Years ago, as the convener of the local ecumenical/interfaith clergy group, it was my responsibility to welcome newcomers to our area. We were a relatively diverse group, with clergy or representatives across the spectrum, including: Roman Catholics, Jews, Evangelicals, and Mormons. Our conversations, which often focused on local issues, were more collaborative and rarely — if ever — doctrinal. It was this approach that sparked a transformational conversation for me with one of our newer clergy.
It went something like this: “Brian, I really appreciate the welcome and hospitality extended to me by the clergy group. In fact, I have never been a part of such a theologically diverse group. I do, however, have one question that perplexes me: Why do Christians speak so little about Jesus? Are they afraid they are going to offend those of us from other faith traditions? I would certainly hope that is not the case; isn’t Jesus central to who you are?” Thus began a long and mutually supportive relationship.
The traditional definition of Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as the Christ to the Gentiles. The three primary biblical Epiphany expressions are: the visit by the Magi to baby Jesus, Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan, and Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana. Yet ever since that visit by the Magi, countless Epiphanies of Jesus have taken place.
Along the way, one of two things happen to many followers of Jesus. One: in an attempt to refrain from offending our sisters and brothers of other faith traditions, some avoid referring to Jesus when speaking of their faith journeys. Or two: some begin to speak about Jesus in ways to which the quieter, more moderate followers cannot relate. (This is described pronouncedly in a book titled Stealing Jesus.)
Time and time again I have been encouraged to let go of my fear that I will offend others by following Jesus. Likewise, the Jesus I know in scripture and in my life is manifested in an infinite number of ways. I should not permit others or myself to limit the way Jesus is made known. In fact, in our Baptismal Covenant, we commit with God’s help to diligently “seek” Epiphanies of Jesus in ourselves and in others.
May you have a blessed Epiphany season truly filled with Jesus being made known to you — and through you.