This last Sunday, I preached on Epiphany and want to continue that theme. Epiphany is part of the church calendar that many Evangelicals don’t even know exists, taking place between the church seasons of Advent and Lent.
Epiphany literarily means “manifestation” and centers primarily on the Magi narrative in Mathew 2:1-12 (but can also include the events from the Magi to Jesus’ baptism). It has been a meaningful passage in the life of the church for hundreds of years, signifying Christ as the prophesied King of the Jews and that his Kingdom (Reign) is available to all including the Gentiles.
The point I want to draw attention to and build upon, is about of the Kingdom of God and what it means for us to be subjects, ambassadors and builders of the Kingdom. Just as we have become unaware of the traditional meaning of this story in our time and culture, we have also become unaware of the concept of the Kingdom (Reign) of God. And as a result, have lost focus of the fact that we are called, as followers of Jesus, to be builders of the Kingdom.
I think part of the issue exists because our country has a great social system and social net. We have left the Kingdom values of feeding the poor, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, helping the widows, etc. up to the government and have gradually become apathetic towards them. But in doing that, we have also missed something, and as a result are missing out on part of what we are called to do. The church, you and I, as followers of Jesus are called to care for the poor, the helpless, the marginalized, the disenfranchised as a core value of the Kingdom Jesus spoke about and lived through his example. But I think for many different reasons, we remain apathetic towards it.
The problem is that our apathy has turned into atrophy. And not just any atrophy, but “epidemic atrophy.” This state of atrophy has somehow become the cultural norm. But just because it is accepted as normal, doesn’t mean that it is right.
The result of this atrophy is that we often don’t even know how to respond or care. So many of us walk by people of the street and aren’t filled with compassion and even if we are, that compassion (unlike Jesus’) doesn’t lead us to action. Or, we watch news stories of children or adults dying of starvation or AIDS and we are left unmoved. We hear of injustice and instead of being filled with righteous anger like Jesus (example of Jesus clearing the Temple), we ignore it. Our apathy can’t be the way of Jesus… can it?
I think that Epiphany is a reminder of our role in the Kingdom – to be ambassadors, subjects and builders of the Kingdom of God. This reminder to us may not be easy, and it may be difficult to once again begin moving and exercising those atrophied muscles. Like any physiotherapy, it happens through small, and sometimes painful, steps. This physiotherapy isn’t an overnight cure, but as we remain committed to the building process, God will help to bring us there, one step at a time.
I invite you to join me this year and begin the process of physiotherapy as we fight the epidemic of apathy and grow as healthy and productive subjects, ambassadors and builders of the Kingdom of God.