4. January 2020

Twenty Twenty Vision: Seeing Clearly

Service Type:

‘…Then we shall see…’ (1 Corinthians 13, 12).

Today is Epiphany…A Celebration of the revelation to the Gentiles that Jesus, whilst being the fulfilment of God’s promise of a Messiah to the Jews, that in and through Jesus God seeks to embrace the whole of humankind – ‘The People who walked in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’ (Isaiah 9, 2).

Today we proclaim that the Christian faith is all embracing, non-discriminatory, universal, open to all – whosoever will may come’. And at a time when the world appears to be withdrawing into itself; with the rise of factionalism, sectarianism, populism and fundamentalism of every kind, including that fuelled by religion; we do well to proclaim this essential truth loud and long; it is the will of God that all the peoples of the earth might become ‘all one in Christ Jesus’. And in so doing we avoid falling into the trap of demanding that ‘all one’ equate to ‘all the same’ – in Christ we are invited to unite one with another whilst realising just how diverse we are – unity in diversity over against disunity and division. But ‘epiphany’ has also acquired a broader meaning: a case of a sudden dramatic revelation, of understanding, of ‘getting it’, of the ’penny dropping’; what some refer to as a ‘light bulb moment’.

Often trivial in nature – suddenly remembering where you left that for which you’ve been looking for, suddenly remembering that address, that telephone number, that bank security code, that computer password. But sometimes in can be more profound, more significant – e.g. an apple falling on the head of Isaac Newton – Paul on the road to Damascus; indeed, there is a sense in which we have all travelled that particular way. And sometimes it pulls us up short… “All at once I felt myself haunted by a terrible vision, of a world without guidance: a land of emptiness, where all was ruled by the madness of chance. How could one endure such a place, where all significance was lost? I myself would mean nothing, but would merely be a kind of self-invention: a speck upon the wind, calling itself Wilson. I felt my spirit waver, as if it were toppling into the abyss before me.” Or, to take a Biblical example – the young Isaiah – ‘woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips, amidst a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the glory of the Lord.’ But we shouldn’t get carried away with the thought that such moments are just around the corner, that they are likely to become everyday experiences. Many people go through their whole life and they never have one such moment. They just have to get on with living life as it is; appreciating life for what it is; doing their level best to make the best life possible for themselves…

“To be human is nothing less than to be caught in the great congested pilgrimage of existence and to join ourselves freely to it in the face of the evidence of its never-ending troubles.” But even then we can discern the active presence of God; not as some out of body, visionary experience transporting us to who knows where; but rather, wherever we are, whatever we are doing; the love filled power of the actively present Holy Spirit of God is woven into the very fabric of life – ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…’ – and when what is happening to us and around us appears to be as dark as dark can be; the deepest darkness – that sense of God being there is somehow greater than ever if only we could find the courage to believe it to be so…“What I learned in Rwanda was that God is not absent when great evil is unleashed. Whether that evil is man-made or helped along by darker forces, God is right there, saving those who respond to His urgings and trying to heal the rest.” And so, we enter into 2020 – and in so doing find ourselves plunged into the inevitable fog of uncertainty – we cannot see clearly what is ahead of us, but we can glimpse just a little, and that is enough to cause us to embrace what lies ahead with cautious optimism perhaps, naïve idealism maybe; we may feel powerless in the face of what fate has in store for us; but let us remind ourselves that ‘twas grace that brought us safe thus far’, that ‘by grace we are saved, through faith’, that ‘the Light is shining in the darkness: the darkness will never overcome it.’