First Presbyterian Church
27 N. Main Street, P.O. Box 568, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472
Order of Divine Worship
Sunday, January 7, 2018 – 10:30 a.m.
You are the light of the world. You are the body of Christ.
Please allow your conversations with one another, your prayer and meditation,
and the music to help you make the transition from getting here to being here.
Greeting: Assisting Elder: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Announcements Assisting Elder:
Preparing for the Word
Musical Call to Worship
Introit “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child” Hymnal # 146, v. 1
Call to Worship:
Arise, shine; for your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord has arisen upon you.
Lift up your eyes and look around
Then you shall see and be radiant.
Arise, shine; for your light has come!
Let us proclaim the praise of the Lord!
Time with Children
*Hymn 151 “We Three Kings”
Prayers of Confession
The proof of God’s amazing love is this: While we were strangers Christ died for us. Because we have faith in him, we dare to approach God with confidence. In faith and penitence, let us confess our failings before God and one another…
Almighty God, who sent a star to guide wisemen to the young child Jesus: we confess that we have not followed the light of your word. We have not searched for signs of your love in the world, nor trusted the good news to be good. We have failed to praise your Son’s birth, and have refused his peace on earth. We have expected little, and hoped for less. Forgive our doubt, and renew in us all fine desires, so that we may watch and wait and once more hear the glad story of our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.
Assurance of Grace
“This saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus entered the world to rescue sinners. If anyone is in Christ, that one is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” People of God, hear the Good News:
In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Thanks be to God.
*Response of Praise, No. 581 (If you are able, please stand)
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, World without end, Amen, Amen!
Hearing the Word
Anthem “Journey in Peace” Beck & Cohn
Hebrew Bible Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6 B
1Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
2For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.
3Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
5Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
6A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.
New Testament Reading: Ephesians 3:1-12
1This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:1-12
1In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Sermon “Epiphany” Rev. David Ashby
OK! Pop Quiz! Let’s see how well you’ve paid attention to your Sunday School teachers and your preachers for all these years… what does “epiphany” mean, anyway?
Good! That’s right, “epiphany” is the fancy Greek word for “the revealing,” or “the uncovering.”
Informally, it’s used to denote “having a revelation,” a sort of major “ah ha!” about the world, one which changes your perspective in a significant way. For instance, you are reading an article or a book or see something on TV that pieces together something you had not understood before. We also sometimes use “epiphany” for those moments when you slap your forehead, say “Duh! Now I get it!” You discover a key which unlocks something; you “have an epiphany.”
We also use the word in a technical, theological, and liturgical sense for January 6 (or the closest Sunday to it) to denote the arrival of the three wise travellers to worship the Christ Child. We don’t call it “Magi Sunday” but “Epiphany Sunday” because the church has wanted to emphasize that Christ was revealed to the rest of the world, the gentile world, at that point, as represented by the three sages. The three travellers were the first non-Jewish eyes to see Christ revealed. They stand in, as it were, for the rest of us, seeing the light of God revealed in the infant, then going home and sharing the revelation, the Epiphany. Incidentally, we use the word also around Transfiguration; the incandescence of Jesus’ body because of his divinity shining through reveals he is God, his holiness is uncovered. Sometimes that one is called a Christophany, literally a Christ-revealing, but it is still a revealing of God’s being, just like today. Whether through the skin of the teacher of Galilee or the eyes of the infant in Bethlehem, God and God’s love and God’s plan are revealed.
But sometimes we use the word, “epiphany,” kinda in the middle, picking up on how God may break through the obscuring layers to reveal God’s self in a more direct way. It might not be the swaddling clothes which hide God, nor the dusty robes on the mountain, but something else, something more ordinary. In fact, you and I are not likely to need to climb a peak or traverse afar over field and fountain, moor and mountain, to catch a glimpse of God revealing God’s self in some small or subtle way.
The trick is to spot the little epiphanies… they’re not usually the ones with the big stars pointing to them! A winter rainbow I saw once was a tiny epiphany, God painting a little sign revealing, “The Creator was here!” Going over a passage in the Bible and saying, “Gee, I never noticed that before…” is an epiphany, the Holy Spirit opening your eyes and ears to an expanded revelation of what is in God’s Word. Maybe the words of a hymn really “hit the spot” with you some week… or they bring an immense sigh of relief to you while something has been troubling you. Perhaps you were one of those slightly rebellious souls who went to church… until you were out on your own or at college, and then turned totally skeptical… until something kinda major happened to you and you realized that the only option was to turn back to God… and there, miracle of miracles, was God, waiting for you with open arms. It could be a prayer in a hospital room where suddenly, in the midst of the beeping IV machines and wires and tubes, you had a powerful sense that Jesus was right there, right there keeping you all company, and that everything was going to be all right, no matter what might happen medically. Sometimes the epiphany is in the work of a group of Christians, like in our congregation-wide mission study meetings, like a Session, a committee, a Search Committee, a community dinner, a work project. It could be a simple as a gorgeous butterfly landing on a perfect flower in a shaft of perfect sunlight; bang! Epiphany again!
So there you are, off doing something you merely think is being nice or good or a good citizen, maybe volunteering at the hospital or the Food Pantry or Meals on Wheels, maybe holding a big old heavy door for an elderly person, maybe tutoring with Literacy Volunteers, maybe doing nothing more than the kinds of things your grandmother insisted were the marks of a good upbringing, and you get this reaction of great gratitude for doing your simple thing, a feeling that it was, at that moment, the most important thing you could have done to help someone; it seems cosmically connected, in a heavenly “Twilight Zone.” For a moment you almost feel like you bumped into Jesus in disguise. Whoa! You just had a sort of weird revelation, an epiphany, if you will, of the point behind the parable of the sheep and the goats, when they asked, “‘when did we see you hungry or naked or alone and minister to you?’ And the Lord said, whenever you did this for the least of these my sisters and brothers.’” You may remember that this is the theme of Henry Van Dyke’s lovely old parable of The Other Wiseman. One of the magi is delayed, and can’t make the trip to Bethlehem, and he spends the next decades trying to catch up with the Christ to give him his gifts of jewels; on the way he spends his gift diamonds and pearls to buy food for someone, to rescue someone from slavery, to help a leper colony. Finally, as he lies dying, he has a vision of Jesus, who reveals to the fourth wise man that he, Jesus, has, received all the gifts, that he has received them as he ministered to the least of his sisters and brothers on the journey. Epiphany all over again.
Having said all this about the subtlety of some of the little epiphanies and how hard they are to spot sometimes, I’ve got one place to find God’s self-revelation that is really consistent, pretty familiar, utterly reliable: the epiphany of Holy Communion! Every time we eat this bread and drink this cup, we not only proclaim the death of our Lord but also see revealed here again… always… the reminder that God so loved the world that God sent the only Child. The little chunk of bread, the half-sip of grape juice reveals to us— way down below our intellectual shields, way down below our rational consciousness, way down below our ability to deny, way down deep in our stomachs instead of our heads— that God loves us and cares for us and nourishes us body and soul. It’s a little revelation of God’s continuing care and compassion for us, God’s presence in our every moment. It’s a tiny epiphany… it’s a huge gift! We have become accustomed to thinking that God’s grace is somehow going to be big and flashy and maybe once-in-a-lifetime (like a star, maybe?). But the most common way we really experience it is in the small things (like a baby, perhaps?), in the quiet, easy-to-overlook, there-every-week, familiar things, in the small, first-Sunday-of-the month symbols of communion. But that’s part of God’s care, that it really is the simple things, the ordinary thing, the grace-filled ordinary things, which sustain us. Epiphany is not gold fringed camels and princely astrologers but cloth-swaddled infants and communion elements. It’s in the ordinary— in the blessedly ordinary things— wherein God’s love is revealed. Sure, keep turning your eyes heavenward for the stars, but don’t forget to look downward at that little piece of bread in your hand in just a few minutes, down at that little, miniature, cup… for there is just as real, just as certain, just as powerful an epiphany… right there, right here, where we can touch and be touched by God’s revealing such love for us… hold epiphany in your hands….
*Hymn 145 “What Child Is This?”
Responding to the Word
Prayers for Others and for Ourselves
The heavenly star yet beckons us, O newborn King, everlasting King, King who lives in heaven, yet king who was born in a stable, and we come to see your epiphany. In some ways, we hardly understand the word, epiphany, yet we do understand the feeling that your presence makes in our souls. We cannot offer the riches of mighty empires, just the diligence of our faith and the things we do for others. We shudder to think how close we have sometimes been to not recognizing your presence in the world, busy looking to boardrooms and capitols and famous people, and so reluctant to look for you at the end of our street, to see you in the eyes of our neighbors, to minister to you through the least of our neighbors. Sometimes, we even have a bit of trouble connecting you with the plate and cups on the communion table; grant that even if we do not fully comprehend your saving presence here, we will receive it in the bread and cup which we share.
We look around us at the beginning of the new year and behold so many of the old problems still besetting your this your world. People have suffered much from natural catastrophe, disease, and weather. More people have suffered worse from human catastrophes caused by greed, ignorance, tribal and national and religious sectarianism, territorial expansion, poverty, indifference, prejudice, injustice, civil unrest, and just plain ugly hatred. How we will ever get better at taking care of our sisters and brothers seems to escape us; grant our Holy Spirit to be our tutor teaching us how to love our neighbors— however far away from us they may live— and to love you above all else. Be with those in need, and be with us, too, as we tell you about the people, concerns, and things which lodge deep in our hearts, as we pray now in silence, for ……. ……………. …….. The prayers of ours which are good, dear God, answer as is best; the prayers which are selfish or misguided, help us improve, for we offer all our strongest and our weakest prayers in the name and with the Spirit of Christ Jesus, born anew in our hearts….
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.
Presentation of Our Gifts and Offerings
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
*Prayer of Dedication
Lord God of the nations, we have seen the star of your glory rising in splendor. The radiance of your incarnate Word pierces the night that covers the earth and signals the dawn of justice and peace. May his brightness illumine our lives and beckon all nations to walk as one in your light. We ask this through Jesus Christ your Word made flesh, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, in the splendor of eternal light, God forever and ever. Amen.
Sharing Holy Communion
Invitation to the Lord’s Table
This is the joyful feast of the people of God. Men and women, youth and children, come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and gather about Christ’s table.
According to Luke, when our risen Lord was at table with his disciples, he took the bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
This table is for all Christians who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God’s people.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
The Lord be with you. And also with you.
Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is truly right and our greatest joy to give you thanks and praise, eternal God our Creator.
Eternal God, as you led your people in ages past, you direct our journey into the future. We give you thanks that you came to us in Jesus Christ, and we eagerly await his coming again that his rule may be complete and your righteousness reign over all the world. Then we will feast at his royal banquet, and sing his praises with the choirs of heaven. By your Spirit, open our eyes to the generosity of your hand, and nurture our souls in all spiritual gifts.
Eternal God, we unite in this covenant of faith, recalling Christ’s suffering and death, rejoicing in Christ’s resurrection, and awaiting Christ’s return in victory.
We spread your table with these gifts of the earth and of our labor. We pre-sent to you our very lives, committed to your service in behalf of all people. We ask you to send your Holy Spirit on this bread and cup, on our gifts, and on us. Strengthen your universal church that it may be the champion of peace and justice in all the world. Restore the earth with your grace that is able to make all things new.
Be present with us as we share this meal, and throughout all our lives, that we may know you as the Holy One, who with Christ and the Holy Spirit, lives for ever. Amen.
The Words of Institution
We remember that on the night of betrayal and desertion, and on the eve of death, Jesus gathered the disciples for the feast of Passover.
Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks to you as we have done in his name, broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying: “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Therefore we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Sharing the Bread and Cup
Jesus said: “I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry; whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
“This is my body, broken for you. Take, eat, all of you.”
Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches.
Cut off from me, you can do nothing. Abide in me and so bear fruit.”
“This is the new covenant in my blood; do this in remembrance of me.”
The gifts of God for the people of God.
Prayer after Communion
Bountiful God, we give thanks that you have refreshed us at your table. Strengthen our faith, increase our love for one another, and send us forth into the world in courage and peace, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
*Hymn 150 “As With Gladness Men of Old”
*Charge and Benediction “The Work of Christmas,” Dr. Howard Thurman,
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
The grace of our Savior Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
*Choral Response “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child” Hymnal # 146, v. 3