Study Notes and Questions based on Epiphany of our LORD, Sunday 6 January 2012
English doesn't really have its own word that quite says what the Greek word for epiphany captures. Epiphany! It's a word that really should always merit an exclamation point in English, at least. It's always something surprising, unexpected, exciting, even startling. We don't have any single word for this in English, but the borrowed one, "Epiphany!" Maybe about the briefest equivalent we might have is something like, "Sudden, surprising happening that changes everything completely."
(these questions and notes are from the General Board of Discipleship www.GBOD.organd are reproduced for use at Alberton Methodist Church with permission. They are general questions on the sermon topic for each Sunday)
1. When you look around you, where you are, what do you see? Do you see ruins? Do you see "thick darkness"? Or do you also see signs that God's glory shines and offers all sorts of gifts for the rebuilding of Christian community where you are? What are those signs? Where is Epiphany!?
2. Our mutual care for each other and extended to all, our commitment and action that renounces the evil forces of this world and resists injustice and oppression, our praise of God in the midst of suffering and uncertainty, our witness through lives of holiness to the holiness of God, all of these are signs of God's glory shining, if we will see the Epiphany! all around us, and if we will let it shine through us. So who and what around you is shining with the Epiphany! light of God's glory in the midst of the thick darkness surrounding us?
3. Iraqi or Iranian astrologers just didn't normally come striding into Jerusalem looking for a newborn child destined to become the new ruler of that nation. If they did, they would have known enough protocol from their own culture that they wouldn't normally start by asking common people and maybe a priest or two where this child might be. Matters of state like this would usually have been handled by an official delegation working through all the "right" channels. In short, what these men were doing in Jerusalem and how they did it was bound—and maybe even intended-- to draw suspicion from the powers that be. What are you doing as a congregation or as individuals, or what are others doing in your community, that draws suspicion by talking with "the wrong people?" Where are you taking action to find Jesus at work in ways that avoid or help you move around the barriers in place to keep you from finding him?
4. God's consistent activity in this story was Epiphany! God acted in suprising, transforming ways to subvert the powers that be and all they would attempt to stop God's reign from being made known (Epiphany!) through Jesus. In nature, God arranged the alignment of planets viewed by the astrologers. Through the astrologers going to Jerusalem, the wrong people are asked and Herod's suspicions are raised. Through Herod, the Magi discover where they need to go to find the king they seek. Through a series of dreams, God leads the astrologers and the Holy Family to safety in the face of what were very serious death threats from Herod. It is subversion after subversion, God never once using the "right channels" to spread the word of the newborn king and God's kingdom surely coming to all the world. Not once. God always acted by Epiphany!
5. How do people in your congregation or community join God's subversion of the powers that be to bring about the revelation of God's reign to strangers and enemies? How does God continue to act subversively where you are to continue to secure a place for God's reign not only to survive, but to thrive where you are?
6. Note that the Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer for today calls all Christians around the world to pray precisely for the region from which the Magi came, and it includes Iran and Iraq, among other Islamic nations, several of which are hostile to U.S. interests or have a history that is hostile to or limits open expressions of the Christian faith. How will you pray in the spirit of Epiphany! with and for these people in ways that embody the spirit of these texts today?
These are specific questions which arise from the sermons preached by Ryan and Cedric each Sunday and are drawn up by each of them once they have prepared their sermons.
Section A questions will be distributed to all Cell group, Small group and Bible study leaders and anyone who requests them, on a monthly basis. They will also be published on the AMC webpage. Section B questions will be published weekly.
Section B questions based on Cedric’s Sermon
You may wish to make notes under the following headings based on the text verses as I discuss them (please note that all my sermons and study notes can be copied from my blog http://dentalmethodist.blogspot.com/ )
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem
they asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary,
and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
1. Discuss the characteristics and differences between each of the three groups (Herod group, religious group and pagan astrologers).
Herod group is governed by ………………
Religious group is governed by …………………..
Pagan astrologer group is governed by……………
2. Which group best describes where you are right now?
3. Which group best describes your family?
4. Which group best describes your church?
5. Which group best describes where our nation is right now?