Monday, January 6, 2014

The Light of Epiphany


The New Year is a perfect time to reflect back and set new goals called resolutions. And it is perfect that it falls in sync with the Feast of the Epiphany, the season of light where we celebrate not just the star of Bethlehem, but all the occasions of seeing light that include the baptism of Jesus and the turning water to wine in Cana. Light in Epiphany is the symbolic and tangible reality of seeing a new truth and walking towards it. This year I set my resolution bar low to simply eat less and practice yoga more as my individual goals. But it’s really cold, and I was tired after the holidays, and I have gotten the resolutions reversed -- eaten more and practiced yoga less. In addition to just being lazy, any simple resolution kind of feels mundane in the face of the big issues of this world and the mountain of work before me. In 2014, I just haven’t been able to muster much energy around my small attempts to rally. Iraq is falling into another violent civil war, more than 1.3 million Syrians were refugees in 2013, the number of women trafficked and raped in our cities has increased -- just to name a few of the seemingly insurmountable issues facing this world. In addition, when I think about the need to start fundraising again and dealing with births and deaths, it feels like a daunting way to start out a new year. Sometimes the scale of work, the foggy path ahead, or just the enormity of this great big ole world undoes us all.  

So I headed to the cold and barren woods to sort out how to move forward in the mire of my inability to keep simple resolutions in the wake of deflating injustices. I walked with expectation that I would find an epiphany, even though I was unworthy and a bit lost. I looked and looked in the sky for a hawk, a sign of spirit, but the skies were quiet. I prayed psalms I know by heart, but the words poured out of my mouth in puffs of cold air. There was nothing... but light. Pure, unadulterated light that poured over me through leafless trees. The same light that shines on the rich and poor; the same light that rises in Iraq and sets on Syria. Light that has shined since before the first war or the first person died from the human institution of poverty. That light that forgives us for stumbling in our petty resolutions and gives us energy to move forward.

It is the light of Isaiah’s hope, calling his people 2,500 years ago while they were still in exile, to arise, shine, for the light has come. He preached that even though darkness may cover the land, nations will see the light. In the beginning of his writing he reminds the people, “people who walked in darkness have seen a great light."

It is the message that Epiphany is the season of renewal and hope as we arise and let the light shine on us. When we stumble around and feel overwhelmed, this is the season to see the light. When we are asking, can we try again, the light answers for us with a resounding and brilliant, “yes”. See the light in a flickering candle, in a bright sun on a winter’s day, or in the flame of your stirring heart. Walk in that light and step out of your darkness, selfishness, pride, cynicism, and worry.

When I looked back on last year’s Epiphany sermon and saw the communal resolutions included opening a Magdalene community inside prison, buying a new house, opening a cafĂ©, building a new building in Ecuador, sending a team to Botswana and growing this community. We did all that and more. The light was there, and sometimes our biggest mistake can be taking it for granted and not seeing how beautiful and transformative it is has been in our collective and individual lives.  

Last Wednesday night, as I walked into St. Augustine’s dark and peaceful chapel, lit with 20 votive candles, Andrew Suitter was leading a group of six people on New Year’s day in the rosary. I listened for a minute and then left to tend to some task distracting me. It was in hindsight that the light reached me and I could see the vision before me. There was Andrew, our intern, beautifully transformed into a minister leading a flock with reverent prayers, haloed light, and a guiless heart that shines unfathomable light into weary souls.  The light was stronger because it has been passed on and shared.

The light of Epiphany is a promise that whether we stumble or fly, we are growing in the light of timeless love. Even the bulbs of wildflowers I walked over without a thought are soaking in the light in the frozen earth ready to spring to life in a few months. The light of love, more timeless than the sun, will hold us up so we can see the light in us.

We are being led in 2014. And like the Magi, when we follow we will see new visions and return on different paths. We will fall to our knees in gratitude that we kept. Let us be renewed by the light.  Pray for it. Resolve to live into it even when you stumble. The world needs us to walk in the light and not be discouraged. Let us resolve to hold the light for everyone who comes to this chapel, to help each other when our light feels dim, and to collectively carry our light into the world with healing, peace and love as our resolve.

By Becca Stevens

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