The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:
s010g15   Epiphany   6/1/2015

‘we .. have come to pay him homage’   Matthew 2:2

I have often reflected that those who have the longest distance to travel are usually the earliest to arrive before a service, while those who live just around the corner are almost always the last to arrive.   I recall one parishioner who lived nearby always being five minutes late.   She enjoyed being the centre of attention.

The contrast between the long journey of the heretics to welcome the baby Jesus and the ignorance and distain of the orthodox only just around the corner in Jerusalem: Google maps tells me it’s 6 h 42 min walking via Route 375.

So the Epiphany tells us that the rejection of the orthodox comes irrespective of who Jesus was or what he said and did.   It is inherent in orthodoxy, ‘christian’ not less than any other, to be disdainful of anything new, anything different, anything which might disturb their social standing.

The Epiphany is perhaps as much to us; if the reaction of the three unorthodox travellers from afar, paralleled with the joyous acceptance of the illiterate masses to Jesus isn’t happening today - then perhaps our portrayal of Jesus is inaccurate.

The Epiphany as well as the story of the Ethiopian eunuch (1) tells us that the desire to worship is not confined to ourselves.   In the gospels many come because there seemed in Jesus some hope for healing.   But the wise men and the eunuch come simply to worship.   In all likelihood the eunuch wouldn’t have even been admitted to the Temple, if only through not being Jewish.   I suppose he didn’t have a T-shirt emblazoned with ‘I am a eunuch’ or perhaps ‘castrated at puberty’ but perhaps there were more subtle ways in those days.

I long ago realised that newcomers to church are welcomed in order to perpetuate what is.   Woe-betide the young and enthusiastic minister who starts new programs rather than get others to support the existing ones!   It is to be hoped that some of the reforms that Archbishop Welby is proposing actually address this rather than just to ‘halt (the) decline’ in the church.   (2)

Do we have a place for wise men from other places, other cultures, other faiths to pay homage to Jesus?   Do we have a place for the alien and the eunuch to worship with us?   I am reminded or the wonderful UCC ad where those who came to worship who were different and those who disturbed the service, were ejected.  (3)

How does our service, which makes the holy communion accessible only to those who are baptised, confirmed and communicant Anglicans, willing to confess their sinfulness, listen to a particular version of scripture two millennia old, stand up and proclaim a creed in words and thought forms of a dispute a millennium and a half ago, and take a particular side in another dispute from half a millennium ago?   The world view of the authors of the Book of Common Prayer of 350 years ago is entirely different from ours - and that difference is growing exponentially.   For the first time this year I sent my Christmass cards by e-mail - I apologise to the postal services.

When we demand people speak our age-old words and take sides resurrecting age-old controversies, where is the Holy Spirit teaching the apostles to speak the language of the hearers as in the first Pentecost? (4)

And demanding such ancient languages we define communion as one-way - others listening to us, agreeing with us, admiring us.   How is this real communion between people?

I note that it was reported on December 19th 2014 in the Anglican Journal that the ‘The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) has urged the Anglican Church of Canada not to amend its marriage canon (church law) to allow the marriage of same-sex couples, saying such a move would “cause great distress for the Communion as a whole, and for its ecumenical relationships.”’ (5)

This is interesting because the Episcopal News Service report on December 10th of the meeting of the IASCUFO didn’t bother to include this reasonably contentious matter! (6)  Helpfully this report gives a list of the members, though obviously not how they voted on the unreported issue.   As I have said before: ‘love delayed is love denied’.

The message of Epiphany is the message that orthodoxy usually exists for the perpetuation of itself, and this is no less true today in that church I still call mine.  As I read in Romans just this morning: ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’ - among the GLBTQ because of anonymous Anglican leaders.

1.  Acts 8:26-40
4.  Acts 2:4,6,8,11
7.  Romans 2:24