Today is Epiphany. The word means “manifestation or revelation.”
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition it commemorates the Baptism of Jesus. (Matthew 3:1-12) That’s why the boys dive for the cross in Tarpon Springs, just the way they’ve been doing it for 117 years.
In the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Protestant tradition we focus on the coming of the Wise Men to find Christ. (Matthew 2:1-12)
Breadcrumbs Of Epiphany
Remembering the Wise Men and their search for Christ reminded me of Timothy Eagan’s account of his 1,200 mile piligrimage from Canterbury to Rome along the Via Fancigena. The New York Times columnist learned, “It helps to walk with eyes open—otherwise you miss the breadcrumbs of epiphany along the way.” He concluded with words from St. Julian, the patron saint of wanderers and hospitallers, “The way is made by walking.” (A Pilgrimage to Eternity, p. 327-328)
German theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, wrote: “The way of Christ comes into being under the feet of the person who walks it.” (The Way of Jesus Christ, p. 34)
Breadcrumbs along the way are often all I have.
As much as I would like to see a dazzling star or hear a choir of angels, “manifestations” usually happen and “revelations” genearlly come, not in spectacular moments of spiritual enlightment, but as I keep walking the ordinary paths, following the time-tested spiritual practices by which our eyes are opened to see the breadcrumbs of epiphany along the way. If our feet are walking the the right direction, our brains will follow. (I wrote about this in Finding Your Bearings: How Words that Led Jesus Through Crisis Can Guide Us.)
Epiphany and “The Big Lie”
T. S. Eliot described how the Magi were different when they returned to wherever they came from in closing lines of The Journey of the Magi.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
Matthew says the Wise Men returned “by a different road” to escape Herod’s big lie. (Matthew 2:12) I suspect they also returned as different people. Having seen Christ, they could no longer see their “old dispensations” in the same, old way.
And so, we return to our old “dispensation” where we live with the ongoing effects of “The Bie Lie” that instigated, inspired, and (now we know) helped plan the January 6 insurrection against our democracy.
Here’s some of what I wrote on this day two years ago.
The Capitol, with all its symbolism, grandeur, and complicated history bears architectural witness to our highest values and noblest ideals, even when we fail to live up to them. It represents the best of who we have been and who we might yet become.
The rioters who swaggered through the Rotunda replaced reverence for the Capitol and respect for our democracy with self-absorbed arrogance ginned up by a sinister network of groundless conspiracy theories and directly inspired by the relentless dishonesty of the President and his enablers … Removing Trump from the White House will be easier than removing the stain of Trumpism from our life together and restoring a commitment to democracy and the common good.
We are seeing the sinister spawn of that movment in the House of Representatives. The same people who have continued to support The Big Lie at the heart of Trumpism are continuing to undermine our democratic process today.
All of which which brings us to baptism.
Remember Your Baptism
Above anything else, on January 6 we are invited to remember our baptism.
I love the moment in our liturgy when the pastors calls the congregation, “Remember your baptism and be thankful.”
Baptism is not just an event we remember in the past, like remembering Jesus’ baptism. Remembering our baptism means returning to our “old dispensations” in a different way. It is the daily reminder that I am called to live as a baptised person; an ordinary person who is marked with the extraordinary identity of a child of God and a follower of Jesus Christ. I am called to live in the truth in a “dispensation” that is infected with dishonesty.
Remembering my baptism means hearing again the questions in our liturgy:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
reject the evil powers of this world,
and repent of your sin?
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves?
The invitation is always here for us, “Come on in! The water is fine!“
Grace and peace,