Epiphany here now

Matthew tells my favourite epiphany story, the magi. Here the pagan scientist magicians of his day, the materialistic secularist and the spiritualist new agers of our day, catch a glimpse of something new in the world. They travel from the east to see what it is.

I am reliving the story here now, hearing voices of materialism and reactive spiritualism sounding. Some scholars of the once Christian West know the Scriptures but rarely follow them. Into this place come representatives from the East. Chinese scholars, sent by their government, are here asking questions about the Christ. They see that the ways of Herod, the political, economic and military powers, do not answer the world’s problems. They tell us that the old and new ways of China no longer work to create a society of trust and purpose. They long for an epiphany.

Epiphany
We are in the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is when God surprisingly shows up in our world and lives. Epiphany is at the heart of Christian theology. It is not one of the big Christian seasons like Advent or Lent, but it is for me a better expression of how I experience my life of faith.

Advent is waiting for God to come. I rest assured that God has come in Jesus and is here in his Spirit, and I look for his culminating coming in the new creation. Lent helps me recognize my need of forgiveness and God’s redemption in Jesus’ cross and resurrection. Daily I long to experience the presence of God, to be surprised by God at work. I long for epiphany here now.

We were created to live daily in the presence of God. Picture God in Genesis 3 walking in the garden in the cool of the evening. He was expecting to encounter us and walk with us. When we were hiding, he called to us. When God delivered his people out of Egypt, the goal was to tabernacle with us. Again we would journey with him and be led by him. Still there was the veil in the tabernacle and later in the temple. God was with his people, but not fully.

Gospel Epiphany
Jesus came to remove the veil, to be the full revelation (veil removing) of God. The Epiphany story from the Gospel of Mark is Jesus’ baptism. Here Mark gives us a taste of future coming into the world. In Mark 1:10 the heavens are “torn open” and the Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove. This is an epiphany moment. In this moment Jesus hears the heart of the Gospel: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke celebrates epiphany in the temple. Anna and Simeon had their epiphany with answers to their lifelong longings in Jesus. Simeon breaks into a song of peace and hope. Anna gives thanks to God and tells everyone she can what is happening. A few years later, Mary and Joseph in the temple catch a glimpse of their son’s calling by his heavenly Father. We need those epiphany moments in worship that lead us into song, thanksgiving and witness about feeling at home with our heavenly Father.

The Gospel of John celebrates Jesus’ epiphany with a party. The Jewish wedding celebration had run dry. Jesus tells his mother that it is not yet time for the full Messianic banquet, but he provides an abundant taste of new miraculous wine. We need our daily dryness met. We long for those moments that invite us into the party of a renewed community. 

Longing
I long for these epiphanies that keep us moving with the faith of Mark’s epiphany, the hope of Luke’s, the love of John’s and the mission of Matthew’s.

I have had the epiphany that a good theology is the hope of the world. A vision that God is here, God is at work and God is love can save a person, create a new community and change a culture. I long for more epiphanies.

Karl Barth, the Swiss theologian, spoke of revelation as lightning on a dark night that gives us a glimpse of the landscape so we can keep walking until we get another lightning strike. The Scriptures spark epiphanies, glimpses of God at work here now.

In our longing we look at the creation, listen to the Scriptures and learn to follow, but we need to go beyond knowledge to experience. May you experience Epiphany here now.

  • Rev. Tom Wolthuis is a minister in the Christian Reformed Church and the Director of Geneva Campus Ministry at the University of Iowa.

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