Somewhere along the line, I've come to appreciate all four seasons and to savor the changing Church calendar. I've learned that Epiphany and Lent can be fruitful, even exciting times in my spiritual life.
The word "Epiphany" comes from a Greek word meaning "manifestation" or "appearing." It's a season of light and of new beginnings. The season of Epiphany has some wonderful Scripture readings, including The Visit of the Magi, The Baptism of Our Lord (Jesus's baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River), and the Wedding Feast at Cana where Jesus changes water into wine.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, these three stories from Scripture have traditionally been commemorated together on the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th) because they were all understood as signs that God had appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. In addition to showing Jesus as the Messiah, it seems to me these stories share another common theme: transformation. They speak to ways God works in our lives and in the world, transforming us. How and where does God do that?
In the story of the Magi, God shows that the light of Christ is available to all. Jesus didn't just come to one tribe. He didn't just come to the rich and famous. He came for everyone. According to at least one scholar, the magi may not have been kings, nor what we would traditionally call wise men. Instead, they may have been traveling entertainers. Thus they would have been outside the fold, not people of high social standing. If so, the story of the Magi is about people on the margins -- people who society says are not valuable -- being the first to see and know the Christ. It seems it's often the ones with less to lose who are most open to the transforming love and grace, and the bold new ways, of the Christ.
In the Baptism of Our Lord, a transformation occurs when Jesus is baptized in the Jordan by John. A voice from the heavens says: "This is my beloved Son. With him I am well pleased." Jesus underwent a rite of passage and... something happened. It became clearer to his disciples -- and maybe even to Jesus -- who he was. Sacraments such as baptism can often be occasions of grace and transformation. We may not hear God speaking to us out of a cloud if we participate in a sacrament, but we may experience a change that can surprise us. Sacraments, and rites of passage in general, can be occasions of wholeness, in which we experience ourselves more fully as God's beloved sons and daughters.
At the wedding of Cana Jesus transforms water into wine. This is a story absolutely fraught with signs and symbols. There's so much to unpack. Just one of the messages I took from this story is that Jesus worked this transformation as a wedding guest. He wasn't there in an official capacity as a holy man. He worked a lot of transformations in daily life and didn't confine his ministry to synagogue or temple. As Christians, as the Body of Christ, we are likewise called to be change agents in the real lives of others. Not to be set apart, a city on the hill, but to be out and about, as Jesus was. At weddings, cafes, soup kitchens, wherever the people are, we can offer the New Wine of Christ to those who thirst.
It's Epiphany! No post-Christmas letdown here. This is an exciting time, fraught with opportunities to open ourselves to -- and share with others --the transforming love of God.
An Epiphany blessing:
"May Almighty God, who led the Wise Men by the shining of a star to find the Christ, the Light from Light, lead you also, in your pilgrimage, to find the Lord. Amen.
May God, who sent the Holy Spirit to rest upon the Only-Begotten at his baptism in the Jordan River, pour out that Spirit on you who have come to the waters of new birth. Amen.
May God, by the power that turned water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana, transform your lives and make glad your hearts. Amen.
And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you for ever."
New Pastor: I began working this week as the Episcopal member of the Pastoral Team here at Jesus Christ, Reconciler. It's been an exciting and rich adventure so far! I'm learning and having fun. Thank you for your warm welcome (and for your patience as I deal with being a newbie). I look forward to getting to know everyone better and working with you as together we seek to build up the body of Christ at Reconciler.
Guest Preachers THIS SUNDAY January 14: This Sunday, we welcome William and Marina, a Mennonite couple who have been forced to flee Colombia in part because of their stance of nonviolence. Tripp writes:
Like so many others in Colombia, they have been caught in the middle of the complex civil war. They have never participated in any of the violence, which pits the Colombian military and their right-wing paramilitary allies against guerrillas. Rather, William and Marina have sought to break the silence of the church and the people in the face of horrific human rights violations. Because of their human rights work, they have been under threat in Colombia and have had to move to the United States for a period of six-months. They may not be able to move back to their home community where their children and grandchildren live for a very long time. In their time in the US, they wish to build connections between church communities in order to support the work of the peacemaking church in Colombia.Bible Study: On January 9th we began our new Bible study on Praying the Psalms. This Bible Study will run through the season of Epiphany and conclude during Lent. All are welcome! We are reading Eugene Peterson's book Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. Bible Study meets Wednesdays at 7:30 in the Immanuel Library. We are reading Chapter 2 for Wednesday the 17th. They're short chapters, so it's easy to catch up if you missed the first week but still want to participate.
Jose William Valencia Caicedo is a pastor of a Mennonite Church and Coordinator of the Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace of the Evangelical Council of Colombia (CEDECOL). Luz Marina Gil de Valencia has traveled with her husband in all of his activities in the areas of armed conflict. She has worked with the Christian Women’s Network for Life and Peace project to lead training workshops on community organization, social work, human rights and international human rights law, and the protection of human rights in conflict areas.
The service begins at 6pm. All are welcome. Contact us if you have any questions.
Also, we are encouraging all who participate in Bible Study to pray a Psalm a day either individually or by joining the Community of HolyTrinity in their morning or evening prayer. Let one of the pastors know if you would like a copy of Peterson's book, and/or some direction on praying the psalms.
Annual Meeting: Our annual meeting will happen on January 28th at 3:00. We'll gather at the parsonage (the "Nidge") for a meeting followed by a potluck, then gather in the Chapel for worship at 6:00. Please let Will Swanson know what you can bring to the potluck. This is a vital meeting in the life of our church, in which we will review the events of the past year and envision the year ahead. Where do you want Reconciler to go as a church? Come and be heard! At this annual meeting, we plan to focus less on business and more on the spiritual life of Reconciler. If you are a member -- or have simply been attending services at Reconciler --please plan to attend. This meeting matters.
MYSPACE Site: We have a new Myspace site which is available at www.myspace.com/christreconciler
The Reverend Laura Gottardi-Littell
for The Pastoral Team