St. Mark's Episcopal Church

124 North Sylvia Street - Montesano, WA, 98563





An epiphany is an experience of a sudden and striking realization. Generally, the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective.  Epiphanies are relatively rare occurrences and generally follow a process of significant thought about a problem. Often they are triggered by a new and key piece of information, but importantly, a depth of prior knowledge is required to allow the leap of understanding.

Famous epiphanies in science include Archimedes's discovery of a method to determine the volume of an irregular object and Isaac Newton's realization that a falling apple and the orbiting moon are both pulled by the same force.

In Christianity, the Epiphany refers to a realization that Christ is the Son of God.  Christian churches generally celebrate the Visit of the Magi (the Three Wise Men) as the revelation of the Incarnation of the infant Christ, and commemorate the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th each year. 


So, why are we celebrating Epiphany on a Sunday that is the 3rd of January?  This is a strange thing that happens with the Episcopal calendar each year at this time.  Because we at St. Mark’s don’t generally have a separate Epiphany service on the 6th each year wherever in the week that falls, we instead celebrate Epiphany on the nearest Sunday, which this year is the 3rd of January.  (That is called transferring a feast event to Sunday.)   Our readings for Epiphany are much different that what we would have had for Christmas II (since the 3rd is still within the 12 days of Christmas season), and the Gospel reading for Epiphany is about the three wise men coming to see the new baby Jesus (the only time we get to read this in our 3 year lectionary). 


In my view, our readings today have two different but related themes.  The first two, from the Old Testament and the Psalm, look at a future time of great peace and joy. 

Our reading from Isaiah has been used by Matthew and others to “preview” the coming of a great King to rescue the Jewish people, actually all people!  Basically, the reading say that everything will be wonderful when the Lord comes to claim his place, and all the people will rejoice and sing praises, even those from other lands along with their kings.  This reading brings up several Biblical names—Midian, Ephah, Sheba, Kedar, Nebaioth, and of course, Tarshish.  It turns out that most of these are either ancient kingdoms on the Arabian peninsula around Israel, or a tribe of people who were led by kings or leaders with these names.  The name here most used in the Bible is Tarshish, which has not been pinned down as anywhere specifically, and could have been one of many places on the coast of or in the Mediterranean Sea, from the tip of Spain to Cyprus.  Regardless, the point to this writing is that as far as the writer knew, this great Lord King would be gathering the people from all over to make a splendid place where there would be peace and prosperity.  In every sense this would all be very inclusive and not just about the people of Israel.

The Psalms reading today is just a repeat of that same sentiment, with the additional declaration in several verses that the poor be treated with justice—

-- 4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

--12 For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

--13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

--14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.


Our last two readings turn toward the response of all people to this great Lord and King and how to live within this community and to help others.  Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminds them of their place in this kingdom as Gentiles (it’s not only for the Jews!) and what Paul has brought to them to see: “Although 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, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so 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.” 

Again, our Gospel reading about the three wise men from the East is only read on Epiphany, and this account from Matthew is the only one in the Bible.  Yet it has a very rich legacy in our Christian history and traditions.  If you think about it, it is yet another example of people responding to the story of a great future King and wanting to be a part of it first hand.  These wise men acted upon hearing of the newborn king and came to “pay him homage”.  However, they got sidetracked by the evil Jewish King Herod (the first Herod!), who asked (basically told them!) to go and find the baby and then report back, so Herod “could come and also worship the new king” (yeah, right!).

Well, the wise men (good title for them!), knew better so they came and brought their gifts to the baby Jesus and then after being warned in a dream, they left by other routes so they would not see Herod again.  These men saw the future of the world through the new baby Jesus and they did their part to allow the grand plan to proceed without interference.


It has been a really strange and painful past year, as we have not been able to meet regularly in person for worship and fellowship and support since March.  But I believe our commitment to follow our Christian faith has not wavered as a church community, and our hope is always for better times ahead for everyone, as we continue to support those with less via our support to many organizations in our area who provide food, shelter, and other needs. 

We follow the teachings and examples of Jesus Christ in our lives, and we know the Holy Spirit is with us as we move forward with our own ministry and that of St Mark’s as a community of believers and activists.  Let us say the words boldly and with a real vision for how we can work ever more to do that which we are called to do, in the name of our Savior Christ Jesus.  Amen.