In mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches, we are in the season of Epiphany. “Epiphany” is defined as “a revelation or manifestation of the Divine.” But how does one get one of those? How do you have an Epiphany?
In the story of Jesus’ dedication at the Temple (Luke 2), there are two people who have an Epiphany. Simeon and Anna, who when Jesus was brought to the Temple for his dedication ritual were somehow able to recognize the child for who he was. The way the story reads, it’s almost as if there were just six people there: Jesus, his parents, Simeon and Anna, and the priest who would have been a part of this service. My guess is that it was not that way. The Temple in Jerusalem was busy place. There would have been a lot of people there. But just these two see and notice, and to them is granted an Epiphany.
Does that tell us something? I think it can, if we can hear it. First, let’s note that they were looking. Expectantly aware. Hopeful. That’s important. They prayed, they worshiped. That’s important. The more one worships, reflects, prays, and avails oneself of what are called “the means of grace”, the more those means seem to show up, and get through.
I’ve sometimes thought we should have folks go through a short course on how to come to church, how to worship. Because let’s face it, we all may come to the same place and experience the same things during our time of worship, but some people get it and some people don’t. The course would have little or nothing to do with dress code or gum-chewing. It was have a whole lot to do with attitude, openness, awareness, and expectation.
Make no mistake, I’ve been in worship plenty of times when I was not looking and listening the way I should have been. My attitude and level of expectation set the tone. I was judging, evaluating. The choir’s anthem. The ushers’ seeming confusion (haven’t they ever taken up an offering before?) The preacher’s posture or pronunciation. And, the one that most of us are guilty of – do I agree with her or him? Is he or she saying what I already believe? There have been so many times that I was like those other people who were in the Temple that day – so close to Jesus, in terms of physical proximity, but didn’t see it. Noticing cobwebs in the corner of the sanctuary. Didn’t get it. Went home unchanged.
It’s been several years now since I stopped praying, “Lord, be with us as we… (whatever)” because I realized that God was already present. Always with us. I wonder I wonder what might happen if we looked, listened, listened hoped, and acted as if that were so. We might just experience – or even become “a manifestation of the Divine.” We might just have an Epiphany.