I’ve been thinking a lot about Epiphany in this new year, even though January 6th has come and gone. Perhaps it has something to do with the opening sentence for my daily devotional: “Today is Epiphany,” it states. “The Life-light gets shared beyond.” Beyond, of course, meaning beyond the manger, beyond the sweet scene we’ve created in our minds of Mary, Joseph, baby Joseph, some barnyard animals and a few wayward shepherds. Three weeks out from that glorious scene and we find three kings added to their presence – rulers from the east who have followed the star in the night sky.
Kings, it’s important to note, who were not at all familiar with the narrative Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and even those animals had been raised in – the narrative of a Hebrew people, a Jewish nation, long searching for a promised Messiah. They just knew the star was shining bright and that it meant something. And they went searching for it.
It occurs to me, as I’m reading my devotion, that maybe the reason I can’t shake Epiphany this go-round is because this story bears deep, rich meaning for the church today. A church where the decline of denominational membership and affiliation is paralleled by an increase in the unaffiliated – the “nones,” as we’ve taken to calling them. Those who claim no particular allegiance to any faith system in general or house of worship in particular. Maybe they’ve had a negative experience at church they just can’t shake. Or maybe they simply don’t see any compelling reason to give of their time, talent, and treasure to support a community of faith.
Being that this is a somewhat recent development (as opposed from the not-so-long-ago days when everyone went to church “because that’s what you do,”) the church by and large hasn’t known how to respond. But that’s the thing: the light from the star is still shining and people are still seeing it. They’re curious. They sense something in it that’s pure, illuminating, lasting.
The question is: when they follow the star to find us, will they find Jesus here? Or will they find a group of people who are more concerned with the very things that may have kept them away in the first place?
I’m thinking about Epiphany and I realize that it work both ways: those who see the star and chose to follow it, and those of us who find ourselves where the star is. Which is why I plan on devoting my March Lenten sermons to an idea, a vision: one where our church, Trinity Presbyterian, embraces a mission to the “nones” in our community. Where words gets out, like that bright star, that our church is the place to come if you want to embrace whatever struggles you have in matters of faith, because we embrace you as you are. You have questions? We have them too, and we want to create space where we can ask them together. You have doubts? So do we. You’ve been hurt by the church? We know what that feels like, and we want to show you why we’re still here.
God willing, we’ll all experience Epiphany not just on the 6th of January, but every day of the year!