Every attempt to limit the vision and love of God has been fruitless. Many attempts by nations and tribes to act as if God favors only them have resulted in very evil acts. Our tendency to hoard a good thing out of our own insecurity only spoils the gift (Exodus 16:1-20). Even Jesus’ disciples wanted to leave a hungry crowd in the desert healed, taught but hungry, believing it would be too much to also feed them. They wanted to treat them as if they were not co-heirs and members of the same body.
If we are one in God and God shows no partiality, then our faith lives ought to be formed by that truth. An examination of our choices about where we live, who we socialize with and the attendees in our churches should cause us to consider: Is this feast of Epiphany is merely about a sentimental remembrance of something that happened long ago, just a reason to put more figures in the nativity scene or a true reflection of the people we are called to be in our day and time. It might be easier to pretend at religion rather than let the “Word become Flesh” in our lives.
In this New Year, we might consider some choices that are constantly set before us. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1965 said, “It is sad that one of the most segregated hours in America is 11 a.m. on Sunday morning.” He was referring to our churches, and specifically our Christian churches. Sad to say, not much has changed in that area.
In many of our church communities, we sometimes claim that we are a welcoming community but ask other people to come to us rather than actively reach out and form relationships with folks in the neighborhood. Just in the month of January we celebrate a holiday in honor of Dr. King and we celebrate a week of Christian Unity. In January, when we renew our commitment to all life, doesn’t it seem to be true that if we acted as one body there would be few or no abortions, executions, people wandering without food, clothing and shelter? We would take care of our own, and that means everyone.
Many during the time of Jesus became upset with this image of the Messiah He was enfleshing. Wasn’t He supposed to stick to His own kind and observe the purity codes of the time? Shouldn’t He stick with religious teachings and leave the “temporal” questions of His time to those who already had power? And yet Jesus’ understanding of power was washing His betrayers’ feet and dying on the cross for all, even those who nailed him there. Our Mighty God shows love for the strong and the weak but has a special place in his heart for the poor, the lowly and the downtrodden.
Have a blessed and wonderful new year, and may it be formed by the dream of God as enfleshed in Jesus.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.