Grant a loving, wise and courageous spirit to all who pastor, minister and teach in Your name.

Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen! Alleluia! 

The verse above will be re-heard in a few minutes as the Offertory Prayer or, Prayer Over The Gifts, or, Secret. Three terms for the same prayer, but that is not important. What is important is the sense of the prayer, our intention as we are offering our gifts to God Who will transform them from mere bread and wine into the Body and Blood of His Son Jesus.

My brothers and sisters, Jesus speaks to us today of two kinds of Shepherds, Himself Who is the Good Shepherd that gives His all for His sheep and the hired hand who merely works for pay and does not really care for the sheep.

We can draw comparisons between the two types of shepherds, but it is not necessary since it is obvious – it is about the offering.

Jesus’ offering is the perfect giving of Himself, and all of us are called to offer ourselves in His model. We must take care in living rightly in relation to our Chief Shepherd and those among us who shepherd.

The shepherds, as we will hear again in that prayer, are more than the priest. They are all who minister, pastor, teach, lead music – and beyond that – those who take up leadership over projects, events, on committees and teams, and as parents, grandparents, and godparents.

You, brothers and sisters, are those wonderful leaders. You do so much to shepherd this congregation and to help it grow by your varied talents in the roles you have taken up. You lay down your lives for the good of those around you. You sacrifice for Christ and the other. Sometimes you even have to put up with brief tensions or the inevitable well-intended advice that comes your way. Lesser people would let all that get to them. But for us, especially those in leadership, it is about how we shepherd under stress, achieve consensus, and act with loving, wise, and courageous spirits. It is offering.

For those of us who live in relation to the shepherds among us as team members, colleagues, and volunteers, and perhaps just as community members, let us assure those who shepherd of our prayer and act always with charity, kindness, patience, and deference toward them as offering.

In this way shepherds and community members will all be transformed into the beautiful image of the Good Shepherd.

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; And no one puts new wine into old wineskins.

In this third week of Pre-Lent, Quinquagesima, we consider the power of overwhelming love.

I remember my Kindergarten girlfriend, Donna, my 8th grade girlfriend Lori, and perhaps a few others before finally meeting and falling in love with Renee.

We may all recall that special person we were attracted to and perhaps fell in love with. If we really consider the difference between the girlfriends and boyfriends we may have had and perhaps the person we finally entered relationship with, we will note differences in the depth and breadth of our love. That is important to remember since we see today God calling out in love to His people, seeking response.

God says He will give His beloved people everything. He pledges Himself to them. Not only that, but those who are His people will respond in love. What a beautiful vision of mutual love – deep love that knows no limit, where no sacrifice is too great – even to the sacrifice of Jesus for all of us.

I will betroth you to me forever: I will betroth you to me with justice and with judgment, with loyalty and with compassion; I will betroth you to me with fidelity, and you shall know the LORD.

Some may say: If I only had that kind of love in my life! Let us not forget that we already have that love it in Jesus.

Paul reminds the Church in Corinth that the relationship of love within the Christian Church is a letter, written on our hearts. The Holy Spirit writes God’s love within us – within our entirety. That love written in us is to be known and read by everyone.

Our relationship with God, in the best way, is the model for our relationship with each other. God’s model allows us to love not with mere infatuation or passion, not only on occasion, but with the totality of our being all the time.

The covenant relationship Jesus came to establish with us is one of total love. It is a call to mutuality. He tells us that something new is among us – new wine that will not work in old systems of relationship. Our way of life is not like anything of old. He tells the Pharisees to see things with new eyes, with new hearts open to love.

As we prepare to enter Lent, let us focus on the grandeur of God’s love and offer Him our entire selves in love.


Then Herod called the Magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.

Interesting that there is a ton, a ton, of information in this gospel and in the readings for this day, yet I was struggling throughout the week to figure out what I wanted to say to you. Where was the Holy Spirit leading me, for He is always the Author?

Sometimes the Holy Spirit stays silent for a reason. He was waiting for today, for January 6, 2021, and what we have seen as a nation today. He told me, He said, Herod! King Herod, what a guy he was. Herod still lives in the world today.

If you study scripture you will soon notice that there are threads that run through scripture. Nothing is disconnected. You can talk about the swaddling clothes that Jesus was wrapped in when He was placed in in the manger and soon see that His body was similarly wrapped in linen cloths after His death, when He was buried. There’s a line that runs throughout scripture. Everything is interconnected.


Herod meets the three wise men. We call them Magi, Wise Men, Kings. We do not know what they were specifically, but we do know one thing in particular, they were scientists. They studied the skies and they tried to figure out the based on their study of the stars. They were people of facts and observation, so they knew there was a new King in Israel.

So, they said to each other, let’s hop on our camels, take some gifts, and go to find this King. They said to each other, Who better to talk to than the current king. They go to see Herod and Herod is troubled.


Herod was more than troubled, he was angry. Herod – a troubled and angry man. A man who cheated on his wife. A man who stole his brother’s wife. A man who was constantly looking over his shoulder for the person that was going to chop him down from the throne.

Herod calls the truthful people around him and he says, ‘Hey, where is this Messiah going to be born.’ Once he finds out he calls the Magi secretly, secretly because when we do evil those deeds must be in secret, kept under wraps. We cannot let people know what we are about when we are doing wrong, when we are doing evil.

Herod ascertains from the Magi the timing of the star’s rising and sends them on their merry way telling them, ‘Hey, come back and fill me in when you figure it all out.’

We know the Magi did not go back, they were warned in a dream, but Herod had this little snippet of information – when and where this King was born. Herod was going to do something about that. He was not going to sit on his hands.


Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem of Judea and had every firstborn son under two years old killed. He wiped out an entire city of infants because of his anger, because of his jealousy, because he had to hang on to what he thought was his.

Jump forward thirty years and Harold is still there. Along comes John the Baptist. John is standing down in the river and looking up he sees Herod passing by. He points to Herod and tells him exactly what he is. Well that not only ticked off Herod but also ticked off his stolen bride. Herod was going to get even and lo and behold, John is jailed and off goes his head. Off with his head and we will shut him up.

The line in scripture continues on. Jesus is arrested. He is taken before the chief priests and the Sanhedrin. They judge Him and send him off to Pilate. Pilate in his questioning finally figures out that Jesus is a Galilean. Hey, this guy is a Galilean. I can wash my hands of this Guy and send him to Herod. Herod was in Jerusalem at the time.

Jesus was taken to Herod. What did Herod do? This scene as portrayed in Jesus Christ Superstar captures it very well. Herod made a mockery of Jesus. He tried to turn Jesus into a clown for his entertainment. After the mockery was over Herod wrote Jesus off. He probably thought, ‘Maybe this was the kid that was supposed to be the king. Here he is before me in ropes and with the crown of thorns on his head. He is going to the cross.’ Send Him back.


Herod’s line goes on and does not stop there. Herod’s children and his children’s children, and all those in the world who are like Herod remain among us. They remain gnawing for power, make a mockery of Jesus as they burn and destroy, continue to look over their shoulders – jealous of anyone who might knock them off their self-established pedestal, and do anything they can to keep what they have.

Where must we be as Christians?

Our call is to be open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, to be open and willing to do God’s work in the world as the wise men, the scientists, the Magi did. The Magi were open to God and kept their eyes open, looking up to the star, and followed it until they found that place where Jesus was. We must go the same way.

Being men of God, keen observers, they knew what they saw in that poor infant, in that poor home, as they got down on their faces, flat on the floor, prostrated before the Child King. Then they open their treasures. Their treasures were not just the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but the real treasure was in the offering of their hearts to Jesus. They offered their hearts to the child Jesus and then they departed for their own country. They departed, not just by a different map, but by another way. Let us offer our hearts to the only King and go forward by another way.

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

This is the Sixth and final Sunday after Christmas. 

We have reflected over these weeks on the way Jesus had made Himself known to the world: To the Jewish people; To the poor and humble; To the world; and In His call to the disciples. In these weeks we have covered thirty years of Jesus’ time on earth. Today, we take a step back. 

After Jesus’ birth, He and His mother would stay confined for forty days. She was considered ritually impure because of the blood associated with birth. This time of separation concluded with a reappearance, a revelation, at the time of ritual purification.

The Holy Family goes up to the Temple, only a few miles away from Bethlehem, to perform this ceremony. We can imagine that their thoughts were on what they had to do. We know how it is when our focus is on the things we have to accomplish. Like the Holy Family, in the midst of our focus, we are taken by surprise.

The words of surprise are summed up in this statement: The child’s father and mother were amazed. A very old and holy man sings praise to God for what he has been allowed to see – the glory of Israel, the light to the Gentiles. An elderly woman goes about speaking prophecy and praising God, talking to everyone who awaited redemption.

For us Christians, each day must be a new revelation, a new offering. Each is a chance to show who we are as a people, as a family, and as Church. Each day is a new chance to take the light of Christ that is in us, as symbolized by the candles we hold, and speak to those awaiting redemption.  Each of our homes, that hold this light, needs to be a place of refuge and safety that is in some respects apart from the world. In these places we find our refuge and offer it to those we may meet.

On this day, let us consider how we might be taken by surprise by the way Jesus might appear at any moment. It may be in any encounter we might have. Let us allow ourselves to be pulled away from our focus to a new focus, the opportunity to bring Jesus’ light to those who sit in darkness. This season of revelation was our beginning. We walk out of it holding a light and making an offering to the world.