; someone else who will be prepared to plug the gap left by our lack of engagement. Let me emphasize, there isn’t!

As your rector, I see my role as one of nurturing healthy community through the stimulation and encouragement of lay-led ministry initiatives. As ministerial priests, it is Linda’s+ and my role to call all of you into the fullest possible participation in the New Testament’s vision of the responsibilities of all the baptised as a royal priesthood of all believers.

You have heard me say many times that it’s important to follow your passion in choosing a ministry to participate in. But this statement is also a double edged sword for its corollary is – if you wait to be gripped by passion then you might end up doing nothing at all. We no longer have the luxury of carrying members who do not participate in strengthening this community with their generous giving of time, talent, and treasure. Commitment to action is not an optional choice for Christians.

Jesus accepted God’s mission for him as he read from the words of II Isaiah.

He stood up to read.
       It was given to him: a book of the prophet Isaiah.
            He opened the book; he found the place where it stood written:
                 A breath of haShem (the Lord) upon me
                           because of which he anointed me
                                to bring good news to the poor.
                      He sent me,
                           to proclaim
                                to exiled captives:
                                to blind people:
                                     seeing again;
                           to send those who have been crushed into release,
                     to proclaim a year of haShem acceptable.
        He rolled the book. He gave it back to the attendant.
            He sat. The eyes of all in the synagogue
                      were staring at him.
        He began to say to them:
                  Today it has been fulfilled,
                       this writing, in your ears.

Richard Swanson

As members of Christ’s body in the world we are Jesus’s followers in this time and place and therefore our intentions and actions matter to God!

By any measurement 2018 was a fruitful year for our community. On behalf of all of us let me thank you! I especially want to thank those members of the Vestry who are rotating off from their three year commitment. As we begin 2019, let the year of the Lord’s favor be fulfilled in our lives. God’s love makes claims; claims that render us accountable to God and to one another.


2 Epiphany Year C  21 January 2019 . John 2: 1-11

         the Rev. Linda Mackie Griggs

Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, amen.

The steward’s was one of those jobs where you didn’t want to be noticed. Because if you’ve been noticed, it means you’ve screwed up. His job, and that of the people who worked under him, was to be anonymous. Anonymity meant seamlessness; that all was well, and no one would yell at you, or worse.

Yet in spite of his best efforts, meticulous planning and endless preparation, his anonymity was in serious jeopardy. The weeklong wedding celebration was still a couple of days from ending, and they were out of wine. He had already heard a woman whispering to her son, “They have no wine.” Soon everyone would know. And it was his responsibility.

He didn’t hear the man’s response to his mother; instead the steward had hurried to tell the bridegroom about the brewing disaster. His heart was in his mouth. How could this happen? Everybody was supposed to contribute to this celebration—that’s they way it was supposed to work—but it hadn’t. Where in the world would they get enough wine to serve the rest of this party?

He didn’t notice the servants. They remained unheeded, except for the attention of the woman and her son, who quietly told them to fill the jars. They had no idea how jars of bathing water would solve the problem, but theirs was not to question or raise a fuss. So, as quietly and covertly as possible, they set about following the stranger’s instructions. Six heavy jars filled to the brim. By the time they were finished they were sweating, but they had done the work, while the steward panicked and the guests—at least for the time being—paid them no mind.

The stranger—what did he just do? Did he speak, or touch the water somehow? It happened so fast—then he asked them to ladle out some… no, wait. Abundant, garnet-colored, and fragrant with berries and late summer sun… What had they just witnessed? Who was this man?

The steward, mystified—and incalculably relieved—distributed the wine to the guests, and then returned to his blessed anonymity; yet with the knowledge that he had been part of something extraordinary. But the servants—the carriers of the water, the silent ones on the edge of the party—would they ever be the same? I like to think not. I like to think that this was a life-changing encounter for them. This is a glimpse of the Dream of God.

In this, the first of the miracles or “signs” in John’s Gospel, intended to illuminate his identity as the Son of the Living God, Jesus has wasted no time in upending the customary perception of who are insiders and who are outsiders. This is not a story of the bridegroom and his new bride, nor of the glittering days-long nuptial celebration with its honored guests and healthy dowry. No; the ones privileged to witness the miraculous transformation of the ordinary into the sacred are themselves the ordinary ones; the unnoticed ones who faithfully do their work on the margins. The ones that no one usually notices unless something goes wrong. Jesus privileges the unprivileged, inviting them to join with him in revealing that the Dream of God is at hand.

So we have here an open-and-shut case of Kingdom inversion; a perfect example of how Jesus turns our expectations upside-down and gives everyone a seat at the table at God’s banquet. Right? Not so fast.

Sometimes, when reading Scripture, something bothers you, like a puzzle piece that won’t fit. The easy thing to do is ignore it and move on—address the parts that make sense and that do fall neatly into place. But the problem is, no matter how hard you try to complete the picture—that hole is still there, waiting to be addressed.

If this were an open-and-shut case of Everybody Is Welcome to God’s Party, wouldn’t the servants have gotten to drink the wine? But they didn’t. They passed it to the steward, who passed it to the bridegroom, and the guests went on as if nothing had changed. This is disturbing. And it should be.

Jesus privileges the servants; the unprivileged and the unnoticed. They (and the disciples) witnessed an amazing miracle. But for the hosts and the rest of the guests, that miracle took place without their knowledge. The wine shortage crisis, so quickly and quietly averted, might never have happened. Except that it did. Right under their noses.

Surely there is a parable here; a parable that imagines us as the wedding guests, blissfully unaware of the work of the Kingdom that calls to them from the anonymous margins.

Perhaps this parable is telling us that the transformation of ordinary to sacred—of scarcity to abundance– is incomplete unless and until we participate in it. Perhaps it is calling us to take notice of that which has been unnoticed—until there is a crisis.

As Fr. Mark has noted in his weekly epistle, the partial government shutdown has become a matter of increasing concern, especially to the 800,000 workers and their families who are directly affected. I confess to a degree of complacency in the early days–I hadn’t given much thought to the impact the hitherto unnoticed work of so many people has on the rest of us–people often working quietly on the sidelines— the Coast Guard, the TSA, air traffic controllers, the IRS, the Park Service, the FDA–  for not a whole lot of money. They make so many aspects of our lives run more smoothly and safely and we haven’t paid much attention– until now. And as the shutdown goes on we hear stories of parents skipping meals so their children can go to daycare or the doctor. Frantic negotiations with landlords and utilities to put off bills until the paychecks start flowing again. This isn’t just a story of political conflict—it is a deeply human story that goes to the heart of who we are called to be as Christians—to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

Dr. King, who we honor this week, had a name for what we are called into. He said,

Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.


There are signs that eyes are opening to this crisis. Reports abound of local efforts, like Roger Williams University’s offering of free meals to Coast Guard families, restaurants serving free dinners to furloughed workers, while customers of those same restaurants donate funds to help. Food banks, like the ones at PICA and Camp Street Ministries are opening their doors wider and need our extra support, which is why we’re encouraging everyone to be generous with your donations of non-perishable goods in the baskets at the back of the church. Eyes are opening. The unnoticed is being noticed. It’s what the New York Times calls “a makeshift national safety net, stitched together by private businesses, banks, local governments, organized labor and charitable organizations…spreading slowly and unevenly across the United States…”

Transformation – a qualitative change in our souls – like water into wine, from the ordinary into the extraordinary. From complacency into generosity. Whispers of the Beloved Community.

The story of a single miracle tells us who Jesus is. The rest of the story, being written right now, is what tells us who we are, and who we can be: filling the glass to the brim and offering everyone a drink. Amen.

servant and water jar

Stories of Birth and Adoption

There is more than one way to tell a story.

The New Testament offers us four different accounts of Jesus’ identity as Son of God. They differ so markedly that to the modern ear they can’t all be true. In fact, the modern, factually attuned ear probably will dismiss all of them as fairy stories.

Matthew and Luke both offer birth narrative’s rich in magical realism. These are stories of angels, shepherds, wise men, a genocidal king, and a star. As in our glorious children’s Christmas Pageant, we often combine the cast of characters -angles, shepherds, wise men, and the star appearing in a compilation of Matthew and Luke’s stories -run together as if they are the same story. But there is a different cast of characters in each story.

Matthew highlights the Jewish origin and identity of Jesus as the new Moses. His opening sentence begins –An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. His story focuses on Joseph, and is populated with angels, wise men, a wicked king and a star and ends with a heart-rending (because of the events on our southern border) detail of flight from persecution – And an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain until I tell you”.  …Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.

Luke presents Jesus as God’s son who is the universal savior of humanity. The focus of his story is Mary and the birth of Jesus witnessed not by kings but by the to the ordinary people of the land. Luke’s story locates the birth within the wider context of the Roman world- In those days, a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Luke’s opening sentence addresses one Theophilus – a Greek or Roman patron? We don’t really know. But Theophilus signifies Luke’s sense that through the birth of Jesus God is speaking to the whole world and not only to Israel.

Matthew and Luke, though relating the same event, each lend a different coloring of meaning to the story of Jesus’ birth

In John the language of magical realism is replaced by that of a more science-fiction bent. Instead of an infant birth, John’s Jesus enters into the world through a cosmic creation event that harkens back before the dawn of time – in the beginning, already was the Word (Jesus) and the Word was God.

On Christmas Eve I spoke about the Matthew, Luke, and John stories and as I was greeting worshipers after the service a man came up to me and asked why I had omitted to mention Mark’s account? The reason, I explained, is that Mark offers no account of the birth of Jesus at all. His first mention of Jesus is as a fully-grown man – in those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

In year three of the Lectionary we read about the baptism of Jesus from Luke’s version of the story which he basically copies from Mark. Challenged on Christmas Eve, I was quick to make justification for omitting Mark. But was I correct in doing so? On deeper examination although neither a birth story nor a cosmic genesis event, the Marcan story of Jesus’ baptism is nevertheless a birth story of sorts; a story of birth through adoption. God’s voice booms from heaven: this is my son in whom I am well pleased.

The Marcan story of Jesus’ baptism is nevertheless a birth story of sorts; a story of birth through adoption. God’s voice booms from heaven: this is my son in whom I am well pleased.

In what sense is Jesus God’s son?  Behind the question of how Jesus becomes God’s son lies the deeper question of identity. What is identity and how does it come about? Is identity – that sense of who we feel ourselves to be and who others recognize us being –the fruit of birth or adoption. Are we born into self-identity or do we become ourselves through adoption -i.e. the choices we make?

On January 4th I went for my U.S. citizenship application interview. I had memorized the answers to all 100 possible questions but only got asked six of the easiest. I’m not complaining mind, but if I am honest, I felt a little short changed by the lack of challenge. Anyway, I am relieved to say my application was approved.

On hearing of the news one Phoenix friend exclaimed: my God, what have you done? I assured him that all I had given up was the right to foreign titles so henceforth he would have to stop addressing me as Viscount.

The point of my relating all this is that when sworn-in, I will hold citizenship of three countries – only one of which is a citizenship conferred by birth. My American citizenship will be by adoption. So, does that make me less of a citizen than any of you who are citizens by birth? In the atmosphere of the current immigration controversy, this is a question that should focus our minds.

For each one of us, the interplay between the significance of being born-into and adoption of identity will vary. I have known a number of persons for whom this interplay is a painful one; resulting from the experience of being adopted by parents other than those who gave birth to them. The experience of infant or child adoption for many raises excruciating questions of identity because for most of us, identity is primarily shaped by factors of birth. For others, and I count myself among this group, the most important aspects of identity flow from processes of adoption.

Within each of us, identity is multifaceted resulting from the interplay between being born into and becoming by adoption. Some aspects of our identity are firmly rooted in birth identity. Yet, many other aspects of identity come through adoption, i.e. the decisions we make.

The story of the baptism of Jesus is a very important one for us. You and I do not aspire to the status of children of God through the accident of our birth. Neither is our claim to be children of God a product of some pre-existent cosmic status. We become the children of God through adoption. Like God’s adoption of Jesus – this is my son on whom my favor rests – it is through baptism that we too become adopted as those in whom God is well pleased.

The writers of the New Testament understood that there is more than one way to tell a story. In fact, they seem to have realized that in order to do justice to the complexity of the confluence of human and divine identities in the human life of Jesus several different, yet overlapping stories were needed. A story of identity through birth alongside a story of identity by adoption remind us that the most significant source of identity is very often not the one we are born into but the one we choose for ourselves, the one we are adopted into.

The late Biblical scholar Marcus Borg once commented that the Bible is true and some of it actually happened.

What he meant was that truth is more than the recording or relating of an event as if it’s only a set of facts awaiting reporting. Truth resides in the enduring quality of a narrative – a story constructed to talk about the meaning of an event. Stories that bear the hallmark of truth are stories that not only align with our experience of the world but encourage in us to be better than the current versions of the people we happen to be.

Adoption takes us to the heart of what it means to have faith. Faith is not an accident of birth but something deliberately chosen.

Birth is an accident from which we can take neither credit nor bear blame. Adoption, now this is another matter! For adoption is always about a conscious choice, a deliberate decision made, a clear direction chosen.

To be fully human is to become most like God. To be baptized is a choice taken to live in the conscious knowledge and self awareness of our adopted status; that to be fully human is to be most like God.


Epiphany                  6th January 2019 . Matthew 2: 1-12   

             As sermon from The Rev. Linda Mackie Griggs

“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.”

T.S. Elliot’s The Journey of the Magi

No satins and silks and elaborately decorated turbans here, kings perched regally on patient camels treading the soft desert dunes, silhouettes against the starlit sky. Eliot draws us instead into the grit, sweat and uncertainty of the Wise Men. They followed the Star obediently, but not always willingly; and tormented by doubt. Was this indeed “all folly”? they know that when they returned they, and their world, would never be the same?

Did they know that they were pilgrims?

They were probably astrologers, though we often refer to them as kings. They were probably from Babylon, because Babylon was a center for astronomical studies and curiosity about portents written in the stars. Matthew’s intent in making this a part of the birth narrative of Jesus was to symbolize the spread of the Gospel beyond the geographical and spiritual boundaries of Judaism; to foreshadow Jesus’ Great Commission at the end of the Gospel, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…”

But for us this story is more than symbolism and foreshadowing. They have their place, but it’s not literary structure that makes today’s Feast of the Epiphany what it is. Epiphany, or the manifestation of Christ, the Light of the World, to the Gentiles, is significant because it’s what makes Christmas more than an isolated event. Epiphany invites us to ponder, not just what the Magi brought to the Christ Child, but how they were illumined by what they found when they arrived. What gifts did they discover there?  Who were they when they returned home? Because that’s what defines pilgrimage—a journey that transforms the traveler. Epiphany invites us to see the Magi as pilgrims and to see ourselves in their journey.

We have made our way through another year—some more unscathed than others, but all touched by a trek, sometimes a slog, through months of good news and bad, accompanied along the way by friends, colleagues, family and strangers who made their mark on our lives—at times gentle, and at times bruising.  A hard time we have sometimes had of it. There were moments when we wished we could go back to How Things Were Before—whatever that means to each of us.  But Time kept nudging us onward. Wondering, sometimes (go ahead, admit it) Is it all folly?

It’s not. Not if we know that we are pilgrims. That we are not just travelers from birth to death, stopping here and there along the way with no purpose but to say we’ve done it. That’s what tourists do. And Epiphany tells us that we are not tourists.

Why is this distinction important? Because the Christmas encounter with the Christ Child dares us to ignore it. Dares us to go forth from the manger unchanged. Dares us to return to our homes empty-handed, without having discovered the gifts that we have received on this pilgrimage to Bethlehem.

And this is the fundamental point. While gold, frankincense and myrrh were the symbolic gifts of kingship, divinity and death, the gifts that were illumined by the Wise Ones’ meeting of the Christ Child were anything but symbolic. And they are revealed to us, and within us, as surely as they were in those three sweaty and exhausted travelers.

Epiphany is the result of our encounter with Jesus—it is the “aha!” moment of realization, not only of who he is, but of who he calls us to be. Epiphany is the illumination of the gifts that equip us for the journey back into a world that can never be the same if each of us cherishes and shares what we have been given—indeed that has been within us from the very beginning.

What is it that we have been given?

Father Richard Rohr names three things as the soul’s foundation; they are Faith in the fundamental goodness of Creation; Hope for the ultimate reconciliation of humanity with God, each other, and Creation; and Love—a deep knowledge that each of us is beloved of God. Faith, Hope, Love. These are the gifts we are called to carry away from the Manger, and to offer to the world as we return homeward. And if we listen carefully, we may hear an invitation to something new in our lives—a new challenge, transition or vocation. Listen: That’s Epiphany inviting, no, daring us toward transformation—to go home by another way. Do we dare heed its call?

How much more perfect can it get that today we baptize a child whose name, Sofia, means “wise”? Sofia was Baby Jesus in the Christmas Pageant. She was a delight– so alert and interested—she was fascinated with a little battery-powered candle that one of the angels was holding nearby. Sofia was going for that light. She would have that light. And when she got it, she stuck it right in her mouth. (No, children; do not try this at home—just enjoy the metaphor, okay?) As Sofia begins her life’s pilgrimage as a member of the Household of God, may she never stop radiating the light of Christ that shines upon and within her today, and may the gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love sustain and strengthen her for her journey.

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