Archives For Epiphany

Epiphany marks what is technically the end of Christmas. The wise men, avoiding Herod and his schemes visit Mary, Joseph and Jesus. They mark the birth by way of tribute to the child born to be King.

Advent closes and the door opens to a new year and with it the remembrance of what Christ’s election means. Instead of being crowned a king, He moves past the crowds willing to crown Him as such. His response was wrapped in the fact that His kingdom was not of this world. His rule is like no other.

How we approach Jesus Christ, might be like that of the Shepherds, fishermen, tax collectors, Mary, Joseph, His cousin John, or the Roman and Jewish officials. How we come to Christ is nothing compared to how He comes to us.

As Karl Barth rightly saw it,

‘we live by the fact that God Himself willed to be the Bearer of our contradiction, that in the full mystery of His Godhead He so deeply condescended to us. We live by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by God’s own suffering and triumph, sorrow and joy, by His original participation in the twofold nature of our being. Enduring to be what we are and as we are, He bears us.’ (CD. 3:1:382)

That in the appointment of Jesus Christ,

‘as the Bearer of creaturely existence and its contradictions, God did not in the same way will and accomplish His humiliation and death on the one side and His exaltation and resurrection on the other […] He took to His own heart very differently in Jesus Christ the infinite hope of the creature and its infinite peril.’ (ibid, p.383)

Jesus Christ is the living action of God.

‘He sees the hopeless peril of the created world which He has snatched from nothingness but which is still so near to nothingness. He sees that it cannot and will not check itself on the edge of this abyss [therefore] God Himself willed to become man, to make His own the weakness and frailty of man, to suffer and die as man, and in this self-offering to secure the frontier between His creation and the ruin which threatens it from the abyss. God is gracious to man and woman.’ (ibid, pp.383-384)

Thus Barth adds,

‘we cannot stop at the suffering, death and burial of Jesus Christ. This is not the final word. The cross is followed by the resurrection, humiliation by exaltation, and the latter is the true, definitive and eternal form of the incarnate Son of God. This is the Yes for the sake of which the No had first to be spoken’. (ibid, p.384)

We stand in ‘defiant confidence’ not because we ‘cling to an idea of God, but because that confidence has its origin and object in God’s self-revelation’ (ibid, p.380). We don’t construct God, in Jesus Christ, He confronts us with the truth about Himself. Any response to this that is neutral or indifferent is, according to Barth, ‘of radical and genuine ungodliness’ (ibid, p.379).

For ‘Christian faith sees and knows what it holds. It does not need to persuade itself of anything. It has nothing to do with a tense clinging to the consequences of an idea or a laboriously constructed concept of God.’ (ibid, p.379)

Reason dictates that if God has revealed Himself to humanity, like those wise men, we should follow and respond in gratitude and obedience to that knowledge. As risky as the journey is, and as limited as we might be in being able to comprehend it completely.

For 2018 may epiphany mark for you a return to this defiant confidence, not because it proudly boasts of its own ideas or because it rests on human constructs of what and who we think God is, but because in the freedom given to us in Christ’s incarnation, under God’s grace, you find His “Yes” to you, and then by the light of that, your own “Yes” to the Him. The One who was, who is, and is to come.

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’ (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

 


References:

Barth, K. 1945 The Doctrine of Creation, C.D. Volume 3 Part 1  Hendrickson Publishers, 1958

Photos excluding heading image: RL2018

There are few better ways to mark epiphany than a well thought out quote from Barth & a rendition of the old hymn, Hail Gladdening Light:

‘We live in responsibility […] Man and woman do not belong to themselves. They do not exist in a vacuum. They are not given over to the caprice of an alien power, not to their own self-will. They may or may not know and will it, but because Jesus Christ as very God and very man is the beginning of all the ways and works of God, humanity is inseparably linked with God and confronted by Him. Man and woman are subject to the divine will, Word and command, and are called to realise the true purpose of his and her existence as a covenant partner with God (p.641) […] We cannot deal evasively with Jesus Christ as one does with an idea. God’s decision as it is really embodied in Him is a sovereign decision […] It is not in vain that Jesus Christ is King and Victor. (p.660)’

(Karl Barth, 1942. The Sovereignty of the Divine Decision CD 2/II)

epiphany-2017-he-will-provide


 

‘In Jesus Christ, the fact that the Word became flesh undoubtedly means that, without ceasing to be eternity, eternity became time […] God humbles Himself and lifts us up by becoming one of us.’

(Karl Barth, CD. II:1 1940 , p.616)

Epiphany 2016

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.

Bonhoeffer wrote:

‘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).

GVL: Leviticus 26:12-13 Epiphany

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!’

 


 

Source:

[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)

‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star and have come to worship him’ – Mt.2:1-2

Epiphany 2014