Revelations in our time (Part 1)
February 19, 2018
The word “epiphany” (from the Greek epiphaneia or theophaneia) means “appearance” or “manifestation” of God, and has roots in the word for sunrise or dawn. In our lives of faith, some epiphanies are dramatic and send our lives down a different path. Others are subtler, even commonplace, and influence how we see ourselves and the world. Either way, whether God whispers to us or knocks us for a loop, we are in for a change.
Presbyterians Today recently asked some members of the PC(USA) to share their own epiphanies. The following are some of them:
It’s been three years now, but my dream from that night is still vivid. It was my first day as the new pastor at a church. I was walking up a gravel driveway. Surrounded by high grasses, I scanned the scene, puzzled. No building, no steeple …. just a farm.
I woke from the dream at 3:17 a.m. Church on a farm — how compelling could that be! Worship in a barn, in an orchard …. Sunday school with chickens …. and folks could deliver food on the way home. Farm-to-food pantry, farm-to-school cafeteria, farm-to- prison, farm-to-whatever!
I Googled “farm church” to see if such a thing existed, but found nothing. I went to GoDaddy and, to my surprise, the domain name www.FarmChurch.org was available. For $85 I could have it for five years. Awake to a new possibility, I got out my credit card.
Ben Johnston-Krase, co-founding pastor, Farm Church, Durham, North Carolina
My RV ministry was celebrated as a church without a building. However, I found myself reverting to a “traditional” church mindset, trying unsuccessfully to interest people in coming to my chapel for what I had to offer. God gave me an epiphany: I needed to be present with these residents in the power of the moment, like Christ did with the woman at the well. She, too, would probably have felt ineligible in a traditional church setting.
The journey of one man from his initial self-disclosure of being an atheist to his opting to stay to hear my message after a music performance was a series of “moments” — opportunities to connect, building trust and relationship. Helping when needed, offering sympathy when his dog died and compassion for his sports injury, as well as being honest and vulnerable about my own life, made all the difference in bridging the gap.
Tamara John, founder/director, Hope for Life Chapel RV Ministry, Huntington Beach, California
God’s grace in everyday life
I remember a recent epiphany I had because it shapes me every day. One day it became clear to me when I realized that to witness and experience Jesus Christ, one does not need to be a “wise man” or have a fancy title like “magi” or “king.” One certainly does not have to have an impressive-sounding job like “astronomer.” One does not need to possess expensive and exotic gifts to give. One does not even need to travel long distances in a group of three, although companionship helps. This epiphany led me to finally understand that even a common and everyday person in Indiana, like me, just trying to get through life on a daily basis, can witness, experience, worship and be changed by Jesus. I remember this epiphany because by the grace of God it happens almost every day.
Andrew Kort, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Bloomington, Indiana
A lesson from my tree
On the edge of my front porch, I’m elevated above the road and set back just enough to be hidden from view. It’s the perfect spot for reflection. Many days at dusk I would return to that spot. But for me, reflection often turned into self-loathing as I would mentally go over a list of things I’d left undone or could have done better.
One day I particularly noticed a Japanese maple in my front yard. Its craggy branches bend, twist and weave through each other. No one could have predicted exactly how this tree’s branches would grow, and no other tree’s branches are exactly like this one’s. There’s no such thing as a perfect or imperfect Japanese maple.
I realized I could look at myself the same way. There are a lot of ways to be a loving, responsible human, and no two will look identical. I’m here not to achieve an imaginary ideal but to create my own craggy life.
Elizabeth Jeffries, member, Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, Pittsburgh
The ‘gift’ of pain
My spiritual epiphany began when I woke up one morning last May unable to move without extreme pain. When I tried to stand, I collapsed on the floor, involuntarily shaking and crying out in pain. Countless chiropractic and orthopedic appointments confirmed that I have a bulging disc and arthritis in my lower back.
The epiphany here is that God used my pain to open me up to the pain of others. I have a newfound sympathy for those without health insurance (what would I have done without it?), for those in parking lots struggling to get out of their cars, for the folks whose gait betrays their discomfort. I am not willing to say that God is “in” my pain — or anyone else’s — but God is certainly using it to teach me compassion: training me to look beyond myself to be present with, and possibly ease the suffering of, others.
Joshua Bower, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Albany, Georgia
Today’s Focus: Everyday epiphanies
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Michael Fallon, BOP
Margaret Farmer, PMA
Let us pray:
Thank you, Lord, for revealing truths to us in profound ways. Thank you for revealing your love for us through Jesus. Amen.
Morning Psalms 119:73-80; 145
First Reading Genesis 37:1-11
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 1:1-19
Gospel Reading Mark 1:1-13
Evening Psalms 121; 6