31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 14, 2018
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Transforming the World with Christ’s Love
Welcome to Epiphany! Do you have your Epiphany decorations up? No? Well, how about your Epiphany cards? Are they all ready to be sent? Well, at the very least, you must have bought some Epiphany candy already.
Oh, that’s right. Epiphany is the forgotten church season, the church season between Christmastide and Lent, which is often mundanely referred to as Ordinary Time.
Ordinary Time, what an ironic name for the season of Epiphany, because these days between January 6th and Ash Wednesday, which is Valentine’s Day this year, are not supposed to be ordinary. They are supposed to be “showy”.
The word epiphany means “to make known”, “to reveal”, “to show”, and the season of epiphany, when the church celebrates Christian community and mission, focuses, most of all, on showing the light and love of Jesus Christ to all the world.
The season of Epiphany shouldn’t be ordinary time. The season of Epiphany shouldn’t be a lull between Christmas and Lent. It should be a big deal because epiphanies are a big deal. They are ah-ha moments; they are the moments when God’s plan is revealed to us; moments when God’s will is made known in our lives. Epiphanies are John the Baptist shouting, “Look, here is the lamb of God!” (John 1:36).
Henri Nouwen writes about God giving us just enough light to take the next step and then having the faith that God will give us enough light for the step after that (Bread for the Journey, Jan 8). It’s a beautiful message; however if I got to choose, I would rather have the great big star of Epiphany, the flashing billboard arrow saying “Walk this way”. John the Baptist shouting, “Look, here is the lamb of God!” Jesus saying, “Come and see.” (John 1:39)
Wouldn’t life be easier, wouldn’t our Christian faith journeys be easier if we just had these great big “show me” signs every single day of our lives, epiphanies to direct us on our faith journeys, revealing and making known our callings from God?
It’s tempting to want to wait until the great big Epiphany star comes to guide us forward. It’s appealing even to sit down until our John the Baptist comes along, to declare, “Look, there is Jesus. Go follow.” Many churches convince themselves that it is just prudent to hold off on any new ministries until they have fully discerned God’s will and the entire church community is on board.
It is really easy to get stalled on our faith journeys– as we wait for that clear call from God telling us what we should be doing, which way we should be going.
We don’t need to wait for an epiphany, for a clear direction forward, we already have one. We have already received our calling from God.
At our baptisms, our parents or guardians, or even we ourselves, received our callings from Jesus to “come and see.” Come and see the light shining in the darkness, the light shining in our darkness. Come and see the Word become flesh. Come and see the child born for us, who is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Come and see the Messiah, God’s anointed one, our Savior, God’s love incarnate.
Like the disciples, we, too, have been invited to come and see Jesus and to follow him in this way of love, peace, and justice.
Our calling does not end there though. Like John the Baptist, like the two disciples in our scripture passage this morning, our calling is also to witness to Christ’s way and invite others to know Jesus.
Our mission, our calling is not complete until we “show”, until we “reveal”, until we make known the good news of Jesus Christ and invite someone else to ‘come and see’.
And this is perhaps the reason why Epiphany is the forgotten church season, consigned to being ordinary time, because we are not comfortable witnessing to our faith and inviting others. We are not comfortable being “showy” about our relationship with Jesus. We are shy about making known the love of Christ and inviting others to come and see what has transformed our lives and we believe could transform theirs.
And this reticence to witness started long before us.
Throughout the twentieth century, as the church as an institution gained more and more followers, more and more ground in society, there became less and less of a need to invite others to come and see, come and follow Jesus – because everyone in our communities already went to church, already had a relationship with Jesus.
And the church became complacent. The church forgot her calling to witness, to say to people, “Look, here is the lamb of God.” “Look, here is the light of the world.” “Look, here is the Prince of Peace.” The church forgot her calling to witness, and the church forgot how to witness.
So it is time, it is time to reclaim our calling as Christ’s disciples, our full calling as Christ’s disciples, to follow Jesus and to witness to his Way, inviting someone else to know and follow Jesus.
A big part of my Tending the Fire conference, which I was at this past week, is the reminder that the only person we can change is ourselves. We cannot change anyone else. The decision to follow Jesus Christ is an individual one. We cannot decide for anyone else whether they will have a relationship with God as made known to us through Jesus Christ.
We cannot change anyone else, and that does not excuse us from our calling to invite others to come and see.
I finished this sermon on Thursday and in one of those wonderful God is still speaking, God is still revealing moments, the Rev. Quinn Caldwell in his Still Speaking devotional on Friday wrote about how we can invite others to come and see.
One member of his church “periodically sets her Facebook status to something like, ‘Can’t wait for church tomorrow! Anybody want to go with and then get brunch after?’ [He goes on to write] You’d be surprised how many take her up on it.” And they live in upstate New York!
Rev. Caldwell also suggests, “you could just be sure your [Facebook] profile lists your religion and a link to your church.” (Evolve, Still Speaking Devotional, January 12, 2018, Rev. Quinn Caldwell)
It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or scary to invite someone to come and meet Jesus. Invite them to come and see Ross Tucker and the Hot Cat Jazz Band on Sunday, January 28th.
Invite them to come and see how they can make a difference in our world by volunteering with Family Promise or by making a meal for the St. Vincent DePaul homeless shelter.
Invite them to the Pancake Supper on Tuesday, February 13th.
Such simple ways to invite them to experience Christian community, to experience God’s unconditional love.
John the Baptist’s mission wasn’t complete until he witnessed and invited others to know Jesus. The disciples’ mission wasn’t complete until they witnessed and invited others to know Jesus. Our mission isn’t complete until we witness and invite someone else to know, to follow Jesus.
Epiphany is the perfect season for us to reclaim our mission as Christians and the church, to follow Jesus out into the world, witnessing to his light, inviting others to know his love, transforming the world step by step, person by person, into a place of peace, justice, and love.