Two days into Black History month, on the eve of the Transfiguration, it might be well for us to remember one key theme of Epiphany: Jesus gathers around himself a community of former strangers now become friends, a circle of former enemies now knit together as one family, a body where difference enlivens and diversity enriches.
At the Society of Christian Ethics last month I attended a panel discussion that focused on the racial segregation of Christian worship in the US. Meeting in Atlanta, we took up Martin Luther King’s observation that 11 o’clock on Sunday was and still is the most segregated hour in America. One of the most challenging questions was posed by Bryan Massingale, who asked us when in the last three years we had heard a sermon that condemned racial division or that affirmed God’s vision of a multi-racial church. When? Well, I hope you did during Epiphany.
Epiphany is an annual invitation to read and hear the gospel that God shows up to bring us together, that God intends to show the world a better way than borders and barriers,
that God is revealing a new community beyond ‘us and them.’ Nations shall come to your light.
And so we have come, we wise men and women from the east and the west, who have seen the star, made the journey, consulted the scholars, and now offer Christ our devotion, our commitment, our very lives.
But let us wise women and wise men not mistake ourselves for the gospel, never think that the heart of Epiphany (or the heart of the gospel) is our being—or becoming—the diverse, righteous, inclusive church the God intends for us to be. That’s not the point.Yes, we are the magi. But Jesus is the Messiah. He is the light that overcomes darkness, and we stand in his brightness. He is the manifestation of God’s glory, and we dwell in his radiance. He is God’s beauty and wisdom, he is God’s justice and mercy, he is God’s abundant giving of boundless riches showing up, showing forth, showing us the way.
(Originally published Saturday, February 2, 2008)