We're in the midst of the weeks of Epiphany, the weeks we remember some of the key moments of Jesus' life starting with the visit of the magi to the Child-King, the baptism of Jesus, and the water turned to wine at the Cana wedding. The word epiphany from ancient Greek speaks to a striking appearance, a manifestation. I barely know how to picture the word: manifestation. "To make manifest" does not help me at all, but synonyms shed more light: clear, distinct, unmistakable, open, palpable, visible, conspicuous. Oh, yes, this makes delightful sense to me now.
You've heard the pithy expression attributed to the theologian William Barclay, "There are two great days in a person's life -- the day we are born and the day we discover why." These vigorous words help me frame the liturgical seasons of Christmas and Epiphany and could be restated: In these two great seasons in the life of Jesus we celebrate the day the Messiah was born and the events Father, Son and Spirit reveal why.
For the next few weeks, we gather round these flaming-bush moments in Jesus' life hoping for our sleeping hearts to be stricken with sight.
track 1: photography
|photo credit: An Orthodox priest conducts a service at an ice hole in a pond as part of Epiphany celebrations in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011. AP / Sergei Chuzavkov|
I think the Eastern church has a good idea here. Imagine the congregation in your last Sunday service taking turns jumping into ice-covered water? Can you imagine a liturgy more striking to our sleeping selves?
track 2: music
This may look like a Christmas album, this collection of songs arranged, prepared in 2009 by worship director Bruce Benedict for corporate worship at Christ the King Presbyterian in Raleigh, NC. Spend some time listening and you with the lyrics weaving the wonder not only of the day Christ was born but the revealing of God's why. It is in our understanding of the why, we come to know the very heart of God. Look for the heart of God revealed in songwriter's poetry.
A sampling to start your listening journey (click on the link or the album title to visit the bandcamp page that includes a lyrics option):
- "Savior of the nations, come..." (track 1, verse 1)
- "...That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet." (track 3, verse 4)
- "...Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor." (track 5, verse 5)
track 3: poetry
A momentary rupture to the vision:
the wavering limbs of a birch fashionthe fluttering hem of the deity’s garment,
the cooling cup of coffee the ocean the deity
waltzes across. This is enough—but sometimes
the deity’s heady ta-da coaxes the cherries
in our mental slot machine to line up, and
our brains summon flickering silver like
salmon spawning a river; the jury decides
in our favor, and we’re free to see, for now.
A flaw swells from the facets of a day, increasing
the day’s value; a freakish postage stamp mails
our envelope outside time; hairy, claw-like
magnolia buds bloom from bare branches;
and the deity pops up again like a girl from
a giant cake. O deity: you transfixing transgressor,
translating back and forth on the border
without a passport. Fleeing revolutions
of same-old simultaneous boredom and
boredom, we hoard epiphanies under the bed,
stuff them in jars and bury them in the backyard;
we cram our closet with sunrise; prop up our feet
and drink gallons of wow!; we visit the doctor
because all this is raising the blood’s levels of
c6H3(OH)2CHOHCH2NHCH3, the heart caught
in the deity’s hem and haw, the oh unfurling
from our chest like a bee from our cup of coffee,
an autochthonous greeting: there. Who saw it?
Source: Poetry (November 2011).
track 4: video
When we listen to the clues of God's true heart in the scriptural accounts of epiphany, we also gain insight into our own true selves. God does not waste revelation -- as we recognize Him, He names us. (from The Work of the People)
track 5: web links
- Songs for Epiphany: Bruce Benedict's blog, Cardiphonia, is an excellent resource of tunes and chord charts for those responsible for leading congregations in worship, but also those who hunger for lyrically-rich hymnody to mark the liturgical seasons.
- Epiphany at Cana: I enjoyed Malcolm Guite's sonnets all during Advent. He continues writing good words in the season of Epiphany as well. This link takes you to the latest, but track back through his blog the previous posts for more.
- Clean House, Hold Steady: Good Letters contributer Allison Backous shares her epiphany on the difference between living life as a victim and life as needing Christ's strength in her weakness.
- The Kingdom of God is near you...and far away: I shared this post from my musings in January 2010 at an Epiphany night celebration with new and dear friends here in Austin.
- Epiphany 2011: To see more profound photographs of the Eastern church celebrating Epiphany, view this article at The Sacramento Bee. Totally fascinating.....
bonus track: another icy baptism photo
|photo credit: A man enters the water of Komsomolskoe lake through a cutout made in the ice, in downtown Minsk during the Orthodox Epiphany holiday service late on January 18, 2011. People take part in a baptism ceremony during the traditional celebration of Epiphany, one the biggest events in the Christian Orthodox calender. AFP/ Getty Images / Viktor Drachev|
Won't you join me this week in keeping watch for every common bush afire with God....