The Epiphany of Our Lord
January 6, 2019
“Ignorant No More!!”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Is there anything worse than trying to teach someone who doesn’t want to learn? You speak to them but they have their arms folded and a snarl on their face and they let you know that you and what you are trying to say is not appreciated. Their mind is made up and it will not be changed. Save your breath on them – it is of no use!!
Ignorance is a difficult disease to defeat. Sometimes folks are just dumb. But sometimes there is an edge to all of that and they have a hardness of heart that is tough to battle. Some of you make your living by teaching others. Some are teachers in our schools and for some, though you are not full-time teachers, part of your job requires the teaching and supervision of others. But they want nothing of what you are selling.
People can be ignorant in their souls, as well. In matters of faith and religion some can be ignorant of the teachings of the faith and, also, ignorant and unwilling to follow the will of God in their lives.
I detest ignorance and so does God. But the guy that wrote more books than anyone else in the Bible – St. Paul – was as ignorant as they come. Before his conversion into the truth of Christ he was ignorant of the truth that God wanted to bring salvation, eternal grace, to all people in the world. Paul thought God’s salvation would only come to Jewish people and only to those who followed the laws of Moses. His religion was a religion based on keeping the law. He was ignorant of God’s plan for the entire world. He was ignorant of salvation to all by God’s grace, God’s working only through the atoning death and the glorious resurrection to life from Jesus. Because of this ignorance and the hatred that he had toward Christians, approving of their death and actively trying to bring them to a terrible end, he calls himself, “lower than the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8) Maybe there is a connection for the readings today, assigned for Epiphany, between words about Paul and about Herod. Both had ignorance about God that brought about great hatred toward God and people.
But he is not the last person to be ignorant about Jesus and His method of salvation and the truth that Christ’s name is the greatest name of all names. He is not the last person who foolishly resists the knowledge of God and the truth of His ways. Paul speaks to the Ephesians and speaks about their ignorance in the chapter immediately prior to our text, “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners of the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) Hopeless. Godless. Ignorant. They found themselves in an awfully dark and dreary place.
I have a New Year’s resolution for you – if you allow others to make resolutions for you – here it is – “Ignorant No More”. That is what we will be from this day forward. We will be ignorant no more. We will not be ignorant anymore of God’s clear message of salvation through Jesus. We will not be ignorant anymore of God’s great desires for our lives. We will leave the dark and hopeless places of life. Ignorant no more!!
The idea of Epiphany is that of light or illumination. It is an unfolding or a showing. I’ve heard the word “manifestation” used in regards to Epiphany. Jesus, in quoting Isaiah, said, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16) To people who were in darkness, in ignorance, who had the snarl on their face and gave every indication that their minds and hearts were closed to Jesus, God’s light has come.
God brings us out of ignorance and brings us into the brilliance of our salvation through Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never again walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) After I stopped reading the passage about people being “without hope and without God in the world”, the section continues, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13) In our reading we read, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise of Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 3:6)
It would be terrible to be ignorant of Jesus Christ. Some people have never heard of Jesus. They don’t know anything of a humble birth or a miraculous life, or a death of sacrifice or a rising from death. They have no knowledge of that. But some have heard and do not believe the words. They have no trust in Him as their Savior. They will not submit their will to the will and the ways of God. They are not just ignorant but even obstinate. Don’t be like that!!
But God is at work. When Paul was so ignorant, God stepped right into his life and changed his heart and will and mind, “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:3-6) Ignorant. Obstinate. Now, God struck him down with His light.
That is what He is still doing. That is why God’s kingdom is still growing. That is why this church has a great work to do in 2019. We can be ignorant no more about the great love that God has for us in Christ Jesus. We can be ignorant no more about the great love that God has for others through Christ Jesus. I pray that every one of us has an absolute confidence in Jesus. With deep appreciation you know where you stand with God – “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” (II Corinthians 5:19) We stand fallen in the mercy of God.
We can be ignorant no more about the will of God for our life. I think it is in Thessalonians that God says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.” (I Thessalonians 4:3) Right here in Ephesians we read, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer lives as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.” (Ephesians 4:17-20)
The best learners are the hungry learners. They can’t wait for the next lesson, nor the next thing to be added to their understanding. Have you ever been there? You can’t wait to read the next chapter to find out how it will all turn out. That is also true in matters of the heart. I hope you start this New Year with a greater hunger for the truths of God. God should not bore you!! The Bible should not bore you!! Church should not bore you!! If you find yourself ignorant about God then you can do something about it. You can begin reading your Bible. You can come to a Bible Class. You can join a small group. When Peter concludes his letter he gives this charge, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 3:18a) We should spend a life time learning about the greatness of our God upon earth. We will spend a life time experiencing that greatness in heaven.
I found out something by reading the paper a few years ago. I found out that it costs the U.S. Treasury 1.7 cents for every penny they make. They can’t find a metal cheap enough that a penny costs a penny to manufacture. The nickel is also a losing proposition. It costs 8 cents for every nickel that they make. So the government lost almost $91,000,000 last year due to that difference. I’m glad the government is rich!! This whole thing about the cost of making a penny makes me wonder about the phrases, “A penny for your thoughts”, or, “giving someone your two cents”. See, you are no longer ignorant about such things!!
Ignorant no more!! We have knowledge from God Himself about Christ and life and growth. May we, in this year, and every year, be ignorant no more, but filled with faith and godly wisdom. Amen!!
(This sermon, in the files, “Best Of…” was originally preached on January 4, 2015)