As the seasons of the church year make their annual circuit, the preacher has no other task than to unfold the mystery of Christ. He makes it known in all its splendor, with a sense of awe and wonder and with all its meaning for the faltering lives of Christ’s little ones. ~Ernest Koenker,
Since becoming Lutheran 7 years ago, I am continually amazed at the depth of the liturgy and the Church lectionary. The first half of the church year, from Advent to Easter, follows every event in the life of Jesus. The remainder of the Church year, from Pentecost until the next Advent, follows the miracles and teachings of Jesus, in a systematic way, so that nothing is missed. The Gospel readings are paired to well with the Old and New Testament readings, so as to interpret each other. This ancient way of making disciples protects parishioners from the whims of cultural trends and pastoral interests. I’m so thankful for a pastor who preaches Christ, and Him crucified, every week. Our church follows a 3 year lectionary, series A, so the Gospel lessons are slightly different at times during the Church year. You can download a copy of the lectionary here. I am providing this for those who, like me, did not grow up with the rhythm and richness of this ancient church practice. I’ll link to relevant podcasts or sermons along the way, usually from my pastor or from Issues, etc.
Epiphany means a sudden or great revealing or manifestation. It is celebrated in the Western Christian Church, on January 6th, and lasts until the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday. It represents the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles—the Gentile’s Christmas. The main theme of epiphany is— Jesus as the light of the world, revealed to all nations, including the Gentiles. The number of Sundays differ every year, depending on when Easter falls, but it always begins with the Baptism of Jesus and end with the Transfiguration.
(from notes I take during my pastor’s Sunday School class)
Epiphany, and specifically the Wise Men, answer the questions of :
1) Who is Jesus? The very Son of God 2) Who He came for? All of mankind, not just the Jews 3)What He came to do? Die and rise to redeem mankind. 4) Where shall we find Him? When he was 12 years old, his family left Jerusalem and 3 days later, noticed him missing. When they finally found Him, He was in His Father’s house, teaching. Today, also, we find Him in the Word and in the Sacraments of the Church. 5) When should we follow? NOW. The Wise Men followed immediately, there’s an urgency, that this chance to meet Him won’t be here forever. 6) How do we worship? The Wise Men, the learned men from the East, prostrated themselves before a BABY and they bring their best to Him.
The Sundays of Epiphany
On Epiphany, Jan 6:: The Visitation of the Wise Men
The theme of the readings is wisdom. In the OT lesson,
- Isaiah 60: 1-6
- Ephesians 3: 1-12
- Matthew 2: 1-12
Summary of the sermon: Why the star?
The star is to teach us the foolishness and futility of trying to find Jesus ourselves. Who gets the credit for leading them to Jesus? NOT THEM. God does the revealing, the leading. The Wise Men follow like little children. God does the teaching, the showing, the revealing. What is our star today? God’s word. It’s the star and teaches us that Jesus is the resurrection and life, the only way to heaven. You want peace and joy and purpose? You follow the star, Jesus. You want to know if God really loves you? You look around for a sign. The cross of Christ is your sign. He loves you. He died for you. You are precious to Him.
The star teaches us the faithfulness of God. We think of Abraham. God promised Him descendants as many as the stars in the sky. There were many *stars* in the OT. The Wise Men see ONE star, the one we’ve been longing for—Jesus, the Messiah. God has kept His promise.
The star is here to show us our future with Jesus—heaven, paradise! We will shine like the sun. We will be lifted up and exalted, with a new body, no more death, no more sin, more death, no more war. He’s a baby in this star, but the star point us to the resurrection.
The First Sunday of Epiphany:: The Baptism of Jesus (an amazing sermon!)
- Isaiah 42:1-9
- Romans 6: 1-11
- Matt. 3: 13-17
Why is Jesus baptized?
What is revealed in the Baptism of our Lord, and what is given to you in your Holy Baptism, is the inner divine Life of the Holy Triune God manifested and made available in the flesh of Christ Jesus. The one true God turns Himself inside-out, as it were, in order to draw you and embrace you to Himself in love. He loves you with the divine eternal Love of the Father for His Son, and He brings you to Himself in the faith and love of the Son for His Father. He anoints you with the Holy Spirit, the Author and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father in the Son; who is poured out upon the Body of the Son and rests and remains upon Him, so that you, who belong to the Body of Christ by your Baptism into Him, also receive the Spirit of God and become His child. The heavens are here opened to you, in the waters of Holy Baptism, because the Holy Triune God opens Himself to you in the baptized Body of Christ Jesus. ~Pastor Rick Stuckwisch
The Second Sunday of Epiphany::The Wedding at Cana—Jesus turns water into wine
- Is. 49: 1–7
- 1 Cor. 1:1–9
- John 1:29–42a
The Third Sunday of Epiphany:: The Calling of the First Disciples
- Is. 9:1–4
- 1 Cor. 1:10–18
- Matt. 4:12–25
The Fourth Sunday of Epiphany:: The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Jesus
- 1 Sam. 1:21–28
- Heb. 2:14–18
- Luke 2:22–32 (33–40)
The Fifth Sunday of Epiphany::
The Last Sunday:: The Transfiguration of Jesus
- Ex. 24:8–18
- 2 Peter 1:16–21
- Matt. 17:1–9