Sermon for Epiphany 1 (Book of Common Prayer) preached by Canon Paul Greenwell, Precentor – Ripon Cathedral Sunday 11 January 2015
Thanks be to God, every year we get many thousands of people visiting our Cathedral. But why do they come? What are they looking for or rather who are they looking for. The good news is – he is looking for them too! It is JESUS even if they cannot articulate this. Everyone is searching and looking for HIM. Deep in the human heart there is a gap which only he can really fill.
For nearly 14 centuries, people like us have come here. In the Bible and the teaching of the Church read and preached, they find him. In the sacraments, he touches them and us and we touch him. In the community which gathers here faithfully day by day and week by week, in priests and people, they see the Body of Christ continuing his work in Ripon and the world.
In Jesus, God is with us. In him, in his flesh and blood, God shows his human face so that we can learn to look for him in every human being. God in Jesus shares our human life so we and all people can share his divine life forever. Look out for him and search for him in the people you meet – in your loved ones and neighbours; in strangers you welcome in Christ’s name; in yourself!
For thousands of years the human race looked forward with longing and yearning for God the creator to become part of his creation; for the Almighty Lord to become weak and vulnerable like us; to know from the inside what it is like to be human with all the joys and sorrows of life and death and new life again. Prophets kept them hopeful, preparing the way, looking forward with eager anticipation for God to enter the stage of human history.
His humble birth from the Virgin Mary’s womb was announced by angels singing love songs to poor down to earth shepherds watching their sheep. They responded joyfully and came searching and looking for God’s own son, a baby boy wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger – an animal food trough – he is food for hungry empty souls. They found him and their lives were never the same- – they went out telling everyone the good news of Jesus – his first missionaries.
A star appeared to announce his birth and Magi travelled by its light searching and looking for the new-born king. When they saw that baby on his mother’s knee, they rejoiced greatly, fell on their knees and offered him gifts rich and rare: Gold for Jesus the King of Kings; incense for Jesus our God with us; myrrh for Jesus who died on the Cross so we can live – taking on human suffering to set us free. Again, the Magi found what they were looking for – the hope of all the ends of the earth, the Saviour of the world, our God and King.
So today, Mary and Joseph look and search for Jesus the teenager – no doubt spotty and hormonal. They had gone up to Jerusalem temple for his Bar Mitzvah at Passover and then lost him for 3 days – a reminder of another Passover when his loved ones lost him and found him on the 3rd day of Easter alive and let loose into Ripon and all the world. On the 3rd day they find him the living one, their sorrow and anxiety turned to joy and relief. There he is at last, in his Father’s house, amazing the teachers with his wisdom and understanding, Lord of life and conqueror of death.
And so we come to this Altar today – like Mary and Joseph, shepherds and Magi and all humanity longing for him. Jesus our God is here – the one everyone is searching and looking for. He places himself into the manger of our hands as the bread of life in whom all human hungers are satisfied. To him be glory and honour, now and evermore. Amen