Sunday, January 10, 2010

Epiphany I, Part I

After the Feast itself of the Epiphany we have a season of varying length, which can be as short as one Sunday or as long as six. The Gospels appointed for these Sundays all maintain the theme of “manifestation” in one way or another. Today's Gospel presents Jesus as a mere boy (at an age when boys can be difficult to live with) speaking of “my Father,” and revealing Himself as God's Son. On Epiphany II we read of His Baptism, when the heavenly voice declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Then comes Epiphany III, the lovely account of the miracle at Cana's marriage feast which simultaneously saved a poor family from social disgrace and manifested Jesus as the One to bring a new marriage bond between God and His people. On Epiphany IV, Jesus manifests Himself as the One who heals, and then reiterates the theme of Epiphany Day itself, the welcome of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God. Epiphany V shows a simple manifestation through teaching. Epiphany VI describes the “Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” The ultimate manifestation of God Incarnate yet remains to be seen, but the Gospel promise is that He will indeed make Himself visible to all the world.

Epiphany VI has a thrilling Epistle reading, which contains the verse, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” This speaks of the renewal of the Image of God in us, damaged by sin but reconstituted in sanctification. So at the End, His manifestation is our manifestation; His Epiphany becomes our epiphany as well. Imagine looking at yourself in the mirror in heaven! What a make-over, what a face-lift that will be! You will look like Jesus, as the Image of God has been restored.

In the early Epiphany Sundays we have a series of readings from Romans 12 and 13. These readings all describe the morality of the Christian lifestyle. These are impressive in their very simplicity. No painful moral dilemmas, no impossible commandments, just a series of suggestions. But the key to the entire two chapters is in one exceedingly demanding verse: “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Not conformed, but transformed! The message of Jesus, God Incarnate, is not for the self-satisfied but for those who are willing to be changed, made over, rehabilitated. If you like yourself the way you are, the Gospel is not for you, for the Gospel is all about internal and external change. And that, again, is God's ultimate and greatest self-disclosure.

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