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Sermon: Mattins - Epiphany

Sunday 4th January 2015
Choral Mattins
Jeremiah 31. 7-14
John 1: 29-34

I [John] have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God

(John 1.34)

Epiphany is about showing, seeing, revealing, recognising, knowing. It prompts us to ask how we see and know, and like John the Baptist how we testify.

As Jesus rises up through the waters John the Baptist knows and recognises. This is indeed the Chosen of God.

John’s relationship with Jesus is one of knowing and unknowing. Even in his mother Elizabeth’s womb John leapt with joy and danced as Mary came into his mother’s presence: why did he dance with joy? Because Mary was bearing in her womb, the Word Made Flesh: Jesus Christ.

John knew. Or did he?

He did know that someone, the One, was coming. The One whose way he was preparing the One of whom he was unworthy even to tie up his sandals. He could be certain, at least, of that.

John knew. Or did he?

John didn’t really know. He himself is grilled by the priests and Levites sent from Jerusalem asking him who he was. John gave his testimony, defining himself in the negative. One thing John really knew is that he was not the Messiah: ‘I am not he’ (John 1.19-28).

John knew. Or did he?

He wasn’t certain who the One would be. After all, from his captivity in Herod’s gaol John sent his own followers to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ (Matthew 11.3) The answer from Jesus is emphatic, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news brought to them’ (Matthew 11.4).

John knew. Or did he?

As Jesus rises up through the waters John the Baptist knows and recognises. This is indeed the Chosen of God, the hope of the nations. And now John sees him again, and he knows: ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1.29).

John knew. He did know.

The waters broke to give birth to John’s knowing: he was now the blind one who could see; the one who hobbled along who now could walk with upright in Messianic hope; the one cleansed by God in his own healing waters; the one hearing clearly God’s Word in the voice of Jesus Christ; the one knowing the Good News has been brought to him.

The waters splash and swirl in the threefold unity of God: the Father who declares Jesus to be his beloved Son in and on whom the Spirt rests, brooding over the waters of the New Creation in Christ Jesus. It may not be Trinity Sunday but the Trinity, as ever, draws us into knowing God and dwelling in the mystery of God.

Epiphany is about revealing, seeing, knowing. John shows what he knows. This is testimony and witness, so that we show what we know: by how we live and love; in what we say and do, making Jesus known, showing his loving face to the world, being him for the world.

John came for this reason he says in St John’s Gospel: ‘I myself did not know him; but I came baptising with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit”. I myself have seen and testified that this is the Son of God’ (John 1.31, 33, 34).

May we be blessed in our seeing, knowing and proclaiming.

O Gracious and Holy Father,
give us wisdom to perceive you,
diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you,
eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate upon you,
and a life to proclaim you,
through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord.

St Benedict of Nursia