|Calvary Episcopal Church, Rockdale
January 7, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
Well, all things in this life eventually do come to an end, even Christmas. Wow, talk about time
flying! 12 days really isn’t very long, is it? And now it’s over, now and time to move ahead.
But before I go on, I want to be the first person to bring you this important update: there are
only three hundred, fifty-one shopping days left before next Christmas! Remember you heard
it here, first!
So Christmas ended Friday evening – Twelfth Night – and in spite of the weather that would
keep us from burning the greens, as advertised, we had a decent turnout for the occasion.
We celebrated the last Mass of Christmas (cheating a little bit by making it the first Mass of
Epiphany, as well, singing Christmas hymns and carols while reading the Propers of the
Epiphany and placing the Magi at the stable), then, with the rain coming down, repaired to the
undercroft for one, final round of caroling, and then shared in our usual, “light repast” that
would have fed Moscow during the great siege.
And then yesterday, of course – the 6th of January – was the Feast of the Epiphany and the
beginning of the new season.
Epiphany! From the Greek, επιφάνεια: to show forth; to bring to light; to become clearly
known; to show one’s self!
In some cultures, the day is called Three Kings Day, beginning the season with the “showing
forth” of the “Child of Glory” to the magi. Then follow the weeks of the season when we
explore how Jesus of Nazareth showed to the world, in his own person, the Glory of God. And
between now and the beginning of Lent, we’ll be hearing, in our lessons, a mixture of
proclamation, self-proclamation and miracle, as we examine – particularly in the early
narrative of St. Luke’s Gospel – the unveiling of God’s presence in Christ Jesus.
This morning, we hear the beginning of the first of what is called the Servant Songs, from the
book of Isaiah, that incredibly beautiful poem in which the prophet describes how God has
called his people, Israel, to be a “light to the nations,” while Peter, speaking in Acts, proclaims
the anointing of Jesus in Spirit and in power, and Luke describes the descent of the Spirit at
Jesus’ Baptism: all “epiphanies;” all “showings forth” of God’s glory in the world.
A few days ago, having just read today’s lessons for the first time, and beginning to think
about this morning, I got into a conversation of a type that I find myself in regularly and often
these days: the one about the current battle, in this country, between modern science and
conservative, evangelical and fundamentalist religion. We were speaking, especially, of the
decades long creation versus evolution debate that is still taking place – though the
creationist side has morphed in recent years into the promotion of so-called “intelligent
And in the course of the conversation that the basic mistake the intelligent design people
make is in confusing facts with truth, thinking that facts inevitably lead to truth. But there is
truth and there is Truth – there is what I have long called “little t truth,” and “big T Truth”. And
they think that if they can get enough facts straight – these “little t” truths – they must add up
to the big “T” Truth, which is God. And in so doing, they make two mistakes. First, they
actually START with the belief that God created the universe; and second, they search for and
INTERPRET the facts in such a way as to support their belief.
But they are involved in an impossible task because it is, quite simply, impossible to prove
the existence of God by pointing to the facts of the natural world, and the facts – the small ‘t’
truths – of the natural world, can never be forced to point to God. To try to do either is to
misunderstand both God and the world; it is to do violence to Science while at the same time,
reducing God to an object of study. But God is never an object, but always the subject –
always the one who acts, ands never the one acted upon! God is infinitely more than the sum
of the parts of the universe, and all of the parts, together, cannot begin to approach the
reality of God, nor can they prove it!
But this kind of talk makes many of us nervous. We want to be able to PROVE that God exists.
We want the world – and the science that describes the world -- to point to God! And if we can’
t prove that God exists, then what is there to depend on? What’s the point?
Unfortunatgely, for most people there really IS no point. Most people, in fact, live their lives in
the assumption of God. They ASSUME there is a God, and they live their lives without ever
going beyond that unexamined assumption. Unable to imagine that there might be no God,
they simply assume that there is, and that’s that. No thought required; no thinking allowed.
But for SOME, the assumption of God is not enough. For some, a journey into Truth (with a
capital T) calls, and they – like the shepherds and the magi – find themselves seeking God.
A very wise man, whom I’ve mentioned before, the 19th Century Danish theologian and
philosopher, Søren Kierkegard – one of a long line of theologians who realized that the
existence of God cannot be proven – called coming to belief in God a “leap of faith.” We’ve all
heard the term, but most of us have no idea where it comes from. Fact and reason,
Kierkegard said, can take us only so far. For those of us who are, truly, seekers of Truth, fact
and reason can take us, indeed, not to God, but only to the edge of a great abyss; the edge of
that place, beyond which there is nothing: no proof of anything, no facts, no knowledge, no
guidance – nothing. And each of us who undertakes that journey must – at that point – make a
decision. We can decide to step back from the abyss, and live our lives without God – back off
and choose NOT to believe, which, by the way, is in itself, an heroic choice! – or we can
CHOOSE to believe! We can venture forth and take the leap into the abyss, choosing to
believe, as we leap off into nothingness, that there will be someone there to catch us – the
leap of faith!
And the choice to believe of not believe are equal choices! There is no more proof for one
than for the other: for God or for No God – and there is no less! Neither choice is more
rational than the other, and one choice is every bit as rational as the other!
And nothing can make the choice for us. Nothing can cross the abyss for us. We have to make
the decision. We have to choose. We have to make the leap – or not!
BUT having made the choice – having taken the leap – THEN how things change! THEN, it
becomes a whole, different ballgame.
Because to those who have chosen to believe; to those who have made the leap, the same
universe that was silent on the subject of whether or not there is a God, the same world that
pointed neither toward nor away from God, but stood mute, that same creation, we suddenly
discover, “proclaims the glory of the Lord!” to the one who has taken the leap!
It is only THEN that the one who has made the leap – the believer! – learns the meaning of the
word, “EPIPHANY,” as all about him the Lord is manifest; all around her the Light of God
shines forth; the reality of God is manifest; and God reveals God’s self! And everywhere the
leaper looks she sees God!
Oh, yes, he sees God in all the little trite things where we suppose he should: in the glory of
the sunset; in the smell of a rose; in the cry of a baby. But he sees God, also, in the hydrogen
fusion that takes place inside that setting sun, and fuels it; sees God in the wondrous play of
chemical molecules emitted by that rose as they dance across the sensory receptor cells in
the nasal passages; sees God in the exquisite ability to feel the loss, the deprivation, the
pain, the discomfort, the hunger, the anger, the fear – whatever! – that he hears in the cry of
the baby. He finds God equally in the mundane and the fantastic, and he gives thanks to God
for allowing him the wonder of both – of finding God in the myriad of experiences, sensations,
thoughts, emotions, joys and pains of everyday life.
And he finds God, most of all and most consistently of all, in the love that fills the world,
learning, finally to see it, to recognize it, to open himself to it, to experience it, to let it in; and
in the courage that God gives all of us to let love happen, once we ask for it and seek it.
The Feast of the Epiphany, the Season of the Epiphany, is about God revealing himself in and
to the world. Not to “prove God” to the world, because that can never be done! But for those
who are willing to take the journey, and to make the decision to take the leap of faith, God’s
glory shines out in everything they see, hear, taste, smell, think, feel and do -- and in the love
with which he fills the world – and the hearts of those who have CHOSEN to know him and to
In the Name of the one who shines in the hearts of those who let him, in graceful Epiphany;