CTMD Unity Service (Week of prayer for Christian Unity)
23rd January 2022: Epiphany 3
“We saw his Star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.”
Lord, I pray that my words spoken in your name would open minds and hearts to your living Word, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN
Hear the words of the Magi according to St. Matthew, “Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.”
What about us? For what have we come here? What can we give this child who has been born king of the Jews today as the Church militant in Mirfield and district? What can we bring? Amid a continuing pandemic; in midwinter’s social and political discontent; in an apparently dying church? – at least for those of us in the C of E. Surely the Church is out of touch, irrelevant, inverted and ill-equipped to speak a Word become incarnate to a weary, wanting world, isn’t it? Yet Peter Cornelius’s words, like those of the evangelist, suggest otherwise:
“Three Persian kings from lands afar/to Jordan follow the pointing star/and this the quest of the travellers three/to follow where the King of the Jews may be.”
St. Matthew’s inclusion of the journeying wise men in his account of Jesus’ birth is not insignificant. Their coming – these somewhat oddbod priestly academics from Persian (and therefore, foreign, lands) – recollects us who have come today: it recollects precisely our own calling as those who have been born from above of water and the Spirit: “We [also] see his star at its rising and are come to pay him homage.” These mysterious figures – whether three or not – come; they show up; they make it to the place where the Christ-Child is; they hear the ancient prophecies, listen to what they have heard and act from a place of obedience. And their watching and waiting apprehends the truth from above who is the star at its rising – the sun who knows no setting – the God of both Jew and gentile: King and God and sacrifice for all peoples and nations and time; the Father’s revelation of Godself becomes human so we may become divine, as the Fathers of the Church teach us.
We are come to pay him homage today in the town of Mirfield, and as we do so we are touched again by prophecy – reverted to the truth again of our rebirth in the unfathomable mystery of the Godhead – and equipped again with all the fullness of eternal life through the givenness of the Father’s spoken Word – baby, boy and man – become flesh for our sake, flesh whose celestial body will affirm his unity in Trinity when He gives his all – even his own self – to death as a pledge of resurrection and the restoration of creation’s life as it was spoken anew when he was in the beginning with God.
The coming of the Magi does precisely what each of us in our own way is called to do: observe and act and oblate from the gift of our own selves the gold, incense and myrrh of open eyes and minds; the offering of attitudes pierced by the beauty and bane which landscape the courts of the Lord in our time – giving of our own self-possession to transfigure all things in the wide space of the hopefulness embodied in the royal, impassioned child in whom “all the fullness of deity dwells bodily”, as St. Paul puts it.
Is that not why we too are here, trying and retrying to live the Lord’s gift and will as his people in Mirfield and district again this year? Is it not in humble, often unsure, yet completely necessary response to the vocation of the truth from above born of water and of blood, that Epiphany season once again makes manifest? “We saw the Star… and have come to pay him homage.”
The wise men, bearing themselves and their unifying gifts of kingship, deity and passion lead us in the journey to follow the Star wherever He may lead, bearing our own selves as broken, living, epiphanic sacraments of the unity they foreshow when they come, as we do, to kneel and pay him homage.
We must look East and pay attention as we draw alongside them once more in this week of prayer for Christian Unity; as we come in our turn to give only what we can. And it surely is the knee of our hearts that he most desires us to bend to his obeisance, in order that by looking, listening to and loving him, the Word may be incarnate in us – Churches Together in Mirfield – and this whole district be acclaimed for his healing and reconciling glory, whose appearing wherever the Star points, makes all things new when it is gifted, received and shared for the one life of us all.
Epiphany is the Christ-child’s showing of all that the Father is. The Magi teach us that we receive its fullness as we also empty ourselves, until love alone is left. That is why we have come, bringing ourselves with our minute gold of obedience and incense of lowliness – that together we may be gathered to one fragrant offering here, and Mirfield charged with the grandeur of God, the one shepherd, shining out in the face of his Son, the infant King. – And in us whom his Spirit lights.
By our prayer and our presence together then, let us bear this Star of wonder, this beauteous light – to this town and to this wanting, waiting world. AMEN.