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Epiphany Sunday | Rev. Vicki Kemper
“Rise and shine!” the prophet says.
But it is dark, you say. Many days the news is more than you can bear.
And yet it is the season of light, a time of revealing, a time to revel in what has been revealed: Christ light all around. Christ light within us. Christ light that blesses and beckons.
So they say.
Your light has come, they say. God’s glory is dawning upon you. Really. Just lift up your eyes and look around. Notice what great things God has done for you.
Go ahead: Take a good, long look.
Consider the blessed circumstances of your life. See in your mind’s eye the faces of your family and friends, be they sitting right beside you, thousands of miles away, or too long gone from this earth. Reflect on the hard times you’ve come through and the struggles you’ve overcome. No matter how deep the darkness you’re in, trust that you are not alone.
Give thanks for all the unearned love and favor you have received.
Consider this wondrous, heart-breaking, death-dealing world, and look around again. Ask yourself where God is when another unarmed African American is killed by police, when a 12-year-old black boy playing with a toy gun is shot and killed and no one is held accountable.
Wonder whether God might be working in or through any of it—or all of it: unchallenged hate speech, the untold suffering of millions of refugees, laundry that never ends, children forever needing to be fed, a frightening diagnosis, climate change and extreme weather events, the latest tragedy, systems built on privilege and racism, the cruelty of institutions and the kindness of strangers, depression, the unbelievable blueness of the sky, war without end, struggles for justice and peace, job challenges and financial difficulties, old aches and pains, the thrill of new love, the gift of long love.
Weep when you need to. Rage when you have to. Pray your heart out. Talk with your friends. Shake your head. Cross your fingers.
Study the holy writings for a sense of time and place. Take special note of all the promises of abundance and redemption, the visions of justice, equality, peace, abundance, a place at the table for everyone, and light and glory and radiance and always the light.
Despite all the evidence, make a decision to trust the Source of Love and Life. Imagine that the Holy One is doing a new thing. Even now. Even in this broken world. Even in your messy life.
Wonder if the new realm might come in your lifetime. Ask yourself what role you might play in ushering it in.
Then listen for the living word of the Holy One. Heed the longings of your heart. “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it . . .” 1
Consider all that is beyond your understanding. Live into that mystery.
Pray for a starry night and then scan the sky for a sign. Watch closely; monitor conditions; never tire of looking. Curse the clouds. Pray that you will know when the time is right. Pray that you will know what to do and where to go. Pray for patience. Curse the waiting.
And finally, when, a sign appears, when your heart leaps at the glimpse of what is possible—even if you’re not completely sure—give yourself over to it, even if you can’t imagine that untold generations of future seekers will call you wise.
You do not feel wise; you feel like a fool. But you have to take the risk. You want to have faith. You have to choose life. In the end, you have to follow the light.
Invite your best buddies to come along. Go shopping for gifts. Pack your bags. Cry your goodbyes. Mock your fears. Say your prayers, and then set out on a road you’ve never traveled for a destination you do not know. With joy in your heart.
Each day, go as far as you can but no farther. Each day, dwell in the mystery and wonder of the journey. Each day, pray for guidance, consult the writings, listen for a word, scan the sky, make necessary corrections. Practice opening your heart. When in doubt, on those days when you’re tired and wondering if you’ll ever get there—wherever there is—just keep following that star.
When you need to, rest. The star will still be there. Rest regardless. The Creator did, and the Creator compels you to rest, to remember that it is not all up to you.
Each night, give thanks for how far you’ve come and for the friends you’ve made along the way. The next morning, get up and do it all again, holding tight to the promise that draws you forward, nurturing the joy that lies in your heart like a dormant seed, paying homage to the One who gives you breath.
And when the day comes that you need help, when you must admit that you are lost, swallow your pride and consult the unholy powers-that-be for directions. Do not forget whose you are and where you come from. Do not be tempted by the all that glitters; do not succumb to the offer of a secure position with good benefits and no travel. Hold tight to your purpose. Trust the mystery more than the answers. Take only what you need. Notice that the star has reappeared. Be on your way. You’re almost there.
And when that star stops, even though it be over a dark alley in a no-good neighborhood, fall on your knees. Even before you knock on the door, give thanks for what you are about to see. Let the joy overtake you. Consider that worship is praise unfettered and joy unleashed.
Kneel in homage. Weep for joy. Breathe in all his baby smells. Laugh when he spits up on your shoulder. Wonder at how your healing and the salvation of the world could possibly be connected to this little child, but make a decision to receive it as true gift. Marvel at the mystery.
Oh! The gifts—you almost forgot! Open the treasure chest of your heart. Bring forth the packages that have traveled with you all these years. Give them gladly, realizing that all you have would not be enough. Give it anyway, gladly.
Realize that you are forever changed. And when the time comes to take your good news home, hold it close. Withstand the lures of power and wealth; resist evil in all its forms. And go home by another road, the way that has been prepared for you in love, the way that leads to love.
The light of Christ has come into the world.
God is with us.
The light of Christ has come into your heart.
God is with you.
Rise and shine, shine, shine!