A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
The story of our redemption is briefly summed up in this phrase from 2 Corinthians, “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” Our lives, once lost to godless tragedy, discover the Way provided by our Saviour, to return to that heavenly goodness and beatitude for which we were and are created. In this Epiphanytide, therefore, our lections lead us through a careful and gracious unfolding of the first dimension of Paul’s wonderful declaration, of how ‘God was in Christ’. We are brought to see, week by week, what it means that, “in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9) Only as a consequence of that vision becoming surely and clearly rooted in our hearts and minds will we be able to make any progress into the saving work of His redemptive suffering, throughout the approaching seasons of Lent and Easter. First, we must come to know whom we meet in the Messiah, in order for us then to share freely in the purpose and consequences of His appearing. It was, after all, precisely as a consequence of profound confusions regarding His person and identity that He was brought to be crucified. So too with us: if we are not to be offended in Him, we must first of all bear patient witness to His nature and His character, and just so, it is to show us how to look at Jesus that the Epiphany season orders our devotions between Christmas and the start of a new Lent.
The first crucial discovery we must each make in the course of our salvation is that it does indeed involve a real person: Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary and Joseph. Like the kings, we must come and see who this is, leaving behind our old comforts and assumptions, so that we too, like the magi, may be newly, and infinitely more, consoled and encouraged with the simple and wonderful discovery, that God is with us. Then, as we follow the story forward, we find how this divine presence is not simply foreign and terrible in its power, too great to embrace or fathom, but rather, that He is humble, the perfect example of life measured by obedience to the Father, and by extension, by honouring His earthly parents. We come to discover that in the most profound sense, the Messiah, who is King of kings and Lord of lords, is also, and in the first place, our neighbour. This is expressed in such a beautiful way in the miracle at Cana, Jesus graciously taking care for that most vital institution of every neighbourhood, marriage. The changing of water into wine precisely reveals how it is for the blessing and consolation of our human experience through the renewal of a redeeming divine grace, and not for any other purpose, that Christ is born. God is with us, and He is for us. This gracious care and presence is the context in which all His life and ministry unfolds, so that last week we saw how His teaching on the mountain, invoking the people to trust in God, immediately found its natural, practical, expression through miracles of healing.
And so today, we come to the remarkable miracle of the calming of the storm, and we are meant to see how crucial it is that this sheer expression of Christ’s divine authority appears only now, only after the humility of the stable and His childhood, His care for the people, and His goodwill present in the gifts of teaching and healing, have been made clear. In other words, His absolute authority, invested in Him by the Father before all things, and by which the world was made, His infinite freedom to govern and to move all things in their proper courses, is indeed a necessary, and fundamental, quality of His nature—and we must learn to devote ourselves to Him in these terms, for such He is. Yet we come to that vision of His unlimited divine power, only by way of the unfolding story of His humility, and His human kindness: we only come to know God through His love for us, and as we do, we find that power only has true significance as the working out of love. That is the sense of Paul’s admonition in today’s epistle: we may commit to the just administration of earthly powers, and ought to be subject to them, because their authority is a rightful expression of God’s loving care for us, present in every way, in all times and places. Law and order permits us to learn what it means, that the second commandment is like the first, to love our neighbour as ourself. For this is the divine identity which we find manifest in our Lord, that by His love, we are His neighbour—and so, too, this is the truth our lives come to reflect, as we learn to embrace His appearing.