WAITING FOR THE FULL REVEALING

Sermon delivered on the Second Sunday after Epiphany the 15th January 2017 by Bishop Nicholas JG Sykes at St. Alban's Church of England, 461 Shedden Road, George Town, Grand Cayman.

Scriptures: Isaiah 49:1-7     1 Corinthians 1: 1-9     S. John 1:29-42

1 Corinthians 1: 5,7-8 “You were enriched in Christ ... so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end.”

The season of Epiphany refers to truths or realities that are revealed or manifested to the world through the events of the life of Jesus of Nazareth in his life upon earth. The Collect for the Feast Day of the Epiphany asserts that those who know God do so now by faith, and wait and earnestly hope for the fruition of such seeds of faith after this life. "Mercifully grant (we prayed), that we, which know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead." God does not equally reveal Himself to us in every circumstance of life; for we understand from the Scriptures that God's revelation takes place in a particular association with Jesus Himself. If we know God now by faith, through Jesus, then it must be known also that much of what we see, much of our experience of the world does not reveal God to us, and in fact may serve to obscure God rather than reveal Him. We can indeed identify many things that serve to obscure God rather than reveal Him, and some of those things may serve to obscure God by their beauty and attraction. One might think of those wonderful vehicles in the Cayman Motor Museum, for example, which is well worth taking a trip to. Others might prefer to take a trip to the downtown jewellery stores and admire the beautiful diamonds and other precious stones, brooches and necklaces. Still others will find particular interest in the fine watches and clocks that are available, and if you are interested in old grandfather clocks and find wonder in the fact that one that was crafted over 200 years ago can still be in good working order, you might even want to take a visit to the rectory! Nevertheless, with all things, and even with all people, we have to ensure that the regard or sympathy we have for them does not get to the point of being idolatrous, because in spite of all godly regard we ought continually to believe that there is One only that we cannot do without.

There are other things that are part of this world's experience which are very ugly. For some, these may have the effect of negating to us the love of God. If somebody’s child dies, there may be an immediate or indeed sustained reaction of anger, among those who knew the person, that God has allowed or brought about such a thing. Those of us who have ever been affected by a hurricane to the point of serious loss may question the goodness of God. Indeed currently there are many who have been affected by typhoons in the Pacific. In recent years and currently, huge swathes of population have been forced to flee their homes in various areas of Africa and the East. It is natural to ask, does not God care about these people? - and with the question may be sown the seeds of doubt. Currently there are dire predictions of the effects of geomagnetic solar storms that are thought to threaten the earth about every 100 years, the last powerful one being in 1859, even to the extent of devastating and resetting the entire civilisation, in our own case being likely to render cellphones, credit cards and the internet, not to mention the electricity grid, totally useless.

Yet as St. Paul and the Epiphany Collect both affirm, it is by faith through Jesus Christ, and not through the things of this age, be they ugly or attractive, that we come to know God, and by this faith too that we become empowered to engage in a situation with people to turn it around by God’s strength, and sometimes the very situation that appeared at first to cause doubts becomes the vehicle by which God is glorified. So it is that by faith, we wait in all circumstances for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain us to the end.

We learn from today’s Gospel that John the Baptiser did not at the beginning of his ministry know Jesus to be the One who takes away the sin of the world, but during John’s course of ministry Jesus was baptised, and as the other Gospels also testify, a special revelation was granted on that occasion. In this Gospel John the Baptiser says that the Holy Spirit descended and remained on Jesus, and this was the sign to John that here was the Son of God. And then, because of what John the Baptiser was now saying about Jesus, the gathering of disciples around Jesus began. The two disciples of John the Baptiser that became the beginning of the twelve, were Andrew, who in turn brought his brother Simon Peter, and probably John the son of Zebedee. John the Baptiser, who had experienced the epiphany of the Son of God at the Baptism of Jesus, was now instrumental in the further epiphany of the gathering together of Jesus’ disciples around Him.

St Paul in our second lesson today wrote of our waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain us to the end, “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the Christian life, there are periods of waiting and periods of forging strongly ahead, and in the one circumstance and in the other, God is equally faithful to us. He has been faithful to each one of us from the time of our baptism, even though most likely we have been unfaithful to Him many times. The promise to us in the times that we wait for His revealing to us, is that He will sustain us in the waiting, so that at the end of the day of waiting, we will be guiltless before Him. What has happened to the church repeatedly is a picture, an image of the day of His revealing after a period of waiting for Him.

My trust is that we will find that day in which our own Cayman Islands Church too is truly transformed after its day of waiting, and we can apply the same thought to our own lives as well. God has been faithful to us. We can make the words of the Suffering Servant in our Old Testament lesson our own:- The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And He said to me, “You are My servant, ... in whom I will be glorified.” Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of these words, and as those baptised into Christ, they are in a lesser but real way true of us too. Then the servant goes on to express frustration:- But I said “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.” Who is it that does not know such feelings? Have not you and I known them? But the Lord said to the Servant, what you thought you were here for is too light a thing. “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Again, the words and the calling are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but now it is we who are baptised into Jesus Christ that are upon the earth, and we too have an inescapable part to play in the calling into which we are baptised, and for which we wait in faith. Perhaps the time for which we are waiting is drawing to a close, and we will find ourselves forging strongly ahead.

John the Baptist’s ministry, into which our Gospel dipped this morning, must have been transformed when the day came in which he saw the Spirit descending upon the Christ in the waters of His baptism. Let us remember that we all have a ministry too, given by Him and signified by our baptism. We are to await keenly in active faith the day in which it will be transformed, and one day, whether on this shore or upon another, that ministry will be completed in the fruition of the glorious Godhead.