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"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
   be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Psalm 19:14

18 February 2024

7 January 2024 - Feast of the Holy Innocents

(Please see below for sermon text)

19 November 2023

17 September 2023

10 September 2023

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January 7, 2024 Sermon- Feast of the Epiphany Matthew 2:1-12

In the name of God: Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen. Today’s Gospel reading has a special meaning for the people  of this parish. Because it’s the prequel, if you will, to the story of  the Holy Innocents at Bethlehem, from which we derive our  parish name. As Matthew tells the story, “wise men”—notice that  we’re not told how many—arrive in Jerusalem at King Herod’s  court, asking about the birth of a “King of the Jews.”  These “wise men from the East” were not just responding  to a post they saw on The App Formerly Known As Twitter. Matthew describes them using the word magi. They weren’t kings,  but astrologers, students of the messages of the skies, the  research scientists of their day. And the “East” from which they  came was Persia, the Silicon Valley of the ancient world, rich in  arcane technologies for predicting and shaping the future.  Probably they first sighted the “star of Bethlehem” in an  ephemeris, a table showing the complex interactions of the  planets and certain stars over time, from which they constructed  their forecasts of cosmic weather.

 

For a group of these magi to show up in Herod’s court  asking about the birth of his potential successor was bound to be  disturbing. To a deeply suspicious, even paranoid man like King Herod, it was an alarm bell, a siren in the night, warning that  somebody was after his throne. And they’d have to get it over his  dead body. But Herod had played a long game for many years. Hiding his  fright, he gently inquired as to the details of this remarkable  occurrence in the skies. Just when did it happen? And where? The  unsuspecting magi shared their intel with the king, and he in turn  asked them to report back on what they found so that he could  “pay homage” to this newborn rival in Bethlehem. “Homage” was  code for “slaughter every male child two years old and under,” to  make certain that whoever this royal child was wouldn’t survive  to turn any prophecy into facts on the ground. Decades later, the  baby whose birth was made the excuse for the murder of  Bethlehem’s children would himself die on a Roman cross,  crowned with thorns and marked as “King of the Jews.” 

It’s these victims of Herod’s brutality who are the “Holy  Innocents” of this parish family’s name. They represent everyone  who’s caught in the crossfire, all the unsuspecting victims of some stranger’s beef with another stranger, the “collateral damage” of  every conflict on earth. They’re kids being bombed out of their  homes in Ukraine by other kids recruited to kill for Russia’s own  version of King Herod. They’re Israelis taken hostage or  murdered in their beds by the terrorists of Hamas, and guiltless 

Palestinians being indiscriminately slaughtered because they are in the way of another would-be Herod’s political agenda. They’re the  trans and gay and lesbian kids targeted by other Herods in many  countries, including our own, for elimination “by any means  necessary.” They’re the kids who are sent to die in every war for  reasons that were never made entirely clear to them. They’re  humanity’s kids, our kids, wholly innocent, but judged peripheral  to the ambitions of kings and presidents and premiers and the  privileged of every society. 

The magi from Persia didn’t go back to Herod. Matthew says  they “left for their own country by another road.” On this feast of  the Epiphany, or as the Eastern churches call it, the “theophany” or revelation of God, may all God’s children turn our steps  towards another road, the road of peace. 

Amen.

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