The Epiphany (transferred) B’24
7 January 2024
Is.60.1-6; Ep.3.1-12; Mt.2.1-12
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth; In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. – from Isaiah 49.6b (BCP. P.76)

Wow! Wow! and Wow! What a joyous occasion yesterday was as we participated in the ordination and consecration of our 14th bishop in the diocese of Arkansas! St. Luke’s was represented well by a number of choir members, several other parishioners including Jeannie Fry as an acolyte, and by both clergy! The suffragan bishop of Texas was the chief consecrator and a classmate of mine from seminary. If you haven’t watched this service yet I highly encourage you to watch it! There were over 40 participating bishops, and there was a delegation from Bishop Harmon’s homeland of Liberia, W. Africa! The thriving ministry of the United Black Episcopalians were there in force, as well as parishioners form the DC area congregations where John had previously served. Bishop Harmon’s wife Keeva and their three children participated in the service. One of his sons was able to do consecutive 360s with the incense burner miraculously without hitting anyone in the head! The music was a mix of traditional hymns and spirituals. There was due honor given to Bishop Benfield as he relinquished his crozier (the staff with a shepherd’s crook) to Bishop Harmon.

The quest preacher made a spine-tingling connection back to the first African- American bishop of Arkansas, the suffragan bishop, Rt. Rev. Edward Thomas Demby, who served black Episcopalians from 1918 to 1939, some 106 years ago. Now John Harmon a native of Liberia W. Africa, and a US citizen comes to a place called Arkansas, and is consecrated in the very city where in 1957, nine black students had to be escorted into Central High School by the National Guard.

This glorious day of consecration occurred on the Feast of Epiphany. Epiphany comes from the Greek word “epiphaneia” and means “manifestation.” After the shepherds had come and gone the wisemen from the east, the three kings by tradition, finally made it by following an unusually large and bright star the Bethlehem. These Magi probably weren’t kings but were students of the skies – both astrologers, and astronomers and are believed to have travelled from Egypt, Arabia, and Yemen. Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, are the traditional names that have been passed down through the centuries and they brought with them the gift of gold signifying royalty, frankincense, often used in temple worship signified the divinity of the Christ child, and Myrrh first used in Egypt as an embalming agent for burial, signified the sacrificial death that was to be Christ’s destiny.

We love all the symbolism and significance this story of the nativity holds, but perhaps the most telling of all the elements to this story is the nationalities represented by these magi, these wisemen. Plain and simple, these guys were gentiles, non-Jews, people groups that were considered up until that moment and time, unclean heathen, the very opposite of God’s chosen people. Yet, here they were, they had researched the astral signs that pointed to a divine birth, and their hunger and thirst for the Divine was such that they were willing to brave the treacherous travel through the desert to arrive and worship this Divine King.

A great mystery, thousands of years in the making was now starting to be revealed – the Hebrews the first and original people chosen by God had gotten some new arrivals from Egypt, Arabia, and Yemen, offering their gifts and their worship of the newborn King.  This was the preview of coming attractions – salvation would no longer be the possession of the few but of the gift of salvation for all.

As Jesus grew up and entered fully into his adult ministry, he made it clear that Samaritans, Palestinians, Greeks, Italians, men, and women, were all now a part of God’s family, and made them the heroes and heroines of many of his stories and parables.

In our epistle reading St. Paul expounds and expands even further on the New Thing God was doing: “In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel.[1]

Now, in the diocese of Arkansas this original shockwave sent out at the arrival of the Christ child has arrived in the form of a Liberian American bishop, an incarnational message that God has come for all of us with unending and unconditional love – with no exceptions. No one is excluded, no matter where you come from, no matter which tribe you belong to, no matter how much or how little money you have, or who you love, God has come for you. 

This is the great and wonderful news we have to share with the world around us. God has been watching us, he knows what we are up to and what we are about and seeks us, and longs to manifest Divine love to us in a way that we can grasp – this is the epiphany we are all invited to have. Through the manifestation of a little baby a much bigger, and more generous God has been revealed, one who will not rest until all people have found their places in Christ’s heavenly kingdom. Amen. 



[1] Ephesians 3.1-12