At the heart of epiphany (revelation) is the promise that we are being brought into the very presence of Jesus. (Luther Seminary’s blog “God Pause”)
I would like some fulfillment on that promise of being brought into Jesus’ presence. At funerals and sometimes in just regular Sunday morning sermons, I hear ministers preach about when someone will “stand in the presence of Jesus.” They are generally talking about an afterlife experience; according to many Christians, it is after death that we will be united with Jesus. It’s not that I don’t believe that I may meet Jesus someday, it’s just that I don’t have a lot of concrete facts about it. My lack of knowledge doesn’t mean it isn’t true or that it won’t happen, it simply means that I am not overly knowledgeable about the life after this one. Truthfully, none of us is. But the good news is– I don’t think we have to be. Jesus lived in the present and if I want to model my life after him, I need to live in the present also. This means that instead of waiting on the promise of being brought into the company of Jesus in the distant future, I should be seeking the company of Jesus right now. Expecting fulfillment sooner rather than later.
We don’t want to make the mistake of the people of Nazareth who actually did stand in the presence of Jesus and even recognized that he was filled with God’s grace. For a few short moments, they knew they were in the presence of someone sent by God. But then their cynicism kicked in. “Is he not just the son of Joseph?” And the moment had passed. The knowledge that they stood in the presence of God’s Holy One, dried up and blew away like a dry leaf on the wind.
The scriptures are full of hints on how to experience the presence of Jesus. “Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened.” “That which you did for the least of these you did for me.” Jesus presence could weave its way in and out of the moments of our days, if we sought to see him. If we looked into the eyes of our brothers and sisters and saw not alienation but reconciliation. If we took seriously the commandment to “love one another” and set aside the many laws and rules of the Hebrew scriptures that separate and divide.
At Annual Meeting this past week, we voted unanimously to add our ONA statement of inclusivity to our constitution. Open and Affirming is one of Zion’s ways of standing in the presence of Jesus. No one was more welcoming than the One who said “Go forth unto all nations and baptize.” It was Jesus’ most inclusive statement—ALL nations. Not some, all.
So my words to you as we trade Epiphany for Lent–do not wait for some apocalyptic moment to stand in the presence of Jesus or to “meet” Jesus. Seek him now. Model your life after him in the present and the epiphany promise will be fulfilled.
See You in the Pews!