Dear Sisters and Brothers – Beloved in Christ,
The term epiphany means “to show” or “to make known” or even “to reveal.”
On this Epiphany of 2010 most of the United States waits in anticipation, perhaps not in a religious anticipation but one of worry and concern to see what the weather may be like tomorrow. The country is gripped in an arctic blast that reaches deeply into our southern most regions even threatening farmers and crops. We wait. Some of us huddled in our homes, some of us working busily to stock our pantry’s in case more snow should fly, some of us in the fields trying to protect orange trees with their fruit hanging in the balance of what might be. But all the same we wait.
On this Epiphany of 2010 most of the United States waits in anticipation, perhaps not in a religious anticipation but one of worry and concern to see what the government and those in leadership positions throughout the country may do tomorrow. The country is gripped in financial hardship the likes of which is felt across the spectrum of our communities, homes, and families. Some of us are huddled in our homes unemployed wondering how we will eat or even survive tomorrow, some of us work feverishly just to provide for our families with an ever tightening budget, a shrinking paycheck, and all the same bills we had yesterday, and some of us are trying to save a business, cutting costs, expenditures, and growth just to stay competitive. But all the same we wait.
On this Epiphany of 2010 most of the United States waits in anticipation, perhaps indeed in a religious anticipation wondering why the church has seemed to fail us, where God is in our lives, if He exists at all and if so, how we might find Him once again. The country is gripped in a spiritual crisis, one of our own making, one that threatens to tear the church apart and render Christianity as an irrelevant faith with an irrelevant message, and an irrelevant God who seems to have walked out on us just when we need Him the most. Some of us are huddled in our churches, sitting in the pews, hanging on to shreds of hope and a weary faith that tells us God is still out there and He still loves us; some of us search from church to church to find a church home and to discover a faith, of inclusion, love, celebration, and compassion, looking in one place and then another, seemingly in vain, knowing that it must be true somewhere; and some of us are standing up preaching the Gospel message leading others to Christ with love, celebrating the Spirit that lives in each one of us by the very nature of our own individual creation, engaging a faith that can resonate in our minds with the 21st century world in which live, and cherishing the soul of diversity in the myriad of people the Lord our God has made in His image, all the time wondering if anyone is listening. But all the same we wait.
Seldom do epiphanies happen in thundering moments of noise and bustle. Seldom do they flash across the screen or streak across the sky. Sometimes there’s a gentle nudge, a quiet manifestation, or a simple event that triggers a change in our hearts and in our lives. Epiphanies happen when we wait quietly with ourselves and with God. Sometimes epiphanies happen when we least expect them.
Such is the Epiphany that happened some two thousand years ago in Bethlehem when the Christ child was born. Such is the Epiphany that happened to the “wise men” as they traveled to see this still, wet behind the ears child, helplessly clutching his mother. There in a simple nondescript cave or manger, their lives and hearts were touched and forever changed by a simple and yet miraculous birth of the High King of Heaven, made flesh, ever to dwell among us; there also our lives and hearts were touched and changed forever and so why do we wait? Or better yet, what do we wait for?
The Epiphany celebrated by the Church during this time of the year is the presentation of the Christ child to the Gentiles, that is those people who weren’t Jews. Even then, from the very beginning, from the moment of His first breath, Jesus came to those whom others would cast out or turn away simply because of their societal or religious convictions, or lack there of. Should we not take note that in all the world with limitless options available, the Almighty Maker of Heaven and of Earth, manifested himself in this way to these people? Should we not take note that from the very beginning He did things, taught things, and encouraged things that went against the norm and challenged the preconceived notions of society at the time? If this is true then isn’t it possible that He does the same today? Isn’t it possible that He is still working in simple nondescript ways to make Himself known to the Gentiles of today and challenging the preconceived notions of society today?
After the revelation to the wise men, we are told that the wise men, having been warned not to return to Herod in a dream, returned to their own country by another road. What an interesting statement to be included in the passage.
It is exactly this “different road” that I wish to speak to you today. I want to speak to you about a different way of being church, a different way of being catholic, a different way of being Christian, a different road leading to Christ, His Church, and the Sacraments.
Let me tell you and bit about the Ecumenical Free Catholic Communion. The EFCC is a different, small, and nondescript bunch of folks who have come together out of a love of Christ, His Church, and the Sacraments. We have come together to make known His love in a broken and often heartless world. We have come together to preach the Gospel Message to the ends of the earth and we do so one person, dare I say, one Gentile at a time?! We do so not from the pulpits of mainstream churches but from simple often nondescript places throughout the world – sometimes in shared churches, sometimes in buildings of our own, sometimes in living rooms, sometimes in nursing homes, sometimes on city streets, sometimes on beaches and in parks, and sometimes in the quiet of our sleeping quarters. In small and simple ways we preach the message delivered some 2000 years ago. In small and simple ways we try to mirror Christ’s love in this broken world, turning no one away. We’re not a flashy church with huge buildings, monstrous budgets, deafening sound systems, or many golden altar appointments. Our clergy don’t get payed, often they haven’t retirement plans, or health insurance, but what they have is more valuable than all of that, they have love – a love of Christ, His Church, the Sacraments and of God’s children, ALL OF THEM!
In small and simple ways we go about our lives and ministries doing what we can, where we can. We meet people at their needs, offering a new way of being catholic. A way not bound by dogma, doctrine, and canon but rather free in the Spirit. We offer a home to the church’s homeless, throwing no one away and leaving judgment in the all knowing care of the Almighty and not in some council, curia, or confessional. We offer love, hope, celebration, compassion, mercy, and reconciliation to all of God’s children regardless. Did you hear that? Regardless!
May God make Himself known to you this Epiphany and may that revelation, like the very first Epiphany, change your heart and your life so that you can stop waiting and share the Good News with the broken and hurting world around you! And may you be blessed, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit now and forever, Amen!
+Brian E. Brown, OSH
Convening Bishop, Ecumenical Free Catholic Communion