We are God’s Crowning Glory
“We are God’s Crowning Glory”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Second Sunday of Epiphany
January 17, 2016
Readings: Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 96:1-10
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2: 1-11
We see and experience the greatness of God as He leads us thru the journeys of life, bringing us closer to His will. We begin our worship in the morning, gathering in obedience to His direction to mankind to start the day proclaiming Him as the Lord of our lives and looking to Him for guidance.
In the psalm that we just read, we are exhorted to “sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 96:1a). We can sing because we have the joy that Christmas brings – the knowledge that we are so important to God, even more important than the Son because He sent His Son to save us even if He knew that He would undergo tremendous suffering to do that. This is why we sing “Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:2b). We are to proclaim the glad tidings to others, proclaiming God’s glory and what He has done for us. From Scriptures, we get an insight into God’s provision for us, meeting all our needs. “Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” (Psalm 96:7b). Do we see God as able to provide everything we need – strength, glory – or do we panic in fear and anxiety because we don’t really believe that He is a God of mercy and grace, glory and strength? “When we see Him we will know Him because we will be like Him.” “Worship the Lord in holy attire (Psalm 96:9a).” Worshipping in holy attire means letting our lives manifest God’s glory.
In Isaiah 62, God is speaking to Israel, which is a symbol of all humanity. God uses Israel to speak to the world. “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent ….until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning” (verse 1). Men will see the glory of God through us. God will work with us till the world sees the righteousness of God in us. The best example I can think of is Bishop Frank Constantino. In his early life, he was a criminal and he was imprisoned for murder. While in prison, he met Christ and this changed his life dramatically such that he was set free. As a free man, he set up Bridges of America, a ministry for prisoners. As a result, many prisoners were set free – both physically and spiritually. Bishop Constantino’s life and work among the prisoners show us that God can change us; that He will never give up on us. He is telling us that even if we fail, He will not leave us nor stop working on us until our righteousness shines like the sun. When Bishop Constantino died, his life was celebrated. During his funeral, some members of the Mafia came and ministered, their lives also touched by the Bishop’s life. God never gives up on us no matter how many times and how greatly we have failed.
“You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (verse 3). David was guilty of deceit, adultery and murder, yet still became a man after God’s own heart. Regardless of what we’ve gone thru in life, God will never give up on us until He restores us. “It will no longer be said to you, ‘Forsaken’, nor to your land will it any longer be said ‘Desolate’; but you will be called ‘My delight…’ (verse 4).
Christ didn’t just take away our sin and failure. This was just the beginning of His work in us. He also restored our relationship with God as sons and daughters, and then He gave us gifts. “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (I Corinthians 12:7). Christ came to give us gifts. This is why He said, “The things that I have done you shall do also, but greater….” As Christ did when He came as one of us, we were empowered by the Holy Spirit to heal the sick and even bring back the dead to life. We should renew our minds and realize that God has prepared us for greatness.
Father Fernan ministers in Bahrain. In one of his ministries, a Muslim businesswoman who was sick approached him to be prayed over. She was healed! Her religion didn’t matter to God; He loves her just as she is. And this tells us that we are not to separate ourselves from others of a different faith or race or economic standing. We are all God’s children.
Yesterday, I ministered in the funeral of Mrs. Mercado. She was the wife of the bishop of a Methodist Church and I had the chance to work with her in Philcadsa. She wrote in her will her wish that I minister in her funeral. I was nervous when I was contacted and asked to minister at the funeral because that church has many important personalities as members. Mrs. Mercado spent much of her time giving of herself. I shared with those who were there from Wisdom, that God had tested her and found her worthy, and that is why she was called home – to receive her reward from God. Mrs. Mercado challenges us to not just sit and do nothing, but to devote our lives to serving God and giving of ourselves. God chose the gifts He gave us (1 Corinthians 12). Most of us don’t even know and understand the gifts we’ve been given.
In the Gospel, I want to correct the statement that Cana was the first miracle of Christ. What He did in Cana was a sign, the evidence of who He was and what He was equipped to do. The account begins with the phrase, “On the third day”. What happened on the third day? Christ’s resurrection. In the wedding at Cana, Christ was “resurrected” from His earthly life and manifested thru His work. We, too, have been resurrected to show the world the signs that Christ is with us. This is our challenge on the second Sunday of Epiphany: to realize that God is with us and show this to the world. We should see our potential to be like Christ and do His work, instead of living in helplessness. We should see that God has prepared us to be His witnesses, a sign to the world of God being with man and for man. God has empowered us to overcome our weaknesses.
In my sermon yesterday, I used the rising of Lazarus where Christ said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life”. He called forth Lazarus and Lazarus came back to life. Jesus then instructed that Lazarus be loosed from the cloth that had bound him. This is what Christ has done for us – He brought us back to life and loosed us from whatever it is that is holding us back or keeping us as prisoners. The challenge to us is to respond to the truth that God is with us. We can heal the sick and set people free. May we be a sign to the world that Christ is with us.