Year C, Epiphany 6: February 13, 2022
The Sixth Sunday After Epiphany
Year C: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26
You’ve heard of the “Great I Am.” Today’s scriptures are filled with what we Episcopalians like to call the great “Both And.”
The Prophet Jeremiah shares God’s Word: “Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals… Blessed are those who trust in the Lord.”
The poetry of the Psalms begins with: “Happy are those… who delight in the law of the Lord. Doomed are those… who walk in the counsel of the wicked.”
In the Gospel text, Jesus echoes this ancient binary template: Blessed are you who are poor, who hunger, who weep… Woe to you who are rich, full, laughing…
Many of us resist binaries or what I like to refer to as gray areas. We try to stay open-minded by practicing “both/and” thinking rather than getting stuck in “either/or.” We don’t want to be boxed in, and we certainly don’t want to be judgmental. Our institutional DNA is stamped by the Elizabethan Settlement back in 1559 that sought a via media, or middle way, between Rome and Geneva, between Roman Catholics and Calvinist Reformers. Episcopalians are known for accepting ambiguity as part of a life of faith. We are cautious about rigid “black and white” thinking, more comfortable than many of our fellow Christians with the metaphorical “grey.”
There is room in our tradition for people to be honest about their doubts. The virtue of humility often accompanies ambiguity. Who are we, after all, to know the mind of God, much less proclaim God’s judgment? When we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we affirm the “mystery” of faith, not the objective, measurable “facts” of faith.
Yet amid our embrace of the “grey area,” of ambiguity, of “both/and” thinking, of “mystery,” the Holy Spirit presents us with these binaries from our holy texts and invites us to wrestle with them rather than dismiss them as being old-fashioned, unenlightened, or worse, an anathema to our preferences.
Perhaps the way to work with these contrasting images is to place them in the context of Epiphany light. The classic symbol of Epiphany is the star that guided the wise men from the East to the infant Jesus. Epiphany light comes from that mysterious star but also from the light that emanated from the stable, the Christ child himself, who is “Light from Light” and in whom “there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). We now begin our sixth week of soaking up Epiphany light, praying that the “eyes of [our] heart[s] might be enlightened” so that we see a bit more like God sees (Ephesians 1:18).
As we’ve heard throughout this liturgical season, Epiphany means “manifestation” or “revelation.” The Church focuses on the Epiphany or revelation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, fully human, fully divine. And he is the Christ not just for his people, the Jews, but importantly God’s anointed one for the salvation and redemption of the whole world. In Jesus the Christ, God reveals God’s final word to creation, to humanity, and that word is “Yes.” God’s word to us affirms our preciousness to God. God’s intractable “Yes” is expressed in:
- Christ’s Incarnation – God becoming perfectly human, God-with-us: Emmanuel; who “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.”
- Jesus’ Resurrection – the defeat of Death itself, as the first fruit of a final resurrection in which we, too, will be raised: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
- And in Jesus’ Ascension – in which Jesus, fully human and fully divine, sits at the right hand of God. Now that is metaphorical language. Most of us don’t consciously reduce our image of the first person of the Trinity to an earthly monarch sitting high upon a throne! But the metaphor points to something mysterious and wonderful – that our redeemed human nature is worthy of being brought close to God, into holy space where angels and archangels and all the company of heaven cry out: “Glory!”
But let’s zero in on God’s Yes to us in Jesus’ Resurrection. That’s what Paul focuses on in today’s epistle reading. And unlike the Ascension, the Gospels offer us eyewitness accounts of Jesus after the Resurrection – walking through walls, showing his wounds and inviting us to touch them, breathing peace on his disciples, making breakfast for them on the beach.
God’s Yes to humanity — even in light of our rejection of God, our enslavement to sin, our betrayal and lack of courage, our “perverse hearts,” as Jeremiah exclaims – God’s YES to us, as we are, sinful and broken, is revealed in the Resurrection. And this YES overrides, supersedes, and puts all the other “no’s” into perspective.
Karl Barth, arguably one of the most prominent theologians of the last century, eloquently and passionately guides us in interpreting the meaning of the penultimate “no’s” in light of God’s ultimate Resurrection YES. He wrote:
“The final word [of God] is never that of warning, of judgment, of punishment, of a barrier erected, of a grave opened. We cannot speak of it without mentioning all these things. The Yes cannot be heard unless the No is also heard. But the No is said for the sake of the Yes and not for its own sake… therefore, the first and last word is Yes.”
So the “no’s” and the woes matter. They have weight. It really isn’t a good idea to walk in the path of the way of sinners, or scoff, or put all our trust in mere mortals. Instead, God speaking through the Holy Scriptures guides us, instructs us, encourages us to “take delight in the law of the Lord,” to be “righteous.” Or, put in the language of our Baptismal Covenant, to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” and to “strive for justice and peace among all people.”
But in the end, when we fall short (which we will), we can trust that God’s great Resurrection YES will catch us, heal us, and restore us.
So, a question for you to ponder is: What difference does Jesus’ Resurrection make in your life? How does God’s YES to you, humanity, and creation affect your day-to-day decisions, habits, and patterns?
Would you like to be even more transformed and energized by this resurrection hope?
Perhaps God’s YES reminds you that your body matters, other human bodies matter, the earth’s body matters. We won’t just escape to heaven one day after we die; instead, our bodies will be raised. Caring for bodies – yours, those of the poor, those of God’s critters – is a sign of your faith in Resurrection hope.
Perhaps God’s YES enables you to go into challenging situations looking expectantly for the Risen Christ to meet you there.
Perhaps God’s YES encourages you to risk the disappointment of working on problems that won’t be “fixed” soon. Issues like the climate crisis, systemic racism, the opioid epidemic, or generational poverty – and knowing that you are blessed for doing so, even though the world may not understand.
For in our baptism, all the “no’s” are passing. Still, God’s YES to us is final… and during this season of Epiphany, we are, day by day, little by little, participating in the “risen life of Christ our Savior,” emanating that Epiphany light that darkness cannot overcome. Amen.
 Cf. Jeremiah 17:5, 7, New Revised Standard Version (“NRSV”)
 Cf. Psalm 1, vv. 1-2
 Luke 6:17-26
 1 John 15, NRSV
 Philippians 2:28, NRSV
 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, NRSV
 (Church Dogmatics, Vol 2, Part 2).
Before the Covid-19 caused us to cancel services inside our churches, the sermons were usually recorded at St. Andrew’s and uploaded by Kemp Miller, for whose ministry we are all grateful. To access the entire library of audio files for past sermons, CLICK HERE.