“”The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen.” [Keep Reading]
During the season of Epiphany, I’ve committed to be more aware of the ways that God is present and at work in and around me each day.
Here’s a snapshot of what I’ve seen three weeks into Epiphany:
I performed two memorial services—both for young men in our community who died unexpectedly, literally leaving hundreds of people stunned and in horrible, excruciating grief. A colleague lost her mother to an unexpected death. A young woman who came into my office with her toddler, asking for help to find shelter. She tried to be strong as she hid her tears from her daughter—tears of worry, embarrassment and just plain weariness. And, for my immigrant friends, the basic fear and suspicion that is a part of their everyday existence and a part of our everyday conversations.
The pain and anguish of life is real, devastating, exhausting and sometimes can lead to pretty dark moments.
That is the context of Epiphany 2018 for me. Christmas seems like forever ago!
Naturally, I’m praying and looking for the “AHA” moment—the Epiphany that I’m sure is buried in all of this. But I haven’t seen a bright shining star—at least not yet.
In this week’s lectionary passage, Jesus is on the scene preaching the Good News—letting folks know that things are about to change; the Kingdom of God is here! We see Jesus beginning to pull together his “team” of world changers. They are so excited to follow this amazing teacher, they drop everything and jump on board (at least it feels that way).
There’s only one small problem. And actually, in my mind, it’s not so small.
Could we go back a minute to verse 14?
What happened to John again?
“Now after John was arrested….”
That seems like a pretty big deal.
John, the one who prepared the way.
John, camel-hair wearin, locust-eating preacher.
John, the one who heard confessions and baptized people throughout Judea.
John, the one who actually baptized Jesus and heard the voice from Heaven calling Jesus, “beloved son.”
John, Jesus’ cousin.
John, Jesus’ beloved friend.
That John is in jail. That could not have been easy news to hear or bear. That’s actually some pretty bad news preceding Jesus’ Good News.
AFTER John was in jail, THEN Jesus started preaching this Good News message: The time is now. The Kingdom of God is here.
Is it reading too much into this narrative to suggest that there is something catalytic about John’s imprisonment? Something that MOVED Jesus into action?
Are there catalytic opportunities that are cloaked in pain, suffering, inequity and injustice? Are there “RIGHT TIME” moments for us to act on what we believe about the Good News?
Jesus’ proclamation that the Kingdom of God has come is basically announcing that it is here—in the FLESH. In Him. It is embodied. It is real and tangible. It is concrete.
For Good News to be Good, it has to show up. People need to see it, hear it, and be held by it in the midst of their real, embodied pain and suffering.
With our current social/political climate in the United States, sometimes it feels a little bit like the Church doesn’t actually know what to do…fear of offending people, fear of becoming polarizing, fear of becoming too political…the fear has paralyzed us. This is unfortunate because people are literally dying and communities are being torn apart. Does our Good News really mean anything if we aren’t showing up in concrete, tangible ways?
Acting with the ethic of LOVE may not always be SAFE, but it is the right thing to do. It is LOVE that is present to our neighbors, love that is in solidarity WITH those unjustly treated, and LOVE that provides for those in need. It is simple. And it is costly.
As I look back over the last three weeks, I am reminded that the revelation of Christ coming into the world, Epiphany, changed everything. God’s once-and-for-all demonstration of perfect love was brought to us in a vulnerable PRESENCE. It is a Presence that proclaims light and life in the darkest of moments. It is a Presence that proclaims Good News in the midst of some really bad things. It is a Presence that doesn’t shrink back in the face of fear but steps into spaces that are different, uncomfortable and awkward for the sake of community.
This is the epiphany I guess—the possibility of a new way of seeing that changes how we act and behave in the world in the name of Christ.
No wonder those early disciples dropped everything to follow Jesus. That kind of vision and invitation is hard to resist.
Lina Thompson Street Psalms Fellow
Pastor | Lake Burien Presbyterian Church Seattle, USA