Scouring over some old texts for a litany relevant to epiphany, I landed on this paragraph-of-petitioning from ‘The Book of Common Prayer’:
‘O God, who by the leading of a star did manifest your only-begotten Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may behold your glory face to face; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.'[i]
The phrase ‘lead us’ might not seem like much at first glance, but when we think of Exodus or the Lord’s Prayer the weight of it hits home.
It acknowledges that God lovingly brings us towards Himself.
‘God’s Land, before your doors open wide
We stand, lost in a dream, no joy denied.
The blessing of the patriarchs we feel already
blowing towards us, full of promise and steady.
God’s Grace, flowing over a free earth,
to a Holy and new people will give birth.
God’s Law will protect both strong and weak
from those who by tyranny and force the mastery seek.
God’s Truth will guide from human learning
and erring people, to faith returning.
God’s Peace will, like strong towers,
hearts, houses, cities protect its powers.
God’s Rest will on his faithful people fall
like a celebration at his call.'[ii]
This is about the God who wills to lead us in freedom.
Karl Barth noted: the one who exists in true freedom ‘does not will to be without us’. His discourse on it is classic Barth, verbose, best understood by a slowly reading of the text, yet worth every slow second spent pondering it.
‘God did not need to speak to us…we evaluate this free and actualized gracious Word correctly only if we understand it as the reality of the love of the God who does not need us but who does not will to be without us’ [iii]
There is ‘no Word of God without physical act and God’s speak is God’s act ‘ (ibid, 133)…’this is a rational not an irrational event’ (135)…‘We must know God as the one who addresses us in freedom’ (172)…this ‘Lord of speech is also the Lord of hearing. The Lord who gives the Word and also gives faith’ (182), this in turn means that God opens Himself up to the possibility of rejection since ‘a personal gift implies the possibility of its refusal’ (98), but this does not change the fact that ‘the Word of God is God’s claim on Humanity’ (161).
We are listeners, therefore, before ‘the speaking God who spoke then, and speaks now. It is in Jesus Christ that we understand the Word of God as the epitome of God’s grace. This grace means simply that as humans we are no longer left to ourselves but are given into the Hand of God’’ (149-150).
The arrival and departure of the Magi, led as they were, only reinforces this.
Like them may God ‘Lead us, into his presence, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen!’
[i] Church, Episcopal. 2011 The Book of Common Prayer Christian Miracle Foundation Press. Kindle Ed.
[ii] Bonhoeffer, D. 1999 The Death of Moses, Prison Poems (Formerly Voices in the Night) Edwin Robertson (Ed.) Zondervan p.95
[iii] Barth, K. 1936 Church Dogmatics I.1 Hendrickson Publishers (p.140)