by Paul Rusch
Epiphanies. We have all had them. Some small, some large. Some life changing, perhaps some life threatening. Those sudden moments of enlightenment. When something dark and mysterious suddenly becomes clear. You realize what you were created for. Who you should marry (hopefully she had the same epiphany). How something works. Why the government is so screwed up.
What was hidden from you is now made known. An epiphany is a revealing, an unveiling, a shining in upon something. A light where darkness had once been. An epiphany is not an epiphany if what was hidden and made known isn’t something that you need, something that changes things for you.
We are in the season of the Epiphany of Jesus, in which this mysterious child who was born in a mysterious way, a way as mysterious to Mary and Joseph as it is to us, is suddenly made known. The answers to the questions of who this child is, what all of this means becomes known as he is revealed to us as the Messiah.
But the thing about Jesus is that he seems to hide himself even as he reveals himself. His epiphanies are sometimes ambiguous. Not everyone gets them. Not even those he had chosen to get them. He casts demons out of someone and is accused of being in league with the devil. He claims divine connection to the Father and is accused of blasphemy.
We see even the disciples trying to figure out who this is. And this after they think they already know. Come see the Messiah, we have found him! Who is this who calms the waves? Where does he get this authority? There is a knowing and a not knowing. A revelation that leads to more mystery.
And so I would say it is with us as well. The Holy Spirit makes Christ known to us. He is the Son of God and he loves us with an indescribably fantastic holy love. We are hooked, we repent and we follow. But the path sometimes grows dark, cold, lonely, even painful. We wonder what happened? Did I get it wrong? Was I delusional? Is he really who he said he was? As C.S. Lewis put it during a dark time in his life, “Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not, ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but, ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.” Lewis did not come to that point because he was a non-believer. He got there by following Christ.
The gospels should not only be a source of knowledge for us, a means by which we know up the truth of God, historically, propositionally, devotionally, didactically and mystically. They are also patterns. Patterns of what a disciple’s life sometimes looks like. What ours might look like too. We may go through the same things. Knowing Christ in 2014 is not really so much different than knowing him in 30AD. We don’t escape the learning process, the struggles that attend a life that is being re-formed and re-oriented. Those struggles can be very real, even threatening. They can be painful. They are sometimes needed to work the change in our lives that is required. A psychologist once told me that very few people make major changes in their lives without some cataclysmic event precipitating that change. The Epiphany of Christ as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit is one such event. It can spawn others. But we can’t leave it there, because the pattern doesn’t leave it there. It ushers us into this room called Hope. If we pay attention to the Epiphany of Christ, then we know (by faith) that we have been given a glimpse of Hope. That in the words of Julian of Norwich “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” This because God has revealed his Christ to us. And the revelation is true. But we must learn it up by investing our own lives in the process. It is not an escape from life, it is an invitation into its deepest mysteries.
Be of good cheer!
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