The word Epiphany means to shine a light on something and to see it for what it really is, Or to pull back the curtain to see what’s behind, Or to look past outward appearance and see what’s really inside. Our Epiphany Season started with the Magi coming to visit Jesus on January 6th, and concludes today with Jesus taking with him Peter, James and John up onto a high mountain. There he allows them to see what is really inside. The glory that was always there, but had been hidden in his earthly body, is suddenly revealed. It was like a treasure hidden in a clay pot. As Paul writes in “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
These disciples had been with Jesus for 3 years, and likely they had begun to see him a certain way. Just before this event he had fed the 4000, so they saw Jesus as one who has compassion and feeds the hungry. Recently Jesus had healed a boy who it appears had severe epilepsy. So they saw Jesus as one who could heal the sick. Or make the blind to see. Or one who calmed the storms. Or made the deaf to hear. As impressive as all that was to them, that was all outside of Jesus. Now suddenly they received an opportunity to look inside. The curtain was pulled back so that they could see. And the disciples were amazed. There was a lot more there. It was like a treasure hidden in a clay pot.
For us at St. Paul’s we used this time of Epiphany to uncover and discover our Spiritual Gifts through the 3 Colors of Ministry. There was the wonderful surprise that Jesus who had all these Spiritual Gifts and manifested them in outward ways, has now shared them with us—as we are called to be the Body of Christ. As one person put it, “It’s exciting to know that Jesus has given each of us a little of Himself.” So this today I’m going to ask you to join in a little activity. I would like all of you, if you are able, to stand. Now look at that list of gifts just in the green column. Maybe you have taken the Spiritual Gifts test and know which of those you have. Maybe you haven’t taken the test, but have a pretty good hunch which one in that list could be your spiritual gift. Focus on that one gift. As I read down the list, I would like you to sit down when I get to the Spiritual Gift you are focused on in that Green Column.
Isn’t it amazing! But those are just outward manifestations, something that the world can see. But there is something far more significant going on inside of you. Listen again to the Apostle Paul’s words: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Let me give you a little preview of Ash Wednesday. You will hear the words, “Remember you are dust, but by the wounds of Christ you are redeemed.” You may come forward to have a ashen cross placed on your forehead. It’s all a reminder that you are, as scripture says, like a clay pot. But God has placed inside of you a priceless treasure!
You may not always like the vessel you’ve been given. Sometimes it shows signs of age, or wear or tear. Sometimes it gets chipped and cracked. Sometimes we might not even think we are very capable vessels. But God’s word says in “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”
Have you heard of the story of “The Elephant Man?” His real name was John Merrik. He suffered from a terrible disfiguring disease that created giant masses of skin and tissue to extend out from his body. One protruded like a pink stump from near his mouth—that looked like an elephant’s trunk. But also His back had large cauliflower like chunks. John Merrik was used in a traveling freak show and because of the scorn and constant laughter John had completely withdrawn into himself. One day a man named Frederick Treves, who was the senior surgeon in London’s hospital rescued John. He took him into the hospital and created a room that felt less like a hospital and more like a home. That bought about a transformation in John, who seeing the room, couldn’t believe his eyes, “This is my home, this is my home,” the declared.
Another transformation took place when a young lady entered his room and wished him a good morning and shook his hand. John sobbed uncontrollably. Except for his mother, she was the first woman who had ever smiled at him or touched him. It was discovered that John was highly intelligent, an imaginative. He knew his Bible and prayer book intimately. He went from being withdrawn and cut off from the world, to declaring to Dr. Treves, “I am happy every hour of the day.”
Whoever you are, whatever your manifest gift that the world sees, whatever the condition of your clay pot, you have something more. God has placed in you his very treasure of the gospel. “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
Jesus still had His journey to complete. There would be no staying on the mountain. No building of shelters to linger a bit longer. The cloud of God’s glory that the disciples experience lifted. They would journey down the mountain.
Jesus still had His journey to complete. There would be more days of teaching, mixed with some who rejected his message. There would be manifestations of gifts of hospitality, and healing, miracles and prayer, of mercy and suffering—especially suffering as he goes down this mountain to climb a mountain called Calvary, carrying a cross. There Jesus hides his glory, so that you might receive as scripture declares, “The glory of God in the face of Christ.” Jesus received the punishment so that you might receive the forgiveness. Jesus rejected so that you can be accepted. The Father doesn’t listen or answer when Jesus cries out, so that you might always have the very ear of your Heavenly Father, who promises always to listen.
This is the treasure placed inside of you.
So here it is… do you see it? Just a clay pot, but it’s the Tulip Plant inside that really matters…right? More than that, look again! It’s more than a clay pot, more than a tulip inside, it’s my token of love for Kris. An early Valentine’s gift…
You have this treasure—the love of Your heavenly Father—more than you will ever realize…more than you can ever see…more than you can ever show to others. It’s beyond words or expression. You have the treasure of the “Knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Now, like Jesus, you have a journey to complete. There’s a message to share despite opposition. People to love, who won’t love you back. A mission to be a part of at St. Paul’s, which the world may think has little impact. And when you don’t see the glory now, that’s OK. Be like the disciples on the mount of transfiguration. When the cloud lifted, when the glory departed, the looked and saw Jesus. Simply Jesus.