My church kicked off the season of epiphany in style this morning with a fun Epiphany introductory video I made with some kids. Then we sang the traditional We Three Kings, followed by a bunch of fun upbeat songs about “light.” Then we read the lectionary Psalm (#29) together and talked about what it means to be in Jesus’ fan club.
But I have to be honest and admit that now Christmas is over, Epiphany is one of the last things on my mind. Instead, this first month of a New Year is weighed down by seasons of another sort.
My news feeds are saturated with stories of the Golden Globes, reminding me that for the entertainment industry this is Awards Season, a time filled with what we might call liturgies of human glory and honor. In fact, if I was a bit more of an arrogant Hebrew Prophet I would call the awards shows worship services to the idols of vanity.
So too my social media feeds remind me that the NFL is providing another season, or rather a post season. This week we watched the first of the teams falter in their quest for dominance, a liturgy itself of human strength and cunning. And we watch and wait to see which team will rise to the top. 150 million will watch the last match, which is a bit more than the number of people who voted for a US President just months ago. The angry Hebrew prophet in me is tempted to call those games worship services, worship to the idols of violence and competition.
Then there is this other thing weighing on my heart and, mostly, mind. My church ends its fiscal year on February 28th this year. With the close of a fiscal year comes a mountain high list of responsibilities. We have numbers to crunch, vision to share, a new board to elect and goals to set, all of which will be accomplished with no less than 1 dozen business meetings. We might call these a liturgy of institution. The arrogant, angry and overwhelmed Hebrew prophet in me is tempted to call those meetings worship services themselves, worship to the idol of human control and manipulation.
Yet today was not just the first Sunday of Epiphany. It was also the Baptism of our Lord. The Gospel text for today was Matthew 3, that famous story where Jesus begins his ministry by entering into the waters of the Jordan River. John the Baptist didn’t know quite what to do with Jesus in the water and I don’t either. Baptism is for sinners. Jesus had not sinned. The waters are for the spiritually dead. Jesus was more spiritually alive than anybody has ever been. The sacrament is for humans. Jesus is the Son of God. Yet here is Jesus, wading into the waters of death, sin and chaos and beginning his ministry right where we are at.
In a way the Baptism of Jesus reenacts the incarnation. This might be why Mark and John leave out the manger, in favor of the water. In the baptism waters Jesus is taking on flesh again, taking on the unique position of being a human after Adam, a human represented by all humanity’s shortcomings. This is a God entering into sin and death as one of us. Like the manger, this is Immanuel, a God with us, a God among us, a God meeting us in our human liturgies of award shows, violent competition and financial reporting. Here is God in the flesh, come to redeem us from the life taking, death dealing liturgies of the world and light up the better way which is the only way, the liturgy of the cross and the resurrection.
So my hope this Epiphany season is that God will enter into our awards shows, our sporting matches and our business meetings and bring new Epiphany so that our feet can stay on the path of life!