2018-19 RCL-C Day of Epiphany
Additional Resources for Proclamation & Preaching
Epiphany Sunday: January 6, 2019 • Gospel Text: Matthew 2:1-12
Herod Frightened And Jerusalem With Him
Proclamation for Today
by Rev. Dr. Clint Schnekloth
Why do some travel great distances to see something new, while others living nearby fear it? It’s startling and stark, that travelers from a far off land would make use of astro-navigational systems to visit a child that causes a king (and a whole city) to tremble with fear. All the more startling given that the pre-publicity for the birth was present in the sacred texts of the very people afraid of the child. It’s as if they had all been labeling their press as #fakenews.
So Herod goes and does what Herods do. Even if he calls it all fake news in public, in private he watches and consumes all of it, seated on a couch in front of the television and ready to tweet away. So he calls the wise men in to learn even more about that which he fears. So he can kill it. Kill that which the wise men came to worship. Apparently homage and horror are close cousins.
But… here’s where we need to pause. We can play this one out as if it all really happened, and preach on it as such. Because most preachers most of the time still preach “as if” the events recorded in the New Testament actually happened.
But most students of Scripture have significant exposure to historical-critical tools, all of which indicate that some of what’s recorded in Scripture didn’t happen. Some of us even believe that quite a lot of it didn’t really happen. And of those stories that didn’t happen, this one of the magi is almost iron-clad in its non-happenable-ness. It’s a lovely, fanciful, religious fiction.
This leaves preachers with two issues: First, what will you do with the knowledge that these events didn’t happen? Second, will you clue in your congregation?
Let’s have this meta-conversation. On the second question, consider letting everyone in on the secret, if you haven’t already. I mean, some of them already know and are wondering when you’re going to fess up. And some who are younger are going to head off to college some day, and when they get to their first bible class, they’re going to wonder why you never told them. It will come as a shock, and perhaps even a betrayal.
Back to the first question. Well, we can’t really know completely for sure, right? There’s no video footage. So the breakdown seems to be like this: some conservative commentators still believe the wise men really showed up. Most middle of the road exegetes believe they probably didn’t. Some liberal commentators are rather certain they didn’t.
Nothing to fear here, then, because we can actually lay out those options, and discover pathways for interpretation down any of the pathways laid out. In fact, we’re in a much better position to read all the biblical texts once we acknowledge this. As John Caputo in his book on Hermeneutics writes: “Even our firmest truths are matters of interpretation, but this does not mean that anything goes. Some interpretations are better than others. Some are arbitrary, contrived, and frivolous, and some are serious and well-tested. They are proven not in the sense of becoming an Absolute Truth but in the sense that we say that someone is a person of proven experience in the field. That is why we prefer the ‘opinion’ of a respected physician over that of our crazy uncle about this nagging pain we are having.”
Or why we trust the ‘opinion’ of the magi concerning this child over that of crazy, fearful Herod about where we should look for the shepherd of all people.
The following links and resources are not produced or maintained by RCL Worship Resources or Clergy Stuff. However, at the time of this posting, the links were active and considered to be good source material for proclamation for the text for this week. Please scroll down or click on the quick jump menu you find below. Click here for more free RCL worship resources & planning materials.
Historical Exegetical Resources
The Five Gospels Parallels, John W. Marshall, University of Toronto. Link here.
Herod's “Reign of Terror” (Rutgers University Dept of Religion) Mahlon H. Smith's Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus companion to the historical study of Christian texts.
"Of David's Lineage," The Jesus Database, an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus. Dr. Gregory C. Jenks.
A Sermon for the Epiphany, Matthew 2:1-12, Martin Luther, ca. 1522.
A Good Read
A Land of Permanent Goodbyes, Hardcover – January 23, 2018
In a country ripped apart by war, Tareq lives with his big and loving family . . . until the bombs strike. His city is in ruins. His life is destroyed. And those who have survived are left to figure out their uncertain future. Tareq's family knows that to continue to stay alive, they must leave. As they travel as refugees from Syria to Turkey to Greece, facing danger at every turn, Tareq must find the resilience and courage to complete his harrowing journey.
Folk Musical Interpretation of the Killing of the Innocents
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Dramatic Reading of the Text
Readers: Narrator, Magi, Herod
Narrator: In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking,
Magi: “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
Narrator: When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him,
Magi: “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Narrator: Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying,
Herod: “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
Narrator: When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.