Sunday 4th January 2009 - Epiphany
Sermon preached by Neil Riches on Matthew 2: 1-12
Matthew 2 – particularly rich in emotions. ‘Charged’ is not too strong a word. We encounter a wide range of attitudes to Jesus… and reactions to Jesus.
• Magi appear – asking questions about the whereabouts of the King of the Jews; these questions are not simply the product of curiosity, but are borne out of a desire to worship him… worship meaning simply, to ‘acknowledge the true worth’ of someone
• Herod initially is ‘disturbed’, along with many elements within the city; powerful word… for me it brings to mind water, where troubled depths are not discerned initially from the surface…it takes a while to understand what is going on ‘deep down’; certainly, this disturbance speaks of uncertainty on the part of Herod, but it is more than this – clear boundaries are being drawn, no place for open-mindedness
• Chief priests and teachers of the law – the Jewish elite; they offer accurate factual knowledge, citing Bethlehem and quoting from Isaiah, but to an extent they appear unmoved, detached… support for Rome’s puppet king is uppermost in their minds
• Herod again… this time, plausible trickery… find the child, let me know, and I too will visit him to pay him homage; a man who feels threatened, to the extent that his later, murderous reaction comes as no surprise
• Magi again… overjoyed to find Jesus, lavish in their worship, open in their reception to divine communication… only to happy to avoid Herod
• Joseph… a rare pivotal role, but an understandable one as protector and defender of family; there is great and conscious irony in the journey to Egypt, since safety was now to be found in a place that previously would have been anathema to many Jews
• Herod… removal of the Christ-child at any cost: blind, irrational fear… exaggerated response… protection of vested interests at any costs… wonder why Mugabe comes to mind as I ponder this
• Joseph finally… realist: Archelaus has taken over from Herod… and so flight is followed by inconvenience, as safety is sought in Nazareth
What to make of these emotions and reactions?
• People of faith… what seems to be guarded neutrality, but which amounts to support for the powerful
• Violence of the powerful… some things are to be protected at any costs
• Warmth and worship are present in the passage… but we engage with them in such a way that potential costs are acknowledged
As we contemplate faith journeys in 2009, beware the dangers of neutrality, seeming to be unmoved; dissociate yourselves from anything which smacks simply of the preservation of vested interests… and continue to bear in mind that true worship (sc.) always brings with it costs, possibly great costs.