I still reach for my eyeglasses every morning as I get out of bed even though I don’t need them anymore. I still prepare myself to take out my contact lenses before I go to sleep despite the fact that I’ve thrown them all away.
Over the Christmas season, I had cataract surgery on both eyes and now I can see in new ways. Though there is still some healing and adjustment to take place, I am no longer reliant on contacts or glasses (except possibly readers) to experience the world around me. Life has become manifest to me in clearer ways than when I was in the second grade. I can see!
The season of/after Epiphany that we enter into today is all about seeing in new ways and thus living in new ways. It’s about manifestation and revelation. Epiphany is when we in the western church recognize and honor the Christ-ness, the Messiah-ship of Jesus of Nazareth as he becomes manifest in his fuller glory for all to see.
During Epiphany we celebrate events like the Magi following the star from the East as well as Jesus’ baptism and God’s voice revealing the beloved anointed one through a booming from the clouds. We also see Christ manifest to us in the miracle at the Cana wedding, his first proclamations that “the Kingdom of God is near,” his first healings, and his shining transfiguration on the mountain.
In these manifestations of Christ, we who are willing to see are given new eyes so as to recognize who Jesus really is: God’s divine presence dwelling with us and humanity’s savior working among us for love and life.
Jesus the Christ is not just a cute baby who comes to be our best friend. Nor is he just the good guy on the sidelines, supporting our platforms and cheering us on while we fix the world according to our dysfunctional human tools and violent rage.
Jesus the Christ is the life-giving, world-transforming, love-filled presence of God come to our homes, families, communities, social systems, and nations to change everything. Everything! Jesus the Christ is God’s love made flesh who calls us again and again to follow him in a radical way of love and complete trust in God.
During this time of epiphany revelation, I encourage you to let the Holy Spirit give you some new eyes to see Jesus the Christ manifest in the world around you. No need to go as far as cataract surgery. Just clear your eyes of the messiness of the news and the anxieties of the pandemic, perhaps through prayer and contemplation. Open yourselves up to the Spirit’s work in your mind and heart.
And then look around through Spirit-lenses to see how God’s love is manifesting itself to you and your fellow followers of Christ. Ask yourself again and again, what is Jesus the Christ doing in my life, my congregation’s life, my community today? Where is Jesus the Christ calling you to go, what is Christ calling you to do, and how is Christ calling you to live? And finally ask, how can I be better equipped to see what Jesus so badly wants me to see so that I can follow him?
But beware! There are wolves in sheep’s clothing trying to trick our eyes into seeing Jesus Christ in places and actions in which he would never reveal himself. Jesus the Christ does not manifest God’s Kingdom in lies and falsehoods for he is the Truth of God’s love. Jesus does not manifest God’s Kingdom in fear-filled hatred and demonizing of other people for he is the Courage and Spirit of God’s love. Jesus does not manifest God’s Kingdom in violent actions or words demanding harm against anybody for he is the Prince of Peace.
To put it bluntly, we who would follow Jesus the Christ cannot follow those angry, self-centered cries to take out our rage on one another because we disagree about social actions or political outcomes. Violence is not and never will be the answer for God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To follow those voices of hate is to leave the Way of Christ behind.
Christ’s Way is always the Way of Love, God’s selfless love for the whole world!
So let us open our eyes to a new way of seeing and being love this Epiphany season, let us open our hearts to the Spirit’s power, and let us follow Christ’s vision of life in God’s Kingdom. For God has come to dwell with us. See?! Jesus is right there!
In Christ’s Love,
Bishop Laurie Jungling
Elected June 1, 2019, Laurie is the 5th Bishop of the Montana Synod