With a lot of Greeks living in Adelaide, there was often a focus on how the Greeks celebrated Epiphany on January 6th. For Greek Orthodox, the day is a huge celebration. It includes remembering Jesus’ baptism, and therefore the worship includes the blessing of the waters, firstly in the baptismal font, and then may include a procession to the nearest large body of water.
In Adelaide, with many Greek churches being near the ocean, the priest throws a crucifix from the wharf or jetty into the ocean, and young Greek men jump in to get the cross. The person who gets the cross first swims back and returns it to the priest, who then delivers a special blessing to the swimmer and their household. On or around Epiphany the Greek priest will go to people’s houses to bless them with prayers and incense. There is also gift giving around Epiphany, much like other Christians do on Christmas Eve. (I always thought the Greeks were lucky in that they could go to the post-Christmas sales to buy their gifts.) Greeks also celebrate the Nativity or birth of Jesus at Epiphany.
We don’t have as much celebration with Epiphany in the Lutheran Church. We will be celebrating Epiphany Day on Sunday January 4th On that day we will hear the Gospel from Matthew 2 about the visit of the Magi to Jesus. Some Christians see this as celebrating Jesus coming for the Gentiles, for all nations, with the Magi coming from present day Iran or Iraq. (We could try to have a live camel at church that day, as tradition has it that the Magi travelled on camels on the long desert trek. Just as well they weren’t making the trip in 2015, as they would have real trouble getting through the area controlled by ISIS.) In our Epiphany season, like the Greeks, we will also be celebrating Jesus’ baptism, and ours. (The Baptism of our Lord Sunday is January 11th.) Then we begin a short epiphany season that will continue to focus on some of the way Jesus glory is made known to his disciples and the world, concluding with Transfiguration Sunday on February 15th. (Ash Wednesday is quite early this year – on February 18th)
Our annual congregational meeting always falls within the Epiphany season, with the call to make the glory of Jesus known. The Gospel for January 25th includes Jesus calling his first disciples and telling them that from then on they would be fishing for people. As Jesus’ Ascension disciples, we receive that same call. What does it mean to fish for people in our culture and context? Our congregation has been quite a magnet for people, with our good music program and friendly worshipers. Also may have been drawn to the 12 step groups that meet at our church. Could we say this is part of the fishing for people? And then there is the more personal fishing, reaching out to people who do not have a church home, who have deep needs for community and love.
In 2015, let’s go fishing.
- Pastor Tim
JANUARY SCRIPTURE READINGS
January 4—Matthew 2:1-12
January 11—Mark: 1:4-11
January 18—John 1:43-51
January 25—Mark 1:14-20