When I was a little boy, I had one of those illustrated children's Bibles. Maybe some of you had one of those too. And in the little Children's Bible that I had, Jesus, of course, was depicted as a white guy with blond hair and blue eyes. And even though he lived in the Middle East, he spoke perfect English. And he hung around with a whole bunch of white guys who had very Anglo names for people living in the Middle East, people like Philip and Andrew and Matthew.
Our words of integration and guidance this morning come from this book, Biblical Literalism, written by Bishop John Shelby Spong. As many of you know, Bishop Spong was one of the leading biblical scholars of our time, he passed away just last year at the age of 90. And this is his very last book. The whole title of the book is Biblical Literalism, a Gentile Heresy. And in the book, Bishop Spong, who devoted his entire adult life to the study of the Bible, reminds us that the Bible is not the Word of God. It is not words that were spoken out of God's mouth.
Our first scripture reading this morning, which Sue read so beautifully for us, is Paul's letter to the Corinthians. Paul wrote these letters from behind prison walls. Paul was imprisoned by the powers that be of his day. They were trying to silence hi, because he was leading a very popular movement of change and social justice. And so in the letter from behind prison walls, Paul is writing to the early Christians, trying to encourage them. He's saying to them, Look, I may be in prison, but you still all have power, power to effect change.
Well, when I was a boy growing up in church, I heard a lot about Heaven and Hell, about how Heaven was a place where, if you were good, you were rewarded. But if you were bad, you were punished, and you went to Hell.
I'm sad to say it, but next Sunday when we come to church, these beautiful Christmas decorations are going to be gone. And this beautiful nativity set is going to be put away until next year, because this week is the final week of the Christmas season. The Christmas season ends this Thursday, January 6, the 12th and final day of Christmas. And it's the day that we celebrate what's known as the Feast of the Three Kings or the Feast of the Epiphany. Now the word epiphany comes from a Greek word, and it means “to reveal.” It's when God the Divine reveals itself to us in new and powerful ways.