January 6, 2019 Ah-ha

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
I think the most important Epiphany in the life of a Christian is the moment we realize we believe. Amen
Every once in a while, I find myself all of a sudden awake. I am not sure if you have had a similar
experience: You are just going about your day and your perspective changes, snap, suddenly aware of
your being in a new way. You might call it an epiphany. There are moments when an important truth
suddenly becomes clear and we can reinterpret our past and rethink our way forward in light of it.*

Epiphany is one of the most important yet neglected holidays of our Christian year. It marks the first
revelation of Christ to the Gentiles, and it grabs a hold of us, and it changes everything. It is the moment
when the past, finally make sense, the prophecies become clearer, and the future calls us toward a new
direction. Epiphany points to God’s love and brings meaning to His sovereignty.**

An Epiphany is a divine Illumination, and profound beyond our human understanding. The word
‘Epiphany’ comes from Greek and means ‘manifestation’ or an appearance of something or someone. In
the case of Jesus, it might best be described as the moments when he revealed himself to the world, in the
Nativity, in His Baptism, at the Wedding at Canna to name a few. We need to live into the promise that
one day, people of all nations will gather to worship the Lord together, even as we gather in separate
places on any given Sabbath. We are the living manifestation of the promise that we are, all of us God’s
children. Coming together to respond to God’s call to us, Gentile or Jew, to be united as one people.***

Sorry to say, we fail at this coming together and recognizing all people as our sisters and brothers. I think
this is what Isaiah may have meant when he said, “For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness
the peoples…” I had to stop and think about these words a little longer, “…and thick darkness the
peoples.” It made me wonder if the saying “thick in the head” came from this.

An epiphany is not an intellectual exercise. It’s emotional and spiritual. It’s like falling in love. No one can
describe to you how it happens, but when it does, there is a certainty so strong no one could talk you out
of it!+ This is what I think the three Kings experienced, this is how the shepherds felt, this is what Joseph
experienced when he realized the divinity in the birth of Jesus. None of it made logical sense, but
everyone felt it. Epiphany celebrates ‘the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ’. The six
Sundays which follow Epiphany are known as the time of manifestation — real world experience
prompting more than an acknowledgement of its occurrence. An Epiphany is when an event changes us in
deep and profound ways – an ontological change if you will, which is a big word that means a change in
our very nature at a metaphysical level, and it can reach beyond our understanding.

I think we can have more than one epiphany in our lives. At one major turning point in my life a friend of
taught me a Hebrew song (Kol ha’olam kulo, Gesher tzar me’od, Veha’ikar lo lifached k’lal.) “All of the
world is a narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid.” We are not alone, and if we
give voice to our epiphanies, when they are made public and we share them, what do we do after that, in
light of that epiphany shapes who we become. One of the most important things is not to be afraid. In the
same way, once we experience Jesus, and give voice to our belief – our lives will be shaped by our
“Epiphany” of Christ. This does not mean we will not have challenges, or adversity. It means that when
challenged we will not be alone, having been united through Christ to each other.

There is a difference between an Ah-ha moment and an epiphany. We have lots of ah-ha moments
especially if you ever watch some of those clever FB videos. Ah-ha, I have been using a can opener
wrong for 50 years, wow. Has anyone listened to satellite news programs that advertise items like
breathable underwear or wool socks that are “life changing?” Again, only an ah-ha moment. An epiphany
causes a deeper change. One of my “epiphany” moments came when I shared a large office with the
Director of Marketing at a publishing firm. Dave was a nice guy who had been married about a year and
was in his late 20s. He and his wife were looking to buy their first home. I heard him talking to real estate
agents, his wife, bankers etc., all about where they wanted to live and what they could afford. It was
difficult to not overhear conversations, sitting only 5 feet away from him. It took a lot of restraint not to
give advice, or discuss his business, but one day I had to ask him how in the world he was going to afford
a house in McLean on his salary. He was excited and went over every detail with me. I then asked if he
understood that the bank would not lend them money if the payment was over 75% of their total income?
No, he said, I am sure they will, and we want a really nice house! In that moment I realized that nothing I
said would matter. My advice was not needed, this was something he was going to have to experience for
himself. As I turned back to my desk, I had an epiphany. How in the world did my Mother restrain herself
all those years as I made mistake after mistake, doing things my own way – all the while, she knew that
the outcome would be failure, followed by learning from my mistake. In that “Mother, I would rather do it
myself moment” of enlightenment, I wondered how I ever lived not understanding this concept. I called
my Mom. I asked her, what it was that she wanted to tell me, that in the past I just could not hear or
comprehend. I had seen the light, and I could no longer see the world in darkness, through such naive eyes
again. Jesus, our light, has come to us, our eyes are opened and we have a new perspective, an awakening
to the truth. We are called by Jesus to walk in love and live in hope.

Christmas is past, but to move forward through this time of Epiphany, I wanted to share a poem written
by Howard Thurman called “The Work of Christmas” as it sheds light on our path forward having had an
awakening to Christ.

“When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone, When the kings and princes are
home, When the shepherds are back with their flock…The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, To
heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace
among others, To make music in the heart.”++

Inspired by words from: *Feasting on the word, Year C, Volume 1, p 194; ** Wikipedia: Epiphany;
***Bp. Marianne Buddie, The Diocese of Washington, DC; :+The Rev. Liz Tomlinson, St. Paul’s,
Bailey’s Crossroads, VA; ++The Rev. John Ohmar, The Falls Church Episcopal; Lyrics, Rabbi Nachman
of Breslov