This is a collection of illustrations concerning epiphany.
He Came to Help Us See
Besides freeing us from fear and guilt, Jesus came to help us see. He wasn’t talking about physical blindness, but rather, spiritual blindness.
We can’t see because we are trapped by habits, addictions and illusions of happiness. Therefore we are trapped, oppressed by our own choices and situations. Some of us are in denial. Others of us are reinforced through the enabling of other people. Consequently, we are not free.
One night a tiger trainer was performing at a circus. He went into the cage with the tigers and a huge hush came over the crowd as the doors were locked behind him. Skillfully, the trainer put the tigers though their routine, entertaining the crowd. But, suddenly there was a “pop” and the all the lights went out under the big top.
The trainer was locked inside the cage with the tigers in complete darkness. They could see him with their night vision, but he could not see them. All he had was a chair and a whip for protection. Finally the lights came back on and the trainer finished his performance.
Later in a TV interview, the trainer admitted how scared he was. Then he realized that the tigers did not know that he could not see them. “I just cracked my whip and talked to them,” he said, “until the lights came on.” (from “Tigers in the Dark,” God’s Little Lessons on Life for Dad, Honor Books)
Keith Wagner, Liberated and Free
And the marvel is this: Jesus somehow fits the void in all the far flung instances of human longing. When medieval European artists painted the Holy Family, they usually painted them with typical German, Italian, or Flemish features. It was not imagination or prejudice which made them do so, but the instinctive feeling that Jesus belonged to them; he was one of their people. In our time, Christian artists in Africa and Asia paint the Holy Family with features and coloring appropriate to their world. Again, it is because they feel that Jesus belongs to them.
The mountain church, where a duet twangs out country-western music on a guitar, may seem to have little in common with a Bach rendition from a four-manual organ; but each is seeking to show its adoration of Jesus in its own best way. Here is the common bond between a ghetto storefront church and the massive Gothic structure some miles away: they both bear the name of Jesus Christ; and they each seek, in their own way and setting, to fulfill the human longing. What about you and me? What is the longing in our lives which Christ has filled? “Today,” Jesus said, “this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” For you, for me? To what degree are we in the business of fulfilling the scripture in the lives of others?
J. Ellsworth Kalas, Sermons on the Gospel Readings, Cycle C, CSS Publishing Company
Do you remember the story of Pandora’s Box in Greek Mythology? The lovely Pandora was sent by Zeus to be the bride of Epimetheus. One of Pandora’s more endearing charms was her curiosity, but that quality also proved to nearly be her undoing. One day Mercury, the messenger, sent a box to the young couple. It was meant for them to enjoy, but under no circumstances were they to open it. Well, of course, it is the old story of the forbidden fruit. Told that she could not do it, it became the thing that she desired to do the most. So one day she pried it open and peeked inside. Suddenly out flew swarms of insects that began attacking them.
Both lovers were stung with the poison of suspicion, hatred, fear and malice. Now the once happy couple began to argue. Epimetheus became bitter and Pandora wept with a broken heart. But in the midst of the quarreling, they heard a tiny voice cry out: Let me out, to sooth your pain. Fearfully they opened the box again, and this time a beautiful butterfly flew out. It touched the couple and miraculously their pain was healed and they were happy again. The butterfly we are told was hope. It is hope that sustains us; it is hope that sooths our pain.
Called to Action
At Christmas I received as a gift the book, Holy Sweat, by Tim Hansel. I enjoyed it very much. He tells of a guest preacher in a rather large church who began, “There are three points to my sermon.” Most people yawned at the point. They’d heard that many times before.
But he went on. “My first point is this. At this time there are approximately two billion people starving to death in the world.” The reaction through the congregation was about the same, since they’d heard that sort of statement many times before, too. And then he said, “My second point…”
Everybody sat up. Only 10 or 15 seconds had passed, and he was already on his second point? He paused, then said, “My second point is that most of you don’t give a damn!” He paused again as gasps and rumblings flowed across the congregation, and then said:
“And my third point is that the real tragedy among Christians today is that many of you are now more concerned that I said ‘damn’ than you are that I said two billion people are starving to death.” Then he sat down.
The whole sermon took less than a minute, but it is in many ways one of the most powerful ones ever given. He was reminding us we are called not to mere piety but to genuine morality. We are called to action, not to fancy words. Jesus preached a short sermon. But what a sermon! He clearly denotes the kind of ministry he came to pursue. It is to be a ministry to the poor and outcast, the blind and unaffirmed.
James T. Garrett, God’s Gift, CSS Publishing Company.
The Future is God’s Gift
Let me tell you about a commencement speech that was addressed to Harvard’s Senior Class. On the morning of their graduation, seniors gather in Memorial Church to hear the minister offer words of solace and encouragement as they leave “the Yard” to take their places in the world.
The 1998 senior class heard the unvarnished truth from the Rev. Peter Gomes, minister at Harvard and the author of several books of the Bible.Doctor Gomes took no prisoners that day. He began: “You are going to be sent out of here for good, and most of you aren’t ready to go. The president is about to bid you into the fellowship of educated men and women and, (and here he paused and spoke each word slowly for emphasis) you know just – how – dumb – you – really – are.” The senior class cheered in agreement.
“And worse than that,” Doctor Gomes continued, “the world – and your parents in particular – are going to expect that you will be among the brightest and best. But you know that you can no longer fool all the people even some of the time. By noontime today, you will be out of here. By tomorrow you will be history. By Saturday, you will be toast. That’s a fact – no exceptions, no extensions.”
“Nevertheless, there is reason to hope,” Doctor Gomes promised. “The future is God’s gift to you. God will not let you stumble or fall. God has not brought you this far to this place to ABANDON you or leave you here alone and afraid. The God of Israel never stumbles, never sleeps, never goes on sabbatical. Thus, my beloved and bewildered young friends, do not be afraid.”
Peter Gomes, adapted by Brett Blair, www.eSermons.com
Love Is an Action
Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me.”
Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan “Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.” With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!” And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting “as if.” For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn’t return, Crane called. “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?”
“Divorce?” she exclaimed. “Never! I discovered I really do love him.” Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds.
J. Allan Petersen
Act As If You Do Love
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand.
Resurrecting the Message of Christ
Ralph Waldo Emerson made the observation: “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” Take that thought — the institutional church is the lengthened shadow of one Man — Jesus Christ. We Christians owe it to ourselves and to the world to resurrect this message of Christ from the debris of history.
James T. Garrett, God’s Gift, CSS Publishing Company