1 SAMUEL 3
1 CORINTHIANS 6:12-20
As Christmastime passes, we enter the holy season known as Epiphany. ‘Epiphany’ means ‘showing forth’ or ‘manifesting’ or “demonstrating.” The visit of the magi (wise men) to the child Jesus is first thing most people think of when the word “epiphany” is mentioned: the fact that wise men came from foreign lands to honor the infant Jesus was an outward sign that he was somebody very special.
Epiphany continues as we remember how God’s word came from heaven when Jesus was baptized:
Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
And just as he was coming up out of the water,
he saw the heavens torn apart
and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my Son, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased.”
- Mark 1:9-11
This is further demonstration of who Jesus really is: this is an epiphany.
But the word “epiphany” has a deeper meaning which runs through our entire lives: how does our way of being around other people “show forth” or “manifest” or “demonstrate” what is inside us? Are we full of life and love, or something else?
God has told you and me that we are His beloved children and heirs to His kingdom. God wants to say to each of us, “Well done. I am well pleased with you.”
As many of you have expressed to me, it is clear that our church faces life-and-death choices these days. We are the church today, and what Bethel will be in the future depends, in part, on how well we obey God’s will here. The younger generation, and our un-churched neighbors, may sense the warmth of God’s love here and be drawn to participate in it… or they may not sense it, and remain outside the circle.
Ronald Rolheiser, in his book, The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality, addresses the point where we either choose to express God’s love or to express something else. Jesus came into the world as God-made-flesh, and by leaving his Holy Spirit with us, the church, he gave us the choice: to embody God’s love in our whole lives, or not.
“The God who is love and family, who was born in a barn, is a God who is found, first of all, in our homes, in our families, at our tables, in sunrises, in our joys, and in our arguments. To be involved in the normal flow of life, giving and receiving, as flawed and painful as this might be at times within any relationship, is to have the life of God flow through us...
“Some years ago a Christian journal carried the lament of a woman who, with some bitterness, explained why she did not believe in God. Never in her explanation did she mention dogma, morals, or church authority. For her, the credibility of God and of Christ depended more on something else, the faces of Christians. Her complaint went something like this:
Don’t come talk to me of God, come to my door with religious pamphlets, or ask me whether I’m saved. Hell holds no threat more agonizing than the harsh reality of my own life. I swear to you that the fires of hell seem more inviting than the bone-deep cold of my own life. And don’t talk to me of church. What does the church know of my despair— barricaded behind its stained-glass windows against the likes of me? I once sought repentance and community within your walls, but I saw your God reflected in your faces as you turned away from the likes of me. Forgiveness was never given me. The healing love that I sought was carefully hoarded, reserved for your own kind. So be gone from me and speak no more of God. I’ve seen your God made manifest in you and he is a God without compassion. So long as your God withholds the warmth of human touch from me, I shall remain an unbeliever.”
[emphasis added by me; adapted by Rolheiser (pages 100-101) from Marie Livingston Roy, in Alive Now, 1975]
Love has been part of our Bethel tradition.
And embodying God’s love is our only hope.
Can you imagine that, somehow, God can make Himself known through us to our hurting world?
Through us, His church?
Do you not know
that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
which you have from God,
and that you are not your own ?
For you were bought with a price;
therefore glorify God in your body.
-1 Corinthians 6:19-20